Game console reviews

We put the top three console entertainment systems to the test: the PS3, Xbox 360 and Wii.
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In a push to get everybody to join in the home gaming revolution, the big three consoles – the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Wii – now have new control systems that put an end to button-mashing complexity in favour of natural gestures and even whole-body movement. 

The aim is to make playing games so simple that anybody can do it and there’s a whole new range of “casual” family-friendly games to go with the new controllers. These consoles have grown into all-round home entertainment hubs offering movies, music, web browsing and social networking. They each have their strengths and weaknesses though, so the question is, which console should you put under your tree this Christmas? For movie buffs, the answer may be relatively straightforward.

The PlayStation 3 (PS3) is still the only games console with a high-definition Blu-ray player. Sony has also upgraded its online service to include movie downloads, though at much lower quality. However, the highly successful Xbox Live online service has also been revamped in the past year to include social networking and it still has exclusive blockbuster games such as the Halo series; while the Wii still has the greatest appeal for casual gamers, which is the fastest-growing market. 

It’s this last area that sent Microsoft and Sony back to the drawing boards. The incredible sales success of the Nintendo Wii over recent years unexpectedly spanked the Xbox and PlayStation very hard and they’ve learnt their lesson. Sony and Microsoft are prepared to spend big dollars to convince everybody that they’re finally getting serious about casual games. 

The boom in games

This is the biggest growth area – games that anybody can play, even if they’ve never held a controller before in their life. We’re not talking complicated futuristic soldier of fortune shoot-em-ups here, we’re talking tenpin bowling, tennis, golf, simple car racing and so on. In fact, anything that normal people do for fun in real life. And there’s a range of dance, fitness and lifestyle titles too.

"Natural movement" controllers

Sony and Microsoft are out to challenge Nintendo at their own game (pardon the pun) with their own versions of “natural movement” controllers that can have game newbies competing confidently in just minutes. Sony has the Move. Microsoft has the Kinect.

The Move system is a controller which works with Sony’s Eye camera to track movements and put players in the game. Microsoft is aiming to go one better by getting rid of the controller altogether with the Kinect. This camera device simply recognises body movement, so in effect your whole body becomes the controller.

Both controller systems are in their infancy, with few titles ready to take advantage of their new style of gameplay, but you can expect a steady flow of new games for both platforms over coming months in a bid to shake the Wii’s position as the casual gaming king.

What will set the Move and Kinect apart from the Wii, however, is their potential not only for casual games, but for bringing a new mode of play to their more serious titles. The new ease of use of the natural motion controllers could eventually see legions of casual gamers “graduate” to the big leagues of multi-player action and roleplaying titles – areas where the superior processing power and realistic graphics of the Xbox and PS3 have traditionally held sway.

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