Sony's Playstation 3 is Not Worth the Hype

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Resistance: Fall of Man, a sci-fi war game from Ratchet & Clank developer Insomniac Games, is one of the must-have titles for the PlayStation 3.

Sony released the Playstation 3 in Japan on November 11. That was last Saturday. By Thursday Japanese import units had already made their way halfway around the world to New York City's Chinatown, where they were available for a 100% markup — and they were selling. That's how high the demand is for Sony's new video game machine: people would actually pay double the price to get it one day early.

The Playstation 3 goes on sale in the U.S. today, but I wouldn't recommend buying one, not even for the regular price, which is plenty expensive without the import markup. Sure, the Playstation 2 was the bestselling machine from the previous generation, and sure, the Playstation3 is powered by a stupendously powerful chip, the "Cell processor." (I'm sorry, but naming a computer chip is like naming your genitals: you're compensating for something.) Patience, young padawan. The time has not yet come.

Look at what you get. The Playstation 3 is expensive: $500 or $600 bucks, depending on which version you buy, plus $60 for each game. (An Xbox 360 only costs $400 max, and Nintendo's Wii — yep, that name, still funny — is only $250.) For that kind of scratch you want the deluxe treatment, and the PS3 simply doesn't deliver it. It's got some good-looking games, but unless you have a top-notch TV, the difference isn't mind-blowing. (And even if you do have a fancy TV, Sony makes you supply your own HDMI cable. Stingy.) And Sony's launch line-up just isn't that interesting. Almost all the PS3's outstanding games — F.E.A.R., Madden NFL '07, Need for Speed: Carbon, Call of Duty 3 — are available on the Xbox 360, and most (all except F.E.A.R.) are out for the Wii, too. There just isn't the leverage there to make buying a PS3 de rigeur.

The only exclusive Playstation 3 title I'm really excited about is Resistance: Fall of Man, which is a truly fun shoot'em up set in an alternative version of the 1950s. Aliens have invaded earth; your job is to put bullets in them. While doing so you prowl through some gloriously detailed, beautifully gloomy factories and labs and shattered cityscapes. The audio is gorgeous, the weapons copious and diverse, the levels huge and complex. In short, it's my idea of a good time.

But so is Gears of War, the stunning shooter just out for the Xbox 360. Resistance isn't enough to drive sales of a $600 console, or it shouldn't be. Playstation 3 doesn't have a battle-tested, feature-rich online service the way the Xbox does. It doubles as a Blu-ray player (that's the main reason for the high retail price), but guess what? Nobody cares. And did I mention Playstation 3 controllers don't rumble? Whose genius idea was that? Without rumble, it just ain't a jungle.

Give it time. The price will (probably) come down. Sony's online strategy will (probably) mature. More decent games will come out — the Playstation3 is notoriously difficult to develop for, and game-makers are still figuring out how to get the most out of it. Next holiday season, it just might be worth it.

For now it's pretty much moot anyway. Because of the difficulty of manufacturing Playstation 3's, Sony has only been able to put a few hundred thousand units on sale in the U.S., so unless you spent last night camped out in front of a Gamestop, buying a Playstation3 is not an option. Congratulations: you made the right call. And you smell better for it, too.