This week on Zero Punctuation, Yahtzee takes a look at the ongoing console war.
This episode was first released August 29, 2007 and later again on June 11, 2008 due to Yahtzee being away at the Webby awards.
We're currently living in the 7th generation of consoles if Wikipedia is to be believed. Seven generations of feuding and inbreeding like the residents of some backwoods Louisiana swamp and this is around the time the really interesting deformities start setting in. So while we're on the subject, let's start with the Wii.
Nintendo is the oldest contestant still in the console race and it seems they've gotten bored of the usual brick with button pads attached with string model and is trying to mix things up with a fancy motion-sensitive system of controls. A bold effort perhaps to do away with the grind of random button mashing, but in practice it's really only replacing it with random stick waggling. It's almost like we've come full circle back to the joystick waggling of the Spectrum and C64 era and now I feel really old, but if the Wii's controller is supposed to be a universal motion sensor, then why do they keep bringing out attachments to turn the thing into a steering wheel or gun or guitar or milking machine or something? Somehow I liked it better when it was asking us to fill in the blanks with the power of imagination that had a sort of charming Muppet Babies innocence to it.
The Wii's game lineup consists of the usual Nintendo staples of Zelda, Metroid, Mario, etc. because Nintendo's policy seems to be that if you beat a dead horse vigorously enough its constant twitching and juttering will at least give a semblance of activity, but of the big sellers, only Zelda is currently out and the rest of the available games are a cavalcade of mediocrity. As overused as the character is, it seems that a Nintendo console on the market without a Mario title is like a fat kid swimming without water wings.
The polar opposite to Nintendo's bewilderingly named, modestly powered, little, white cuboid is Sony's unoriginally titled, monolithic, black colossus, the PlayStation 3. A shiny, chrome, Spiderman type-faced thing the size of a small car loaded with arguably the most powerful top-of-the-range hardware. But blinging out your console with such things creates the unspoken obligation to also bling out the games with top-of-the-range graphics, which puts production time and costs several months and several million dollars on the side of uncomfortable. This may explain why there are hardly any games out for the bloody thing. Like Nintendo, the PS3 is largely selling on future potential because of the promise of Metal Gear Solid 4 and Final Fantasy XIII at some point, but if Final Fantasy XIII continues the tradition of most new Final Fantasies, then you can probably simulate it just as well by listening to the Star Wars soundtrack while huffing nitrous oxide and reading an Excel spreadsheet.
But it's okay because Sony and marketing's overpriced horsebox is not only a player of games but also a player of Blu-Ray movies, which is apparently some new format that's better than DVD. It's supposed to have higher definition but personally I've never found myself saying "Oh, Army of Darkness is still a glorious celebration of boyish fantasy violence, but if only the resolution was a wee bit bigger it could be significantly improved." I'm not a connoisseur, but for me, there's really not enough visible difference between Blu-Ray and DVD quality for Sony to credibly argue that it's the next big advance, and let's not forget that combining a home gaming system with a movie system is something Sony tried with the PSP and failed at because nobody wanted to by Full Metal Jacket again just for the privilege of watching on the bus in teeny-weeny-eye-strain-o-vision.
While Sony targets hardcore technology freaks and Nintendo targets gamers who aren't yet old enough to cross the road by themselves, the Xbox 360 has its sights on a more casual gaming, beer drinking, frat boy demographic, and reflects that with a stack of big, tough, manly games like Gears of War and Dead Rising, the latter being a game with a difficulty curve like running headlong into a brick wall.
The 360 undoubtedly has the strongest lineup of games, which at this point is admittedly like beating two quadruple amputees at swing ball, because it also has a strong back catalog of Xbox games, or at least it would do if the backwards compatibility wasn't a big load of bullshit and chips. The 360 also has the best online support with the Xbox LIVE malarkey, although the player base can charitably be described as lively, and uncharitably described as a bunch of hooting dick holes, and then of course, there's the fact that the 360 hardware has a bad case of the gremlins.
At time of writing, the 360 in my household is bricked because we had the sheer gall to try and play games on it. It seemed to recover for a while after some fiddling, but after that though, we were afraid to use it in case it returned to the land of the dead. For a few days it was like Schrödinger's console in a quantum state of both bricked and unbricked until finally we decided to try playing something again and the waveform collapsed, so it's currently at the repair shop. Perhaps next month I'll probably have to review Halo 3 by playing it on a microwave.
With the current generation of consoles we've reached, or nearly reached, the point where graphics aren't going to get much better so we can all stop rushing to top the last generation's technology and concentrate on making some games with actual depth, except of course the console wars are all ultimately futile because the best game ever, Fantasy World Dizzy for the Commodore 64 has already been made. Or maybe all of gaming is pointless, just toying with the gravel on the side of the big road of life. But hey, at least there's violence and tits.
Ham-handedly assembled by Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw.
"War" by Edwin Starr
"In the Navy" by Village People
This video was dedicated to all my wonderful friends in YCS
Ask me when I'm going to stop pissing about and review Bioshock: email@example.com