The Zimbabwean Perspective

A look at our lives and the tech we use in them

Editorial Gaming

Using a PS3 in 2020: a study on a console that was ahead of its time.

Time we appreciate a hero before we turn him in…

So its time for a little confession, despite being a pretty avid game, I don’t own any current gaming consoles. I never bought a PS4 or Xbox One despite having extensive experience with both and playing full games for whole weekends on loaners from friends. Instead, the console that’s been keeping me entertained gaming-wise(when my pc wasn’t) , along with being a hub for my family’s music, movies and the occasional streaming service subscription, is arguably Sony’s most controversial console in the PlayStation family. Say Hello to my 2007-release 40GB PlayStation 3.
It’s a little dated, but it definitely gets the job done
Now I put this article together not just to talk about my personal PS3 , but the PS3 generation in general, as that was one of the most interesting times for Sony’s gaming division, as well as one of the greatest comebacks in gaming history. You see, Sony almost definitively lost in the PS3 generation. Here in Zim and around Africa most people may not notice, especially since these are predominantly PlayStation markets. But around the world , especially in the biggest gaming markets at the time, the USA,UK, Australia and the rest of Europe, the Xbox 360 had been cleaning shop, having been out for almost a year longer, focusing on some of the best Xbox exclusive ever released, a much cheaper starting price and a reputation for great online play and communities with Xbox Live, essentially the biggest factor for that generation of consoles. The PS3 also had one of the worst launches of any games console, with it’s price, original game offerings and mixed messaging not really inspiring much hope. Hence the PS3 started on a back foot, yet still managed to catch up by the end of the PS3 generation, even outselling the 360 in certain markets and in the 10 years I’ve owned mine, I understand how this almost 14 year old machine was actually ahead of it’s time, and set a template that even Microsoft and Xbox follow to this day.

The Gaming Beast

While the current specs of the PS5 and Xbox Series have the Xbox clearly rated as the more powerful console, it was more complicated with the PS3 and the Xbox 360. In fact, to this day, based on who you ask, either one of these consoles could be counted as more powerful, based on which game it is, whether it’s an exclusive, and which studio is behind it. It is worth noting that a lot of developers found the PS3’s Cell Processor to be incredibly difficult to work with, but in later years this seemingly got sorted out, and in fact many of the most beautiful games of the generation are PS3 exclusives. Which is what brings me to my main point: part of the reason I haven’t  moved on to the PS4 is pretty much because the PS3 is still a considerable gaming beast with one of the best gaming libraries ever crafted. Let me be clear here, the PS2 probably has THE BEST gaming collection ever crafted, but saying the PS3 can’t fight head to head with the PS4 for second place would be a lie. In fact the PS4 is still continuously porting and remastering PS3 games, with recently titles like Need For Speed : Hot Pursuit getting the treatment as well. It’s essentially this library that kept me invested in the PS3 (screenshots of some of my trophies will be seen below) , and to this day it hasn’t disappointed. I’ve gone from exclusive gems like iNFAMOUS 2 , God of War 3 and Uncharted 2 & 3 , to awesome but lesser known gems like Vanquish and Gundam Extreme Vs Full Boost and third party greats like the original Red Dead Redemption. The PS3 has a game collection whose surface I’ve only begun to scratch, so much so that I often delete installs of older games now to play new ones.
What’s even better is that some of the early PS4 greats are here too, including GTA V, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain and Middle Earth : Shadow of Mordor . Hence, I’ve had some adequate incentives to stay on this giant thing, minus of course a newer, better version of probably most of my favorite franchises. Minus maybe Gran Turismo (5 is still the best one and Sport on the PS4 sucks). And of course there’s th issue of graphics. And look there’s no competition here, the PS4 is approximately 16 times as powerful as the PS3 , so of course everything on it looks better. But amusingly enough, a lot of PS3 games especially late in the generation, hold up really well especially compared to their PS4 counterparts. It’s not universal of course, but games like Need For Speed Rivals, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare and even FIFA games up until 17 and 18 do a pretty good job of looking comparable (though obviously not as good) as the PS4 Versions. Gundam Extreme Vs, a personal favorite of mine, actually just looks like a 720p version of the 1080p Maxi Boost on version for PS4, which actually makes pretty good about owning it, because even for 720p the game looks really good. Consider also that all these games still come with free multiplayer for the PS3, and you realize another little bonus that came with this console, as of course you need a PlayStation Plus to play multiplayer on PS4 and PS5 games. 

Then there’s those aforementioned exclusives. The PS4 is noted for winning this console generation because of an amazing crop of exclusive games, except most people forgot to note that the PS3 caught up to the Xbox 360 because of an impressive (and actually larger) exclusives catalogue of its own. This console birthed the Uncharted series with the original 3 games, concluded the original God of War trilogy with God of War 3, started the iNFAMOUS series with the original 2 games, has Gran Turismo 4 and 5 , the Underrated Ratchet & Clank Second Trilogy and spinoffs like Nexus , Killzone 2 (the best one in the series) and literally at least 20 or so more great games. Even less beloved titles like PlayStation AllStars : Battle Royale (this one probably lost because of the name) and the Resistance series are all great games that many are actually asking for PS4 (and now 5) remasters. And of course, there’s The Last Of Us, a game which many have said is the best example of video games being art, and an easy contender for the best game of the last decade. It’s a lot to talk about but to put it simply, the PS3 easily shows why it’s still even in gaming cafes around the country to this day. The PS4 was a step forward yes, but outside of the usual graphic upgrades and these newer, bigger, open-world and live games that rule gaming now, it seems like the step forward wasn’t that big for many gamers, let alone Zimbabweans, as the PS3 still holds its own.

The Media Centre

So nowadays, those of us with a smart TV know it can essentially be a hub for all of your media needs (minus DSTV because Multichoice literally chooses to be backward for their benefit), with an internet connected smart TV likely having access to streaming services like Netflix, music streaming apps like Spotify, and access to services like YouTube and the internet as a whole. It doesn’t make them do all devices like your PC and you’ll likely need a sound bar or home theatre for the best music setup, but a smart TV works for most people. Back in 2006, companies like Sony wanted this vision too but didn’t exactly know how to push it forward as smart TVs weren’t a thing yet, so instead the PS3 became the machine they used for all that. It pioneered Blu-Ray disks, had dedicated media server support, integrated Wi-Fi and Bluetooth adapters, came in higher memory variant than the Xbox 360, could store music, movies and pictures for your family, and was actually a bit of a launching platform for services like Netflix, Plex and even Sony’s own music streaming offerings. In fact my PS3 to this day is a family media hub, storing old photos I glance at for fun sometimes, a music collection I’m embarrassed to say I made (I was 13 when I started it) and being the best way to listen to Spotify as the best speakers in the house are connected to the TV. It even became everyone’s go-to Netflix device for a bit (before internet connections became a burden to uphold) or just where we loaded movie playlists when had quite a few to watch.

Simply put, the PS3 is an amazing multimedia machine, even if most of these features can now be done by something the size of a stick today. Ironically copying movies and music was removed on the PS4, with Sony aiming to limit piracy and promote its own streaming and store options, but it’s a shame as honestly it took the PS4 a step back as a media machine, though ironically the Xbox One adopted all these features which the 360 lacked, and sort of got in trouble for that at launch too. It’s clear that these companies needed to understand that you should make a console a great media machine, but still focus more on games. Regardless, this less appreciated part of the PS3 has made it beloved by more than just the gamers in my family, and it was easily the most forward-thinking part of the console. After all try and think of any other 14 year old device that plays Netflix and YouTube smoothly in 1080p? Can’t find one? That’s because they don’t exist. The PS3 is one of a kind in that matter, and true chances are support for these services may drop soon, but we shouldn’t discredit the fact that it’s even been supported this long to begin with.

So am I saying you should buy one?

No. Well, not unless you’re just extremely nostalgic for a native PS3 experience and already have a PS4 or (depending on when you read this) a PS5 even. This article wasn’t so that I could say the PS3 is better than the 4 after all, rather it was simply meant to appreciate how good the console is, especially since when it launched the tide was actually against it. And of course there’s still clear reasons why you want to upgrade, tons of newer, better games (Need For Speed Heat, The Witcher 3 or Mortal Kombat 11 anyone?) , massive leaps in performance, load times and new experiences such as VR or 3D audio. The newer consoles are better, and for good reason too. Add in some drawbacks on the PS3 such as the closing multiplayer servers and likely soon to close PlayStation Store, and you’ll see why you have to move forward. But you should definitely remember that a large bedrock of what consoles can do today, and where they are now, was set by this console, and every now and then, it still does it better than the new kids.

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