Rants and raves about all the latest in video games and other forms of mindless entertainment.

April 20, 2005

Review: PSP - It's the new black...

What's black, ovular, sexy, and smells like plastic? No, sorry it isn't an overweight hooker fresh from the boobie maintenance upgradery; it's the PSP. Sony's new handheld, poised to take the world by storm, with new hardware, new functionality, and overall a product never seen before. In few words, Sony has succeeded. From primortial conception, to full blown production, PSP has been under the watchful eye of analysts and fanboys everywhere. Many people threw up there arms in a cry of happiness as Sony finally decided to set things right in the handheld market. Things were getting stale, software is becoming evermore simplistic, and the hardware just wasn't cutting it for the pricetag you were glaring at. For the longest while, Nintendo went unopposed with it's Gameboy Advanced lineup, destroying the shit-tacular N-Gage, and managing to scrape by the GameGear and demolish the Nomad. Things were looking up. Nintendo had a fall guy; a place they could call home and no one could touch them. Until E3 2003 that is. The PSP was shown to an international audience of millions of people, and everything went black.

Nintendo no longer held the world in it's hands. Nintendo now had to start trying. Their rebuttal was the DS, and while being no slouch, is dwarfed by the sheer power of the PSP. Gargantuan screen, paramount processing power and tantamount multimedia functionality. It was the Jack of All Trades (master of some), and it was great. Perhaps God owns a PSP. I mean, his omnipotent rule would only be multiplied ten fold with a PSP in his possession. Assuming the almighty can create Memory Sticks the size of Uranus (infinity), there's no limit to how many sinners the Lord can track and smite. Heck, the PSP might just be able to do it for him assuming (again) He is a 1337 HaxXoR with godly mod talents. What would God do with a DS? Touch and fondle people into glory? I'm pretty sure that's against the ten commandments or Bible or Upanishads or something.

The interface of the PSP is slick. Upon boot up, you're welcomed by a softly toned "Home" interface, that lets you utilize and navigate through all of the PSP's functions. It's as easy as clicking the D-Pad in the direction you want, and using the Playstation Gamer's Intuition to access them (X for confirm, O deny, and Triangle info). It would be nice if the background colour was changeable, since it only displays the "monthly" colour, which just so happens to be pink for April, which just so happens to make my man berries that much smaller. Regardless, the PSP is not a difficult device to operate, and is very user friendly. Which makes for a great start since in the end, with a multi-function device like the PSP, the last thing you want to be doing is be fiddling around with useless menus and tacky toolbars to find just what you want. Everything is laid in plain english for you to sift through and engage in at your own whim.

What it all comes down to is talent though. The PSP drives a hard bargain. In exchange for lofty chunk of cash, PSP in return gives you full-on completance. For the low high price of 300 Canucks (250 Uncle Sams), the PSP gives you every imaginable portable media function in the palm of your hand. It's a perfect place to store digital photos, that you can not only load onto another computer, but can also display in a slideshow (via sexy sexy screen) if said computerbox is not available/not eating your children. Secondly, it plays Mp3's. Yes, sure it can play ATRAC3, but the quality is slightly less (albeit unnoticeable unless you're packing a decent set of headphones). Depend on the size of your...card, you can store anywhere from 6 (standard 32 MB card) to 100 (256 MB) songs on the PSP's flash memory stick Pro. Now, any higher than 128 MB, and you're delving into "Pro DUO" territory, which for some reason forbids the play of ATRAC. Which doesn't really matter, since up and above 256 MB, you have the extra storage space to house a hundred songs and still have movable space left over.

Third up is the movie playback. First and foremost on this touchy matter, is the screen. It's frickin' huge. In the widescreen 16:9 ration aspect, the PSP delivers a fully cinematic experience just by making the screen that much bigger than the normal DS and Gameboy fare. The resolution is great, if not better than most high end PC monitors and televisions (CRT of course). While the PSP only allows for MPEG4 playback, free video converters are not hard to come by, and certainly do not add any extra greif to the technologically illiterate. While uploading of movies to the PSP is not difficult, the obscure (and manditory) file names like "MNV100134imaconfusingfilename" don't really make too much sense. Why not just let us make our own filenames? I'm completely aware that it's for the PSP to be able to recognize it, but there should be firmware in place that makes that job a tranquil one. It's a learning curve, and that's going to be a bit off putting at first, but it's not something that will eternally be a neural tease. It's an easy process in the end. The PSP also plays UMD movies, which while great and offer video quality matching that of the DVD phenomenon, don't offer any special features, and actually cost more than DVDs (despite their smaller size and storage capacity). As of now, the UMD format is not something you're going to begin replacing your DVD collection with, and is not a viable movie format. It's good for a few kicks or if you want something you're going to watch on the road or on long trips, but it's versatility ends there. Stick to DVD's if you're only into movies for at home use.

As for the machine itself, it uses state of the art technology that easily matches that of the Playstation 2, making the Nintendo DS look like an aged and crochety old fart. Internally, the PSP does things that must be programmed into software on the Ps2. Though the power is never truly tapped since doing so would drain the battery. More efficient ways of programming and more battery R&D are needed before we can truly realize the monstrous muscle of the PSP. Graphically it delivers some of the same experiences you've had on the Ps2, but what makes the PSP interesting is it's appeal to mobile gamers. Puzzle games are common ground now in the realm of handheld gaming, and as such new software designed around puzzle solving can take advantage of that power. The real kicker, is that in the launch lineup alone, the PSP manages to score two completely innovative and genre defining/redefining games; which is something Nintendo promised to deliver with the DS, but dropped the bomb on, and still struggles to pick itself back up from. (For the curious, the two games in question are Mercury and Lumines).

While quality standardization of software will have to wait until respective reviews are posted, one thing can be said: there is no shortage of games in the PSP launch lineup. Launching with only 6 games on launch day (later increasing to 12 over a week), the DS' library is ecclipsed by the 13 games available on launch day (24 by weeks end, and 25 by fortnight termination) of the PSP. Tidbit: The PSP after two weeks on the market, has amassed a larger library than the DS could manage to muster in 4 months. While I can say that the majority of launch titles for PSP are actually very good (which is amazing, since launch software is most always fit for the shitter), just the sheer number of titles available makes for a warranted purchase by any type of gamer.

While the downside to the PSP is that the battery life is about 6 - 8 hours for gaming, depending on the game and the screen brightness, music playback lasts for 12 hours, and movie playback for about 4 hours. The battery is a competent component despite the power leeching the PSP undergoes just to perfom basic tasks. Granted that the PSP comes equipped with a memory card (standard 32 MB), you'll want to upgrade to a 128 MB or 256 MB if you plan on any heavy music or video playback (keeping in mind that loading your PSP with video files will brim the capacity right quick). With these things aside, the PSP manages to pull off what Nintendo could never do: create a handheld worth the pricetag. For too long Nintendo has charged upwards of 100 bucks for a handheld only equivalent to the SNES, and now 200 bucks for the DS; not nearly as powerful as an N64, indcidentally only bringing you down 20 dollars these days. You pay a lot, but you get that back in product value ten fold.

In the end, the PSP is the best thing to happen to gaming in the longest time. Nintendo has some serious competition, and we no longer live in 1995. Coasing off of the axion "Rehash to get cash" won't work this time around. Sony has created a beastly device that ecclipses every effort made by Nintendo in memory, combined. It's inch for inch the sexiest handheld device around , and anyone who says otherwise is either blind or Nintendosexual. It's an uphill battle, and for once we're seeing competition in handheld gaming, which can only lead to bigger and better things. The PSP is in and of itself the bigger and better product on the market, let's see if it can stay that way.

+ Screen: 16:9 LCD screen, crystal clear
+ Power: 333 MHz processor, graphical superiority of any handheld
+ Functionality: Photo, Music, Video file, Movie and Game playback. The ultimate 5 in 1 device.
+ Launch lineup of 25 games (quality is undecided)
+ Design: No longer than the average GBA or DS, and is actually thinner. Sleak black and glossy finish make PSP the most visually appealing device on the market without sacrificing mobile sizability.
+ Uses the inutitive standard PlayStation control scheme
+ The inclusion of an analog nub (best idea since the Konami code)
+ UMD: Viable gaming format offering 1.8 GB of storage (or the equivalent of 14 DS flash cards)

- Battery life: While competitively competent, the battery life is outdone by the DS'.
- Upload: Learning curve in uploading movies (does not apply to music or photos)
- UMD: Pricey movie format, good for a kick here and there, but not viable.
- Memory: Stick upgrades required for heavy multimedia usage (not a big deal, but a 64/128 card pack-in would have been nicer).




Blogger anonymous said...

Pretty Shitty Portable

February 02, 2006 10:06 AM


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