PlayStation 3 impressions

My brand new PlayStation 3 arrived on my doorstep Friday, a day late (thanks UPS), but not too late for me to spend an entire weekend enjoying it. And enjoy it I have.

Unfortunately, the first game I bought was Marvel: Ultimate Alliance. It's been getting better reviews than most of the PS3 launch titles, so I figured it was my best bet. I was disappointed. It's not a bad game, but it's not what I'd call great, and it certainly doesn't take advantage of the PS3's power. I'd give it a 6 out of 10.

Luckily, there are quite a few downloadable demos in the PS3 store. The Gran Turismo HD demo is pretty damn good; the graphics are absolutely amazing. Even more spectacular, though, is the MotorStorm demo, which is essentially a much better-looking, more fun version of the Wii's Excite Truck. I was surprised to find that MotorStorm has an option (disabled by default) that allows you to use the Sixaxis controller's motion sensing capabilities to steer your vehicle. It works amazingly well. In fact, it feels a lot more natural and responsive than the Wiimote does in Excite Truck.

Naturally, after I'd had my fill of the games, I set about installing Linux on the thing, which turned out to be a surprisingly painless process. I went with Yellow Dog 5.0, since it's the only officially-supported distribution for the PS3. The install took a while, but I didn't run into any problems, and when it finished, I had a fully usable, working Linux desktop running on my PS3. I plan to look into running MythTV on it. It'd be pretty sweet if I could replace my existing HTPC with the PS3.

After installing Linux, I booted back into the PS3 OS and popped in God of War, my favorite PS2 game of all time (and quite possibly the best game ever). Initially, the graphics were ugly and pixelated, as has been reported elsewhere when playing PS2 games on the PS3, but when I switched on the game's progressive scan mode, everything looked much better. Five or six hours quickly slipped by before I managed to extract myself from the game's evil grasp.

On the whole, I'm pleased with my purchase. If the PS3 were just a game console, $600 would be far too much to spend on it. Its gaming capabilities aren't much better than the Xbox 360. But the fact that it can do so much more makes it worth the price. Being able to run Linux on it makes it usable as a relatively cheap, high-powered general purpose computer or HTPC. It's also the cheapest blu-ray player currently on the market.

The biggest mistake Sony made with the PS3 was not making it clear just how versatile it is. $600 is too much for a game console, but it's a bargain for a high-end computer.