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Archive for July, 2013

Top 10 Playstation 3D Games of All Time

In a lot of ways we’ve come a long way since 3D was first announced for the Playstation 3.

First, with the coming of the PS4 this year, the days of the PS3, of course, are numbered. Back when the PS3 was launched, there were 155 million PS2 units out there, and ensuring backwards compatibility with PS2 games was a major demand. But with barely less than half that number of PS3, it’s likely we’ll be seeing the end of the line for a lot of our favorite PS3 games.

Second, Sony’s experiment a few years ago to make 3D a household word just like they did with Blu-ray, by selling a deeply discounted 3D monitor, was largely a bust. I, of course, was one of those who ran out and bought it at full price, only to find out months later that they couldn’t move units at a fraction of the price I paid. The monitor was (and is) still a great one, but there were too many idiosyncrasies about it–it didn’t come with a built-in tuner for TV or cable, it didn’t have a remote control, the volume control and configuration buttons were annoying as heck to use, and so on. A shame, because to this day I use the monitor as a secondary monitor for my PC and love it, and of course it’s still the primary monitor I use to watch 3d Blurays and play 3D games.

In celebration of the denouement of 3D on the Playstation I decided to try to put together a definitive list of the all time best stereoscopic 3D games to ever grace the Playstation 3. I scoured dozens of review sites, retail sites, and blogs dating from the first 3D games, and compiled this list based on which ones were mentioned the most times, which ones elicited the most positive comments, and which ones were mentioned consistently time and time again. These are the ones that have stood the test of time.

10) Zen Pinball 2 (PSN download) – This PSN title is a relatively new one, and yet the 3D effects are eye-popping amazing. Zen Pinball was always a good pinball simulation, but the effects in these tables are nothing short of amazing. I admit, I’m a bigger fan of Pinball Arcade, which does realistic simulations of real-life pinball machines instead of the fantastical, sometimes over-the-top-in-realism pinball machines that Zen Pinball has, but its support of 3D made me feel for the first time that I was actually playing a real pinball machine rather than a 2D simulation. I’ve heard that Pinball Arcade is working on a 3D version of its tables, but chances are slim we’ll see them on the PS3, so Zen Pinball 2 is the only game in town for true 3D pinball action.

3D demo available on PSN? Yes

9) Killzone 3 – With both Playstation Move and 3D support, Killzone 3 brings combat simulation to a whole new level, to a point where some have reported that it’s almost too realistic. You walk through the scenes, past buildings, vehicles, and even debris floating around you. There’s a great sense of depth whether you’re walking or driving. Killzone 3 has been called one of the great first-person shooters for the PS3, and if you’ve never experienced a FPS in true 3D, it’s an amazing one to try out.

3D demo available on PSN? Yes (as Killzone 3 Single Player 3D Demo)

8) Resistance 3 – Another great game on its own in 2D where the added depth of the 3D takes the gameplay to another level. Some have said that it makes shooting the sniper rifle feel real, as you scope out your target with real depth of field that helps your aim and your shots. The scenery and environment are done exceptionally well, as are the explosions and creepy alien monsters.

3D demo available on PSN?

7) God of War Origins
– The God of War series is of course critically renowned, but the 3D support lets you play the games with amazing depth and realism, from judging distances to jump, to watching as Kratos seems to swing right out of your TV screen at you. To see what I mean, download the excellent free demo from PSN and try it out for yourse.f

3D demo available on PSN? Yes

6) Child of Eden – This is by most accounts a “trippy” game that works like a shooter, except that you’re treated to an amazing array of colorful, psychedelic experiences set to soothing electronic music. It works with the Move controller; you point at the screen and shoot multiple targets as you proceed through the world on a rail. Players have described it as breathtakingly beautiful.

3D demo available on PSN? No

5) Gran Turismo 5 – This is another example of a game where graphics and gameplay are excellent to begin with, and adding the 3D just accentuates what’s good about the game. Playing in 3D using a Logitech Steering Wheel is about the closest thing to real driving as I’ve ever experienced outside of a car. Viewing the 3D inside the car puts you right in the cockpit, where you really feel enclosed inside the car looking out at the road outside. I won’t go as far as saying the 3D is the best in the world for a driving game (that nod will go to Motorstorm: Apocalypse, below), but for a realistic driving simulation it’s not bad.

3D demo available on PSN? No

4) Wipeout HD (PSN download) – This is a ridiculously high-speed racing game where like Anakin Skywalker you’re zipping at breakneck speeds in the air in a hovering air ship. The effect is something like a roller coaster, where you’re speeding in conduits, looping around, and twisting and turning every which way. The result is a heart-pounding experience.

3D demo available on PSN? Yes

3) Super Stardust HD (PSN download) – If you’re a fan of the game “Asteroids” from the 1970s, you’ll appreciate this 21st century version of it. You’re a ship circling around a planet, destroying floating space rocks along the way. As enemies chase you, you can navigate the field of asteroids a la Han Solo to try to destroy them. The outer space effects in this game are excellent, from the star fields to the rotating asteroids of different shapes and sizes to the amazing effect as things explode and you see flashes of light and debris hurtling toward you.

3D Demo available on PSN? Yes

2) Motorstorm Apocalypse – The 3D in this game is phenomenal. You’re a driver in a brutal street race in San Francisco after the Big Quake. As you’re driving down the streets of the post-apocalyptic city, you can’t help but admire the dystopian details all around you. The physics are great, and the demolition derby environment makes for some interesting races. Unlike with GT5, the 3D in this game was built from the ground up rather than cobbled on, and it shows.

3D Demo available on PSN? 

1) Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception – By virtually all accounts, this is the 3D game on the PS3 by which other games are judged. The story, action, and gameplay are of course top notch, but the 3D really lets you experience the lush scenery in a way that you’ll truly immerse yourself in the story. There are times I’d just walk around as Drake admiring the various scenery and attention to detail.

3D Demo available on PSN? No

The great news is, as the world prepares for the PS3, some of these PS3 games are cheaper than they’ve ever been. Most were $59.99 at one point, but now you can get 3-4 of these games for that price. Time will tell whether 3D will continue to be embraced in the PS4 as much as it was in the PS3, but if it isn’t then at the very least you’ll have a great showcase of titles to play if you have these titles and keep your old PS3 around.

There were, of course, a ton of games that were also mentioned (the PS3 has over 100 games that support 3D now), but these were universally touted as the best of the best. But if you have your own favorite Playstation 3D games, leave a comment below!  In the future, I’ll devote additional posts for “honorable mentions”.

Review of Playstation Move Fitness

Sadly, this is probably going to be one of the last Playstation 3 fitness games I or anyone else ever reviews. There just aren’t new games being developed for the PS3 as the world gets ready for the PS4. And of course, fitness games themselves have gone a bit out of vogue.

Back in 2012, you might recall I excitedly talked about a new game from Sony Computer Entertainment called Move Fitness. It had been released in Europe and I was eagerly awaiting its arrival in the US.

Funny thing, I didn’t even realize until a few months after the fact that it had been released in the US, albeit as a downloadable title on the Playstation Store (the official launch date was March 26, 2013). Seems that fitness games had gone so out of vogue that Sony didn’t even bother to release it on a disc nor throw a lot of marketing behind it. My guess is that Move Fitness went on the drawing board at a time when games like Wii Fit were raking in money, and by the time it came to fruition the industry started to turn its back on fitness gaming.

What’s sad is that Playstation Move Fitness is great. In fact, I’d say it’s one of the best fitness games I’ve reviewed, and those of you who’ve been reading this blog for a long time know that I’ve literally played every fitness game on the Wii, Xbox, and PS3. Playstation Move Fitness is probably the first game that gets motion controls right. The controls aren’t imprecise like the Wii, nor are they sluggish or bloated like the Kinect. The on-screen character reacts at the same time you do with one-to-one precision.

Something else I like is that this game keeps it simple. It doesn’t try to be all things to all people like Adidas MiCoach or Nike+ for Kinect seem to do. It just sticks to what it does, and does a great job at it.

Okay, enough talk, here’s my review.

The first thing you see when you start the game is the “Sony Computer Entertainment” credit. Right away, this is a good sign. I’ve had nothing but great experiences with SCEA titles, from Sports Champions to MLB: The Show to LittleBigPlanet. Right away, I know the quality is going to be pretty good.

You start by configuring the Move controller for your dominant hand, adjusting the screensize (which will be important to make sure your gameplay is accurate), and selecting your age and gender.

You then choose a “trainer”. It really doesn’t make a difference which one you pick; each one will give identical workouts, so it really depends on whose voice you want to hear and whose picture you want to see giving you instructions. In politically correct fashion, there’s a white dude in a tanktop, a white dudette in a tanktop, an African American (or more likely, a Black British) dude in a tanktop, and an Asian female in a tanktop.

You then choose your unit of measurement–metric or imperial. I don’t think too many people know what the word “Imperial” means anymore, so they probably would have been better giving examples, like “meters vs. feet”.

You then enter your weight. Of course, unlike the Wii the game can’t calculate your weight for you, so you’re on the honor system. You can enter a minimum of 44 pounds and a maximum of 441 pounds, so anyone who’s 442 is out of luck. You then enter your height and click “Create Profile”. You do have the option to connect to the Playstation Network.

The home screen has four options: Workout Programs, Single Exercise, Profile & Info, and Settings & Extras.

Workout Programs are basically tailor-made fitness programs that put together multiple “Single Exercises”. You can schedule workouts on a regular basis, and because of the sheer number of exercises you can choose from it’s unlikely you’ll ever get bored.

When you select Single Exercise, you see a list, in alphabetical order, of every individual exercise that’s featured in the Workout Programs.

I would divide them into three broad categories: Ball and Sports games, Boxing and Punching games, and Cardio and Aerobics games.

When you select an exercise, the first thing you do is calibrate the second Move controller by pointing it at the Playstation Eye and pressing the trigger button. You then stretch out your arms to the widest they will go, and then move your body so that it fits within the camera. One thing I absolutely love about the game is that it’ll accommodate you playing in a small room, a minimum of 5 feet 9 inches and a maximum of 9 feet 9 inches. This is much more forgiving than most Kinect exercise games, where you have to completely clear out all the furniture in your living room.

The main page of the exercise will appear, displaying the best score (and highest amount of calories burned) you’ve gotten on the exercise, the last score and calories burned, and the total score and calories burned added up from all the times you’ve ever played it.

You can turn the tutorial (a few intro screens) on and off. Happily, most of the exercises are so intuitive that you really don’t need them.

You can also select 1-4 players. Unfortunately, they can’t play simultaneously, but you can play one at a time and compare your scores. It’s great if you have a workout buddy.

All the games keep score based on how well you do the exercise; do a good job and you’ll get double scores, and do an outstanding job and the exercise will go into “overdrive” mode, during which time you can get 5x scores.

Here’s a description of each exercise.

Ball and Sports games

Basket – This was the first exercise I played, and it shows the best of the best this game has to offer. You squat down to pick up a basketball, and then stand up, rear back, and throw the basketball into a hoop, using the T button to let go of the ball. I won’t say this is the most realistic basketball game; as long as you throw the basketball with both hands using an arc motion, sufficient force, and the generally correct direction, you’ll have no problems scoring baskets. Bottom line, you do get the same thrill you get playing real basketball, and you squat, stand up, and jump without even thinking about it, which provide great exercise. This is what a fitness game should be–one that’s fun enough that you don’t even notice that you’re getting a workout. 5 out of 5.

Catch – Here, you’re holding up a net with both your hands as a machine shoots balls out at you all over the place. You have to run to the left and to the right and hold your hands in the right place to catch the ball. This is one game where I wish they had 3D support, as it’s tough to really pick up the ball coming at you on a 2D screen. But as long as you watch the red light on the machine (which tells you when the ball is being released) and follow the trajectory of the ball into your glove, you’ll have a lot of fun with this one.  5 out of 5.

Clear – This is another simple but ridiculously fun one. Your trainer is standing on top of a ramp and rolling medicine balls down to you. Your job is to intercept them and roll them back up to him. In a short time, it becomes a lot like that episode of I Love Lucy in the chocolate factory, as you’re running from left to right trying to keep all the balls on the ramp from getting past you. This is another one that’s both fun and realistic in its graphics and physics. 5 out of 5.

Dodge – This is another game where a ball machine is hurling balls at you, but instead of catching them you need to dodge them. Blue shading in front of you will show you the area you need to avoid getting hit. You can move to the left or the right, or you can lean, lunge, and dodge. This one is pretty simple when the balls are slow, but once you get into “overdrive mode”, look out! 5 out of 5.

Dodgeball – This game is a combination of Dodge (above) and Throw (below). It’s a game a lot like classic dodgeball, where you have to duck from the machine throwing balls at you, while picking up balls in front of you and hurling them at one of five cutout figures. As I’ll mention below, the throwing took a little getting used to, but this one was a lot of fun as well. 5 out of 5.

Pickup – In this game you crouch of pick up a ball, and then you need to crouch, stand up, or jump or stretch upwards to deposit the ball into one of six targets using a forward pass. What’s very cool about this game (which we’ll also mention in some of the boxing games) is that your vantage point changes in the game depending on how you move; stretch or jump upwards and the camera will pan to the top targets; duck downwards, and the camera will pan to the bottom ones. 5 out of 5

Throw – In this game, you need to crouch down to pick up a ball, and then hurl it with either your right hand or your left hand to topple one of five cardboard cutout figures. Figuring out how to aim and throw is a little tricky at first, but after time you’ll get the hang of it.  5 out of 5

Chopping – It wouldn’t be a Move game without swords. This game is a lot like Fruit Ninja and every other slashing sword game you’ve played, but the swords are amazingly precise. Unfortunately, the same 2D vs 3D problem I mentioned above applies here, as it’s very, very difficult to make out the depth of the plates being thrown at you. I ended up just flailing my arms wildly, which perhaps isn’t good samurai technique, but I did get some good cardio out of it. 5 out of 5.

Boxing and Punching Games

Breaking Walls – It wouldn’t be a Move game without boxing either. Unlike on the Wii or Kinect, the boxing on the PS3 is amazing, down to seeing your hands rotate in real-time on screen as you do it in real life. Breaking Walls is a great game where you literally punch out pieces of a call, causing it to shatter and clear. You basically go from pane to pane, rearing up and punching as hard as you can. It’s very realistic and very cathartic on days when you feel like punching the wall but don’t want to clean up the mess. 5 out of 5.

Dummy Targets – Here, you face off against a dummy that looks like he’s made of foam. Targets will light up on his face, chest, and lower left and lower right sides. You need to punch the targets, in some case adjusting your body (again, which automatically adjust the camera angle accordingly). I really like how this encourages not just punching but also squatting and leg movements as well. 5 out of 5.

Dummy Warmup – This is a good exercise to get acclimated to punching the dummy in “Dummy Targets”. There are no targets here, you just get a minute to punch as much as you like out of the foam dummy. The more, faster, and harder you punch the more points you’ll rack up. The attention to details is astounding. As you punch the dummy, you’ll see it move exactly the way it should in real life, even down to the detail of the foam and vinyl on the dummy changing as you hit it. This is another great one to play if you just need to let off some steam. 5 out of 5.

Heavy Bag on Rail – Here you’re hitting a heavy punching bag along a rail. As the bag starts to travel down the curving rail, you’ll need to position your body to keep the bag moving. This one is really realistic and a great workout. 4.5 out of 5.

Heavy Bag Targets – This one is similar to  Dummy Targets, except instead of targets showing up on a dummy they show up on a heavy bag. As with Dummy Targets, as you rotate your body in real life, the camera rotates around the bag on your screen, making for a virtually realistic experience. 5 out of 5.

Heavy Bag Warmup – This one has the same concept as Dummy Warmup. Just wind up and flail away as long as you can until your arms get sore. The heavier and more varied your punches the higher your score. 5 out of 5.

Mitts – Here, you can work on different kinds of punches. Your trainer will hold color-coded mitts up and shout out instructions to throw a left or right uppercut, hook, jab, or cross. You need to punch accordingly. As you get good, you won’t need to wait for the instruction, you’ll just recognize the position of your trainer’s glove and do the right punches. 5 out of 5.

Mitts Combos – Same idea here as Mitts, except the trainer will hold up two gloves in different positions and you have to throw the right combination of punches. 5 out of 5.

Punching Pad – As I played through all of these, I started to realize that most of them seem pretty similar. Punching pad has your trainer in the ring holding up a pad and having you hit targets on it. You need to hit them accurately and with force. The twist here is that your trainer will move to the right or left, so you have to keep up with him. 5 out of 5.

Sparring – This one brings all your boxing training to practice. You’re sparring against your trainer. Targets will appear all over his body which you have to hit with force, and you need to dodge his punches. I wouldn’t say this is as strong as The Fight: Lights Out, but it does the job. 4.5 of 5.

Cardio and Aerobic games

I won’t go through each of these games, as they’re all pretty similar. You do a pretty standard cardio exercises, such as jump squats, jumping jacks, lunges, or twists. Red and blue targets will appear on the screen, which you’ll be expected to pass your hand through as you do the exercise.

I’ll say upfront that for these it’s fairly easy to “cheat” by not doing the complete exercise, but of course since the goal of this game is to get a great workout, that’d be a rather silly thing for someone to do.

Overall, it’s never fun to do a lot of these exercises, but “gamifying” the exercises really does make them a little easier to get through. There’s just something about going into “overdrive mode” that helps motivate you to try a little harder and faster, despite how tired you are.

Here are the exercises. Most are self explanatory, but you can watch the video to see them in action.

Circling Arms
Cross Punching
Jump Squats
Jump Squats Switch
Jumping Jacks
Lunges
Punch Up
Shoulder Press
Triange
Twists

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All in all, if Playstation Move Fitness represents the denouement of Playstation Fitness games (and in many ways, this blog), I’d say it’s a good one to end with. It finally brings the worlds of virtual reality, motion controls, and exercise together in a really compelling way. It’s just a shame that the gaming industry doesn’t see fit to really market this category anymore, especially given the epidemic of obesity in the United States and throughout the Western world.

The good news, of course, is that the PS4 will continue to support the Move, and hopefully game developers will continue to push the envelope in developing virtual reality titles that really force you to jump, kick, dodge, lunge, punch, and dance your way to victory and fitness. And don’t worry, I’ll be there covering it 🙂

If you’re interesting in buying Playstation Move Fitness, it’s not available in stores; you can only get it at the Playstation Store on the Playstation Network. In order to buy it, you can purchase a Sony Playstation Network Card at Amazon, and then input the code into the Playstation Store. The game is only $9.99, much less than the $59.99 one might expect if the game were launched in physical form. It’s not the end-all, be-all video game, but what it does, it does very, very well, and easily gets 5 out of 5 stars from me.

The Wii Vitality Sensor is no more :(

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So those of you with good memories may remember Nintendo announcing at E3 2009 that they were working on something called a “vitality sensor”. They said that this would be a gadget that attaches to your fingertip, would figure out all sort of things about your energy level and stress level from your heart rate, and would adjust gameplay accordingly.

vitality sensor

Of course, at the time I was pretty excited about it; after all, treadmills and exercise bikes have had pulse sensors for a while. How cool would it be to have intelligent games that would adjust based on your pulse? Remember, at the time there was no Kinect or anything like that, so this was pretty cutting edge stuff.

Of course, EA Sports Active 2 came out not too long after, complete with their pretty cool wireless heart rate detector, which sort of took some of the steam out of the Vitality Sensor. We never really heard anything about it (except how it “wasn’t ready yet”) until this week, when Nintendo president Satoru Iwata officially announced that it was in a pending state, which translates to it being pretty much dead.

Hopefully this doesn’t bode poorly for the other Wii peripheral mentioned at last year’s E3, the “Fit Meter”, due to launch with Wii Fit U this coming holiday season.