PS3 hands-on impressions: the empire strikes back

Sony let the unwashed masses try out their upcoming next-gen PlayStation 3 console today in New York City during a slick SoHo event complete with free Twinkies. Well, you can't accuse them of not knowing their audience. Or maybe you can. Anyhow, Sony had a big selection of PS3 launch titles available for play on a bunch of purdy Sony Bravia HDTVs, and I was there to get my palmsweat on the controllers and see if the games could live up to the hype — and price.

The console itself is pretty gigantic, as reported, and will certainly take up a sizeable chunk of living room real estate. Overall, the graphics were very impressive. If you've got a nice HDTV like the ones Sony was sporting your games will look flat-out great. The controller is basically the same as the PS2 controller, although the R2 and L2 shoulder buttons feel a bit bigger and offer less resistance when pushed. The motion-sensing abilities of the controller only came into play once, and that was shooting free throws in NBA Live '07. If it hadn't been for that, I wouldn't have even remembered that the controllers sported that ability. At the end of the afternoon, I came away thinking that there were certainly some promising games, but nothing that made me want to go out and drop $600 on the new console. After the jump, specific impressions of some of the games I played.

Resistance: Fall of Man and Call of Duty 3
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These two first-person shooters were the most impressive-looking games at the event, both featuring amazingly realistic graphics and fast-paced action. If I had to say one was better looking than the other, I'd have to say Call of Duty 3 (below) had just a bit more realism. The controls are what you'd expect for a standard first-person shooter, and both games feature AI-controlled squads that fight the enemy alongside you.

Tony Hawk's Project 8
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Generally speaking, you know what you're going to get with a Tony Hawk game, and Project 8 doesn't disappoint. Besides the upgraded graphics, what makes this new game stand out from the rest is the new "Nail the Trick" feature. When in midair you can push both analog sticks to go into slow-mo and allow you to manipulate both of your skater's feet. This allows you to have precise control over your tricks and adds a lot to the standard combo system that Tony Hawk fans know and love.

Sonic the Hedgehog
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The new Sonic game they had up for play was actually the Japanese version, which made figuring out the controls somewhat of a guessing game. Despite this, the game is really fun and a huge improvement over the new Wii Sonic game I played last month. You can choose to play as either Sonic, Shadow, or Silver, and each character has unique abilities and moves. You get all the ring-grabbing, fast-paced action you'd expect from a Sonic game with beautiful levels and graphics.

MotorStorm
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MotorStorm is a quickly paced offroad racing game that features some really spectacular crashes. You can choose from any number of vehicles, from dirt bikes to dune buggies to trucks, and then slide your way through some pretty beautiful courses. There were definitely a few bugs in the version I played, with some graphics flashing in and out and the whole thing locking up at one point, but it seems to be a really promising racer.