Time with the PS3... Finally

Well I finally have some hands-on experience with a PS3 outside of a conference/expo environment and I have to say that there is now officially, zero chance of me ever buying one. In fact my exact words to Kristin were, "Please kick me in the head if you ever catch me buying a PS3."

This isn't to say that the machine doesn't have a lot of great features, it does do myriad things and probably does most of them pretty well. And aside from being dust-magnet black, the console is dead-sexy to look at. One of the finest pieces of aesthetic tech design I've ever seen. It's almost Apple-esque in its sense of style (aside from the aforementioned dust visibility issue that plagued the PS2) but also far more masculine a product than Apple would ever dare create.

So no, the design and capability isn't what I find so repulsive. What has me swearing off the PS3 for good is its controller and its interface. First the controller. While it is nice to have a controller in hand with a directional pad that actually feels good and works the way it should (Microsoft has yet to figure this out, even though Nintendo, Sony, and Sega seemed to have over a decade ago), the Thumbsticks feel just like they always have -- way too flimsy, and too close together. I've always hated the way they felt in my hand and now, after two years of pure X360 usage, I can't go back. Then there is the new R2 and L2 Buttons that aren't triggers, yet aren't exactly buttons either. Instead, they're some sort of half-breed that feels excruciatingly unresponsive, spongy, and has the added side-effect of your fingers falling off when used in a hurry. The controller does feel much more solid than the Dualshock 2 that came with the PS2, so it at least has that going for it. I have snapped Dualshock 2's in my hands out of frustration on several occasions, and while the Dualshock 3 isn't as solid as an X360 controller, it does feel quite a bit stiffer.

But then there's the interface. I used to own a PSP. Other than being painful to hold and having a ridiculous interface, I thought it was a really nifty piece of tech. Well, the PS3 uses that same interface as the PSP, but now it has twice as many options and sub-menus on it. It's such a convoluted mess that it's enough to give a seasoned gamer like me a headache. I can't imagine how a casual consumer would ever feel comfortable with such a chaotic array of options. Sony did throw everything into the PS3 -- including the kitchen sink -- but they left sorting through it all up to you.

Xbox Live is down today because of server maintenance in preparation for the new fall makeover. As great as the Xbox interface was and as fantastically easy as Xbox Live is to maneuver, it had outgrown its initial design and Microsoft is releasing a massive update that redesigns the entire front-end of the interface. For free. To put it rather bluntly, Sony would need about 10 overhauls just to get to where Xbox Live and the Xbox 360 interface is before their fall overhaul.

The PS3's interface is so uninviting that I actually thought it was special to the test system that I have here. I had to go online and check with others and look for screenshots just to see what the retail system's interface was to make sure I wasn't just seeing a rudimentary featureset that wasn't at all indicative of real-world conditions. Turns out, other than an extra option or two buried in a sub-menu, there's really nothing different at all between the test system and the retail version.

And, quite frankly, I find that horrifying.