Stern silence. It’s Saturday morning, and the PS3, which I ordered in secret the day before, has just arrived on the doorstep. Sarah’s in the hallway, and she’s not amused. She has her arms folded; if her eyes had arms, they’d be folded too. “We don’t need another console,” she says, as I drag the box into the living room. “We’ve got too many already.”
I’ve made several attempts to justify the purchase, to myself as well as my better half: that I got it for a really good price; that we truly, desperately need a Blu-ray player to go with the HD television; that the PS3’s black case will go really well with the TV stand.
Ultimately, I bought it for the system exclusives now available and yet to come: for Heavy Rain, Uncharted 2 and, best of all, Fumito Ueda’s forthcoming Shadow Of The Colossus sequel, Last Guardian. It was therefore with eager hands that I tore the sticky tape from the PS3’s cardboard cocoon.
For a console named and marketed as the PS3 Slim, I’m slightly alarmed by the size of the thing as I haul it out of the box. It looks like a middle-aged rock star in a black t-shirt: weighty, ungainly, and not as svelte as it thinks it is. (Having said this, the PS3 is a wee slip of a thing when placed next to the hulking menace that is the Xbox 360. The Wii sits underneath, looking gaunt and anxious.)
This sense of bloatedness continues as I power the beast up. The UI is a turgid mess of options and lists of settings with other lists of settings within them. Scrolling through it all is akin to the bafflement I feel when poring through a restaurant menu with too many dishes to choose from.
And then there are the updates. My God, the updates. First a gigantic system patch which, thanks to my village’s own patented 1MB Hickband service, took close to three hours to download. This was followed by the endless forms to fill in for PSN. It’s now three-and-a-half hours since I pulled the tape off the box, filled with enthusiasm, and I still haven’t played a game.
It took an unpleasant, swear-filled ten minutes to find a username that hadn’t been taken or wasn’t mystifyingly refused. At the end of the whole, draining process I was asked if I’d like to fill in a questionnaire. My resulting outburst was keenly audible, and I’m almost surprised the neighbours didn’t call the police.
With the head rush of new toy joy rapidly ebbing away, I shoved Uncharted 2 in the drive. Another patch update. I’m beginning to feel like Sisyphus. I try to form a Vulcan mind meld with the progress bars, and will them on as they crawl across the screen.
But then, just as my patience reaches breaking point, a ray of light appears among the figurative clouds. I finally get to play Uncharted 2, and it’s very, very good. I begin to titter and grin, my enthusiasm at last beginning to return. Uncharted 2 is everything you could want from an arcade action epic. It’s Indy 4 without the bad bits (which were many); it’s Prince Of Persia with Kays catalogue models. I like the characters. I like the script. I like the way the gorgeousness of your surroundings in any of its 25 chapters successfully disguises the reality that you’re actually shooting away at three or four kinds of bad guy for hours at a time.
It may have taken until Saturday afternoon to get to play it, but Uncharted 2 is perfect Saturday matinee material: trashy, airport fiction fun that wears its pulpy heritage proudly on its sleeve.
So, I’ve just about forgiven the PS3 for its finicky menu system, its opaque shopping experience, and its obsession with downloading things. Sarah’s just about forgiven me too, especially when I tell her about Noby Noby Boy, a typically surreal PSN game created by Keiti (Katamari Damacy) Takahashi. Featuring a central character that grows and stretches as he eats his way around a world of doughnut clouds and starry-eyed animals, we both agree that it sounds like videogaming manna.
A protracted purchase from the PlayStation shop and a 365MB download later, and Noby is ours. We load it up, our thumbs primed and waiting. But what’s this? A 550MB patch update. My reaction was sharp, vocal, and loosened several roof tiles.