Pre-E3 06: Sony lays down the law of PS3

Sony held its annual E3 press conference today and revealed the final details of the PlayStation 3 release. Here's what you need to know: the system will hit North America and Europe on November 17, while the Japanese get it on November 11.

Here's the part that will make you cringe: when it hits, the system will be available in two packages, and neither of them come cheap. For $499, you'll be able to snag a PS3 that has a 20-gigabyte hard drive. For $599, you'll get one that has a 60-gigabyte hard drive, along with a few other features: an HDMI high-definition video port and a Memory Stick/SD/Compact Flash slot for portable data saving. It also has Wi-Fi capabilities, while the cheaper model connects to the internet using an old-fashioned Ethernet cable. And yes - these "additions" are available only on the more expensive package. Sorry.

Initially, the system will be released only in black - "Clear Black," officially - though other colors have repeatedly been shown. Sony says that initially, two million PS3s will be available, with millions more to be manufactured each following month.

We also got a chance to get our hands on the system's newly redesigned, motion-sensitive Bluetooth controller. And no, it doesn't look anything like the "boomerang" model you've been seeing for the last year. Check our hands on impressionshere.

The conference revealed the PS3 to be more than just a pretty piece of hardware, as Sony unleashed a tidal wave of footage for no fewer than 29 games. Some of them - like the insanely cinematic gunbattle that was Eight Days - looked like they could be fake, while others, like Genji 2 - which looks disappointingly like Dynasty Warriors - were unquestionably real. Still others were actually playable, and Resistance: Fall of Man, Heavenly Sword and Warhawk seemed to show that there is, in fact, something behind Sony's claims of amazing graphics.

The system will boast a few other impressive features, too, not the least of which is its connectivity with the PSP; during a demo of Formula One 06, Sony Computer Entertainment head Phil Harrison showed off a PSP being used as a real-time rear-view mirror for the PS3 racer.

The system will also boast a vastly improved EyeToy camera, demonstrated with a card-battle game called Eye of Judgment. In Eye, players will be able to buy actual trading cards and slap them down on a board in front of the camera. When they do, whatever creature is tied to the card will appear hovering above it, and players will be able to prod and move them around by hand. Line them up against each other, and they'll actually fight.

Of course, the obvious application for this technology is a chess game like the one Chewbacca and C-3PO played in Star Wars, and if we don't see one within a year of launch, we'll be very surprised. And disappointed, too.

May 08, 2006