The PS3 is dead! Long live the PS3!
[We ran this in February, but we loved it so much we bumped it again for those who missed it. Enjoy! -Niero]
The figures are out, and the PlayStation 4 is already close to catching up with the PlayStation 3 when it comes to lifetimes sales. We’re reaching peak PS4 time, with huge releases such as Monster Hunter: World and Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus coming to the console in the past few months. To be frank, we’re drowning in good current-gen games, so it’s probably time to sell old consoles to buy extra games, send slightly battered models off to the scrap heap, or simply leave them untouched, gathering dust, on the shelf.
Hold it right there, though! Now is absolutely not the time to be even thinking of getting rid of your PS3. I would even argue that now is the perfect time to buy a PS3, if you missed out on that era of games. There’s still life in the old gal yet, and what’s more, it’s becoming a very cheap console to collect for. I play my PlayStation 3 probably about 60% of the time I’m gaming, while 30% goes on my PlayStation 4 and a measly 10% goes on low-res adventure and point-and-click games on my battered old laptop. And I can’t say I’ve got bored yet.
So, why should you rush out and get a second-hand PS3? And how do you make the PS3 an exciting, useful console in 2018, when you have a PS4 already sitting in your cabinet? Let me discuss why I think the PS3 still has legs, and what to do to fall back in love with the console.
Right now, we’re in that collectors’ sweet spot where the PlayStation 3 is distinctly unfashionable. It’s not old enough to be attractive to the retro crowd – the PlayStation and even the PlayStation 2 is starting to go that way – while those who want to play the most up-to-date games have tossed it aside. Furthermore, sellers want to get rid of their old PS3 games for something new, and want you to take the games off their hands. And, unless you’re going for something quite rare like a Katamari game, they don’t tend to want much money for parts of their collection.
Since mid-2016, I will often bid 3 euros each on a bunch of PS2 and PS3 games on eBay, and see what I win. Very often, PS3 game bidding won’t go much above that, and through this practice, I’ve built a 40-strong PS3 boxed disc collection for the cost of two or three Day One PS4 releases. It’s been pretty horrendous for my backlog, but great for those lazy Saturday mornings where I can browse my collection at leisure and pick something out at random to pop in my console.
Furthermore, the PS3 is not THAT outdated that it is a pain to use. It’s composite cable and HDMI friendly, meaning it will work without too much hassle on any TV. This is unlike some retro consoles, where having a 4k HDTV will require a lot of fiddling and adapters. Also, as I’ll talk about below, PS3 games were getting pretty polished and beautiful towards the end of the console life-cycle, so unless you have a top-notch TV (which I most certainly don’t), the games will actually look very good, despite being “older” games. There are also a lot of games that are now only playable if you have a PS3, so the console is a must if you want access to as many games as possible that were released over the past 12 years.
OK, Deadly Premonition isn’t the best example of the PS3’s graphical crispness.
Maybe I’ve convinced you to dig out your old console, or you’re counting your pennies to pick up a refurbished model. How should you proceed?
Original PS3 versus Slim versus Super Slim
The PlayStation 3 didn’t quite have the massive, systemic problems that early Xbox 360s had, with the “Red Ring of Death”. Sure, there was the “Yellow Light of Death” common to original consoles, but levels of outrage about faulty hardware were somewhat lower. The age of hardware is still something you’ll want to factor in when making a purchase.
Original PS3s have the added benefit that they are PS2 backwards compatible (with some exceptions), but this addition was removed, in part because it was expensive, in part because it was an unstable addition to the console. Because these consoles were the first produced, the model you get your hands on is likely to be from an early production cycle and so will need more extensive age-related refurbishment to run properly.
The Slim model has no PS2 backwards compatibility but has a plethora of advantages: 1) was released more recently, so you’re more likely to get one in good nick, and 2) it’s much lighter and much more energy-efficient (but still a pretty big bugger, in my opinion).
A photo from Sam Hughes of his ginormous original PS3.
If you want something you can carry around with you, get the Super Slim, but then upgrading the hard drive will be absolutely necessary if you want to play more than a handful of games.
[The article previously said that swapping out the hard-drive on non-Slim models was difficult. Apparently this is not the case, and I’ve been corrected in the comments. Sorry for the misinformation, folks! – CC]
Buying the console
If you’re lucky, your local electronics superstore may still be selling off new PS3s cheap. I seem to remember that my local Saturn department store was still selling them a year ago, but a year is a long time in games.
However, I didn’t get mine new – I got my 120GB Slim PS3 in July 2015 from Rebuy, bundled with Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time and LittleBigPlanet 2, plus one real DS3 and one crappy third-party controller, for 115 euros in total. Rebuy tells you exactly how close to new the console is, and puts a 18-month warranty on all consoles, regardless of the state they’re in. I would advise looking for something similar wherever you live – 18 months is a fairly reasonable amount of time for old hardware to last, so I’d be willing to eat the cost of buying a new console if it broke after then.
The first thing you should do…
…is upgrade that flippin’ hard-drive. Unless you already have a 500GB or higher model, then you can probably manage. If you want to play a lot of chunky digital-only games like Yakuza 5 or, say, lots of JP-only downloads from the PS Store, you’re going to need a large hard-drive.
Get your hands on (ideally, a new) 2.5″ hard drive. SATA will do; no need for a more expensive SSD, since performance boost seems to be minimal at best. You can find instructions on how to open up your Slim or Super Slim console to swap out the hard-drive here; the newer the type, the less fiddly a job it is.
Be warned! Opening up the Slim is a tricky job, and the screws holding the drive to the mounting bracket are extremely fragile. Make sure you have a very small Phillips head screwdriver to hand, because if you try to batter away at it with a bigger tool, you’ll end up stripping the screws to shreds.
It goes without saying that doing this voids any warranty, but any Sony-specific warranties are useless by this point. Whether you want to void any resale warranties or not is entirely at your own discretion; I upgraded my hard-drive after my resale warranty had lapsed. My PS3 is a lot noisier and has freezed a couple of times since I upgraded, but again, I’m willing to eat the cost of getting a new PS3 to Frankenstein by this point.
Optimising the PS3 for modern use
So, let’s talk about the things you do not need from your PS3 right now, and that’s the apps. Speaking from an EU user perspective, Spotify hasn’t worked properly the entire time I’ve had my console. Netflix worked the last time I tested it but runs much smoother and loads quicker on the PS4. I would say that overall, this is not a console you want to use for streaming TV or any other side-ops; this is what your most modern console, laptop, Amazon Fire stick, etc. is for. Delete apps where you can. Of course, some people report using their old consoles as dedicated streaming boxes, but that’s not worked out super well for me so far.
What you should have to get the most out of your PS3 is a PS Plus subscription, even if you don’t go online much. I can say I’ve never been disappointed with PS Plus service (well, some months are better than others) because I own all the consoles Sony releases games for on this service, except for the PSVR. Very often, pretty impressive games for the PS3 will come out on the service because people aren’t buying them in droves anymore, such as the port of Syberia (the less said about the awful port of Syberia II, the better), Darkstalkers Resurrection, Child of Light and, of course, the aforementioned Yakuza 5. Sure, there’s a lot of PS3 shovelware pushed out on the service, but you’re more likely to stumble across something you really, really like if you have the full breadth of consoles served by the online shop.
[Note: since this article was first published, Sony has announced that PS Plus will stop offering PS3 games from March 2019 onwards. Enjoy this extra PS Plus perk while you can! – CC]
And it goes without saying to hook it up to your TV with a HDMI cable. My console arrived only with composite cables. I don’t know about you, but my HDMI cables seem to reproduce with each other, and the cables are cheap nowadays, so this should be a pretty easy upgrade.
Which PS3 games should I focus on?
There is something there for everybody with the PS3. OK, if you want to play only the most modern fighting games, then you’re going to want to eschew older consoles and get good on Tekken 7/Street Fighter V/pick your poison. Same goes for sports games, if having an up-to-date roster is important to you. But for almost everyone else, there is something there.
(Note: this is where you might be yelling, “but what about PS Now?!”, given this allows you to stream some PS3 games to your PS4. Well, some regions don’t have that service at all – Germany doesn’t – and not all of us have a great internet connection. So that’s not a solution for everyone.)
There is a range of PS1 and PS2 Classics that is for the PS3. Aside from the fact that you can still only play Persona 3: FES on a PS2 or a PS3, there are a handful of other Shin Megami Tensei releases available, if JRPGs are your thing. If you want a hard time of it, see if you get far enough to meet Dante in Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne. Aside from this, the entire swathe of Final Fantasy PS1 games are there for the taking on the PS Store, if you have a PS3.
The same applies for horror fans. Sick of waiting for news on a remake of Resident Evil 2? Why not play the original on your PS3 to tide you over? It’s there on the store for dirt cheap, alongside the DualShock version of Resident Evil and Resident Evil 3. If you’re not a fan of Crimson Heads and Lisa Trevor, then the former might be for you; if you’re missing your old paramour Nemmie Boy, the latter might be your bag.
So it goes on and on. LittleBigPlanet 1 and 2 still hold up remarkably well; I would never say no to a cheap copy of Borderlands on which to play the single-player campaign; if you never played the Arkham games, then this is your chance. Whatever your tastes, you can find something to entertain you on a snowy Sunday afternoon. Here are my favourite purchases for my PS3 that are actual PS3 games:
- L.A. Noire. Yes, it’s since come out remastered, but you can get a much cheaper copy for the PS3. While it may not be 4K, the facial animations and detail is still amazing. There are some games where it’s worth getting the remastered version, such as Resident Evil 5 and 6 and the Bioshock collection, and some games where you may as well get the cheaper original. This is one where I would advise that the original is still an excellent game.
- Atelier Rorona. A super relaxing JRPG with inventory management and potion-making components. I used to play this with the sound off while listening to podcasts, as my post-work de-stressing ritual. It comes in a three-pack with Atelier Meruru and Atelier Totori, which was well worth the 12 euros I paid for it. An enhanced version is also available for sale on its own, titled Atelier Rorona Plus.
- Tales of Xillia. OK, this game absolutely whooped my ass and I’m currently stuck in a forest area. It’s a grindfest, sure, but the story absolutely had its hooks in me until I came unstuck during a boss battle. Worth it if you want a challenge.
- LittleBigPlanet 2. Surprise, surprise, I have a soft spot for the game that came with my console. But it’s timeless platforming, and who can say no to a bit of Stephen Fry?
- XCOM: Enemy Unknown. I’m still pissed that I lost half my team during an ill-fated zombie-fighting mission. Word of advice: don’t name your teammates after friends or relatives.
- Steins;Gate. If you don’t have a PS Vita and fancy playing Steins;Gate on the couch, get it for your PS3. You won’t regret it – it’s the best VN ever made, in my opinion.
Overall, I think there’s value in looking backwards, as well as looking forwards, when it comes to games. There are many people who can’t afford to keep up with modern gaming, and I was one of these people until just a few months ago. Also, unless you spent every waking moment gaming in the past ten years, you’re likely to have missed something. If you want a thorough overview of the development of modern gaming, it is completely worth taking a glance back at the previous generation. And what a generation it was.
Do you still have a PS3? What advice would you give to people who want to get into PS3 gaming at this stage? Do you have any similar advice for budding Xbox 360 fans? Let me know in the comments down below!
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