The war of the gaming systems

For those unfamiliar with the new game consoles that have been introduced recently and for those who are lost by the technical jargon used to describe such systems, this is a brief comparison of the three leading competitors and explanations for each.

Three game systems dominated the market in 2001 -The Nintendo Gamecube, the Sony Playstation 2 and the Microsoft Xbox. With the help of some other members of The Oracle staff, we put each through its paces.

We first obtained copies of Madden 2002 by EA Sports since it is one of a few games that are on all three consoles. We then obtained games that are exclusive for the individual systems. For the Gamecube we picked Rogue Squadron II, for PS2 we got Metal Gear Solid 2 Sons of Liberty, and for Xbox we chose Halo.

We compared the graphics, number of times the game “stuck,” and the details, such as hair, blinking and bugs. We also compared price, controllers, ergonomics and the media type of each system, such as DVD or CD.

First, there are three major criteria that a system should be graded by. The first being the amount of polygons per second it can produce. The more polygons it can produce, the more complex and detailed the game can be. The second factor is the type of media the game systems use to play the game. The third is the price.

Each system was graded on eight components: graphics, how often the game skips, details, price, controllers, ergonomics, speed and extra accessories. Each category was based on a 10-point scale; thus, the maximum amount of points that could be awarded was 80. With that said, the winner is …

The Microsoft Xbox – 77 points

The Microsoft Xbox is by far the quickest system. Clocked at 733 MHz, the Intel processor is faster than many computers. The Microsoft Xbox also pumps out 116.5 million polygons per second. It also operates on 64 MB of memory. With that much memory, coupled with the speed of the processor, the Xbox is the fastest gaming system on the market.

The Xbox also has several features that put it a step ahead of the crowd, such as an 8 GB internal hard drive and a built-in ethernet port, which allows for broadband access for online gaming. You can also connect multiple Xbox systems for certain games, such as Halo, which can be played by as many as 16 people. The Xbox uses DVD format media that also enables DVD movies to play with the purchase of a $29.99 DVD controller. The Xbox is also the largest system, measuring 12.5-by-10.5-by-3.5 inches. However, if you don’t plan on moving it around, its weight is a small sacrifice.

The Xbox’s controllers are large – perhaps too large for small children – but fit comfortably in the hands of all the staffers.The Xbox has far fewer titles than PS2, but it is also much newer, having been released in November 2001. The Xbox does offer more adult-oriented games much like the PS2, such as Halo, which is a first-person shooter filled with blood and gore to warrant a “mature” rating.

Madden 2002 was the most fun on the Xbox. At one point Oracle Managing Editor Ryan Meehan and I sat down for a “research break.” There was no debate choosing which system to play Madden on: Xbox. The game ran smoothly and took the least amount of time to load between settings and the game. After several attempts and some help from Will “All I Care About Is Movies” Albritton, we figured out how to change stadiums and customize the weather. After doing this, more details became apparent. For instance, in the snow you are able to see the breath exhaled by players. In all, Madden was a blast to play on the Xbox.

This is the best system for new gamers and for older users, simply because the Xbox has more speed, internal space for saving games and more mature-themed games. At $299.99, the Xbox ties the PS2 for the highest price but flies past it in performance.

The Nintendo Gamecube – 68 points

The Gamecube is Nintendo’s entrant to the next generation of gaming systems. It sports a 485 megahertz IBM Power PC processor and checks in as the smallest competitor at a scant 4.3-by-5.9-by-6.3 inches. The Cube’s processor generates 20 to 30 million polygons per second. While this does not out pace the PS2’s 66 million polygons per second, the Cube’s processor coupled with 40 megabytes of memory gives an edge to the system over the PS2. The Gamecube uses a 3-inch optical disc, similar to DVD, but is only able to hold 1.5 GB of information, whereas DVDs hold 4.5 GB.

The price of the system including one controller and audio-video cables is $199. The price of a single controller is $34.95. Few accessories are available for the Cube. One is a wireless controller, the Wireless Wavebird, which has no set price and has yet to be released.

Madden on the Gamecube rivaled that on the Xbox. The Gamecube is more of a system for the younger crowd for several reasons, the biggest being game availablity. Games such as Luigi’s Mansion and Super Smash Brothers Melee are geared toward younger gamers. There are some staple games, such as Star Wars Rogue Squadron II, that are only available on the Gamecube and make the system a good draw. That and the $199 price tag.

The Sony Playstation 2 – 53 points

The PS2 is the oldest member of the super-gaming system triad. Released for the holidays in October 2000, the PS2 quickly became the rage in the video game world. It generates 66 million polygons per second. It is larger than the Gamecube but smaller than the Xbox, measuring 12-by-3.1-by-4.1 inches. The PS2 speeds along on a 300 MHz processor that reads DVD format discs. One problem with the PS2 is that it only has two ports for controllers. Extra expansion ports, which enable gameplay with more than the stock two controllers, are available but at an extra cost. This is the only system with less than four controller ports. Because the PS2 runs on DVD discs, you can play CDs and DVDs.

Before you can play DVDs, you have to purchase a remote retailing for $19.99. One feature of the PS2 enables games from the Playstation 1 to work on its newer cousin. Along with one controller and AV cables the Playstation 2 checks in at $299.99. You can purchase an additional controller for $34.99.

There were obvious differences between Madden on this console and the previous two. The first and most surprising, was the disparity in graphics. The graphics are much better than the PS1, but, compared to the Xbox and Cube, fall short. For instance, when the camera pans, two patterns of grass for the field become apparent and move as the camera does. Another problem was the load time, which took 21.18 seconds compared to 11 seconds on the Xbox and Gamecube.

Metal Gear Solid 2 played much better than Madden with the exception of confusing gameplay, which was not something the systems were graded on. Overall, this is a solid system that has some advantages, such as being able to play PS1 games, and some disadvantages, such as coming out first, allowing Microsoft time to take notes and build the platform to beat it.

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