By David Pflughoeft   Published Dec 25, 2006 at 12:09 PM
The Christmas season is like heaven for any gaming fan. This year, there are three hot, new next-generation consoles available on the market, each possessing tantalizing special features and new games to amaze you: PlayStation 3 from Sony, the Xbox 360 from Microsoft, and the Nintendo Wii.


The PS3 is most certainly the powerhouse of the next-gen game systems. This is because the PS3 sports a Blu-Ray high-definition DVD player. A stand-alone Blu-Ray DVD player can cost a couple of hundred dollars more than a PS3. That alone makes the PS3 a worthwhile investment for movie fans, because in the next couple of years, Blu-ray DVDs may well become the new DVD standard. But the main attraction of the PS3 is as a gaming system. The PS3 has the capacity to deliver the most incredible graphics of any game system ever created and even has motion-sensitive controllers, not to the extent of the Wii, but with enough to add some extra flavor and fun to the games.

Pros: The PS3 has remarkable technical capacities with powerful graphics and fine- tuned game-play along with the above-mentioned items. The games look amazing in HD and the gameplay in the first batch of PS3 titles is fresh and interesting.

Cons: You can’t find the PS3. Sony encountered a production problem, and was only able to ship a small percentage of the expected amount. The best place to find one is online, but the price is sky high. At $600, the PS3 costs more than the Xbox 360 and Wii combined. Another consideration with the PS3 is that you really need to have a HDTV to take full advantage of its capabilities such as its full 1080p high-definition resolution. However, no games have been announced yet that uses all 1080p resolution.

PS3 Games : Resistance: Fall of Man – An epic thriller in which a virus has turned all of Europe and Russia into devilish creatures and you are man’s last hope. You must use every weapon in your arsenal (and there are a lot of cool ones) to wipe this scum off the earth. (Rated M for Mature)

Need For Speed Carbon – The latest installment of the NFS series, Carbon turns up the heat in intense, adrenaline-filled street races that you rep for your hood. Trick out your ride, take on rival drivers and the cops, and risk plunging into a canyon as you race for the crown of the city. (Rated E+10 for ages 10 and up)

Nintendo Wii

The most innovative next-gen console on the market is definitely the Wii. The Wii uses an entirely motion sensitive controller that can be held in either hand. It has a strap that fits around your wrist, and can be turned and used as a steering wheel, swung like a piece of equipment from many different sports, or can be attached to a special nunchuk peripheral and used as a two-piece controller. The nunchuk attachment allows you to use a sword or other weapons in games that you need to move and fight at the same time. To function entirely, the controller must be no further than five meters away from the console.

All the games for the Wii utilize its unique motion sensitive capabilities. Wii Sports, which is bundled with the console, features five sports games including bowling and tennis. Role-playing adventure games such as The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess use the same remote, allowing you to swing Link’s sword (with the nunchuk attachment), control the direction of his horse, and fully immerse yourself into the Link character across many other facets of the game.

People are excited about the Wii – maybe too excited… Nintendo is currently in the process of recalling 3.2 million of the straps that secure controllers to the player’s wrist. This is due to many reports of controllers becoming airborne at the hands of over-excited players causing damage to television sets, walls, and other items not to mention other people. Obviously these games must give the players an enormous amount of pleasure to get them riled up to swing violently enough to snap the strap. Nintendo is recalling these straps to replace them with tougher ones.

Pros: The new controller system puts a whole new spin on the way games are played, providing both the gamer and spectators with a fresh, exhilarating experience. (Although, after watching the glee on the gamers faces and the sweat from winning the last match roll down their friend’s cheek, they won’t be spectators for long!) Besides the groundbreaking new game-play, the Wii costs $250, which is a major drop from the PS3’s whopping $600 cost. The Wii is also backward compatible with all GameCube games.

Cons: Obviously, the straps are a problem, but they’re being fixed. Compared to the PS3 or the 360, the Wii is the low man in the graphics department. It doesn’t have quite a much horsepower as the other two next-gen systems.

Wii Games : The Legend Of Zelda: Twilight Princess – The next installment of the Legend of Zelda series, Twilight Princess again follows Link as he travels again to Hyrule. Be prepared to howl your way through a portion of the game as a wolf, and once again save the land from evil. (Rated T for Teen)

Wii Sports – Get ready to roll, swing, and hack your way through Wii Sports against your friends. With five simple, enjoyable sports games: baseball, boxing, bowling, tennis and golf. Get ready to it sweat out against your grandma to prove who the ultimate gamer is! (Rated E for Everyone)

Xbox 360

The Xbox 360 has a strong advantage coming into this Christmas buying season because it has already been out for over a year. Many already know about the 360 and what it has to offer. I’ll just give you a brief refresher course.

The 360 features wireless controllers and headsets, HD quality games, and great online gameplay and interaction. Xbox Live is organized very well and provides gamers with a new experience with each online match played. Right now, the 360 sells for about $400 for the entire package which includes the core system, hard-drive, and controllers.

Pros: You can find the 360 available at almost every retailer unlike the PS3. Since it has been on the market for a year, there are a plethora of 2nd generation games. The online play is amazing, allowing you to meet and play with fellow gamers around the country and the world. The games look very good on a HD TV.

Cons: You have to charge the controllers and headset frequently, and the sound quality of the headset is not as good as the original Xbox headset. Again, you need a HD TV to fully experience the capabilities of the 360.

Xbox 360 Games : Gears Of War – Get ready to battle the demons of hell, the Locust Horde, in this third-person shooter. You better sync with your teammates quickly in order to survive this battle baby! (Rated M for Mature)

Call Of Duty 3 – Gear up soldier! We’re takin’ Normandy, again. Fight your way through the French stronghold and help loosen the German grip on Europe. (Rated T for Teen)

PS2, Xbox, GameCube

While the next-gen consoles are certainly the hot ticket this Christmas, there are certainly great and more affordable games and systems that you can pick up if you can’t dig up the money for the Big Three.

PS2 : Guitar Hero II – No more air guitar for you! Take the stage and show the world the rock-star you are in one of the greatest party games of all time. (Rated T for Teen)

Madden 07 – Conquer the gridiron to capture the Lombardi Trophy once again with new game features in EA Games football powerhouse. (Rated E for Everyone)

Xbox: Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell Double Agent – Slink through the shadows with Sam Fisher, this time, operating on both sides of the law. Be careful, one misstep and your done spy boy. (Rated M for Mature)

GameCube: Lego Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy – “Luke! I am your father!” Relive this and many other epic moments from the original Star Wars franchise this time, in silly, yet utterly engrossing lego block form.

Plan Your Attack

Finally, some tips on finding these elusive items. The 360 is the easiest system to find because of its early launch. When planning to get a Wii or PS3, you need to make the effort to find out when the shipments are planned to arrive at local electronics stores. You can find this information by calling or stopping by these stores frequently. On the morning that the shipment arrives, make sure to get there in enough time (5-6 a.m.) to ensure you walk away with your prize. Happy hunting and have a great gaming Christmas!

- David Pflughoeft is a 16-year-old gamer from Menomonee Falls and had been playing videogames since he was old enough to not drool on the controllers. He’ll kick your butt in Halo (just try him) and his features on videogames have appeared in newspapers across the United States.