When the specifications for the Xbox were announced, Microsoft took great care to point out the inclusion of the hard drive and the broadband adaptor in the original retail package. It was a huge blow for the guys from Japan as it highlighted some of the PlayStation 2’s deficiencies. Sure, those inclusions gave Microsoft the advantage on paper but it hasn’t translated so far in the marketplace. Sony isn’t one to lose a battle though, no matter how small, so it has released the 40GB internal hard disk drive amidst the fanfare of Square Enix’s Final Fantasy XI
. But unless you’re a huge fan of Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games there isn’t much incentive for you to purchase it, at least not for the time being.
When you throw down that Benjamin at your local store here’s what you get: the HDD unit, an install disc, some instructions and a DVD case containing backup copies of Final Fantasy XI
and Square’s PlayOnline
interface. Final Fantasy XI comes pre-installed so its inclusion is just for backup purposes in the event that the data becomes corrupted. It’s a nice foresight by the people at SCEA and Square as it doesn’t leave gamers helpless when they screw things up. Installation is pretty simple, unscrew your Network Adaptor (required but sold separately), put the two pieces together and then install it into the expansion bay on the back of the PlayStation 2. No computer knowledge is required so even the average consumer will be able to piece it together.
When you boot up the PS2 you’ll have a new option in the browser that allows you to access the HDD. When you pick the icon you get a number of new icons including the one that allows you to play FFXI (more of that in our upcoming FFXI review) and Square’s online card game TetraMaster
. Although the HDD doesn’t eliminate the need for the Memory Card like many of us had hoped, it does allow for more storage space. You can move your saves from the memory card to the HDD to free up more space. That way you won’t have to delete your old Kingdom Hearts save game to free up space for SOCOM. Then when you’re done with SOCOM you can move that data to the HDD and swap it out for the Kingdom Hearts data when you’re ready to dust it off and pull it from your shelf. Yes, I would have rather preferred that Sony allowed me to save directly to the HDD but this alternative solution provides some minor consolation.
One of the upcoming features of the HDD is the ability to download future content. We assume that this will work in the same manner as the Xbox Live downloadable content. Sony will be starting the trend with downloadable content for SOCOM II
and will continue with more features for the upcoming Syphon Filter: The Omega Strain
. This could prove to be crucial when it comes to getting the most out of our games. Hopefully other developers will follow Sony’s trend and continue to update their games after their release.When the HDD was announced one of the largest selling points would be its ability to play music like the Xbox HD. It even led a number of fans to pre-order the unit in anticipation for the feature. Well it seems that the designers of the HDD pulled a quick one on us. Although they never made a formal announcement that the aforementioned features would not be available at launch, they did make small mentions of it in subsequent press releases. Personally I’m disappointed because it was one of the most heavily anticipated features of the device. Preferably I would rather have the unit delayed for a few weeks in order to prepare the functionality for the device’s release.
The HDD has 40GB of storage space. Now let’s think about this for a moment. The Xbox has 8GB of storage space and I’ve barely even begun to crack into that puppy. Consider that I have well over 100 Xbox games in my library and you can begin to see just how expanse this space is. Now imagine five times that amount of storage and you’ve got Sony’s answer. Let’s be honest, I can’t foresee anything that can fill up that space Many people have a hard time filling up the standard memory card and that’s only 8MB. The HDD holds the equivalent of more than 5,000 memory cards. Is all of this space really necessary? Sure, new games will feature downloadable content but I can’t imagine those being larger than a few hundred megabytes. Perhaps Sony just wanted to once again re-assert itself by topping the boys in Washington. But then again, with the pre-installed components you only have about 26 Gigs to work with, so perhaps some of this data is larger than we had assumed.
I'm also a little disappointed to find that the unit requires the network adaptor in order to function. That means that you will need to spend $35 on top of the HDD's $100 retail price tag. I'm not quite sure where Sony came up with the price point for the unit because it appears to just be a run-of-the-mill harddrive with some Sony branding on it. If we go by the prices at Newegg.com
, a number of 40GB harddrives can be had for under $60. Add some of the proprietary Sony technology on top of that tag and it should come in under $80. If anything, the $100 price point should also include the network adaptor as a bundle package.
So what is this thing good for? Not much, well at least for the time being. If you’re not a fan of MMORPGs then you may as well just paint the device red and call it a $100 brick because that’s what it is. Again, it has plenty of potential but unless you want FFXI there’s no reason for you to pick it up yet. I’d wait it out a few months to see what SCEA has in store for it.