A guide to games consoles

Games consoles can be a substantial investment, but they can also provide near endless entertainment. There are three major consoles available at the moment- the Xbox 360, the PlayStation 3 and the Nintendo Wii. In order to help you make a decision on which to buy, here's a guide to each of them.

The Xbox 360 is Microsoft's second console and it packs enough power to play all of the latest games in high definition. One of the main selling points of the console is its online multi-player, as while both of its competitors also feature online gaming neither of them handle it as well, with the Xbox 360 making it easy to get into games, manage friend's lists and chat. However there is a subscription fee to access online multi-player. The console also has some very popular exclusive shooter games, for example 'Gears of War' and 'Halo'.

The PlayStation 3 is similarly powerful and for the most part has the same catalogue of games as the Xbox 360. Its list of exclusives includes the action adventure series 'Uncharted' and the 'Gran Turismo' series of racing games. Multi-player on the PlayStation 3 is free, and the console also has a built in Blu-Ray player and web browser, making it great for most types of media.

The Nintendo Wii is substantially less powerful than these other games consoles and has a very different catalogue of games, focussed mostly on party games, sports games and Nintendo's own titles such as Mario and Zelda. The main draw here is the motion controls, allowing you to play games by simulating gestures with your hand or arm, although it's worth noting that similar accessories are now available for both the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 too. It is a very family friendly console with appealing games for all ages, but is perhaps less advisable for experienced gamers.

For most people the choice of which games consoles to buy will come down to one or two key differences. For an all in one media centre the PlayStation 3 is the obvious choice, if online multi-player or shooter games are a major concern then the Xbox 360 is probably the best option and for family friendly gaming where everyone can play around the same television the Nintendo Wii is unbeatable.

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