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Consoles For Christmas 2008 - The Sports and Racing Fan

Again, you might enjoy several genres, but the focus for you is very much on games that simulate real world activities, whether football, snowboarding or driving at high speeds in the world's most desirable motors. You're looking for a console that can get you as close to the real experience as possible, and preferably put you in touch with other enthusiasts for some competitive online play.

The Wii can do some fun stuff here with its virtual tennis rackets and golf clubs, but I don't think many people would consider Wii Sports Tennis a more realistic tennis game than Virtua Tennis 3, or the Wii version of Tiger Woods 09 a more lifelike golf sim than the PlayStation 3 version. For this reason, our decision is once more split between the Sony and Microsoft consoles.

For most sports, it doesn't matter which way you go. FIFA 09 and Pro Evolution Soccer 2008 look and play much the same on either console, and the same goes for Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2009, NBA 09, Virtua Tennis 3 and Madden NHL 09. Golf fans who can handle the cutesy characters, however, might veer towards the PlayStation 3 so that they can play Everbody's Golf: World Tour. Despite its looks it arguably plays a better round than Tiger Woods and can be a good way to get the rest of the family interested in the noble sport.

Everybody's Golf takes some getting used to, but it's one of the best golf games out there.

Driving games and motorsports sims are a different matter. The Xbox 360 can boast one of the best realistic driving games in Project Gotham Racing 4 and the most widely respected online console racer in Forza Motorsport 2. The PlayStation 3 can counter with GT5: Prologue, but it won't be until next year that we'll see the proper Gran Turismo 5. Gran Turismo remains the gold standard of driving games as far as the world's car manufacturers are concerned, but for all its astonishing visuals GT5: Prologue showed worrying signs that recurrent GT bugbears - poor AI and the lack of realistic damage - are still to be dealt with. As the current best road racer on the system is the cross-platform Race Driver: GRID, GT5 has an awful lot riding on it. The PS3's Ferrari Challenge: Trofeo Pirelli is a fine sim for Ferrari enthusiasts, but it's not a good reason to buy one console over another. Luckily, Sony does fare better for off-road racers. Even if Colin McRae: DIRT and Pure are cross-platform, you can only play Motorstorm: Pacific Rift on PS3.

Project Gotham Racing 4 is probably the best racing game available right now, and it's an Xbox exclusive.

It's a tough call. Microsoft has the edge on online play, but now that EA's biggest games support the same features across both platforms the difference is getting smaller and smaller all the time. Do we go with Microsoft's lower price point and strong existing games, or go with Sony on the basis that GT5 will be essential? Frankly, we can't make up our minds, making this one our only tied decision.

Our choice: PlayStation 3 80GB or Xbox 360 Premium Pack.

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