Saturday 4 January 2014

Xbox One v's PS4

Having both is possibly my biggest extravagance ever.  But y'know, I'm a gamer, it's kinda my thing, so two Thursday evenings in a row I stood in very different sized queues and bought an Xbox One and a PS4 and my credit card felt the burn.

I like them both.  They both feel like a step up from their predecessors but which one is the best?

Hmmm. You know what?  The honest answer is it's too early to say.  In the first month or so of having them the PS4 has seen more action, but the simple fact is, I have more games for it.  The Xbox feels like it probably came out around six months ahead of when it was supposed to, it all feels a little clunky and there's plenty of features not working fully yet.

The PS4, especially when you add in the optional camera, works almost seamlessly out of the box.  The UI is a new take on the old XMB of the PS3 but it feels smoother and more intuitive although once that black box if full of installed games it's going to be a crowded beast.  The Xbox UI is less intuitive but there's plenty of scope to make it your own with ability to pin games and apps to the dashboard.  Turning the thing off and on with the Kinect quickly becomes an additive joy especially when it boots up the TV and surround sound at the same time.  Clever stuff.

The weird switch here is that previously the Xbox 360 felt like the toy and the PS3 felt like the serious machine that did everything.  This time around Microsoft's monolith (it's massive) feels like the one that might frown at you if you installed something vaguely throwaway on it.  There's so much potential for it to be the goto machine for gamers but until the TV pass through is working properly in the UK it's unlikely to become the default machine for UK gamers.  (Basically you can have a TV signal from a set top box pass through the Xbox allowing you to switch between gaming and watching TV on the fly.  In the UK and I believe Europe in general, there's an issue with frame rates dropping which makes it unusable.  There's a complicated workaround to make it function but it's not really worth the effort.  Apparently an update will fix it but it's a little frustrating that it's broken at launch.)

The PS4 is set up for gaming and (for the moment) little else.  (Although it's worth noting that neither machine will currently play a 3D BluRay.)  Sony have focused on what gaming has become over the last few years, immersing it in the social side of life, with the ability to link facebook and twitter and stream over Twitch.  The streaming in particular is genius and although currently I'm getting minimal views I'm enjoying having the ability to take screenshots, broadcast live and upload captured footage.  A lot of this is coming for the Xbox but crucially it's not there at launch, although the ability to use a third party piece of kit is.

Gaming wise I've not gone mental and bought the same game twice so I can't offer a direct comparison but so far I've been impressed with COD in 1080p and 60fps on the PS4 and Ryse on the Xbox (whilst being a bit repetitive) looks incredible.

2014 is going to be a big year but it won't be until we move fully away from the previous gen and developers are focused fully on the new machines that we'll see their potential start to flourish.  For now though, if I had to choose one of them, I'd take the PS4.

That might feel different in a year's time post Titanfall.

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