Cumbernauld Media is proud to welcome John Flannagan, who will become a regular contributor on all things gaming related. In this – his first review – for Cumbernauld Media, John looks at the ‘Next Generation’ consoles which have been battling it out for the support of both hard-core and social gamers worldwide.
‘Next Generation’ promise.
The two main factions in the world of console gaming in November/December of 2013 launched their latest offerings, the “Next Generation” of gaming was promised, with both sides pitching the concepts and features of their newest gaming machines in very different ways. As we find ourselves having moved past the one year anniversary of the initial launch, we come to the point where many people will actually make the jump to these new pieces of kit, or are considering doing so – thus, for my first review, I chose to discuss not a game, but rather the new machines on which we might be playing them; and for those considering the purchase there will also be a conclusion/summary in which I give my own opinion on which is the best option and where the best deals in the local area can be found. With that, let us dive into the world of these new toys and see what’s what.
In terms of style, the Sony’s PS4 is smaller, with a sleek, slanted design that gives the impression of a futuristic machine of the next generation – very much tomorrow’s look today. While the Xbox One is larger, with a more traditional box look, which fits well as part of any modern home entertainment system – it may not win any beauty contests, but it holds its own well enough.
Now we come to the software of the new gaming systems. Microsoft’s Xbox one, in a move that takes no one by surprise, makes use of a console version of their windows 8 software whereby the user is presented with a collection of tiles representing different applications and features; this system is familiar enough for those who have used an Xbox 360 in the past for the transition to be a painless and rather enjoyable experience, while providing enough of a new style to be fresh and vibrant. In addition, the Xbox One can also (for those of you with a set-top box i.e. Sky box, Free sat box, Virgin TiVo box etc.) use another HDMI cable to route your TV through the Xbox interface – basically allowing you to watch TV, change channels with voice commands or the controller on your Xbox One.
Sony’s PS4 uses a very similar operating system to its predecessor the PS3, which will please both die-hard fans and new-comers alike, as it provides a smooth and simple user experience that is both straightforward and rather pleasant with its ambient background music and smooth colour scheme. Sony, in keeping with their advertising slogan for the PS4 have focused on the gaming experience rather than oodles of new gadgets and TV interference, making their system “for the players”.
Next we will get the technical jargon out of the way, along with what’s really under the shell of this new breed of gaming system; with that in mind I would like to say that I myself am not a particularly tech-savvy individual – I truly have no idea how the computer on which I type this review actually does any of the wondrous things that it does – however, I will do my best to cover the important points and the key specs in such a way as to give the reader a clear enough idea of what is what regarding both machines.
First up for the x-ray treatment is Microsoft’s Xbox One – the long-awaited sequel to their much celebrated Xbox 360 device. In terms of memory, the new Xbox can offer up a respectable 8GB of DDR3 memory and a further 32MB of eSRAM combined with a 500GB hard drive. The long and short of this is that the Xbox has to make do with a slightly lower bandwidth when it comes to its ability to handle game data. This may not seem like a big issue, but it also impacts upon the graphics capabilities; meaning that while an Xbox One can indeed keep up in terms of CPU, it can’t always deliver the same quality on the screen as its main rival can. While this is not a major problem for most people, it is a factor to consider. The Xbox also has 2 USB 3.0 ports and does support external storage where its competitor does not, thus giving it the advantage in connectivity. One additional feature for the Xbox is its larger fan and more capacious shell, which allows it to run with less noise and with less of an overheating issue during longer gaming sessions.
Moving on to the competition, Sony’s PlayStation 4, and more technical jargon! In comparison, the PlayStation has essentially the same CPU and the same 500GB hard drive as the Xbox, but that is where the similarities end; with the PS4 bringing an impressive 8GB of GDDR5 RAM, which does give it the edge in sheer processing power and graphics capabilities. Thus the PS4 would seem to have an early advantage in hardware, and indeed it does in the discussed areas of graphics and processing; both of which mean little to the standard reader. However, the Ps4’s smaller fan fitted into a tighter shell means that it does tend to overheat slightly faster than its rival, and is also a tad noisier as a consequence (the noise when a game is being installed from a disc is noticeable, however the system does generally run more quietly during gameplay and when performing most tasks).
In terms of what is offered in the controllers, some diversity begins to shine through. The Xbox comes with the as yet unnamed game pad which keeps the core styling of its predecessor (which itself was widely thought to be arguably the best controller of its generation) while bringing a more comfortable design that sits easier in the hand. The buttons have a slightly stiff feel at first encounter, but provide a firm and durable experience, and the control-sticks both have a completely redesigned thumb-grip with an innovative new texture design to allow for better grip and a more comfortable hold during longer gaming sessions. The shoulder buttons are also quite stiff which is a slight imperfection but not to the extent that it becomes a deal-breaker; while the triggers are where the real innovation is to be found – Microsoft have bravely fitted additional rumble motors into the trigger mechanisms and replaced the traditional manual trigger mechanism with a new magnetic mechanism, these two new tweaks bring a new level of responsiveness for the gamer; this may sound like an insignificant feature, but having experienced it for myself with the stunning Forza Horizon 2 racing game on the Xbox One, I can assure readers that this small feature makes a difference to your gaming experience and can at times give you a feeling of further engagement with the game (feeling the tension in the acceleration and braking, or the influence of speed and road surface on the cars accelerating and handling in the game is a true pleasure for a racing fan).
Moving on to the PlayStation 4’s controller – the Dualshock. While keeping the traditional look and style of the previous Dualshock controllers, Sony have made plenty of small tweaks to really bring this new model up to a standard never before experienced with PlayStation. The controller itself sits more comfortably in the hand than its predecessor, and the hand grips have been expanded to allow for a much firmer grip in the hand and the entire underside of the controller has been given a new, textured material that does wonders for both comfort and grip in the gaming experience. The buttons have been refined to be a tad more responsive and the sticks have been given a much more comfortable texture and shape for the thumbs. The shoulder buttons are not too stiff but not soft either which gives a better responsive feel for the gamer, and in addition, the triggers are now shaped into the more comfortable triggers rather than being the button-at-the back of previous Dualshock offerings – this is a massive step forward for anyone who has used the previous Dualshock models, and it comes through in the responsiveness and comfort of the controller. One additional feature of the new Dualshock 4 is the track pad in the middle, a feature that works essentially in the same way as the mouse-pad of your laptop, and has been successfully integrated with several of PS4’s biggest games to date.
A further point with the new generation of consoles is the introduction of truly functional voice and motion commands that can actually understand the Scottish accent…to a reasonable extent. The Xbox One can feature its innovative Kinnect 2 camera which also has a microphone built in; the device itself is a true innovation and a massive improvement on its predecessor. It requires less space, and has been successfully integrated into both the Xbox Ones biggest games and its user interface; allowing you to say “Xbox. Watch TV.” Or “Xbox. Play Titanfall” to impress/amuse friends and guests. While Sony does offer a similar device called the Eye, it is not as integral to the design of the console itself, but does work well for the usual dance/sport/karaoke games that so many have come to love; as well as having some fun additional uses in the consoles interface.
When it comes to discussing the games available for these new gaming systems, there are really only two categories – the console exclusives, and the cross-platform titles. In terms of cross-party titles, such as Dragon age Inquisition, or Assassin’s Creed Unity, you get the same game on both consoles; with the only difference being the graphics – the PS4 in my testing of both of the aforementioned titles performed to a slightly higher standard than the Xbox, essentially, colours were brighter, the detailing was noticeably of a higher quality, such as the cracks in the leather of my elven warrior’s armour, or the blades of grass as opposed to the plain sheet of leather-looking colour or the sea of green flecks seen in dragon age on the Xbox One. It is not much of a difference, but it is what I’ve found in my extensive use of both consoles thus far.
As for the console exclusive, well, this is where the choice becomes difficult. As the main list for the PlayStation includes such thrillers as:
While the Xbox brings its own A-games to the table. The list including:
Both consoles are in the same price range, and both are available to purchase in locations throughout Cumbernauld (prices shown are for the consoles alone, bundles with games are available from some of those listed, for which prices will vary depending on games/accessories):
Xbox One –
PlayStation 4 –
To conclude, I would say that both Sony and Microsoft have both come out with great consoles and there is no right or wrong choice as it comes down to personal preference in terms of games and style. Personally, I currently own a PS4 and love it, it is an excellent gaming machine and has superiority on the graphics front; but I chose it because I wanted to play some of the exclusives available for it. As for the Xbox One, yes it has its flaws but I bought one for a relative as a Christmas present and he feels that it is excellent, and I agree, as a racing fan, it won me over with Forza, and I will be buying one this summer. As for the conclusion of the article; the decision is in the hands of the reader, I have given the facts and some anecdotal titbits along the way in the hope that means you will be able to: 1) make the choice that makes you happy as a gamer/the person for whom your buying happy, and 2) shop around in the area, look for a good deal and make a sensible purchase based on what you want from t is machine and the games that go with it. – my end verdict, the PS4 gets a solid 5 stars, while the Xbox One gets 4.5 stars.
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