Reviewman Face Off 1 – Playstation 4 vs Xbox One

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On 27 August 1896, the British Empire took on the Zanzibar Sultanate in what would go down in history as the shortest war of all time – 40 minutes.  The Brit army had one wounded soldier, while the poor old Zanzis lost three boats, a shore battery and ended up with around 500 killed or wounded soldiers.

In 2013, Sony were similarly merciless and nearly as swift in their 107 minute E3 press conference, brushing aside Microsoft’s limp attempt at a conference earlier in the expo.  Yep, it appears that Playstation 4 has won the Cold War before any live ammunition has even been loaded for the real war when consoles starts launching come November.  So let’s take a look at how they did it based on what we know.

Design

Back in the early 90s I used to love popping a video packed with Transformers re-runs or episodes of Pingu into the VCR.  The Xbox One looks suspiciously similar to that very same VCR, with a few helpings of gloss to try and change it into something that doesn’t look out of place in 2013 and 14.  But as they say, you can’t polish pooh, even by literally applying polish, and this design is a little bit shit.

The Playstation 4 is a bit better.  It’s a got a parallelogram vibe to it.  It looks sharp in more ways than one, simultaneously more aggressive and more cutting-edge than the Xbox One.  In fact, it looks aggressive to the extent that I’m not sure that I’m in love with it…

So it comes down to whether you want a VCR or a super high-tech parallelogram.  For me, nostalgia is nice, but it has no place in the latest console generation.  Playstation 4 takes the chocolates.

Internals

Eight core processors?  Check.  8 gigs of RAM? Check.  500 gig hard drives?  Check.  AMD Radeon graphics?  Check.  Blu Ray drives?  Check.  I’m not sure if the development teams went to the same cafe to discuss plans after work every day, but this is just about a dead heat.  Dig a little deeper though, and you’ll notice that Playstation 4 can commit more RAM to its games (7GB vs 5GB) while boasting faster graphics capabilities (1.84 TFLOPS vs 1.23 TFLOPS).  Playstation 4 wins.

Controllers

I’ve always been a fan of Sony’s controllers, and I’m glad they’ve taken the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” approach.  That’s not to say things haven’t changed at all.  Along with the same directional and action buttons, two shoulders, two triggers and dual depressible sticks, we have the SHARE button, which I’ll get to later.  Another addition is a capacitive touchpad and a light bar for notifications.

Microsoft have changed precious little, which isn’t a bad thing – I like the heft of the controllers and the chunky, rounded face buttons.  The D-Pad has changed to a four-way design rather than the cumbersome circular abomination of the 360.  The big change is in the triggers, which feature independent rumble motors that can be customised.

I’m giving this one to the Playstation 4.  I don’t know about you, but I’d take a potentially game-changing touchpad over vibrating triggers every day of the week.

It should be noted that the potential of Xbox SmartGlass could eventually offset Sony’s advantage here.  The touchscreen-based application, which you can download now on all good tablets or smartphones, will only get better, but as it stands it’s only useful for displaying things like stats, and is of little use when playing games unless you’re an octopus, squid, or other creature capable of manipulating two devices and watching a TV at the same time.  Oh, and Microsoft still think it’s cool to NOT have rechargeable batteries in controllers.  Sony’s are, once again, rechargeable straight out of the box.

Kinect and Move

Here’s where things get interesting.  Much to the dismay of core gamers like myself, Xbox have stuck with the whole Kinect thing in a big way.  It’s now essential that Kinect be… well, Kinected in order for Xbox One to function.  This opens the door for a whole universe of shit games with titles like: Family Fun Park 7, Kinect Star Wars 2, Wave Your Arms Like a Dickhead 9 and more dance games than you can awkwardly shake your booty at.  And it’s not just the flood of awful titles that scares me.

It’s the sinister powers of Kinect.  It can measure your heartbeat, see in the dark, read facial expressions, and has a microphone that is on whenever the mains are so you can activate the unit using voice and avoid having to undergo the arduous task of walking to the machine, pressing the button, and sitting back down, you lazy bastard.  I can’t see how any of these things will make games more enjoyable.  Will it encourage me to go outdoors if it detects that I’m fatter than I was a month ago?  Bugger off, Nintendo tried that and it didn’t work.  Will it make my game easier if I look sad?  That’s why they let you choose difficulty settings.  On a more sci-fi  level: call me paranoid, but I have this underlying fear that the more machines know, the closer we get to this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a1wVR6Qab70.

Playstation 4 will support existing Move controllers.  That’s all we know, and I think avoiding reliance on a failed gimmick, especially one which can now monitor you, your family and your home AT ALL TIMES, is a wise Sony move that Microsoft and Nintendo for that matter, can learn from.  This round goes to Sony.

TV

Xbox One can be used as a set top box.  So if you’ve already got one of those or Foxtel or some other form of TV watching device, well I’m sad to say but you’ll be paying for something you don’t really need, along with vibrating triggers.  More compelling is the ability to show off your gaming prowess by recording clips of your e-feats.  To put together a clip, you use the Upload Studio app or integrate with the live streaming Twitch app.

As far as I know, the Playstation 4 can’t be used as a set top box.  Sharing is simply a matter of pressing the SHARE button on your Dual Shock 4.  You can then select a segment of gameplay from within the last 15 minutes of your session, and upload that clip to the social media site of your choice.

Playstation sneaks home with this one, purely because I don’t want a set top box.

Games

The most important factor.

Big guns like Destiny, Batman: Arkham Origins, Assassins Creed IV, Watch Dogs, Metal Gear Solid V, Call Of Duty Ghosts, Battlefield 4 and any sports game with a 2014 on the end will be available on both consoles.  Assassins Creed IV and Watch Dogs will have content exclusive to PS4, while Call Of Duty Ghosts and Battlefield 4 will offer the same for Xbox One.  Scores level so far.

As for exclusives: in Xbox One’s corner we have a Halo game, Forza 5, Project Spark and Kinect Sports Rivals and Ryse: Son Of Rome.  In Playstation 4’s corner, we have Final Fantasy XV, Kingdom Hearts III, The Order 1866 and a plethora of awesome indie games.  You can just about lock away Kingdom Hearts III and Halo as A-Grade titles.  Final Fantasy XV is likely to be along the same lines, though XIII was a disappointment.  We don’t know enough about the others to make a call.  You know my thoughts on Kinect games already, so you know that I’m writing off Kinect Sports Rivals. As for Forza?  Driving simulators are a taste I am yet to acquire.  If I wanted realistic driving I’d get in my car and drive.  I’d probably drive to IGA, buy a pack of Arnott’s Premier Choc Chip Cookies, and settle down to play something better.  Scores still level.

Sony gets the edge through its commitment to indie games.  This doesn’t just open up the platform to a host of talented, under-recognised developers and potentially incredible gaming experiences.  It shows that Sony knows where core gamers want to go.  Indie gaming has taken off, and based on these early impressions, Sony is tuned into this rich vein of software to a much greater extent than Microsoft.

Online, the big advantage PSN had over Xbox Live, free online gaming, has gone.  Subscriptions are now required for both services.

The much-maligned used game restrictions present on Xbox One will be notably absent from Playstation 4.  Xbox One’s exact policies are still a bit murky.  There’s talk of paid activation codes, developers being the ones to blame, having to log in once a day…  I think it’s safe to say that if you want to be able to play used games without a kerfuffle, Playstation 4 is the way.  Sony wins again.

Online

Playstation 4, sadly, will now require a paid subscription for online gaming, which brings it in line with Xbox Live.  Though PSN will be a little cheaper, the Xbox Live network is more fully featured than PSN.  That’s not to say PSN won’t catch up.  For the moment though, I’m calling this a draw.

Price

Using the discipline of mathematics, let me illustrate perhaps the largest, sharpest, most deeply penetrating nail in the Xbox One’s coffin.  Xbox One: $499 US.  PS4: $399 US.  $499 – $399 = $100.  To summarise, the Playstation 4 is $100 cheaper than the Xbox One.  That is a telling blow.  Say what you want about mark ups in different countries – I can guarantee you there will still be a significant gap whatever country you do your shopping in.

 

A Note On Wii U

By this point some of you might be thinking to yourselves: “hang on, what about Nintendo?”  Yes, technically the Wii U is Nintendo’s entrant in the upcoming console war.  However, it has about as much chance of winning as actual wee, as in urine.  It’s based around a still underused gimmick that can only be used by one person per console.  If it goes the same was the first Wii did, it will reach a point where if a game doesn’t have Zelda, Mario or Smash in the title, it’ll be rubbish.  Gimmicks lead to gimmicky games.

Alternatively, it could go the way of the Gamecube.  Underwhelming sales have have put off developers, as has the divisive new control method.  Wii U may not even have enough games on shelves to even begin to compete.

So I’m calling it.  RIP Wii U, it’s been a mediocre few months.

The Wrap Up

I’m a proud non-discriminatory gamer.  I’m proud to have Xbox 360, Wii, and Playstation 3 sharing my TV at this very moment.  But at this exact same moment, the facts indicate that Playstation 4 is the console to beat.  It’s quite simply better in every possible way, except its online feature set, which is pretty much on par with what Microsoft brings to the table.

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