E3 came and went, but depending on your particular tastes and biases, the dust still hasn’t settled on which next-gen behemoth reigns supreme. Since I did enjoy the fortune of having a solid two days of being able to play around with the hardware and software offerings of each console, I figured that the responsible thing to do is make a point-by-point comparison of each console’s strengths and declare tentative winners (obviously not based on final hardware) for each point. Onwards!
Let’s get this out of the way—the Xbox One isn’t quite as powerful as the PS4. Thanks to all the fun computer-y stuff that Kinect does in the background, you won’t get as much “oomph” out of the machine as you would with the new PlayStation. Even though the games you’ll be seeing come release day will be leaps and bounds from what you’ve been used to in this long and protracted console generation, expect Xbox One games to have less overall visual fidelity than their PlayStation 4 counterparts, though what kind of disparity to expect remains to be seen.
Edge: PlayStation 4. I’m actually pretty stoked about this console generation. Although both boxes are based on the same AMD-based architecture—to put it in layman’s terms—the PlayStation 4 has better stuff in the box and doesn’t have as much Kinect/OS overhead to deal with. We’ve dealt with consoles with practically similar horsepower for far too long, so it’s about time we get three (almost) completely unique products on the market!
The Xbox One’s joypad doesn’t have an official name, so for this comparison’s purposes I’m going to simply refer to it with the colloquial “Xbone controller.” That being said, Microsoft’s latest system does come bundled with some sort of contraption that looks like a wild streamlined amalgamation between the original Xbox’ duke controller and an Xbox 360 controller (come to think of it, that thing didn’t have an official buzzword name, did it?). Gone are the candy-looking buttons—and I sincerely hope none of you tried to lick your controllers just now trying to scope some strawberry—the Xbone controller’s subtle, clear black buttons and matte-textured surface subtly tells us that this is supposed to be a high-end piece of home theater kit first and foremost. Hey, it worked for the NES!
The elephant in the room here is Kinect 2.0. While I wasn’t able to successfully try out all of its neat tricks (blame most of their demos running on a crowded showfloor with a million people running back and forth instead of enclosed, private areas), from what I’ve seen elsewhere it looks like Microsoft actually was able to crunch the numbers and get all of the features it promised during its E3 2009 Project Natal unveiling out the door. While you won’t exactly be able to “scan in your skateboard” or do most of the nebulous BS they promised during initial concept videos, the tracking is way more accurate now than it was with the first Kinect iteration as the technology to do it is finally cheap enough to perform on a consumer level.
At the other end of the room is the DualShock 4. Marking the first significant departure in controller design on its home consoles since… well, the first DualShock, this brand-new design takes some of the basic design concepts out of Sony’s almost-perfect controller design and addresses key ergonomic and functionality feedback to bring it to the next generation. I can harp on about the new recessed d-pad, better triggers, and the very 3DO-like earphone jack, but the real star here is the all-new “share” button, which lets you actively share a snippet of game footage to networks like uStream (the system actively records the last fifteen minutes of gameplay in case you miss anything). Own your friends, bag and tag ’em (on Facebook); this does kill the capture card market but is an awesome feature for mean douchebags like us that have no issues with public shaming.
Edge: Xbox One. While both controllers are really solid pieces of tech, the Xbox One’s business model practically rides on how intuitive its input systems are supposed to be. The new controller is great and all, but if Microsoft is to be trusted, Kinect 2.0 is supposed to revolutionize how we p—alright I’m done, I couldn’t even finish that sentence with a straight face.
After getting a solid week to chew on each manufacturer’s respective press briefings, I’ll have to conclude that neither the PlayStation 4 nor the Xbox One had any games on launch that really appealed to me. Most of the stuff that they showed off that piqued my interest seemed really far off (Metal Gear Solid V, Destiny, Titanfall) and as is standard with any console launch, there are a bunch of questionable titles on each console’s roster (“gee, I’ve been waiting for a sequel to Killer Instinct,” said nobody ever). If you are at all into games, it looked like Sony had more tastes and bases covered, however. From indie offerings (Octodad), quirky and unique titles (Knack) and even the best kick-butt action games (Infamous), Sony made sure there’s something for everyone.
Edge: Wii U. Wildcard!
Overall, tentative winner: PlayStation 4. I personally have no interest in running yet another media center extender-type device around my house; I have an old Vizio Co-Star Google TV system that works just fine for that purpose. I really have no desire to mess around with all of the required Kinect horse piles that Microsoft’s forced on us with its new system. Stallion comparisons aside, and not to beat a dead one but the fact that the PS4 is releasing at a full $100 lower and has the distinct ability of actually being usable in the Philippines is delicious icing on the cake.
Look, we love playing videogames, so at least for this fiscal year the PlayStation 4 gets our unilateral nod as the console that won E3; whatever that’s worth.
And for everyone else still on the fence, here’s a handy-dandy comparison chart to help you compare each system’s strengths and weaknesses in a (n admittedly) skewed format. We also threw in the Wii U there for no other reason than to be mean.
|Sony PlayStation 4||Microsoft Xbox One||Nintendo Wii U|
|Price||$399.99||$499.99||$349.99 / $299.99|
|Availability||Holiday Season (no exact date yet)||November (no exact date yet)||Launched|
|RAM||8GB GDDR5||8GB DDR3||2GB DDR3|
|CPU||Single-chip x86 AMD “Jaguar” processor, 8 cores||8 Core Microsoft custom CPU||Multi-Core PowerPC “Espresso” CPU|
|Storage||500 GB Hard Drive||500 GB Hard Drive||8GB or 32GB Flash|
|External Storage||TBA||Yes, USB||Yes, USB|
|Mandatory Game Installs||N||Y||N|
|Need For Always-On Net Connectivity||N||Y||N|
|Used Game Fee||N||Y||N|
|Backwards Compatibility||None||None||Yes, Wii|
|Motion Control||DualShock 4, PlayStation 4 Eye, PlayStation Move||Kinect 2||Wii Remote, Wii U GamePad (included)|
|Second Screen||Vita (not included)||SmartGlass (not included)||Wii U GamePad (included)|
|Subscription Service||PlayStation Plus||Xbox Live||N|
|USB||USB 3.0||USB 3.0||USB 2.0|
|Reputation Preservation||Trophies will be ported||Achievements will be ported||N/A|
|Web Connection||Ethernet, IEEE 802.11 b/g/n||Gigabit Ethernet, IEEE 802.11 b/g/n WiFi||IEEE 802.11 b/g/n WiFi, LAN via USB dongle|
|BlueTooth||Bluetooth 2.1 (EDR)||No*||Bluetooth Support|
|A/V Hookups||HDMI (4K Support) , Analog (Component, RCA), Optical output||HDMI input and output (4K support), Optical output||HDMI out, Component/ Composite out|