by Ashraf Abdalla
Every 5-7 years a momentous occasion in the world of gaming creates a flurry of fanboyism. Forums and social media light up with angry rants as the console war reaches a deafening crescendo. This year’s battle began with the announcement of both Xbox and Playstation’s new models in the June E3 conference, and it reached a deafening climax with their release in November. I snuck around like Solid Snake while Jaye was writing for the January issue so I could get a hold of and try both consoles to bring you my objective non-partisan opinion of both the PS4 and the Xbox One.
I’ve never belonged to any camp, and always preferred to enjoy the best of all console worlds along with a relatively updated PC gaming rig. I usually phase my console buys based on which system my friends are leaning toward for a better multiplayer experience.
This time around I decided early on that I was going to get both right off the bat. I wanted Battlefield (I too, like Jaye, have a soft spot for online play), Call of Duty, FIFA and later releases of Infamous 3 and Division on PS4. Yet the launch exclusives that excited me the most were Forza and Dead Rising 3 on Xbox. Titanfall, due out later this year, looks like it may revolutionize multiplayer first-person shooters by blurring the line between single player and multiplayer experiences.
Aesthetically speaking, both of the machines are stylish in their own right, albeit in different ways. The PS4 is modern and small, yet good-looking, while the Xbox One is colossal with retro VCR-like straight lines. Its mandatory Kinect didn’t help with my perception of Microsoft trying to take over my home theater, until I used the speak commands.
Microsoft has really nailed the voice-controlled functionality this time round. It’s a joy to make a Skype call, launch a game or check your profile without touching a controller. Kinect also immediately recognized whether my wife or I sat down for a game and signed in the right profile. You can use the Xbox to connect to a satellite receiver and check on a football game or your favorite TV show during game play. If we were in the US, there’s a cool TV guide too! Sadly, this option is not available in Kuwait.
The Xbox, according to Microsoft, does aim to be your one stop entertainment hub. With an Xbox Live account you can access workout apps that monitor your performance and form. You can even access Netflix, YouTube and Amazon.
The only thing missing (which I’m sure will eventually get patched in a system update) is a memory usage screen. Both systems require installations of retail games that range anywhere between 6.5 to 52 GB on 500GB hard drives. PlayStation gets a plus because it lets you switch out the hard drive for a bigger one as long as it meets certain specs.
Unlike the Xbox, the PlayStation user interface is simple and functional. Its most impressive quality is that it just works and kudos to Sony for a responsive and snappy feel. Voice controls were a real miss, but do check out Playroom if you get a camera. It’s a really cool way to show off your next gen console to non-gamers.
Sony did make a major change to their online services. You now need a subscription to PlayStation Plus to play online. Many gamers are unhappy about it, but I believe it will improve their server infrastructure.
The controllers are both vast improvements over their last iterations. The Xbox Ones’ feels like an old familiar friend, only better. Batteries are now hidden in the body, which vastly improves the ergonomics. I was really skeptical of the additional vibration motors in the triggers, but they quickly became a favorite feature.
The PS4 controller feels amazing, and to me is simply one of the best game controllers I have ever used. You really have to feel it in your hands to appreciate it, but it just feels natural. The headphone port on the controller is a touch that my wife appreciates when I’m playing heavy shooting games. The big new feature, the touchpad, has yet to be well utilized in game, but I’m sure developers will find interesting ways to incorporate its use.
Now, the most important part of all: the games. Graphically both systems are impressive, but the PS4 has a small edge with most of the multiplatform games running at native resolutions of 1080p instead of the Xbox’s up-scaled display. While to the average user it makes little difference, a videophile will notice.
I found Call of Duty Ghosts, Battlefield 4, NFS and Fifa 14 to be awesome online and gorgeous on PS4. Assassin’s Creed Black Flag is the first game in that franchise in a while that I felt compelled to finish. Forza Motorsport 5 (my favorite racing game) on Xbox won’t disappoint, Dead Rising 3 was ridiculously fun, and the number of zombies on screen has never failed to blow away first-timers. Multiplayer games like Lego Marvel Superheroes and Powerstar Golf exclusive to Xbox, are surprisingly entertaining, and for the nostalgic gamer try Killer Instinct, an old-school fighting game.
Ultimately, it’s the games and where your friends will play online that makes all the difference. So, while both systems leap graphically far ahead of the last gen, they can’t hold their own against a high end PC, which we’ll talk about more next month.