18 December 2020
The next generation of consoles is finally here, but which should you go for in March 2021? We’ve compared each key aspect of the new platforms to help you decide which one to buy.
I might be showing my age here but thinking back to childhood arguments about whether the SNES or the Mega Drive had better graphics brings a nostalgic tear to the eye (NB: it was the Mega Drive. Don’t @ me).
A ton of emphasis is placed on the raw numbers around processing, but the reality is, better stats don’t always equate to better performance. Most experts suggest the Xbox Series X has more raw power under the hood and superior graphical capabilities, but there’s not much in it. Both will provide incredibly detailed, realistic graphics on-par with most current PC graphic cards.
Winner: Xbox Series X, by a whisker.
Unfortunately, it seems neither Microsoft nor Sony have managed to sort out the supply issues that dogged both console launches, so it’s still painfully difficult to get your hands on the Xbox Series X or either version of the PS5. The Xbox Series S, however, is available in many stores online, but there are serious downsides to going for this downgraded version (see the ‘Other Key Features’ section below), so most will want to wait for the full-fledged disc version.
Winner: A no-score draw.
Games at launch
Almost every past ‘console war’ has been decided primarily by the quality of the games – and while a strong launch line-up doesn’t guarantee anything, it can indicate how well-supported the console will be in the long-term.
The PS5 had a very strong selection of games available on release day. Sackboy: A Big Adventure is a platforming pleasure, Demon’s Souls is a brutal but rewarding fantasy romp, Spider-Man: Miles Morales is an excellent follow-up to the award-winning PS4 prequel and Astro’s Playroom is a fun little novelty that comes free with every console.
In comparison, the day-one games on the Xbox were more than a little underwhelming. The only really exciting exclusive was a remaster of a previous-generation game (Gears of War 5) and the best of the rest are all also available on PS5 (including Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War, Forza Horizon 5, and Assassin’s Creed Valhalla).
Winner: PS5. No contest.
The PS5 has a tantalising range of exclusive games coming soon. To start with, there’s a new God of War game set for release this year. The last entry in the series was arguably the best single-player game of the decade, so anticipation is through the roof. Horizon: Forbidden West is another follow-up that people can’t wait to get their hands on, and then there’s Final Fantasy XVI, Gran Turismo 7, and the mysterious Project Athia, all penned in for release this year. Some big draws there.
It’s looking good for Xbox owners too. The Halo series has always been a mainstay on Microsoft consoles, and the impending arrival of Halo: Infinite (with the possibility of a tagged-on Halo Battle Royale game) has everyone’s tongues wagging. Fable is another upcoming reboot that blew people away with its unexpected announcement trailer, and Warhammer 40,000: Darktide is a multiplayer RPG that looks like it could bring something new to the genre. Very tidy.
Numerous cross-platform games are coming soon too, including Resident Evil 8 and Call of Duty 2021 (rumoured title: CoD Vanguard), so regardless of the platform you’re on – you’re guaranteed big titles.
Winner: PS5, but not by much.
Other key features
There’s not much in it when it comes to the prices of the consoles. The premium versions both retail at £449. The digital-only version of the Xbox (the Series S) costs £249, which is significantly cheaper than the Digital-only edition of the PS5 (£359), however, the Series S has some notable graphical and performance downgrades compared to its big brother, whereas the cheaper version of the PS5 is identical to the premium edition, apart from the lack of a disc-drive.
The control pads that come with both consoles are great, with the Xbox providing quality, comfort, and familiarity, but the PS5 controller introduces some exciting new features that set it apart. 3D audio from the headphone jack is a real step up from what was possible on the PS4, and the haptic feedback on the triggers makes games feel more immersive.
Cloud gaming is set to become the norm in the next decade as connection speeds improve with the widespread implementation of 5G networking. Microsoft is a step ahead of Sony in this area with their ‘Game Pass Ultimate’, which gives more flexibility to play next-gen games on a wider range of mobile devices. While this mightn’t feel like a big deal right now with the majority of us still stuck indoors (*sigh*), it could be a big differentiator in the coming months as lockdown rules loosen.
So which one should you go for?
In reality, there’s not much in it, and both are worth getting very excited about. Right now, the PS5 is probably the best bet for most people. There are better games available for the console, and the ones in the pipeline are looking slightly more enticing too. Of course, things can change very quickly, and with Microsoft’s confirmed acquisition of world-renowned producer Bethesda (and the expected exclusive Doom and Fallout sequels on the way), the future is starting to look brighter for Xbox owners too.
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