Xbox One vs PS4 - Which console is best for 2016?
Xbox One or PS4? Which console will serve you best throughout 2016?
By this point in your usual console life-cycle everything has pretty much settled down. Yes, both consoles have decent catalogues of games and have sold enough hardware that you needn't worry about big titles coming to your choice of hardware. However, this time something a little strange is going on and it's worth thinking twice before you choose a console to buy today.
The PlayStation 4 has sold more than the Xbox One to date, that was mainly down to the Xbox's slow start, but it's also attributable to Sony's machine having slightly more powerful hardware, which means slightly better-looking games. The Xbox One has had the advantage in terms of exclusive titles, but Sony is finally going to roll out a AAA, gold-standard, big-hitter in just a couple of weeks. Yes, Uncharted 4 is finally here.
However, strange things are afoot at Sony. For starters the company will be taking a big risk in launching its PlayStation VR headset in November. Historically, expensive peripherals for consoles are not only failures but also serve to distract and fragment games development from the core console itself. On the plus side if VR interests you, and it should, then having the opportunity to pick up the headset in the future is an exciting possibility.
Stranger still, rumours have leaked that Sony is preparing to launch a PS4.5, PS4K or PS4 Neo. This amounts to a more powerful version of the console, which will be fully compatible with the current device but have superior graphics and smoother frame rates in games, as well being much more suited to VR work. Sony is apparently committed to supporting the original PS4 fully, so buying a PS4 today isn't a risk, that said with the new device looming and a price cut on the original a near-certainty, it's frustrating that we don't have release date for the updated console.
By comparison, there's not much to talk about from an Xbox One point of view. The company has spoken about unifying its Xbox and Windows platforms and maybe moving away from a traditional console release schedule in future, but so far it's just talk. That said, you can buy an Xbox One today without worrying about whether a better one is going to come along in just a few months. Sadly, Quantum Break didn't live up to its big billing, so Uncharted 4 on PS4 is where the hype will be for the foreseeable future.
In this article I'll be putting the two consoles head-to-head over a number of categories. I've tried to be fairly concise, without leaving out anything crucial. I don't believe that either console is simply better for every gamer, it all depends on what you want from it. Have a flick through the article and at least read the areas that interest you most, before heading to the conclusion.
Unsurprisingly, both consoles have fallen in price since their launches way back in late 2013 (has it been that long!). However, neither has had any major price drops or redesigns (like the Xbox 360 S or PS3 Slim) that would allow for a far lower price. Instead prices have been slipping down gently over time, with both consoles now available for around £250.
The Xbox One and PS4 are now also available with bigger 1TB hard disks, though prices are considerably higher than the basic 500GB consoles. The extra space is great for those who like to have loads of games installed at once, but as a team we've been coping fine with the smaller drive by simply uninstalling older titles.
XBOX ONE The Xbox One console's 'real world' price has dropping steadily since launch, partly due to actual price drops, but also thanks to a series of 'free' bundled games and the option to buy the console without the Kinect sensor. It's currently available with a download code for FIFA 16 for as little as £250 if you shop around, a console on its own is about £240, which is a false economy. Plus I've seen a 1TB consoles with The Division for £300. The Xbox One is cheaper than the PS4 at present, and whatever the reasons that's no bad thing if you're about to buy one.
PS4 Prices on the PS4 have also fallen considerably, and you can get a standalone console online for as little as £260. There are better bundles, though, with the best currently offering a console and Star Wars: Battlefront for just £250. Generally speaking, the PS4 costs a little more for equivalent bundles, but with only around £20 in it, this isn't something to make a decision based upon.
Which one is best? – Deals chop and change regularly, the Xbox One is a little cheaper, but there's not such a difference that you should be making your choice on price alone.
You can talk hardware, controllers and operating systems all day, but it's the games that really matter on a console. Previous console generations have often been defined by their big exclusive franchises, such as Halo, Mario and Uncharted. If you really wanted to play a certain game, you had to but the console that had it.
However, this time I'm not sure that exclusives will be as critical in the battle between the Xbox One and the PS4. Both consoles use very similar hardware, as I'll discuss later, and the ever-increasing costs of games development mean that Sony and Microsoft will have to splash huge amounts of cash to compete with titles that will be released across multiple formats. To date, many exclusives have fallen short of must-have status, with the biggest games on both platforms being multi-platform releases.
My most-played games from this generation have appeared on both formats. I've been playing a lot of Destiny plus Far Cry 4 was another early big hit. More recently I've put a lot of time into the excellent The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and the incredible Metal Gear Solid 5: Phantom Pain. I'm currently playing Fallout 4, Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 and Star Wars: Battlefront too, so plenty to keep you entertained there.
As I note in our hardware section, the PlayStation has the technical edge in most of these games, with slightly higher resolutions producing sharper visuals in game. It's not a huge difference and I wouldn't abandon an established group of friends on Xbox Live for it, but it's worth keeping in mind, all other things being equal.
EXCLUSIVE GAMES - XBOX ONE
The Xbox has seen some good exclusive content, nothing truly must-have but strong additions to its line-up. Forza Horizon 2 is a technically outstanding title that really shows off the Xbox One, its controller and Xbox Live. There's also anarchic shooter-cum-free runner Sunset Overdrive, plus the re-mastered versions of the Halo series in the Halo: Master Chief Collection and a similarly remastered Gears of War: Ultimate Edition. It's not a huge line-up of exclusives, but it's certainly significantly stronger than Sony's efforts to date.
Most importantly, for many, the Xbox One can finally boast a triple AAA exclusive shooter in the form of Halo 5: Guardians. Its taken some time but the game looks stunning, especially in its multiplayer modes. And then there's Rise of the Tomb Raider (also available on PC, and PS4 probably later in the year), which is a great action romp in much the same fashion as the first game.
EXCLUSIVE GAMES - PS4
The big PS4 exclusive, Uncharted 4, will finally be with us on the 10th of May. Its delay from last year was just another setback in Sony's exclusive software line-up, with more delays, buggy release and underwhelming titles aplenty, you can read more in Is there a PS4 exclusive jinx?
Infamous: Second Son is a decent open-world brawler but nothing special by today's standards. Then there's The Last of Us Remastered, a prettied up version of one of the best games of recent years, originally on PS3. The Order 1886 looks incredible but there's not enough breadth in the game to make it more than a very fancy shooting gallery. Then there's Driveclub, which had a rocky start but is improving slowly with updates and tweaks. Bloodborne is pretty special, but its incredibly demanding design certainly isn't for everyone.
Which one is best? – The best third-party games look prettier on the PS4 but the Xbox One has a superior lineup of exclusives to date, plus there's Halo of course.