The last few weeks have been a rollercoaster for video gamers, with the release of not one but two shiny new black boxes: the Playstation 4, and the Xbox One. After having plenty of time with the next gen consoles, we feel confident in calling an early victory for one system. So just think of this as the "Hunger Games" but for video games:
We've known for the last few months about the look of the new consoles, but haven't really been able to get a grasp of how they might fit in the living room. While each system sheds the previous cycle's exterior we'll take a brief cross-examination of the basic form factor and how it will look resting by the TV.
PlayStation 4: Sony sheds the curvy contours of the launch PS3 for the razor sharp edges of the PS4. The new console can both stand vertically or be seated, with either position taking up just a smidge of your entertainment space. The system is also very quiet while operating (unlike the jet engine sound coming from the aging PS3). A subtle blue-white lighted stripe lets you know everything is working well.
Xbox One: The Xbox One strips the concave tower or the 360 in lieu of a boxy, almost retro VCR shell. The One doesn't have the ability to stand vertically and must spread out a bit (as compared to the slightly smaller PS4) on the shelf. Microsoft also fixes the noise problems from the 360 with a whisper quiet drive.
Our Winner: TIE While the Xbox One is a notch larger than the PS4, they both can easily fit on even the modest of entertainment centers and look great to boot. Additionally, the ultra-quiet disc operation reduces a big chunk of noise for both systems.
Like a surgeon with a scalpel, a gamer's gamepad is their most important tool. Nearly all interactions with a system will use a controller. Sony and Microsoft have quite possibly made their best controllers in this new generation, but there's a clear winner here.
PlayStation 4: For about 15 years, Sony has stood by their Dualshock controller, which was introduced all the way during the original PlayStation. Clean design, smooth contours, and responsive buttons all retain the pedigree of the original; but small improvements such as the finger hugging trigger buttons and the addition of a touch sensitive pad make the Dualshock 4 the best controller to date from Sony.
Xbox One: The newest Xbox controller is no slouch when it comes to gaming. The bulky form of yesteryear gave way to the 360 gamepad, complete with comfort and control. The chunky tool gets a few upgrades enthusiasts will notice, but the big game changer is the extra rumble gyroscopes tucked away in the triggers. These might seem silly but they can add a subtle immersive connection to many games like shooters and racers.
Our Winner: PS4 The Dualshock 4 is surprisingly comfortable for hands of all types. The new triggers feel right home with many games and large, touch sensitive button could be used for many neat things from navigation to even typing. There's a share button that also quickly captures your best gaming moments. Finally, the robust battery life keeps you going for hours, and the integrated 3.5mm audio jack seals the deal.
You're going to want to play games (otherwise why are you here) on the newest hardware, and the two systems don't fail to disappoint with first part titles that show off the latest graphic innovations.
PlayStation 4: Sony's launch has been a mixture of pretty sights and sounds and fun gameplay. Arguably, the two best exclusives are the futuristic First Person Shooter "Killzone: Shadow Fall" and the retro-arcade shooter "Resogun." However, it's not all great as "Knack," a character action game, fails to be anything more than some middling gameplay and story wrapped in a decent looking package. Even with that blemish though, Sony's lineup proves to be pretty enjoyable.
Xbox One: Microsoft debuted with a flurry of fun titles. "Ryse: Son of Rome" and "Forza" are gorgeous games and "Dead Rising 3" delivers on a promise of absurd zombie slaying. Rounding out the bunch is a surprising revival of the fighter "Killer Instinct." Even sim fans can create a nifty and fun zoo with the kids in "Zoo Tycoon." It's a great time to be an Xbox fan.
Winner: XB1 A well-rounded launch line-up gets the thumbs up, providing pretty sights and games for every fan.
Games: Third Party
Of course, Microsoft and Sony will court all manner of third party titles to their sides, but differences between games such as "Assassin's Creed IV" and "Call of Duty: Ghosts" boil down to resolution.
PlayStation 4: Several titles run smoother and look sharper than their Xbox counterparts. "Assassin's Creed" is probably the best looking game on PS4, with crisper images and vibrant colors. "Battlefield 4" and "Call of Duty" equally push the bar higher, even when playing in the chaotic online matches.
Xbox One: Developers have mostly faired well on the black box, at least for first party titles and exclusives. Outside devs have struggled a bit with the infrastructure to eke out that elusive 1080p resolution. Multi-platform games in turn seem to be a little muddier.
Winner: PS4 Nearly all multi-platform games run in 1080p on Sony's powerful machine, compared to the Xbox's lesser 720p.
A modern console is more closely related to a home computer, becoming a kind of hybrid gaming-slash-internet TV system. A lot of these features are accessed through apps, which make a strong appearance on the new systems.
PlayStation 4: Netflix, Hulu, Crunchyroll, and many, many more video apps give users a total package for most of the entertainment needs. Sony also has their Music and Movies service for even more varied content.
Xbox One: The Xbox One has the same video services as Sony, as well as an NFL App (which might sway gameday fans).
Winner: TIE Given that Netflix, Hulu, etc. can run on practically anything that plugs into the wall, this category is an even split.
Forget about TV Apps. What about watching TV itself?
PlayStation 4: Outside of the aforementioned video apps, there isn't a way to watch TV through the PS4.
Xbox One: Through some digital diablerie the Xbox One can function as a pass-through for an HD TV signal. DVRing isn't quite there yet, but generally watching TV with the system works well enough. Many cable providers are supported and allow seamless control for viewing, as well as some voice commands with the Kinect.
Winner: XB1 The Xbox is the only TV supported unit so it gets the point here.
This age of offline gaming is all but done. Both Xbox Live Arcade and Playstation Network provide users access to multiplayer gaming, as well as other features such as sales, demos and downloadable content (DLC).
PlayStation 4: The Playstation Network has made great strides in the last couple of years. Initially kind of a mess with stability issues, Sony introduced PS Plus, a subscription service that granted extra perks like free and discounted downloadable titles. Unfortunately the PS4 requires Plus for multiplayer, but it's a small price to pay for connectivity; and Sony promises to continue their monthly discounts and freebies moving forward.
Xbox One: Xbox Live entered its tenth anniversary last year and continues to be a conduit into everything from online fragfests to high speed chases. Also a paid service, Microsoft is stepping up to offer more with free and discounted DLC to match Sony.
Winner: TIE The PS3 used to suffer from spotty service, but has become much better over time. While the Xbox continues to keep online stability, matching Sony's Plus service will be a boon to gamers. Basically, the two services are nearly identical now.
In the new gen, both systems have camera capability, with updates to the PS Eye, and Xbox Kinect. Now, both companies have offerings for voice and gesture controls that will have us flailing and screaming at our TVs.
PlayStation 4: The PlayStation camera doesn't come packaged with the system, meaning another 99 dollary-doos from your bank. It works well enough with face recognition and voice commands but other than that it kind of just sits there unused.
Xbox One: The original Kinect might have been a bit of tomfoolery, making some amusing promises that didn't quite deliver. The Kinect 2.0 on the other hand is a modern marvel of hand-wavey, command-barking electronics. It's also bundled with the Xbox which makes it a fully integrated tool that more devs might rely on when creating games.
Winner: XB1 Both cameras are functionally sound. And though they tend to be treated like a misbehaving pet, needing a stern, officiating voice, it's almost magic when it all comes together. Xbox gets the point here for including the unit as part of the full package.
The last year or so has seen a huge push for the second screen experience, both in TV and gaming. Many services feature extra content and other bonuses to help us stay connected to the entertainment we love.
PlayStation 4: Tablets play a big part of Sony's portable gaming rig, with the PS Vita as the main feature. Taking a lesson from the Nintendo Wii U, players can stream games to the powerful little device and play full games on it without hogging the big screen.
Xbox One: Microsoft doesn't have a portable gaming device and most likely won't anytime in the future. This basically means that any off-system support will be used on iPads and other smart glass electronics. Not a huge let down but not really a major game changer, either.
Winner: PS4 Both systems feature extra support with a smart tablet but this is mostly a by-product of developers integrating this into their own games. Sony gets the nod here by having a swift and functional peripheral support of their admittedly lagging PS Vita. If you have a Vita, you'll benefit immediately with remote playing.
Drumroll please: and the winner is... Playstation 4. Taking an early lead with crisp, hi-res graphics, a stronger, smarter online experience, and full remote support for the Vita, the PS4 seems to have it all together right now. The new redesigned Dualshock 4 controller has some smart upgrades. The full experience for some might include the PS Camera, but since it's purchased separately you'll save a little for the games you'll want. If you're on the market for a powerful gaming experience the PS4 has what you're looking for.