This round will focus on the biggest games coming to both consoles, and how we will be playing them.
Controllers, Motion & Second Screen
The Xbox One controller is similar to the 360 version, but with a few improvements. The d-pad is finally upgraded from the frustrating wave-like design to a standard plus-sign. A nifty addition is the trigger motors, which vibrate in response to what you are using them for in a game, such as firing a gun or pressing on the gas. The bulky battery compartment is gone, and the thumbsticks are more concave. Microsoft did exactly what they needed to: keep the same design with a few minor improvements.
The Dualshock 4, however, is getting a bit of an overhaul. It’s ergonomically-shaped to fit better in your hands, a constant complaint for previous models. There is a dedicated “share” button, and a new “options” button, which replaces “start” and “select.” But the major addition is that of a clickable touchpad. This adds different gameplay possibilities without making the controller bigger or uncomfortable. Another major addition is a lightbar at the top, which can change color to accompany the tone of the game. For example, an underwater level would make the light change blue or green, whereas a desolate wasteland might be brown or orange.
Sony recently revealed new functionality between the Dualshock 4 and the Playstation Eye camera with “The Playroom” demo, which showed advanced rumble features and augmented reality using the sensor in the controller.
And don’t forget about the second-generation Kinect included with Xbox One, which promises an improved performance with advanced body tracking and even a heart rate sensor. What I don’t like about what Microsoft is doing with Kinect is that the Xbox One will not work without it plugged in. You can turn off the functionality through settings menus, but it will still be connected at all times.
Both Microsoft and Sony have their own versions of second screen functionality as well. Xbox One’s is more accessible, as its SmartGlass app can be downloaded to most tablets and smartphones. Sony’s is a little more restrictive because you have to buy their $250 Playstation Vita for a second screen option, but it will be able to play PS4 games through the remote play feature. [Edit: Playstation also has a second screen app planned for iOS and Android].
Out of everything mentioned in these rounds, games are the most important. You could argue about specs and online all day, but what it really comes down to is the games.
The reality is that both systems will see a majority of all games released hit their consoles. In 2013 alone, we will see the likes of major releases such as Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, Watch Dogs, Battlefield 4, and Call of Duty: Ghosts hit both platforms (actually all four). When choosing a console, it really comes down to the exclusives.
Microsoft, which typically relies on a few exclusives a year, announced more than enough to get interest for the Xbox One going. Here are a few standout titles to look for:
Forza Motorsport 5, the next entry in the popular Xbox racing series. Forza doesn’t look to bring anything game-changing, but racing games always look to show off next-gen tech.
Killer Instinct, the long-awaited sequel in the fighting game series. This was one of the more popular announcements of E3, although it’s a shame Rare isn’t developing it.
Quantum Break, a new mind-bending action game from Alan Wake developer Remedy. It looks interesting, but hopefully it doesn’t take as long as Alan Wake took to release.
Ryse: Son of Rome, a God of War-like action adventure title developed by Crytek. This had been in development hell during the 360 years, so it’s good to see that it was re-worked for Xbox One, because it looks stunningly beautiful.
Sunset Overdrive, an open-world action game developed by Insomniac. This game looks almost crazier than the Saints Row series. Insomniac is probably hoping this will help gamers forget how bad Fuse is.
The one that stood out from the rest, however, was Titanfall, a hectic online FPS developed by Respawn. Although it is not an Xbox One exclusive (it will hit PC and Xbox 360 too), it is supposed to utilize the new cloud computing power of the Xbox One, therefore making that version the one to get.
Obviously, franchises such as Halo (already vaguely-announced), Gears of War, and Fable will show up on Xbox One in the future, but these already-announced titles are enough to warrant interest in the Xbox One.
Despite Microsoft’s strong exclusives announced so far, Sony’s approach to how they do games is more encouraging. Their willingness to embrace indie games with self-publishing, in contrast with Microsoft’s dictator-like publishing policies, show their commitment to developers. Sony even had a showcase during their E3 conference to let games such as Transistor and The Witness have a moment in the spotlight. This attitude carries over into their own first-party exclusives. They give their studios more creative freedom than most other publishers, and it shows in their games. We may not have experienced the brilliance of The Last of Us if Sony hadn’t let Naughty Dog have artistic freedom. Here are a few PS4 exclusives to look for:
DriveClub, a social media-infused racing game. This game looks to integrate the new sharing features of the PS4 with this new Grid-like racer.
Infamous: Second Son, a quasi-sequel of PS3′s action adventure series, Infamous. How do you make a sequel but keep it fresh? Change the protagonist and give him a different power from the first two games.
Killzone: Shadow Fall, another semi-sequel of the FPS series, Killzone. Gone are the drab environments of the first three games, as game footage has shown a brighter and colorful world to shoot your way through. Looking absolutely graphically amazing helps too.
Knack, an action game where the main character can incorporate different elements within himself to change his abilities. At first glance, Knack looks like a jumbled mess. But after a while you start to see the method in its madness, and the multiple gameplay possibilities each new element can bring.
The Order: 1886, an alternate history action adventure game developed by Ready At Dawn. This was the most intriguing game announced for the PS4. Set in the late 1800s (obviously), not much is known except that there is a war against supernatural beings. The setting alone is refreshing, and I can’t wait to see more of “1886.”
The PS4 also has mutiple indie console exclusives, as well as Diablo III and free-to-play games such as Blacklight: Retribution and DC Universe Online.
Expect franchises such as Uncharted, God of War, Gran Turismo, and LittleBigPlanet to show up as well.
PS4 will also look to utilize their acquisition of Gaikai by adding a game streaming service to play older Playstation games through the cloud, as well as PS4 demos. Sony has yet to detail when or how this will happen, however.
Sony’s Dualshock 4 and sheer amount of studios and exclusives help win this round.
Round 3 goes to PS4.
Although Sony has won this preliminary round, the real battle will start when both consoles release. More information will be revealed,and more games announced. Regardless, this is a good time to be a gamer, no matter which console you choose (hopefully both eventually). Ultimately, both consoles are great for video games, because without competition, there is no innovation.
By Josh Baumbach