You hate Microsoft.
Maybe you hated them before E3, maybe you hated them afterwards. Maybe it’s the $100 premium on their new console, the I-spy-with-my-little-eye Kinect sensor, or the company’s brash decisions about DRM and used games.
There are tons of reasons to want to buy a Playstation 4.
Unfortunately, none of those reasons are “the PS4 is an inherently more compelling hardware solution.”
Just like you, I wrestled with my feelings about the Xbox One and the PS4. I literally jumped for joy when I learned Sony wouldn’t be imposing archaic DRM on its customers, and that its console would cost 20% less than that of Microsoft’s. But after playing on both systems over the course of the last four days, I have to objectively admit that the Xbox One is a better console. Fuck.
The Xbox One controller is (against the will of God) a masterpiece
Ask the average gamer and she’ll agree: with the exception of the original d-pad, the Xbox 360 controller is pretty much perfect. The ergonomics, the button placements, the analog tension, the weight… everything about the controller is basically the pinnacle of game input technology.
Well, that’s what I thought too, until I tried the Xbox One controller. Jesus himself could tell you I wanted to believe it sucked. I didn’t want to like it, since that would cost me $500. But the thing is somehow exponentially better than even the 360 gamepad.
The analog sticks have etched edges that make it almost impossible for your thumbs to lose grip. The menu buttons are farther out of the way, making it less likely you’d mash them by mistake. The d-pad is actually competent and responsive. And the analog triggers… sweet lord, the analog triggers. These things by themselves could have put the Xbox One gamepad ahead of the Dualshock. I’ve already explained why in my Forza 5 overview, but they basically add an entirely new dimension of feedback to videogames. You can feel things like music and your character’s pulse, without it being overbearing.
Don’t take this to mean the Dualshock is bad – it’s not. The new, concave analog sticks are a huge improvement. But the rest is pretty much the same. Yeah, you’ve got a touchscreen, but until more details arise about it (no games at E3 used it), it’s basically a tacked-on gimmick. And that giant glowing LED on the back of the controller? It is just as annoying as you might guess it is.
The Kinect isn’t a gimmick (as it would be in a just universe)
Whatever you think about the Kinect of days old or the device’s creepy spying abilities, the inescapable reality is that the sensor is absolutely astounding. It eliminates the need for a microphone, even for multiple players. It can detect all your movements and translate them into head tracking or Z-axis input. I mean, holy shit, it can sense your heartbeat and your current mood. Imagine Eternal Darkness with 458% more mindfuck: delivering scary moments when the game can tell you are most likely to shit your pants.
That’s the power of the Kinect. That is something that, right now, no other console can do. And if you think it’s only a motion gimmick toy, you simply don’t have enough imagination.
Smart Glass is (against all odds) well thought-out software
Both Microsoft and Sony made a big deal out of mobile integration this year, but the truth is Sony didn’t have anything to show for all its bluster. “There will be third party apps” is a nice promise, but it really can’t stand up to the demonstrable integration of Xbox One Smart Glass.
No, Smart Glass is not just a promise. Because it’s a built-in first party application, it’s tied to next generation titles in crazy new ways… things that devs will have access to from launch. In that wannabe Spartan game Ryse, I saw Smart Glass deliver real-time gameplay stats, strategy guides, achievement lists, and character management. Similarly it was discussed for Forza – tracking your race times, showing you leaderboard standings, and souping up your cars for the next race.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is the non-shitty version of the Dreamcast VMUs. This is game extension you can take with you anywhere. So even when you log off your match of Assassin’s Creed Black Flag multiplayer, you could possibly issue challenges to friends, set up ability profiles, or learn new stealth tactics. And because it’s from Microsoft, it will be available on Android, iOS, and Windows 8/phone. Essentially, your computer (and, less likely, your mobile device) will become extensions of your Xbox Console. It’s so unpredictably accessible I want to vomit at the thought of shelling out an extra $100 for it.
Software will be better on Xbox One (I hope saying this jinxes it)
I know software exclusives are subjective, so I’m not going to spend a lot of time here. Instead, I’ll just say this: Killer fucking Instinct. Panzer goddamn Dragoon. Maybe these don’t mean anything to you, but they mean an awful lot to nostalgic 90s gamers who want to see their iconic franchises brought back from the dead.
Even the games that aren’t exclusive to Xbox will probably be better on Xbox One, thanks to the immersion technology I’ve mentioned above. So while The Crew will be the same game on both XB1 and PS4, it will most certainly be a better racing experience on Microsoft’s console. You’ll feel your tires slipping when you turn too tight. You’ll see cars overtaking you as you tilt your head. You’ll come to the next race better prepared because you studied your mistakes from your cell phone on your way back from school or work.
It’s like the perfect storm of technological synergy, and it’s going to tear through your expectations as violently as it will tear through your savings account.
Playstation 4′s (remarkably) superior specs won’t matter
On paper, the Playstation 4 is a stronger gaming computer than the Xbox One. It has faster RAM, and more chips in its pipeline for maximum vector rendering (or something like that). But the PS3 was faster than the Xbox 360, which was faster than the Wii. And how did those sales numbers turn out?
Again, I am not saying that what Microsoft is doing is right, or that it’s fair, or that they deserve to win the console wars. But consumers will pay for whatever wows them in the most immediately obvious way, and it’s almost guaranteed the Xbox One is going to make some gamers shit their pants. Then, after some awkward Kinect detection, the console will bring up Bing results for adult diapers.
Remember: You don’t have to play favorites
Even if you do like the Xbox One experience, you don’t have to like what the console stands for, and you sure as hell don’t have to give Microsoft $500. But neither do you have to purchase a Playstation 4 and get a watered down next-generation gaming setup.
My advice? Wait. Don’t preorder anything. Don’t Day 1 purchase anything. Maybe don’t even Day 100 purchase anything.
Wait and see how it plays out. Wait for crazy deals, desperate marketing maneuvers, and final hardware specifications. Wait to see where the dust settles; if developers don’t take advantage of Kinect, trigger haptics, or Smart Glass, there really aren’t many reasons to care about the Xbox hardware. If Killer Instinct and other Xbox One exclusives end up sucking ass, you can enjoy Divekick on the Playstation 4 instead.
Or hey, maybe both consoles will end up disappointing you. You’ve always got the option of joining the glorious PC master race.
Read more about why Microsoft might win the console wars despite its evil DRM scheme.