By Lewis Empson and Marcus Yeatman-Crouch
After 7 fine years of service, the Playstation 4 and Xbox One alongside their various Pro, S and X iterations are soon to be put out to pasture; passing on the baton to their more powerful, faster and sleeker successors. The Playstation 5 and Xbox Series X and their upcoming games have all been unveiled in live-streamed presentations spilling all the beans on specs, design, exclusives and more. Although they both offer some great performance with some similar internal specs – there is a lot to differentiate them from one another making them both compelling options for your next generation weapon of choice.
Both of the next gen powerhouses feature AMD’s latest 8 core Zen 2 processors, 16GB of GDDR6 RAM and ultra-high speed SSDs with the Xbox coming in at 1TB of storage whilst the PS5 comes in at only an oddly specific 825GB. These specs combined allow for super fluid and crip 4K HDR gaming at 120fps, with Microsoft explicitly boasting that the Series X is 8K ready – obviously providing your TV or monitor allows for high definition, dynamic range and refresh rate to take advantage of these features. Both systems also boast new and improved cooling systems, ensuring your new console doesn’t get mistaken for a hairdryer at best or a jet engine at worst (I’m looking at you, launch PS4). Both consoles allow for expandable storage with the Xbox getting dedicated memory expansion cards and the Playstation giving gamers access to an NVMe SSD slot as well as a USB-C port for high speed data transfer. Load times should be a breeze with these next gen consoles thanks to their optimised SSD technology.
Here is where the two gaming giants’ approaches differ completely. Xbox has refined their Xbox One controller by adding a share button, redesigned d-pad, USB-C charging, Bluetooth Low Energy implementation for better connectivity to PC, iOS and Android devices (ready for X-Cloud) and Dynamic Latency Input system which allows for super low latency wireless gaming. All of this is packaged into a very similar looking controller to the Xbox One all in the name of Microsoft’s attempt to refine not reinvent. Sony on the other hand have completely reinvented their controller, evening scrapping their iconic “Dualshock” moniker to pave the way for their all new “Dualsense” controller. Although the thumbstick, d-pad and face button placement remains, the new controller sports a redesigned touchpad flanked by dual lightbar strips, USB-C charging, redesigned adaptive triggers with haptic feedback providing a new opportunity for in-depth immersion, general improved haptic feedback, a built in microphone array with mute button so you can get straight into party chat and the “Create button” replacing the Share button for all new content creating and gameplay recording opportunities. As well as all that it sports a fancy and futuristic white and black colour scheme, more pointed hand grips and rounded top making it hard to believe that it is the successor to the PS4’s Dualshock 4. It truly looks and sounds like some next generation technology.
No good console release can happen without some hyped-up games to back it up, and both Playstation and Xbox are doing their best to swing interest in their favour. In the recent Xbox conference, fans were treated to a gameplay reveal of Halo: Infinite which fell somewhat flat due to the strangely basic graphics, although it was pointed out that the game was rendered on a PC, so we’ve yet to see how it’ll fare on the new consoles. There was also a much-wanted Fable announcement, with a new game coming to the franchise after years of silence. Aside from a few other titles like the Elder Scrolls-esque Avowed and much-awaited S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2, there seemed little else that caught the interest for Xbox. Playstation, on the other hand, have announced a multitude of games that had players in raptures as their livestream happened a short while ago. Starting strong by introducing the conference with Spider-Man: Miles Morales, an expansion to the web-slinging action hit from 2018, there were further showcases for a new Ratchet and Clank game, Gran Turismo 7, and Resident Evil VIII (Village). In terms of new IPs, there is the curiously cute Bugsnax, weird horror GhostWire: Tokyo, and Groundhog Day-meets-Dishonored title Death Loop. To round it off, Playstation made fans ecstatic by announcing Horizon: Forbidden West, sequel to the massively successful Zero Dawn. With exclusives often one of the crucial factors in console choices, these announcements were incredibly important for building release day hype, and based on the incredible reception to the PS5 and its lineup, it seems like Sony have taken the cake in this area.
Both new consoles are peddling their own features that aim to set them apart from each other. Aside from the already confirmed backwards compatibility on both consoles, one important feature that fans are looking for is cross-gen ports, specifically for games like FIFA or NBA2K which are releasing on the current generation consoles, right before the new ones come out. The Series X does have a named feature for this called ‘Smart Delivery’, which claims that if you own a supported game, you will be able to access the ‘best version’ of it on Xbox One or the Series X; most importantly, this also covers save data, meaning you won’t need to start all over again on next-gen. In terms of utilising the speed of the new consoles, it has been recently leaked that the PS5 will have a feature called ‘Activities’, whereby players can access in-game missions and multiplayer matches, without even booting up the game first. Added to this is the ability to download specific sections of games, all designed to streamline the process of playing by cutting out the unnecessary bits of UI and gamemodes to suit each person’s needs. Similarly, Microsoft has announced the ability to pause multiple games at the same time on the Series X, allowing you to return to any of them exactly where you left off. So it seems the main features being touted to us right now all focus on speed and flexibility, and while there does not seem to be anything setting the two new consoles apart with these features, many of which have been considered standard for this generation, there will almost certainly be some more exclusive attributes that Microsoft and Sony are keeping under wraps.
At the moment, things look pretty balanced between the PS5 and the Series X. Microsoft seem to have edged the tech front on the console, boasting better specs and a few more incentives with cross-gen and backwards compatibility. Sony have gone for a risky redesign of their controller, though it’s definitely generating more good comments than bad, and while the PS5 may be considered the weaker console specs-wise, the all-important promise of exciting launch titles may be enough to convince the console neutrals to pick them during the crucial holiday release window. Regardless of your own choice, the next generation of consoles is shaping up to be an exciting one, filled with some great innovations and efforts made to streamline the gaming experience on both sides of the console war.