Always keep your promises
With next-generation consoles come a lot of lofty promises. But promises are like babies: easy to make, hard to deliver. Microsoft and Sony are competing for the hard earned cash of millions of gamers, so they have to win our favour somehow. Now that the consoles have released, the fires of speculation and hate have subsided (a little), and the hardware is finally on store shelves. But you know what's crazy? Despite the changed policies, back-tracking, and delays to key features... I'm having a good time with my new consoles.
It's time to look at the brighter side of the console war; at what the next-gen systems do well, and how they succeed in meeting our expectations. Sure, there are a few things that have changed from the initial announcements, and a number of promised features weren't ready for launch, but what we did get on day one is still pretty awesome.
The games look absolutely fantastic
Yeah, last-gen's games look impressive when they were running on a hefty PC setup, but for those of us who haven't been enjoying the advanced particle effects and lighting of a mega-rig, next-gen titles look outstanding. Explosions in Battlefield 4 have more oomph, sailing off the coast of Cuba in Assassin's Creed 4 makes me feel like I'm in a tropical paradise, and you can see the pores in character's faces now--their pores!
The next-gen consoles promised incredibly detailed visuals, more immersive worlds, and more badass gaming experiences, and that's exactly what we have. Sure, some of the launch games are merely better looking ports of Xbox 360 games, but they still look amazeballs. And this is only the beginning. The visuals can only improve from here. If this is the starting point, I can't even imagine what games are going to look like a few years down the line.
The launch line-ups for both consoles were great
Look, I know that the Xbox One didn't launch with a shiny new Halo, and we aren't playing Uncharted 4 on PS4 yet... but the titles that fill the launch roster on both systems ensure there are plenty of quality games to play right out of the gates. Even though neither console really has that killer app, the publishers provide some strong games at launch.
Looking back at the Xbox 360 and PS3 launch titles, which included the likes of Resistance, Call of Duty 2, and King Kong, the new consoles have a few more heavy hitters. Battlefield 4, Assassin's Creed 4, and Call of Duty: Ghosts fill out the third party titles quite nicely. Then there's the first party. Forza, Dead Rising 3, and even Ryse provide excellent incentives to go the Xbox One route. Killzone: Shadow Fall, Resogun, and free-to-play titles like DC Universe Online are exclusives that make the PS4 a tempting purchase. Out of the most prominent games, there isn't just one or two that I want to get my hands on, as was the case with previous console launches. I want to sample them all.
Game DVR features are an awesome way to show off
So, in years past, if you pulled off an across-the-map knife throw kill in Call of Duty, or spectacularly crashed a helicopter in Battlefield, all you had was a story. You could go around the schoolyard/office telling your friends all about it, but it's just not the same as having them actually see your impossible gaming achievement in action. Now, with both the Xbox One and PS4 equipped to instantly capture your gameplay, guess what: you have proof. And just like Sony and Microsoft said, the features are super easy to use, and they're fucking cool.
The new consoles are always recording your games as you play, so when you hit PS4's Share button or shout at your Kinect to make a video clip, that feat of pure skill is saved and ready to impress your friends. Best of all, you no longer have to use some complicated gameplay recording setup just to show your skills. Instead, setting up a recording plays out more like: "Holy shit, holy shit, HOLY SHIT! XBOX, RECORD THAT!"
The Xbox One with Kinect integration totally feels "next-gen"
Sure, it still feels a little creepy when I can say, "Xbox, on," and my Xbox One powers up--always listening for those two special words. But once you get used to the All Seeing Eye (and that looming, invasive feeling you get in your living room) having a console obey your every command really does feel 'next-gen'. It's not perfect (yet), but I really feel like one of those unrealistically polished actors in the Microsoft commercials as I choose movies, navigate menus, and start up games with my voice.
Also, once you get accustomed to saying the correct command phrases, navigating the Xbox One user interface is exceptionally easy. Searching for games online is quick, watching videos is simple, and using the Snap feature to access apps is incredibly handy (more on that later). Microsoft may have a few bugs to work out but, overall, the company has succeeded in creating a user-friendly way to navigate the Xbox's complicated dashboard.
Remote Play is probably the coolest (and most convenient) thing ever
I'm going to tell you a story. When I was four, I pooped my pants playing Super Mario Brothers because I was so into the game that I didn't want to hit the pause button to go relieve myself. What can I say? I just didn't want to get away from my game (also, I was four, give me a break). But if I grew up playing games in this generation and had a PS4, that situation probably never would have happened. The reason: Remote Play.
There are times when you can't be sitting in front of your TV, but youve still got to game. Sony recognized this issue and sprung into action. And boy does the PS4 deliver. Not only does the console come through on being able to play your PS4 games on the very portable PS Vita, it all works extremely fluidly. When you sync the PS4 and the Vita together you can pick up your game on the handheld right where you left off on the console, freeing you from the bonds of your entertainment center into the waiting arms of relief--when nature calls.
Xbox One's Snap improves multitasking
Last-gen's consoles really got me trained to use my game systems as much more than a box to shove game discs into. I've probably spent just as much time watching Netflix, listening to music, and browsing YouTube videos on my 360 as I did playing games. When Microsoft revealed the Xbox One at E3, I wasn't particularly impressed with the Snap feature, which allows you to open up additional apps in a separate window. But now that I have a XBOne, I use that feature all the time.
It isn't necessarily the fact that you can watch Netflix or YouTube on a console. That's old news. It's just easier and faster. Plus, I can multitask now, which makes all the difference. Now, it's just a matter of saying a few words and I Snap to music to drown out the Call of Duty gunfire, to TV so I won't miss the start of a show, or to Twitch so I won't miss my favorite stream (GamesRadar Live. Nudge, nudge). It all works superbly, and it gives you much more freedom.
The PS4 controller is the best DualShock ever
Historically, Sony's DualShock controller has been a 'love it or hate it' kind of peripheral. I was on the latter end, personally, but mostly because the excessive PS3 gaming I took part in left me with a debilitating case of carpal tunnel (ok, not really, my hands just hurt after long stints of gaming). I have my gripes about the PS3's DualShock, but the evolution to the PS4 controller has brought me back to the other side of the fence.
The PS4's DualShock 4 offers the best of what gamers loved about the previous models, namely the responsive D-pad and face buttons. But those carpal tunnel-inducing twin sticks have been reworked to be more comfortable, the triggers no longer have the wonkiness of the DualShock 3, and the new touchpad works exceptionally well. During the PS4 reveal, Sony said it would provide a tighter, more responsive controller, and that's exactly what we got.
What do you think?
Those are the features of the console launches that we think the next-gen consoles pulled off well. Are there any features that you use more than you thought you would? How do you like the new hardware? Let us know how you think the consoles performed in the next-gen launch in the comments below.