Those of you who managed to grab a PS5 pre-order or Xbox Series X pre-order are, like me, probably still reeling from the stress of smashing their fists on the keyboard in the hope of simply making it through to checkout. It's been an ordeal, to say the least, but the biggest challenge of a next-gen purchase is still yet to come. The question now is which launch game do you choose as the first thing you'll play on your brand new, super expensive console?
With many next-gen launch titles selling for up to $69.99/£69.99 a pop, many of us can only afford one from the lineup, especially after spending the rest of our paycheck/inheritance/life savings on the console itself. Not only that, but there's a fair few to choose from, and all are offering vastly different experiences, each showcasing the power of next-gen tech in their own special ways.
But what if there was another way? What if the real solution, the best solution, is right there in front of us? What if, rather than agonising over which launch game to buy this November, you don't bother getting any of them? Instead, boot up your PS5 or Xbox Series X, head straight to your digital or physical library, and install the first backwards compatible game you see that you either never got round to, didn't complete, or would love to experience all over again. It's a suggestion that sounds almost heinous amidst all the conversation around next-gen's might and magic, but a decision you likely won't regret anytime soon.
One of the best new features of both the PS5 and Xbox Series X is their ability to automatically remaster backwards compatible titles from the previous generation (or, in the case of the Series X, three generations dating back to the original Xbox).
Even for cross-gen games that aren't "Optimised for Series X", for example, legacy software running on the new systems are inherently advantaged by faster load times, higher frame rates, and improved resolutions that come as a result of the SSD. For an era in which load times have become longer than ever, and unreliable frame rate speeds continue to be a point of contention for many, these improvements are more valuable than you might think.
Let's assume, for example, that Red Dead Redemption 2 is in the 99% of working PS5 backwards compatibility titles (there's still no word on which games are in the 1% just yet). You'll be playing Rockstar's western opus on a console that not only reduces its minutes-long static loading screens to a matter of seconds, but also won't drown out your entire living room with the sound of the PS4's cooling fans working overtime. Suddenly, I have all the reason I need to jump straight back into Arthur Morgan's cowboy boots all over again.
As a result, I've quietly been keeping a mental note of the games that I've been itching to replay, but have deliberately kept on the back burner, knowing full well that a little patience will reward me with the opportunity to enjoy a faster, smoother, prettier version of that title on PS5. It's unclear whether my existing save data will carry over from PS4 with me, but I will have my trophy progression at the very least.
Sony and Microsoft know this, too. It's why PlayStation recently announced its PS Plus Collection, a library of some of the best PS4 games that all subscribers to its online service will have instant access to on day one of PS5's launch. Microsoft, meanwhile, is heavily marketing Xbox Game Pass as an integral element of its next-gen experience, especially now that the publisher has lost Halo Infinite as its flagship exclusive for this year.
Regardless of whether you're playing on either platform, then, a small monthly fee will unlock access to a broad catalogue of unmissable (and highly replayable) titles, many of which will feel like a completely new experience now that they have the hardware horsepower to truly support their original ambition.
Granted, games like Spider-Man: Miles Morales and Assassin's Creed: Valhalla all look fantastic, but the onslaught of next-gen launch titles is always followed by a shortfall of similarly suped-up releases, and delays brought about by COVID are likely to only increase the frequency and length of those droughts. These games can wait for a rainy day, basically, and they'll only get cheaper with the passage of time, too. Don't believe me? You can pick up Assassin's Creed: Black Flag for £4.95 on eBay right now, and some would argue it's not even worth that.
Blast from the past
The truth is that the next-generation is more about removing the existing barriers to play than it is raising the graphical bar at the rate that we've come to expect from these kinds of transitions in the past. That places less of an urgency to try out a "true next gen experience", and more of a premium on streamlining our relationship to play itself, making it more seamless and accessible than ever.
So, while I know it might seem challenging to opt out of the launch madness, I would stress that the option to replay current-gen games is just as valid a place to start with your new console this November. Who needs Demon's Souls when Bloodborne is right there?
For more, be sure to check out all the biggest upcoming games of 2020 on the way, or watch the latest episode of Dialogue Options below.