Xbox One vs PS4: Which should you buy?
Which of the two big players in the console game should you buy this Christmas?
Which have the best games? The best horsepower? Which represents best value for money? Should you go with the base models or their respective upgrades: the Xbox One S and the PS4 Pro?
Both machines provide countless hours of entertainment, and I’ll weigh up the pros and cons of each below.
Easily the most crucial part, which console has the better games? These days console exclusives are a rarer breed, with third party publishers understandably choosing to publish their games on as many platforms as possible. The exclusives tend to set the consoles apart, and depending on what floats your boat, one console might be better than the other.
A word on multi-platform games though. With each generation, one platform tends to have the edge when it comes to multi-platform games, with cross-platform titles running slightly better on one specific console. Last generation this title belonged to the Xbox 360 over the PS3, with some games noticeably more stable on Microsoft’s console.
This year, however, the tables seem to have turned. Digital Foundry have made a name for themselves testing the tech performance of big releases, and this year in most cases the PS4 seems to have the edge over Microsoft’s machine. Check out the video below comparing Dark Souls 3 on both consoles.
We are talking fine margins here for the most part though. if you aren’t too bothered by pixel count or framerate, you can’t really go wrong with either console when it comes to multi-platform games. There are some phenomenal multi-plat titles too, with sprawling adventures like GTAV and The Witcher 3, intense shooters like Titanfall, Call of Duty and Battlefield One, and the regular sports titles like FIFA, PES, NBA2K and Madden all appearing and performing well across both platforms.
So what about the exclusives then?
The Xbox One’s exclusive library is extensive, here are some of the key titles:
Forza Horizon 3
Gears of War 4
Rare Replay Collection
Dead Rising 3
Microsoft consoles have always tended to be good for shooters. First or third person, if you enjoy shooters then the likes of Halo and Gears of War are big franchises at the top of their class. Along with the Call of Duty games, Battlefield games and unique titles like Titanfall and Plants vs Zombies, if you play shooters then the One will probably be the best console for you.
Forza Horizon 3 also deserves a special mention as the one truly stand-out racing title of the generation so far. The PS4 comes closest with DriveClub, which although decent is undoubtedly inferior, and the once all-conquering Gran Turismo franchise is a shadow of its former self.
Here are some of the PS4’s key exclusives:
The Last of Us Remastered
Ratchet and Clank
If you’re looking for variety, the PS4 has arguably the broader selection of games. The likes of Journey and TLOU are such unique experiences that they really do help to sell the machine – that is, of course unless you already played them on the PS3.
The way things are going, console exclusives will become rarer and rarer. And it’s probably fair to say the best games of this generation so far have been the multi-platform titles. Dark Souls 3, MGSV and The Witcher 3 are probably my picks of the bunch.
Winner: It’s a very close call, but with the better performing multi-plats the PS4 takes this category, unless you’re mad about shooters.
I touched on it above – initially the PS4 had the significant edge over the Xbox One when it came to graphical performance.
Many of the first wave of launch titles inexplicable failed to hit the 1080p on Microsoft’s machine, and if this article was written two years ago, the PS4 would win hands-down.
Thankfully, however, developers appear to have gotten the hang of the One, with multi-platform titles near-enough on a par with their PS4 equivalents.
Graphical capabilities of both machines are close, and it’s often down to the skill developers that determines how the games look, rather than the power of the consoles.
Gears of War 4 on Xbox One looks gorgeous, as does Uncharted 4 on the PS4. However, the fact remains that many of the multi-platform games do perform better on the PS4, in some cases significantly (see below).
Winner: The PS4 wins here, although both are home to gorgeous games.
Price and Value
Currently you can buy a 500GB Xbox One with a game for around $250 on Amazon.
A 500GB PS4 Slim with a game is around $50 more.
The tricky thing though is the PS4K isn’t actually competing with the Xbox One S directly – next year Microsoft will release the ‘Scorpio’ which will go toe-to-toe with the PS4 Pro in the battle of the 4k resolutions.
…even though the Xbox One S can technically do 4k…upscaling.
…anyway. The point is once again there isn’t much in it, but on balance currently the Xbox One S offers slightly more bang for your buck.
Winner: Xbox One S
Things are getting complicated in the gaming world. Microsoft and Sony are looking like they want to move to the annual upgrade model – just like you have with your mobile phones.
There are benefits and drawbacks to this of course, but what matters right now is which should you go for? Microsoft’s Scorpio is coming next year, so this year you essentially have five options:
Xbox One S
The originals are comparable, the S and the Slim are comparable, and the PS4 Pro is standalone at the top of the market, to compete with the Scorpio next year.
I’ll get this out the way now – if you don’t have a 4K TV and don’t plan on getting one soon, do not buy the PS4 Pro. It’s a good machine, but its main benefit is the 4K output, and on a standard 1080p HDTV you won’t notice a difference. Hell, some games are actually performing worse framerate-wise on the Pro than on the original.
What about the Slim vs the S?
In a word, the S is better. It’s a weird one – it’s not quite as good as the PS4 Pro 4k-wise, but it outperforms the PS4 Slim in every area.
What it also has is the UHD Blu Ray player, which not even the PS4 Pro has. It’s a very interesting, and somewhat baffling, omission from Sony’s machine, and it makes it hard to look past the S as the current upgrade of choice features-wise.
Winner: Xbox One S, unless you have a 4K TV. In which case, the Pro just edges it. Unless you want to watch UDH Blu Rays…
This is the most subjective of the criteria. A large part of it boils down to which you’ve grown up playing most. Personally, I’ve always preferred the Xbox controller in each generation, but the PS4 is easily the best Sony-console controller ever, improving leaps and bounds over the PS3’s unchanged Dualshock design.
Winner: This one is a tie. They are both great.
Last generation, Xbox Live easily beat the PS Network in terms of features and functionality, but it came at a cost.
This year, PS Network also comes at a cost… but it’s also much better than the PS3’s.
This is great for the consumer, as both now represent ridiculously good value – you get free games with them. Both are $50 for a year, and both offer two free games a month.
Winner: Both excellent value really, but Microsoft’s console just edges it as their free games tend to be slightly better than the PS equivalents.
Consoles are no longer gaming-only machines, with apps, browsers, music and movies all available on both consoles. They are entertainment machines.
App-wise, there is very little to differentiate. They all have the big players like Netflix, Facebook, Twitter, yada yada. Don’t worry about this department.
One killer feature the Xbox has brought to to fray though is backward compatibility. Last year MS announced they would be engineering an update into the Xbox One that would allow Xbox 360 games to be backwards compatible. This beats the PS4’s streaming backwards compatibility by some stretch.
Winner: Again it’s a close call, but with the Xbox One S the only one featuring the UHD Blu-ray player, and with Kinect no longer being a necessary burden, and the superior backwards compatibility offering, it probably just edges it.
‘But wait, what about Nintendo?’ you say. The third pillar of the gaming industry, they’ve always offered something slightly different.
Last week Nintendo confirmed that they would be shutting down production of the Wii U – their ill-fated sequel to the Wii.
Their new console, the Switch, debuts next March, so the only answer here is to not buy anything Nintendo-related this Christmas and wait ’til then.
I can safely say there has never been a tighter console race. Two years ago it looked as if Sony would walk it, but to say aggressive improvements by Microsoft have levelled the playing field would be an understatement.
My verdict is this: If you are desperate for 4K play and want a console now, get the PS4 Pro. If not, get the Xbox One S.
Thanks very much.