It’s been nearly a year since the launch of the Playstation 4 and the Xbox One. Meanwhile the 3DS, Wii U and PS Vita have all been plugging away for a few years between them and the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 are on their last legs.
How are they all faring? Where are the best and most interesting games coming from? As a platform agnostic who likes to play a little bit of everything, here’s my two cents on each system.
The Playstation 4 has had booming sales around the world and after the lackluster sales figures for the 3DS, Vita and Wii U preceeding, it has finally bucked the trend and shown that there is still life in the console market. They have effectively recaptured their market-share they squandered with the Playstation 3 and they seem to have done it in the most conservative fashion possible – they released a conventional, modestly priced video game system that slightly improved upon the graphics of its previous iteration. Compare that to Nintendo struggling to explain to consumers that the confusingly named Wii U isn’t an add-on to the Wii and Microsoft spectacularly destroying all of their good will with their planned (and eventually scrapped) always-online games system.
Last generation, the Xbox 360 was preferred system for third party games. It had a more feature-rich and better populated online community, a lot of games ran better on the 360 and in a lot of instances games were released first or had exclusive content on the 360. This generation, the opposite seems to hold true. I’ve picked up Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes and Destiny on the PS4 and plan to do so with most future third party games because they seem to have greater graphical fidelity and almost everyone I know has opted to buy a PS4 over and Xbox One.
First party games will clearly be a strength on the PS4 too. It’s easy to call out The Last Of Us Remastered as a cash-in but it was a great game to revisit during a quiet time of the year and the graphical overhaul was pretty significant. In the near future there’s plenty to look forward to including Bloodborne, The Order, Uncharted 4, Little Big Planet 3 and The Witness.
Playstation Plus, the online subscription service that offers free games every month, has been a damp squib on the PS4. Every month seems to bring with it a new wave of obscure indy titles that I struggle to get excited about. Considering the generous selection of games available on the PS3 and PS Vita, its hard not to feel a little miffed at the selection on the PS4. Particularly when there hasn’t been a single retail game made available and the system was originally promoted as having Driveclub at a PS+ game at launch.
Another disappointment with the PS4 is the ‘Share’ feature. Considering that it has its own button on the controller, its disappointing that the advertised ‘click share to record the last 15 minutes of gameplay‘ doesn’t really work in practice. I’ve tried to record some games in NBA 2K14 and the audio never works and it seems to record a complete random period of time. Editing and uploading the video onto social media is a pain the ass and to delete a file requires navigating all the way out of the video folder and into the system settings menu. In short, its a mess.
The Playstation 4 is also still a giant step back from the PS3 which had built up a huge library of compatible Playstation One and Playstation 2 games. There have been some really great sales on the Playstation Network recently where many PS1 classics could be bought for as little as $2.50. Too bad you can’t play them on the system hooked up to the TV with the largest amount of hard drive space to store them.
What is the Xbox One? What are its strengths? What are its unique selling points?
I think these are questions that Microsoft probably need to work out for themselves sooner rather than later because as it stands, the Xbox One is currently a slightly more expensive version of the Playstation 4 that offers less interesting first party titles and slightly inferior graphics. After hastily moving on Don Mattrick as head of their Xbox division after last year’s launch debacle, the company has since simplified their message from being an all conquering media device that does all sorts of tricky things with your tv to being ‘games, games, games’. Problem is, I don’t think they’re there yet. Not even close.
Titanfall was a fun, albeit brief online mech shooter from Respawn, the development studio founded by some of the creative leads behind Call of Duty 4. The parkour mechanics for the soldiers coupled with the heavy weapon bulldozing of the titans make for a fun experience. The only problem is that the game came with just 3 varieties of titans, no campaign mode and a limited selection of maps. To my knowledge, no additional content has been added.
It’s kind of nice having a BluRay player on a Microsoft system at last.
When I end up buying most of my third party games on the PS4, it really does leave slim pickings for the Xbox One software line up. I have literally bought one game for the system this year and it is my least played platform by some measure. The Xbox 360 used to have a wonderful ecosystem for its digital marketplace where new games would launch every week and the store would be stacked with trailers and demos for upcoming games. Today, the marketplace is a barren wasteland. I don’t even know if new games are made available each week (I’m guessing no) and its hard to find anything. When I read online that a Forza Horizon 2 demo was released, it took me a couple of minutes of searching to find it on the store because its so poorly laid out. What happened to all the cool games like Geometry Wars, Lumines, Braid and Mark of the Ninja? Not being backwards compatible doesn’t help the situation either. There are very few new games to play and you can’t easily access the old ones. Ouch.
In five years, I’ve bought two Kinect systems (the original 360 version and the Xbox One iteration) and both have been made redundant in the space of 12 months. I actually like the Kinect and would be happy to use it in whatever capacity I can, whether it be voice-guided menu navigation or well executed motion control. Unfortunately Microsoft chickened out and less than a year after packing in the Kinect with every Xbox One system sold, they stripped it out and effectively relegated it to the scrap heap. Good going guys. Way to burn the early adopter.
I’m also disappointed that they completely bailed on the idea of integrating Kinect and the Xbox One with cable television. I would have loved to have seen the interactive stats and fantasy football features integrated into Australian sporting codes on Fox Sports the way they demonstrated it with the NFL. Even if that took a few years to arrive and they at least gave us an interactive BPL watching experience would have been a cool point of differentiation with the Playstation 4. Now I suspect we will never get these features. A real shame.
Nintendo Wii U
After the soaring highs they experienced with the sales of the Wii, Nintendo came crashing back down to Earth with the poor sales of the 3DS and then the shockingly bad sales of the Wii U. It’s the worst selling home system they’ve ever released by a country mile. It’s a dud. A dead horse. A blip on the radar. Few gamers own one. The majority of the consumer market hasn’t even heard of it. And it kills me because I think its quietly gone about building a respectable library of fantastic games and 2014 has been no different.
Hands down one of the best games of 2014 on the Wii U or anywhere else has been the glorious Mario Kart 8. The best looking iteration of the Mario Kart franchise is also one of the most fun to play with a marvelous track selection featuring both old favourites and new designs, butter smooth online gaming and sensational graphics. This year has also given us a brilliant new Donkey Kong Country platform game and there is plenty of good stuff just around the corner with Hyrule Warriors and a new version of Smash Bros.
The awesome library of classic games on the Wii’s Virtual Store were second to none. You had classic games from the NES, Super Nintendo, N64, Master System, Mega Drive, Neo Geo, Commodore 64, Turbo Graphix and Arcade hits. Now…now we have a handful of Super Nintendo titles and some expensive Gameboy Advance titles that are admittedly great but really should be on the 3Ds instead. It kills me how badly Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo all dropped the ball with backwards compatibility this gen. All three have been woeful.
Nintendo 3DS and Playstation Vita
The video game handheld market ain’t what it used to be. In fact, its not even a market that we can be sure will exist in five years time after the current generation wraps up thanks to the ubiquitous popularity of smart phone games which are cheaper and have comparable graphics. That’s a real shame. As I’ve championed on The Fat Website for the last few years, I think some of the most enjoyable gaming to be played in the last few years come from software exclusively designed for the Nintendo 3DS and the Playstation Vita.
One of the best things about the portable gaming market for me is that it seems to be the new home of mid-tier games that are high on creativity and are built with modest budgets. Console audiences seem to be so heavily drawn to a handful of big budget titles like Call of Duty and Assassin’s Creed that there seems to be little room for anything else. On the Nintendo 3DS and Playstation Vita this year, there’s been some wonderfully creative titles like Kirby Triple Deluxe, Danganronpa, Bravely Default and Nintendo Pocket Football. And I know there’s many more games of their ilk that I haven’t gotten around to yet. For anyone who misses platformers, strategy games, puzzle games and RPGs that play like the classics from the PS2 era, I would heartily recommend picking up either a Vita or a 3DS.
Although the Nintendo 3DS still has a few more heavy hitters that have been announced including the upcoming Super Smash Bros., it’s software library for 2015 does look a little hazy. It already has a Mario Kart, a Zelda and a Pokemon title so whats left? Likewise for the Vita, Sony have effectively stated that there won’t be any more high end titles along the lines of Uncharted Golden Abyss. Its possible that the long term prospects of both systems are already winding down which is a real shame.
Playstation 3 and Xbox 360
Time flies. Is the Xbox 360 really nine years old? 0_o
The Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3 have both have incredibly long life spans, longer than almost any previous game system that I can recall (other than perhaps the almighty Gameboy). It’s amazing to think they were both blitzed in hardware sales by the Nintendo Wii which had a huge sales spike but effectively ran out of new software nearly four years ago.
So what’s good on the ol’ PS3 and Xbox 360? In short, everything.
There’s no better time to be a bargain hunting gamer than 2014. What I like about the Playstation 3 and the Xbox 360 market is that the ‘collector’s market’ syndrome doesn’t really exist. There are very few ‘rare’ games so you can get pretty much the best games of the generation for next to nothing. I’ve found at my local EB and JB Hi-Fi it’s just as easy to find Gears of War 3 as it is to get something a bit more obscure like the Square RPG Lost Odyssey and they both cost me the same – $15 bucks. There are countless great games on both systems and the average game price seems to be fall at around $20 and if you’re patient, most stores tend to run buy one get one free type offers quite regularly. It’s a gamers paradise out there.
Too many awesome games, not enough time.