It’s been a while. A lot’s changed. But I still run this piece, so here we go. My swan song? No. My rebirth.(Cue Dr. Dre’s “Forgot About Dre”)
Once upon a time, as in E3 2013, slapping and name-calling turned to full on blows. The contenders are the same two competitors that have been fighting for years. Microsoft and Sony. You might remember my pretty pro-PS4 stance following both conferences. I liked how Sony handled themselves. It seemed like a new age. It still does. Sure, the site did reviews for both systems, but most of our reviews this generation were done on the Xbox 360. It was just overall the favored system. I love my Xbox 360. My personal PS3 is a Naughty Dog machine. I truly thought I’d be doing a majority of my personal gaming on the PlayStation 4. Then Microsoft pulled the “We’re in trouble” lever. Steve Ballmer probably started cracking skulls. They got rid of all the stuff people didn’t like. I didn’t really mind it. I thought it seemed like an interesting step into the next generation. But the people spoke. An all digital gaming age would not come yet. Well, not on consoles anyways. It reminds me of when you go to any electronics store in 2013, look at the CDs, and go, “who the fuck is buying these?”
Knowing I would obviously need both for review purposes, I went out and bought both for my place. I went to the midnights for both. Admittedly, I had purchased my XBO on Amazon, but went with a buddy to get his. Both had roughly the same amount of people. Both had roughly the same number of pre orders as well as those who didn’t pre order (the non-pre order line was probably over 50 deep for both, myself included). Everybody in attendance on each night both got a system without any problems.
Both seemed to basically be the internet in real life. Each midnight featured people driving by in cars taunting those of us in line because obviously we were getting the inferior system. And just like the people in cars, the people in line threw it back feeding off of each other because obviously THOSE guys were wrong. “Typical Sony fans.” “Typical Xbox fans.” Pick your night; I heard both. At the Sony launch, there were two occasions where dudes were so confident about false information. “Nope. Naughty Dog is working on a new IP. No Uncharted, no The Last of Us sequel.” That’s funny; because of all ten minutes later I showed him how they just announced a new Uncharted. “PS4 has 1080p and 60 FPS. Xbox One doesn’t at all. Only 720p. What a piece of shit.” False, homie. As a side note, if you’re going to seriously tell me that the difference between 720p and 1080p is even noticeable, let alone astronomically different, don’t. By the way, THESE weren’t people in line. These were employees. Not even the frozen wasteland of a Best Buy on the NH/MA border shielded me from internet wars. Remember, if you like something a whole lot, don’t just enjoy it and have a good time with it. Make sure you go online to tell people how wrong they are for enjoying something you don’t. Man, the internet sucks.
That being said, I got both. That’s established. The point of everything above was mainly to try to convince you this is not necessarily a pro-Xbox or pro-Sony article. You’ll see why. I do not blame you if you don’t believe me. Especially with console warriors trolling Amazon pages for each system rapidly typing away reviews using their fingers covered in a layer of Cheetos dust and Mountain Dew, I could be joking. Simply put, I wish I was.
As mentioned, this was the system I was honestly leaning more towards for personal use. The price point is really damn attractive, which hurts to say (but hey, 2013 gadgets, man). The thing is powerful and looks very sleek. I’m a big fan of its PS2 vintage look and feel.The launch lineup leaves much to be desired in terms of exclusives. Killzone, Knack, Resogun (which is on the PS Store). The first two are relatively decent, but nothing to scoff at and I’d give you a weird look if you bought a $399 machine solely to play a downloadable store title. The cross-gen games are where it’s at. Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag running beautifully, Call of Duty 2013, Battlefield 4, the EA Sports Games, and NBA 2K14 looks extremely impressive and I hate basketball. Overall, you’ll be happy with at least something.
I picked up Assassin’s Creed IV and a PS4 with relatively smooth success. They gave us a ticket at 9, told us to come back at 11 and by 12:15 I was in my car. I had been with a good friend of mine and we discussed how PlayStation 4’s that had been given out early were breaking. We joked around about the whole situation. “Sucks to be those guys.” Oops.
I got home and realized I had a next-gen console in my hands. I looked at my entertainment center in my living room. I was holding the first piece that was going to replace the things I had plugged into this setup. That was a weird feeling for some reason. I got the PS4 out and all situated. I was actually playing with the controller a lot before I even turned the system on. I hit the power button….
The familiar PlayStation symbol came up and faded. “Safe Mode – the PlayStation 4 could not find the hard drive.” Uh, What?.
Googling brought me relatively nothing since hey, this thing had come out about 30 minutes ago officially. I took the hard drive out and let it run. Then I plugged it back in. Same exact thing. Oh, awesome. It was around 2am when I finally gave up. The next day I just thought, “I’ll just return it to Best Buy. I’ll get one in a few weeks when the bugs are worked out.” Lame. But no, I had to keep digging and digging. Eventually I heard Sony stores were holding some as replacements. I didn’t believe it but I called my local Sony store and sure enough, they had some extras. They set one aside for me. Alright, I’ll give Sony another chance. So I drive the hour and half in traffic to swap this fella out. I get there and without really too much besides paperwork, I walked out with a new replacement PS4. The dude helping me out was super awesome about everything. An hour and a half drive later, and I was back at my apartment. I realized neither of us thought about testing out my new replacement.
I got this replacement plugged in. Again, I messed with the controller for a bit before I held my breath and hit the power button.
Nothing on the screen. Awesome. Instead, I got a nice “Blue Light of Death” as it has come to be known. I called my buddy at the Sony store and even he couldn’t believe it. “Are you serious?” “Yeah.” He told me I could come back tomorrow (gah) to get my THIRD PS4. We were about 19 hours into the system actually being available at this point and I already had owned two. Both of them were broken out of the box. I at least feel like I’m the only person in the world to actually have this achievement unlocked (heh). That night I said forget it, I’ll just return this to Best Buy. NOPE. Best Buy refused to take it back because it was a different serial number than the one they sold me. Fantastic. The Best Buy (the company I had just given $460 of my money to) employee told me and I quote, “It’s Sony’s problem now”.
I called my buddy at the Sony Store who told me that I could pick up my (first) broken one (an hour and half away). I was about to hop on the highway when he called to tell me it had already left their store. He informed me some time later in the week I would get one along with a free game. As of publishing, it has been 9 days since all of this went down and I still just have my second broken one sitting here. I don’t even want this thing anymore. I appreciate that Sony is working to make it right, and I REALLY appreciate the effort and how cool the dude at the Sony store has been in making it all right. What I don’t appreciate is the beating-around-the-bush PR that Sony has been doing. Their phone lines are literally 90 minutes deep. These things are breaking left and right and all they’ve really said is “Meh. We anticipated this. It’s isolated.” Isolated has been my favorite word. Isolated means within a confined region. I received two broken consoles given to me by two different retailers in two shipments that were geographically 90 minutes apart from each other. Go to Twitter and type in “PS4 Broken” and look at the geo-tags. If they mean “isolated,” they must mean the United States of America.
It had occurred to me that maybe I’m just not meant to own this one. There was a real crazy sequence of events leading up to this, after all. I had given away my PS4 pre order on Amazon to a friend three days before the current friend and I waited at the midnight launch with asked me where he could get one. If he had asked me three days earlier, I probably would have purchased one of these weeks later, would have never been at the midnight, and perhaps not received a bad one. Furthermore, I was ticket #34 and he was ticket #35. His PS4 works like a charm (so far). If he was standing where I was standing…well, you get it. My own curse. Pissed off Foxconn employees (I don’t blame them). Satan. Blame whoever you want.
Maybe in a few months. New England Gamer will be doing stuff with one. I’ll be getting one for Uncharted, that’s a given. It just sucks because not only was I “rooting” for Sony, I gave them two chances (within the first 24 hours, mind you), and both of them bit me in the ass. The thing that makes me sad to think about is not really my experience, but the parents who have received broken consoles, wrapped them, and tucked them into their favorite hiding spot until Christmas morning. Nothing this holiday will say “joy” on a 10 year old’s face quite like a pulsing blue light on his only Christmas present.
We all know how this story started. E3 2013 brought some pretty sweet stuff for this, and not so sweet. The always online. The not being able to trade games in. The dude announcing the $499 price tag and famously going backstage to let everybody know the audience despised the price. Then the brave, fedora-wearing soldiers from the wastelands of Reddit tearing it apart because obviously the government is watching you through the Kinect. Just an absolute massacre. Still, I had hopes for it even if (at the time) it wasn’t going to be my “main” console.
I’m nowhere near a fanboy, but as mentioned, I love my 360 much more than my PS3. I love the multiplayer system, I love that games and updates didn’t take 24 hours to download, I love party chat, and more than anything, I’ve loved the exclusives. So when Microsoft reversed all the bad stuff about the Xbox One, I decided it’d be my primary. Again, it came down to the exclusives. The best was the people who were angry with them for all the stuff in the first place were now angry with them for reversing their decision (ie Xbox 180). How dare a company actually listen to the consumers and make it right!
After hearing reports of broken disc drives, I got nervous. I opened my Amazon package to see that black “Day One” box staring at me. I plugged it in. I didn’t realize how big of a tank this console was. I know there’s a lot of room in there for cooling, but jeez. Booted it. All good so far..Green Xbox One screen…good. Time to (gulp) put a disc in…
It worked. Yes, I got a working console. The Microsoft Gods shined down on me. Along with the system, I got three games: Ryse: Son of Rome (exclusive), Dead Rising 3 (exclusive), and Battlefield 4.
Xbox One’s user interface is pretty straight forward and not a whole lot different from Xbox 360?s. It has the same silly Windows 8 tiled look to it. There are things I like about it and things I don’t. I like that the store/games/movies/music/apps is much more organized. I like that your avatar has a little bit more customization. Speaking of, I’m a big fan of everything carrying over from Xbox 360 with no problems. I don’t like that more or less; it’s not a whole lot different from Xbox 360. With Kinect, the voice control seems to be much better than Xbox 360?s, but it’s still far from perfect so far. Probably my absolute biggest beef with the UI is there is absolutely no trace of being able to see how much space you have left on the hard drive. With games being around 40-50 GB each on a 500GB hard drive plus apps and game clips, who’s brilliant idea was it to leave that out? Achievements are done relatively poorly, and that upsets me. Before when you got an achievement, you just had to hold down the guide button to get the details. Now, achievements are more or less their own app. You need to hit the guide button, which will go home (it won’t quit the game or anything, but still annoying), then go to achievements, THEN you can tap the game, THEN see the achievement. Lame.
The Kinect is relatively large as well. so large that they advertise as actually putting underneath your TV, so I did. The voice functionality is a lot more embedded into the system and works a lot better than the 360?s, but it’s still far from perfect. After you tell it to do anything, it keeps the voice open for about 10 seconds unless you say “Stop Listening.” This can make things pretty hectic if you have a room full of people. It is pretty sweet to use with controlling your cable box, though. “Xbox, Watch Comedy Central,” and off it goes. One of the coolest parts is that you sign in with well, you. I shouted “Xbox, On” from my kitchen and it didn’t sign anybody in. The minute I went into the living room and sat on the couch, I was instantly signed in. The motion controls seem just as gimmicky and the voice part is much cooler. It’s also utilized in games a little bit, but most of it is usually able to be turned off if you’re not into that. Ultimately, I still like the controller best because if anything, you don’t sound like an idiot shouting things at a computer in an Xbox Party. Controllers also sync now using Kinect and an IR light you will notice on top of the controller. While there is a physical sync button on the XBO, it’s not necessary any more. Fun fact: Xbox One also supports up to EIGHT controllers being connected to it at once.
Snap is probably the biggest addition to the system besides the new Kinect. Snap lets you take pretty much any app and run it in a mini box or along the side of whatever you’re currently doing. Playing a game and want to watch the Bruins? “Xbox, Snap TV.” (Assuming you have your cable box plugged in. Watching football but want to check all the scores? “Xbox, Snap NFL.” This also hurts the UI in a way because Xbox Party now is snapped. It’s not necessarily a huge deal but I was a big fan of hitting the guide button and having an overlay pop up. Now it’s mapped to the side and can be a bit annoying. However, if you look at the 360?s dashboard now compared to the left and right blades of once upon a time in 2005, Microsoft clearly will be changing this dashboard around as well.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The Xbox One’s controller is incredibly similar to the Xbox 360?s. There are some welcomed changes, however. For once, the D-Pad isn’t terrible. It’s straight forward and it makes fighting games like Killer Instinct pretty great. Both thumbsticks have some pretty intense grips on them, which felt good. Probably my favorite feature is the new triggers. RT and LT feel a bit bigger and a little deeper, almost like a gun trigger. Each trigger also individually packs its own vibrating motor as opposed to just the whole controller. It’s hard to describe, but definitely makes for some cool moments in games. Not having a start or back button is weird, but the new buttons in their place basically perform those functions. Overall, the controller feels great in my hands and I’m glad I’ll be gaming a lot with it. Then again, I was one of those people who absolutely loved the big old stock original Xbox controller, so who knows?
Since these discs are Blu-ray and spin at slower speeds, you have to install every game. Installation times are pretty freakin’ long off the bat, not gonna lie. Battlefield 4 and Ryse both took me the better part of an hour to install. Sure, I could start the campaign at 25% installed, but I had to wait for the full install to play the multiplayer. Are they actively trying to kill off midnight releases? You can also download every single game same day as release as an alternative. That’s pretty cool if you’re not big into trekking out for a midnight launch or hate physical media. Again, I based my “main” console on exclusives, and the launch titles are pretty damn great. Things like Forza Motorsport 5, Dead Rising 3, Ryse: Son of Rome, Zoo Tycoon (which is apparently pretty fun) plus all the cross-platforms make for an exciting launch. As mentioned, I picked up three games that I thought would each demonstrate a trait to test the console (plus I really wanted to play them). Ryse: Son of Rome for graphics, Dead Rising 3 for processing power, and Battlefield 4 for multiplayer/lag testing (BF4 now supports 64 players on both next-gen consoles). I’ll be doing reviews for them, but needless to say, all three are fantastic. To sum it up, Ryse is easily the best looking game I have ever seen on any video game console, period. Dead Rising 3 will drop your jaw with the amount of zombies on screen at one time (in a full city environment, at that). Battlefield 4 has been pretty much lag free for me despite being in enormous 64-player servers with things exploding everywhere. It also looks amazing, to boot. Killer Instinct, a free-to-play (sort of) fighting game reboot, looks great and has a great tutorial that explains all the competitive aspects of fighting games such as hit boxes etc. By default, you get one character and can unlock more for $5 each, all of “Season One’s” characters for $20, or everything ever for $40.
Another cool feature on Xbox One is the game DVR. Based on your settings, the game will cache the last X amount of time of gameplay. You simply say, “Xbox, Record That” and it’ll save that footage. I took advantage of this after I managed to sneak up behind a tank and blow it sky high with C4 in BF4. Obviously I couldn’t predict I would be able to pull this off, so it’s nice that the system basically says, “Don’t worry. We got you,” without having to sort through an hour or two of capture card footage. From here you can take that and upload it to the SkyDrive. This is a cloud service that lets you access all your clips on your computer, download them, and edit them/upload them to your preferred service of choice. Something cool that I’ve noticed is that games must have it written in the code to save clips at certain times. For example, in Ryse after a certain boss fight, it told me it saved the clip. While Twitch broadcasting is not live yet, it’s coming early next year. Overall, I like the Game DVR both because it’s going to be useful as shit for us at the site and it’ll be interesting to see what will come out from people like the Machinima community.
The Xbox One is definitely doing some interesting things between the cable integration, the licensing deals, and the snap feature. The graphics looks amazing and I’ve yet to see any kind of frame rate drops or things that looked bad to me. The graphics and power are an enormous improvement over the Xbox 360 and I’m excited for lineup of exclusives in 2014, such as Titanfall and the next Halo. While the UI can be a bit confusing at first, fear not, it isn’t at all getting in the way of doing what I bought the system for first and foremost: gaming.
In conclusion, I hope to get a PS4 in a few months. I like what Sony’s doing with it and I am a big fan of the Dualshock 4. People seem to be enjoying it quite a bit. I’m enjoying the Xbox One a whole lot. The games are fun and there’s a big variety to be had. Even with my dilemmas, I’m not one to take part in the “console war.” Both are insanely good for gaming. Don’t believe the hype about one being more powerful than the other. Look at the exclusives for both. That’s how you should pick a system. See what appeals more to you. Ignore literally everything else of both because guess what, games will look and play great on both systems. After you make your decision, purchase it, and then make a difference by not being the dude/dudette that goes on the internet and complains about something he/she doesn’t own.