Last year I wrote about how Microsoft’s gaming machine scored its hattrick against Sony’s dominating console. It was an opinion piece (as is this one) taking into account the quality of titles released on both formats and measuring them against the hype, promises and standards emanating from the media, PR slogans and fan expectations. Sales figures were not the topic of discussion as the disclaimer stated (but this certainly did not prevent many from touting sales in their comments). As we now come up to a whole new year, how have the two industry heavyweights fared a year since then? This year was not without its fair share of dramas, disappointments and stellar deliveries on all sides. A big part of the reason why the PS4 lost the previous three holiday seasons was due to it talking the talk but not backing it up any where remotely close to the levels in which it was barking. This year, barking got louder but did PlayStation sharpen its teeth enough to maul away at the Xbox? Read on to find out:
Quantum Breaking The Hype
Quantum Break did to the Xbox One what The Order: 1886 did to the PS4; built on masses of hype and blindsighting many with its stellar visuals-when the game finally released to mixed reviews- it deflated all momentum going in to its release and immediately left the Xbox One at the back-foot, especially considering that Sony’s ‘sure-thing’ Uncharted 4 was a month away. Remedy are a talented studio and make no mistake, Quantum Break is no where near as terrible as The Order: 1886, but just as was the case with the latter game, style trumped substance and with the added distraction of the failed tv-elements serving to compromise the title even more (check out my review here), after all the hype, QB ended up being a damp squid for the Xbox. I contend that the Xbox still needs a visually astounding and competitive single player game (that isn’t Gears).
the PlayStation domination was beginning to take form
Prior to Uncharted, it was Bloodborne that broke the PlayStation 4’s weak streak when it came to a killer-app. Uncharted 4 however did what many expected it to do and that is deliver a visually astounding top of class game that ‘concluded’ Nathan Drake’s story in a manner that satisfied fans and did the previous triology justice. In my review, I called Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End an ‘incredible achievement’ and it is precisely that. To match the colossal expectations set by fans and to consistently deliver such titles is no mean feat and only a handful of gaming studios in the world can do that. Naughty Dog further cemented their place amongst the top gaming developers with ease. Sitting at a mighty metacritic score of 93, the PlayStation domination was beginning to take form.
One Man’s Lie
The strongest contender for the biggest disappointment in gaming not only in 2016 but recent memory, Sean Murray capitvated so many (including myself) near instantaneously with his guff about the posibilities in No Man’s Sky but shit instantly started to hit the fan as the game neared release date. Review embargos being lifted AFTER a game’s release is one thing, the game overpromising and MASSIVELY under-delivering is another. Sean Murray got embroiled in controvery with assertions that he lied or purposely misrepresented what players could do in the game and to this day, has not had the decency to expressly tackle those points.
Whilst No Man’s Sky may be a timed exclusive, it certainly represented a title that would bolster the PS4’s 2016 line-up but instead its failure left a blot on the PS4’s sheet in 2016.
Recore- The Second Failed Xbox Exclusive
A criticism routinely levied against Xbox is its lack of variety and therefore, the prospect of an action adventure platformer penned by Keiji Inafune is an exciting prospect on the face of it. However, its only exciting if the game is any good and unfortunately, whilst we at the team did not review the game, the mixed reception of game more than speaks for the failure of the game to really enhance the Xbox library in any real appreciable form. Variety is great if the quality is there. Its the reason why I don’t tout the PS4’s supposedly massive list of exclusives that include some of the most obscure games that most wont even have heard of let alone played. With two of the new IP’s on the Xbox failing to achieve the quality that people expected what was left? Back to that familiar territory.
Gears of More
And back to Gears of War and Forza we go. In fairness, both titles were solid, with the latter Forza Horizon 3 being particularly exceptional sitting at a mighty 91 on metacritic, which is no mean feat for a racer in this day and age. Gears of War 4 plays it far too safe but is still a shooter worthy of the original trilogy and its MP is not matched in the third person cover shooter stakes (check out Ed’s review here). These two titles help rescue the Xbox from mediocrity in 2016 as they are both solid titles but due to the fact that they are sequels to Microsoft’s oftenly rotated series, they don’t have as big an impact as they normally would. Nonetheless, these are still heavy weight Xbox One titles and great ones at that.
PlayStation VR and PlayStation Pro
This year has been a busy one for Sony when it comes to all things hardware. The PlayStation 4 Pro mid-gen upgrade was released a couple of months after its official announcement to a very competitive and welcome price but with some glaring omissions for a Sony product (UHD Blu-Ray drive). The Pro has apparently been benefitting from great sales, which is not entirely surprising for a new console SKU but it hasn’t been without its problems. Many users have cited compatbility issues with televisions, including Sony’s own 4k TV’s and overall, whilst the machine is extremely well-specced- reception appears to be a little more muted than I expected. Perhaps the reception is as good as it should be because it shouldn’t detract from the original console at all. I suspect that we have yet to see the machine put through its paces but the question with the Pro, as will be the same with the Scorpio is, how much can it achieve when its being held back by predecessor?
Early signs point to the device not being able to achieve native 4k for the more visually demanding titles but devs have had very little time to get acquainted with the hardware. The Pro will get into its stride some time next year.
The PlayStation VR is out and many shower praises for it and its virtual reality antics. The launch titles are a mixed bag and certainly you are advised to carry a bag for some of the vomit-inducing games like Driveclub VR. Its still early days for the tech on the PlayStation machine but there is a ton of potential for the headset especially with titles such as Ace Combat and Gran Turismo Sport on their way. There is more variety now on the PlayStation 4 and the addition of VR titles to the ever-growing list of exclusives is certainly impressive and more than welcome. Sony appear to be doing VR the right way and I certainly hope we get a killer-app for it soon. The potential is there. Ace Combat, I’m looking at you!
The Last Guardian
Ten years in the making and the game finally released this year. It isn’t the stellar title many hoped it to be, with the game behing held back by some outdated mechanics. Nonetheless, some of its most hardened fans have dubbed it a ‘flawed masterpiece’ and whilst our review is due to be released soon, that’s a massive claim to make which I am unable to verify for myself (review out soon). It most certainly screams the charm of its studio-predecessors, Ico and Shadow of the Colossus and for many, that is all that they wanted.
Xbox One Step Backwards Comptability
It should be noted that this year Microsoft really did live up to its promise by really doing well by gamers on the back catalogue of 360 games made available for the Xbox One. With more than 300 games being supported and key titles such as Red Dead Redemption and Lost Odyssey getting the BC treatment, the latter of which was free to download for Gold users for a certain period, Microsoft isn’t sitting on its laurels here. Perhaps however, its attempting making up for its deficiencies in other areas such as a lack of new exclusives but at this stage, that would be silly to conclude considering the great strides its made here and that we have not seen what they have in store for us in the future.
And the winner is…
Well it all depends really. Sony is most definitely the safe bet. It started off with a great remake of Ratchet and Clank, built that up with the impressive Uncharted 4 and whilst there was little in the way of massive exclusives thereafter with the exception of The Last Guardian, it also simulatenously set the foundations for its future with PSVR and PS4 Pro. Xbox ended up relying on the usual Gears and Forza to save it from mediocrity but other than that and its efforts when it comes to backwards compatibility, it doesn’t appear to have been that active at all. With Quantum Break and Recore failing to deliver any blow whatseover, Xbox suffered as a result. Certainly Sony had more on its plate but still managed to deliver a higher scoring metacritic exclusive and had the variety to boot. For me, the year belongs to Sony. With ease.
What do you think? Has the PlayStation decisively beaten the Xbox or was 2016 another year of all bark and no bite? Let me know in the comments below. No registration necessary.