One company introduced its gaming console with much fanfare- met with glorious praise and introduced it with such flair that its momentum never stopped from the day it was formally introduced and another company made every misstep imaginable, fumbling in the most embarrassing fashion and epitomising failure in almost every department. Chances are, if you are reading this and follow the gaming industry even loosely, you need not expressly be told which companies or consoles are being discussed above. How funny then that the console that has struggled from day one, the one that has had its gaming credentials questioned at every move is also the one that, in the opinion of this writer, quite decisively delivered the better exclusive gaming experiences from day one.
Waiting for Greatness
Sony’s tagline ‘Greatness Awaits’ has stung them to a certain extent in the core gaming circles. The tagline became a meme in itself because for quite some time, the PS4 failed to deliver a title that many could agree was truly great. At launch, after the tremendous success of the introduction of the console and the PR machine working on over-drive with fans, the titles that would accompany the console were massively disappointing. People’s expectations of ‘greatness ‘ were high but the rather poor nature of the launch titles served as a harsh reality that the PS4 was not a perfect console free of criticism. Killzone: Shadow Fall was shown off in February 2013 at the reveal for the PS4 console (minus the reveal of the physical console itself) and the incredible visuals left many, including me, awe struck at the graphical splendour of the title. Alas, as seems to be a key trend with this franchise, the game turned out to be a pretty yet hollow experience and really hammered home the point that great visuals will never be a good substitute for good gameplay. When the likes of Knack, made by the PS4’s lead architect no less, completely bombed critically, the stark realisation that the PS4’s launch library completely fell on its face was a bitter one to swallow considering all the hype that came before it. In fact, the PlayStation 4’s best title was Resogun; a great title but a voxel based side scrolling shooter is not what many would consider that definitive ‘next-gen’ experience. Alas, the wait had begun and all eyes were set on inFamous; Second Son.
on the strength of its launch titles and the comparative weakness of its adversary’s gaming lineup, the Xbox One secured the first holiday season win.
Meanwhile, on the Xbox One; whilst the launch titles weren’t going to set the world on fire, they were considerably more attractive. Dead Rising 3 was a great third party title but only available on the Xbox One (later made available on PC) and focused on density by throwing in massive numbers of undead combined with the over the top top humour, an open world and cooperative play antics that achieved moderate critical success. Forza 5, whilst not living up to the standards of the franchise, arguably continues to be better than any exclusive racer on the PlayStation 4 to date. Even in its stripped out form, this was the most complete launch racer ever released. Compare that to Driveclub, which was not only delayed but when released, was broken and an average racer, especially in comparison to the competition. The Xbox One did have its fair share of poor titles, such as Ryse: Son of Rome, another pretty title with a hollow gameplay center and Crimson Dragon, the less said about the title the better. The Xbox One however also had an excellent fighting game on its hands; Killer Instinct, which, whilst somewhat hollow as a package at launch, had an incredible fighting model and one of the best online netcodes ever to grace a fighting game. Killer Instinct has truly evolved into something special over time and will surely be regarded as a classic in the future.
ITN News interviewed me at the launch of the PS4 and asked me why people should pick the PS4 over the Xbox One. Had I known what I know now, my comments would be vastly different. Check out the segment below:
The Xbox One also struggled with contending with many changes, in particular, the failure of the Kinect becoming a viable gaming device but on the strength of its launch titles and the comparative weakness of its adversary’s gaming lineup, the Xbox One secured the first holiday season win.
After the failure of the launch titles on the PS4, the PlayStation Nation set its eyes on the next heavyweight title from Sucker Punch, inFamous Second Son. Once again, hyped to high heaven and the masses getting carried away with the incredible visuals on display in the trailer that preceded the release of the title, when the game actually launched, it received mixed reviews (check out our review). By no means a bad game, Second Son just simply did not live up to the franchise’s standards and was ultimately a forgettable experience, but one saved by Delsin Rowe’s unique powers.
A week or so before Second Son’s launch, the Xbox One got its first killer first person shooter, Titanfall. Having recieved a multitude of awards at E3 prior to its released, and benefitting from Microsoft’s enormous hype generating machine, the title received a solid critical reception but no where near what the title was supposed to achieve. For those level-headed gamers among us though, Titanfall achieved what it set out to do and that’s to reinvigorate a stale FPS formula popularised by the old Infinity Ward studio and its seminal Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 1 and 2 titles, most of which now comprised Respawn, the dev team behind Titanfall. However, scuppered by the lack of a proper campaign mode and game modes, Titanfall, whilst great, continues to feel like a skeleton for something greater. Nonetheless, Microsoft’s lifetime exclusive (at least on consoles) of this title served as hard pill for PlayStation fans to swallow and whilst I am not a fan of the deal struck between EA and Microsoft, the impact of the deal should not be underestimated. It only served to accentuate the mantra that players were still waiting for greatness on the PlayStation 4.
It seems like there is a bit of a trend with gamers being blindsighted by gorgeous looking titles that later on turn out to be rather poor in every other department. Driveclub is one such example of a visually stunning looking title but one that simply does not live up to expectations and especially the competition. Driveclub’s failures at launch with regard to its online component (the club element of the game) and the promised PSN version left a bitter taste for PlayStation fans. Peel away the problems and what you are left with is a title that simply doesn’t match up with the competition and our reviewer Asa summed it up best:
Driveclub is a flawed beast. Technically impressive, but perceivably incomplete and frankly quite a distance behind the competition. The core driving experience is solid, and if you take your racing online then a lot of the flaws wash away.
On the other hand, the Xbox One received yet another racer in the form of Forza Horizon 2 (review here) which was met with critical acclaim and stands in this writer’s opinion as one of the best racers ever made. Truly, a title that needs to be played by all, the title is an incredible tribute to fans of cars, racing culture and fun. A feature packed title with an abundance of cars in a gorgoeus open world, Forza Horizon 2 won gamers over with ease and stands as a testament to the incredible talents of the studio behind it all, Playground Games. The PlayStation 4 was left in the lurch in quite decisive fashion as far as exclusive racers were concerned
The month after that, the Xbox One received yet another great title, this time by studio Insomniac, who previously, most released exclusives for the PlayStation platform. Sunset Overdrive received great reviews and was a great open world game, full of content (unlike inFamous: Second Son) with a really wacky over the top gameplay model reminiscent of the classic Jet Set Radio game combined with a brilliant third person shooter model. The title didn’t set the world on fire but it aided in adding variety to the X1’s stable of titles and was another very solid entry into the console library.
The year 2014 was a pretty poor year for the PlayStation 4. Little Big Planet 3 did not live up to expectations for many and other than The Last of Us Remaster, there wasn’t much PlayStation fans could tout for the year other than stating that greatness would arrive in 2015. The argument that broke out within the team regarding the PS4’s barren year does sum up pretty well how console struggled to have any real stand-out title that year:
Alas, the Xbox won (teehee) another holiday season in quite decisive fashion. It did however suffer its own monumental failings with the likes of The Master Chief Collection. The PlayStation Nation then set its sights once again for the next year, which at the time, looked incredibly promising on the face of it. The next title that PlayStation fans had their hopes pinned on was The Order: 1886 and boy, things took a turn for the worst.
The Order: 1886
This was it. This was the title that would show the world what the PlayStation 4 was capable of. Greatness was finally in reach. And then the reviews came in and the game released and a train wreck was to be witnessed by all as The Order: 1886 completely failed to deliver anything other than another admittedly gorgeous looking title but with no real substance to it at all. As if providence was trying to deliver a message that power was not the be all and end all of all things in the console space, the obsession with resolution and power seemed to constantly fall flat on its face and The Order: 1886 is one of the best examples of that. Reviews for the game lambasted it for several failings and Ready at Dawn’s competency was in question. The internet suffered a meltdown once the review embargo over the ill-fated title was lifted and there were even cries of a mass global conspiracy against all things PlayStation in the media, as if the lackluster nature of the game was not abundantly clear to others. However, these conspiracy theorists quickly piped down when the PlayStation 4 finally got some respite.
Finally, greatness had arrived on the PlayStation 4 in the form of the excellent title from From Software, Bloodborne. The title was always really a safe bet but prior to the failure of other prettier titles, the title didn’t receive as much attention as it deserved. However, it was finally at center stage and the title really blew the critics away, including ourselves, having received our Game of the Year award as well as receiving the highest score this reviewer has given. As it stands, the title is the best exclusive on the PS4 and without it, the console’s library would have looked incredibly weak. The title has been regarded as a niche title by many; one that does not appeal to everyone because of its somewhat unorthodox style- it is very similar to the Dark Souls’ games but that really shouldn’t take away anything from what is still an incredible title with gorgeous art style, addictive gameplay and an immersive game world.
Xbox One Fights Back
Microsoft continued to work hard to win back gamers’ hearts and this year represented its strongest form yet. Whilst having a somewhat slow start to the year the Xbox One console benefited from some incredible titles, as the PR machine went into overdrive, describing it as the greatest xbox lineup ever and whilst I may not necessarily agree with that, it is hard to argue against the strength of the titles released this year on it. Ori and the Blind Forest is a beautiful experience that really needs to be enjoyed. Evoking all kinds of strong emotions, the game’s vibrant looks, great platforming gameplay and endearing characters shone through and proved the sheer value of indie titles, if there ever was any doubt about them.
the Xbox One is the true home of racing games
Forza Motorsport 6 was met with critical acclaim yet again, solidifying the franchise’s claim to the racer throne and making good all the shortcomings of its predecessor at launch. With over 450 cars, gorgeous visuals running at 1080p and 60fps, day and night time levels, brilliant use of weather and physics, 24 players online and the usual deluge of customisations available, the title just reinforces the fact that the Xbox One is the true home of racing games.
Titles like Tomb Raider (late review incoming) and Halo 5: Guardians once again hammer in the lead enjoyed by the Xbox One as far as exclusive games are concerned. The PlayStation 4 has enjoyed moderate success with titles such as Until Dawn but those big titles are missing from its stable. The delay of Uncharted 4 no doubt hurt the PS4’s 2015 lineup and arguing in favour of it against the Xbox One’s extremely strong set of exclusives is an uphill battle. With other successes such as a UI overhaul, the massively in demand and currently sold out Elite Controller and the addition of Backwards Compatibility, the Xbox One seems to be the winner in all things but sales (and resolution) for the third holiday season in a row. In this writer’s opinion, the Xbox One has struck a clear hat-trick against the PlayStation 4.
The so-called multimedia box really is taking the fight to Sony. However, the PlayStation 4 continues to absolutely dominate the Xbox One in sales to a startling degree. One can only imagine how much bigger the lead would be had the PS4 had a lineup of games as strong as the Xbox One’s so far. Do remember however, that this is just the view of this writer. Of course you may well disagree with it all and it has to be said, a lot of this depends on subjective tastes and what games you the reader really enjoy. For you, the opposite may be true but for many such as myself, the Xbox One has enjoyed a victory when it comes to games right from launch. Next year looks set to be absolutely stellar for both consoles and it appears that the PlayStation 4 really comes into its own in 2016 with what looks like an absolutely incredible line-up. As of now though, the underdog is the victor.
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