Written by Harry Featherston
November will see the release of the latest games consoles from Microsoft and Sony – the Xbox Series X/S and PlayStation 5, respectively. Both promise incredible gaming experiences, but which is best? To find out, we’ve compared the new consoles in four main categories – controllers, hardware, games, and pricing.
The Xbox Series controller will look immediately familiar to anyone who’s played on an Xbox system before. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, however – Microsoft’s previous offerings have been heralded as the epitome of comfort and playability. In terms of new features, it boasts a Share button and a hybrid, customisable d-pad – both useful, albeit unoriginal additions. It’s a no-frills controller, for sure, but a solid one too.
The PS5’s eye-catching DualSense controller, meanwhile, is certainly the more exciting of the two. Sony has tended to favour a muted, solid black design in previous generations, but the DualSense is strikingly futuristic. Its white and black colour scheme is complimented by blue lighting, creating a finished product that looks more like the interface of a spaceship than a game controller – either that or EVE from Wall-E.
More advanced haptic feedback (that’s nerd-speak for vibration) and adaptive triggers are the key new features here, creating an added layer of immersion by allowing players to feel, for example, the tension in a drawn bow-string, or the slow trudge of a car through mud.
Admittedly, similar technology was pioneered in Nintendo’s Joy-Con controllers in 2017, but the DualSense promises to take it to an entirely new level.
Okay, here’s the really nerdy part. On paper, the Xbox Series X takes the cake when it comes to sheer power, with a considerably faster eight-core 3.8 GHz processor as well as a 12 TFLOP GPU that should be capable of pumping out some mind-blowing visuals.
It’s not a clean sweep for Microsoft’s console in this category, though, as the PS5’s lightning-fast SSD will be a hit with more impatient gamers by keeping start-up and loading times to a minimum.
In truth, these differences will rarely become apparent in everyday use – both consoles are more than capable of outputting the latest games in 4K resolution and at 60 frames per second, which will be enough to satisfy the vast majority of gamers.
There’s no point in having the world’s most powerful consoles if there’s nothing worthwhile to play on them.
Luckily though, both consoles are backwards compatible, meaning you’ll be able to play your entire PS4 or Xbox One library from day one (with a few exceptions). Both consoles have their fair share of heavy hitting new titles on the way, even if not all of them are available at launch.
Sony are hoping to entice players with the hotly anticipated launch-day release of Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, a sequel to the 2018 fan favourite Marvel’s Spider-Man. The previous entry was lauded by critics and fans alike as one of the greatest superhero games of all time, and this new release promises more of the same web-slinging fun that made it such a treat.
Astro’s Playroom, on the other hand, available on all PS5 systems for free, looks to be a fascinating oddity – a 3D platformer in the vein of Super Mario Odyssey that aims to make the most of the cutting edge DualSense controller, while also taking players on a journey through PlayStation history.
In terms of exclusive releases, pickings are relatively slim at launch for the Xbox when compared with Sony’s offerings, thanks in no small part to the delay of Halo Infinite. The latest in the phenomenally popular first-person shooter series was originally slated as a launch title but now won’t see the light of day until 2021.
Nevertheless, Xbox fans have a lot to look forward to in the coming months, with the system’s staggering power paving the way for some truly impressive exclusives. Microsoft’s recent acquisition of Bethesda suggests that their critically-acclaimed Fallout and Elder Scrolls series might soon become exclusive to the Xbox, and a reboot of the long-dormant Fable franchise will be looking to help inject some energy into what could be a difficult start to life for Microsoft’s platform.
Interestingly enough, both consoles will be released in two forms, with a smaller, digital-only console acting as a wallet-friendly alternative to the standard edition. The PS5’s Digital Edition will retail for £359.99, while the standard PS5 will set you back £449.99.
The digital-only Xbox, somewhat confusingly known as the Xbox Series S, looks to be a real bargain at just £249.99, but the standard Series X will be rubbing shoulders with the PS5 at an identical price point of £449.99.
Ultimately, when deciding which console is right for you, you’ll have to consider what you’re after. Budget-conscious gamers (us students, for example) will be drawn to the Xbox Series S as a relatively affordable route into next-gen gaming, whereas hardcore players might favour the standard Series X for its sheer power. It’s difficult to overlook the PS5’s superior initial line-up of exclusive games, however, and the ground-breaking DualSense controller is undoubtedly a major selling point.
The Xbox Series X/S is available now, while the PS5 releases in the UK on the 19th November. Both consoles are virtually impossible to get hold of without pre-ordering, though, so the majority of customers will have to hold fire for now, before getting their hands on console gaming’s next generation.
Harry Featherston is a first-year English student at the University of Leicester, interested in a career in journalism. You can find him on Twitter at @harryf_42.