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Console review: Playstation 4 vs. Xbox One

The next generation of systems has the future of gaming--and streaming--in mind

November 20, 2013|By Ryan Smith | For RedEye

Video game consoles have officially grown up.

The Ataris and Nintendos of decades past were glorified kids’ toys whose only function was to duplicate the bleeps and bloops of simplistic diversions like “Pac-Man” or “Super Mario Brothers.” But this new generation of systems -- officially ushered in Nov. 15 with the launch of the PlayStation 4, (the Xbox One lands in stores Friday) -- are home entertainment devices marketed to adults as much, if not more, than the “Pokemon”-loving crowd.

That makes sense -- the average age of a gamer is 30 according to the Entertainment Software Association -- and it helps that gaming is only part of the story of the PS4 and Xbox One. They’re do-it-all devices capable of browsing the Web, hosting video chat and streaming music-on-demand along with playing games so hyper-realistic, you can see individual sweat beads on Jay Cutler’s face in “Madden Football 25.” Press a button on the PS4 and it instantly broadcasts your game online for anyone to watch. Tell the Xbox One to find Jamie Foxx movies with a spoken command and “Django Unchained” pops up. There are times when both systems feel like something out of the futuristic sci-fi movie “Ender’s Game.”

The question remains: are these super-powered systems flashy enough to grab the attention of the ever-distracted masses? When Sony and Microsoft started selling the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, respectively, in the mid-2000s, smartphones and tablets didn’t exist and Facebook was an obscure site for college kids. These days, almost everyone is a gamer -- but instead of tapping away on a control pad, they’re swiping their touchscreens. Along with Google’s Chromecast, Apple TV and the Roku player, there are tons of outlets for streaming movies, TV and music.

Traditional game sales fell from almost $11 billion in 2011 to less than $9 billion in 2012, according to NPD Group, and Nintendo’s Wii U sales have been ghastly. But there’s plenty of evidence that Sony and Microsoft shouldn’t slam the panic button quite yet. More than a million PS4’s reportedly were sold on its first day, and Sony expects 3 million to move by the end of the year. Plus, the new consoles remain the best way to experience big-budget gaming experiences like “Call of Duty,” and “Assassin’s Creed.” In another 10 years, we might all have virtual reality machines attached to our eyeballs, but -- for now -- we’re due for one more run with big black rectangles that connect to a TV.

Ryan Smith is a RedEye special contributor

FACEOFF:

Four is more than one, but that doesn’t automatically make the PlayStation 4 better than the Xbox One. RedEye got hands on time with both next gen heavyweights to call a winner in the war of game consoles. R.S.

Appearance

Smaller and sleeker, the PlayStation 4 looks elegant compared to the massive Xbox One -- which resembles a 1983 Betamax player. Both systems could use some style tips from Apple.

Winner: PS4

Power

The PlayStation 4 packs slightly more horses under its hood, but that’s unlikely to make much difference visually unless you’re a total fidelity snob.

Winner: PS4

Controller

The fourth edition of the Dual Shock controller is a huge upgrade from previous models -- with or without the new addition of a built-in touchpad and in-controller speaker. It’s enough to equal Microsoft’s barely-tweaked Xbox One controller. 

Winner: Tie

Motion Control

For all its hype, the Kinect worked best for its voice commands, not its improvements to gameplay. Still, motion control seems to be a bigger part of Microsoft’s plans. Both the Kinect and PlayStation Eye Camera are capable of recording compromising videos to send to the NSA. Yikes. 

Winner: Xbox One

Online Services

Both systems are banking on more social options and offer ways to record footage to share with friends (The PS4 even has a “Share” button on its controller). But Xbox Live remains the superior option to the PlayStation Network when it comes to online multiplayer and apps. 

Winner: Xbox One

Games

The PS4 and Xbox One both get a majority of their titles from third-party companies like EA and Ubisoft. But so far, Sony has more exclusives cooking with a new “InFamous,” “Uncharted” and more on the way. 

Winner: PS4

Bells and Whistles

Frequent TV viewers definitely will enjoy the option of plugging the Xbox One into a cable box and voice-searching for their favorite show. The so-called Snap Mode also grants the ability to multitask and watch a movie trailer while playing a game.

Winner: Xbox One

Overall

PlayStation 4. If you plan on consuming lots of movies, TV and music as well as games, go with the Xbox One. But if you’re a gamer first, Sony’s system barely edges out the competition.

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