The Xmas decorations have now been removed and stowed away for another year, and those of us fortunate enough to either get their shiny new console at launch or off a loved one at Christmas, (even if that loved one was yourself), have now had a chance to play with our new gadgets. For me, this meant one thing. Looking at how the new consoles compare to the last generation. I was one of the many who bought into the instant upgrade collection, grabbing myself a copy of Assassins Creed 4, Call of Duty: Ghosts and Battlefield 4 on the then current generation with the intention to upgrade my copy Day one to a next gen copy. As such, this put me in a good position to compare each of these games on both generations.
To start I looked at the contentious title that is Battlefield 4. Out since the start of November, I should have had plenty of time to get stuck into what was, without a doubt, my favourite multi-player franchise in the last few years. Sadly, this was not to be. Client crashes, Lag spikes, rubber banding and the screams of a thousand players shouting “Fix Teh Netcodez!” made the game nigh on unplayable in its intended capacity. So, with a deal of frustration I booted up the single player campaign and gave it a whirl. After enduring the painful cat wrangling that was “Total Eclipse of the Heart” and the introductory run through the school serving as a safe house without ammunition, you finally enter the game proper. On the 360 (and I presume the PS3) the game was an example of what designers can achieve with the fully explored architecture of the Microsoft Console, with sumptuous lighting effects, high resolution textures and a good deal of polish punctuating what is a by the books military story. Emerging for the first time into the small park between kill rooms in the first chapter was an impressive experience and one that punctuated how much improved this sequence looks on the new machines.
Playing through this section on the PS4, the lighting is more dynamic, the colours brighter and the shading crisper. Then I saw them. Those of you who have played this section will know that shortly afterwards you are presented with a tactical visor before progressing to the next zone. On the 360, I quickly looked around the ramshackle building site, marking out targets for the accompanying helicopter to engage, but on the PS4 what I saw gave me moment to pause. Where before there had been the half dozen heat signatures to mark your enemies, the scope on the PS4 lit up the sky with hundreds of signatures.
Birds. A Whole flock of them. Soaring and wheeling about the landscape, the immediate difference between both versions apparent. Most of you will probably be saying now, “who cares about birds in an FPS?” Well, short answer, me. It might not be pertinent to the plot, nor interactive in any way, but the jump in graphical prowess, coupled with the revelation of how much additional data can now be displayed on screen with little to no slow-down was enough to give me pause for its consideration.
Next up was the latest in one of the most popular franchises on both consoles, (whether we like it or not) with Call Of Duty: Ghosts seeing a similar fidelity upgrade to Dice’s big shooter. Slightly more focus has been placed on the single player of this title, and while it lacks the impact of most of its predecessors, it is still an enjoyable experience. Once again graphical flourishes are instantly observable in comparison to its last gen clone, and the unmistakable improvement on these early adopter cross platform titles is a welcome prelude of things to come.
Finally was Ubisoft’s Magnum Opus, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. Having reviewed the game on PS3, I had a deal of experience on the story and progression of this title, and as such it held little surprise for me, but the graphical improvements once again did not fail to impress. Given that one of the first patches Ubisoft released was a 1080 upgrade for the PS4, this came as no surprise but the details are what stunned me. Although mainly during cut scenes, where I relished the individual pores and blemishes on characters models, the world in which Edward Kenway undertakes his adventure is one of rugged beauty. No doubt most of you have seen one or two pictures shared online by now utilising the screen shot and sharing technology now built in to the current gen so it is obvious how much impact the environment can have on the player. Seldom have I played a game where during a section I will actually stop to actively admire the scenery around me, but in Assassin’s Creed IV this is a regular occurrence. The transfer from last gen to current for the series has been a straightforward and innovation-less experience, but a beautiful one.
I fully expect the additional functions on both new consoles to come into their own. As of now, so early in their life cycles, it would be easy to categorise them as enjoyable gimmicks until their use is fully realised. This being the case, the only real difference is in the graphical fidelity between this generation of console and the last.
The question then remains, “Do the graphics of these machines take gaming to a previously unseen high?” The short answer is no. Being a gamer for the love of the games and not through any sort of misconstrued brand loyalty, I also own a high end gaming laptop, (at least it was 9 months ago – probably no better than a calculator in comparison to today’s standards), and the graphical fidelity seen on the latest Hardware from Sony and Microsoft is comparable to what can be achieved on my 9 month old kit. But here is where the great PC vs Console debate hits my personal sticking point between formats. Where in the next few months/years my Laptop will most likely be rendered obsolete for those hardware intensive games of the future, the joy of a console is in its uniformity. A game made this year for an Xbox 360 will run just as well on a 2006 machine as it will on a Slim purchased in 2013, and the same platform wide compatibility is what we can look forward to in the years to come.
The PS4 and the XB1 are the natural evolution of their older siblings. Hardware leaps between the generations will not truly come into their own in the short term, but its the long term that you have to look at when considering purchasing these devices.
If you would like to get in on the ground floor, I would say if you have the disposable income, pick one up. This is not an XB1 vs PS4 article, and I will not recommend one over the other. Instead I will just say this.
If you are a gamer and you pick up one (or both) of these sleek black machines for sitting under your TV you will not be disappointed. If you decide to hold off and stay with the last generation, for the time being, you will not be missing much.