This is question that a scant 12 months ago would have had one obvious answer- you need to buy a Playstation 4. 12 months on though, and the question is anything but easy as Microsoft have spent the year working hard to make the Xbox One every bit as appealing, and in some areas more appealing, than Sony’s mega popular offering.
In many ways the Xbox One S, which hit the shelves a couple of months ago (you can read my review here was the console that MS should have launched with. It’s compact, has an internal PSU, great controllers, a fast intuitive user interface and even plays Ultra HD Blu Ray discs (okay, that’s the one thing it obviously couldn’t have had at launch).
The Playstation has lead the way since launch, focusing staunchly on the games, having some great first party titles, and generally being perceived as a more powerful machine. While that power balance has probably been restored by the PS4 Pro (there are some issues with the new more expensive PS4 that make some games slower on it than on a standard PS4), the revisions that MS have made to the Xbox One have closed the gap in terms of performance with the similarly priced PS4.
MS are obviously going for the jugular this holiday season and as a result you can see some of the best value deals in terms of a current generation console that we’ve seen for years. A new Xbox One S with a couple of games for under £200? A year ago you would have paid £250 minimum for the console alone. The same thing is happening with the Playstation- a PS4 Slim with two new games for £220 is a pretty good deal.
Both offer more though- PSN+, the Playstation paid for games network, offers “free” games every month, similar to Xbox’s Games with Gold. None of the games are really free, they’re included as part of your subscription and none of them are new but it’s a great way to get an instant game library. It’s here where Xbox edges ahead, they have EA Access, which is best thought of as a sort of Netflix for EA games. Again you pay an annual subscription and get access to a plethora of EA games to play while your membership is active. Like PSN+ and Games with Gold, they games aren’t the newest, you’ll see the ’16 sports titles now the ’17 ones are out, but for twenty quid a year you get access to enough games to more than fill your internal hard drive.
On the other hand, with the PS4 you get the option of virtual reality with the PSVR headset. I had a go with a pre-production set a year ago and was impressed as a speccy wearer how comfortable they were. The price is still high- £349 (you also need a PS4 camera on top of this, and optionally a couple of Move controllers too), which is more than a PS4 will cost you itself but it’s still cheaper than the cost of a gaming PC and either an Occulus Rift or HTC Vibe (which admittedly have better specs but alone, without a PC, will cost you as much as a PS4+PSVR).
Now you might notice that I’ve not mentioned the Nintendo Wii U in the context of consoles here. I have a Wii U and I love it. There is plenty of overlap in games on the Xbox One and PS4, but the Wii U is resolutely out there doing it’s own thing with some wonderful games. However, it’s about to be superseded by the Switch, a fascinating new console that blends the best of the portable and desktop consoles into one package. I’m off to a launch event for it on 13 January and have to say it has my interest piqued.
In summary then, if you’re looking at getting a console for either yourself, your partner or your kids at Christmas, you’re spoilt for choice. There are some absolute bargains to be had with the main two, and if you can wait until the new year, you might also be tempted by the Nintendo Switch!