Strong support, constant updates and a hat-trick of amazing games catapults Microsoft ahead in the console war.
You may know the story by now. In February 2013, Sony revealed the PlayStation 4 and announced a Holiday release window. On the one hand, many of us were awed by the games on display. On the other, we were skeptical as to whether Sony would actually make the release, much less deliver even half the games it showed off. Regardless, the overall response was one of positive, perhaps somewhat cautious, hype.
"Microsoft promised three compelling exclusives for this Holiday season with Halo: The Master Chief Collection, Sunset Overdrive and Forza Horizon 2. Two of those games were only confirmed at E3 2014 several months ago."
Then Microsoft revealed its successor to the Xbox 360, the Xbox One, in May 2013. The response – to put it lightly – was bad. Microsoft was railed on for the months that followed for what seemed like oppressive practices such as 24 hour online authentication, region-locking, mandatory usage of Kinect (which was always on) and a price point that was $100 higher than the PS4.
The launch titles didn’t scream “must-have” either and while the PS4 didn’t exactly blow us away with Killzone: Shadow Fall or Knack, Sony was arguably making larger strides with its indie developer line-up and upcoming exclusives like The Order: 1886 and Uncharted (later revealed to be Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End).
Fast-forward a year. The memory of Ryse: Son of Rome, Killer Instinct and Dead Rising 3 has more or less faded. Microsoft’s ID@Xbox program is looking good with original efforts like Inside, Cuphead and Below garnering out attention. More than anything though, Microsoft promised three compelling exclusives for this Holiday season with Halo: The Master Chief Collection, Sunset Overdrive and Forza Horizon 2. Two of those games were only confirmed at E3 2014 several months ago.
Sunset Overdrive has proven to be a blast, melding open world gameplay with parkour mechanics and a self-aware, tongue-in-cheek acidic sense of humour. Forza Horizon 2 is just plain gorgeous and packs tons of content and activities across its vast open world, arguably putting Forza Motorsport 5 to shame.
"You've got four amazing remasters with Halo: CE Anniversary, Halo 2 Anniversary, Halo 3 and Halo 4."
The one oddity in this bunch is Halo: The Master Chief Collection obviously. This is due to the numerous matchmaking issues that multiplayer has been experiencing (and no, we’re not going to ignore that some people can’t find games despite searching for 1.5 HOURS). It’s not easy optimizing multiplayer across 100 different maps and four different games but it’s improving as 343 Industries continues releasing patches and the like.
And unlike Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, you don’t just have one strong campaign to hold your attention in the meantime. You’ve got four amazing remasters with Halo: CE Anniversary, Halo 2 Anniversary, Halo 3 and Halo 4.
Some may debate that they’ve played these before but thankfully, Halo 2 Anniversary features a massive revamp of the game’s visuals with some new additions to the campaign. Halo: Nightfall is available for those who want to know the set-up to Halo 5: Guardians. The multiplayer beta for the latter is also on the disc and it starts in late December with many positive impressions thus far.
Did we mention the strong range of third party titles also available on the Xbox One such as Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor, Far Cry 4 and Dragon Age: Inquisition?
"DriveClub had proven to be an awful mess at launch with buggy code preventing players from even accessing many of the game's multiplayer modes. A month and many patches later haven't changed the fact that it has issues."
Not that the above makes too much of a difference if you’re a PS4 owner. However, when you look at the PS4’s Holiday line-up, it’s plainly obvious that Microsoft has won out. DriveClub had proven to be an awful mess at launch with buggy code preventing players from even accessing many of the game’s multiplayer modes. A month and many patches later haven’t changed the fact that it has issues. Don’t even get us started on the utter disappearance of the PS Plus Edition.
LittleBigPlanet 3 is a strong new entry in the series and well worth a fan’s time – even if it doesn’t change much with the formula. But that’s pretty much it, exposing Sony’s lack of foresight for this Holiday season.
Many of its top-tier releases like The Order: 1886 and Bloodborne will only be out early next year. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is looking to be a late 2015 release. There’s no information on games like The Last Guardian. Meanwhile, Microsoft continues to feed information on interesting titles like Quantum Break, Halo 5: Guardians and Crackdown while also offering exclusive beta access to games like Tom Clancy’s The Division and Evolve in early 2015.
You could argue that the Xbox One still has a ways to go and really, so does the PS4. Both consoles are only a year old and both have seen numerous additions, both positive and negative, to their repertoires. Xbox Live’s Games With Gold deal for the Xbox One still doesn’t feel as great as PS Plus when it comes to free games. The PS4 hasn’t had as many updates to the core console as the Xbox One. Both have great games coming out in the coming year and both are causing developers to concentrate their efforts away from previous gen consoles.
However, only one has the best overall games line-up for this Holiday season. Sony may have had a stronger start but the Xbox One has definitely scored a strong string victories to close out 2014. What are your thoughts on the same though? Let us know in the comments below.