E3 2015 has unleashed a wave of surprises and exciting new games for Xbox One and PS4 fans alike but with all the announcements done, it’s time to reflect and see who won this heavy weight fight. To give a detailed comparison I thought I would break this down into three categories; System, Games and Peripheries.
Xbox One: Possibly the biggest surprise of E3 was the announcement of backwards compatibility coming to Xbox One this spring (Fall for my friends in the Northern Hemisphere) but currently only available to those lucky enough to be invited to the Xbox Preview. So far the list of Games is very short but it will grow quickly before the app goes live and personally I can’t wait to start playing Mass Effect on my Xbox One. Not only has this caught Sony by surprise but they have since disappointed fans by quickly killing any rumours that they might be doing the same any time soon. In addition Microsoft gave us a look at the new Xbox dashboard complete with Cortana that we will see later this year with the Windows 10 update.
PlayStation 4: Compared to the Xbox event Sony was much more game focused but they did talk about some exciting changers to PlayStation Vue. The live streaming TV service is being released in new regions and with a chose your own channel service. Notably this sees Sony move further towards the all in one entertainment system that was the original goal of the Xbox One.
Verdict: Got to give this one to the Xbox One as backwards compatibility has the potential to be a game changer as any one needing to replace their 360 can simply upgrade and still play all their old games. Some people like myself may have even put off the decision to upgrade because of this limitation. In contrast the upgrade to PlayStation Vue will benefit existing owners but probably won’t be that nudge to jump on board.
Before getting stuck into the exclusive titles it is important to recognise that comparing games is always going to be very subjective based on your past experience and your existing emotional attachment. This year that perhaps is more important than usual as most of the big titles from both our contenders have a touch of nostalgia and are the newest games to pre existing game series. Personally that means for me any new Halo is ultimately a kill all since I have been hocked from the very beginning but as always I will try to keep a critical mind.
Xbox One: The line up from Microsoft’s conference didn’t hold to many surprises as they emphasised the favourites; Halo 5 Guardians, Forza 6, Fable Legends, Rise of the Tomb Raider the official conformation of Gears of War ultimate edition and the 4th instalment in the successful shooter. However, there are a few completely new titles like the action RPG Ashen, run and gun Cuphead, free to play Gigantic, adventurous Sea of Thieves and the action adventure ReCore. In addition to all these new titles the Rare Replay a collection of 30 classic Rare games for $30 including Banjo Kazooie and Prefect Dark is an absolute steal for a quick hit of nostalgia dating back 30 years.
PlayStation 4: Games was defiantly the focus of Sony’s conference and they had done well to keep the biggest announcements secret before the expo. Leading with the long awaited The Last Guardian was always going to be a hit with fans and that was only the beginning then came the remake of Final Fantasy VII and the kickstarter Shenmue 3 which completed fans wish list. New titles like the borderless No Man’s Sky and the stunning looking RPG Horizon Zero Dawn as well as other exclusives including Street Fighter 5 and Uncharted 4 helped demonstrated Sony’s focus on hard core gaming fans. The steal however was Call of Duty as the lucrative franchise departs from its recent partnership with Microsoft to release exclusive content
Verdict: Despite my preference for Xbox i’m going to give this one to the PS4 due to execution, since Sony had been able to keep things quite in the lead up to E3 and pulled off the steal of the year by getting Call of Duty to jump ship.
Finally … Peripherals
Xbox One: Microsoft got the ball rolling here before the conference with the announcement of a partnership with Oculus Rift to take advantage of VR gaming. Extending this strategy Microsoft committed to a similar partnership with one of the other major developers in this exciting new avenue for gaming in Valve VR. The real star of the show was HoloLens as Microsoft showed off 3D Minecraft to a captivated audience but it doesn’t stop with the obvious applications as reviewers got the opportunity to test out the augmented reality headset with Halo 5’s new Warzone mode. If that wasn’t enough Microsoft have given us the Elite controller which is fully customisable with adjustable parts and settings to let users play their way.
PlayStation 4: Leading up to E3 every one was hoping for more information about Project Morpheus, Sony’s own VR headset. Unfortunately, I felt this was a bit of a let down since Sony spoke about the headset and showed an interesting trailer for RIGS a VR game that allows multiple players to enter the same virtual world the information and WOW factor was limited with only some vague assertions of a 2016 release. Thankfully reviews got to test drive the headset during the expo and it seems like it is going to offer a rich VR gaming experience.
Verdict: This one was a clear win to Phil Spencer and his Xbox team, not only did they bring the mind blowing demo but they also made sure they didn’t forget hardcore gamers with the elite.
It might not surprise anyone but i have to give 2015 to Microsoft as they seam to have finally learn’t and brought their A game. Overall Microsoft have taken more into account and listened to feedback with backwards compatibility, a real demonstration of HoloLens and a new controller. In addition the only category where Sony have out performed Microsoft this year is highly subjective as personally I’m looking foward to adding at least 6 of those exclusive Xbox titles to my collection ASAP. Meanwhile there are a couple of caveats to some of those surprises, firstly No Man’s Sky will release on PC at the same time as PS4 and most games will not be released until 2016 with Final Fantasy VII and Shenmue 3 without even that level of guidance.
But don’t take my opinion for it, check out the links and make up your own mind and leave your thoughts.
It was a busy day for tech enthusiasts as Microsoft gave us the next look at Windows 10 and even had a few surprises that they had manage to keep secret. After watching this morning’s keynote and checking my preferred news feeds here is the first part of my roundup of what we have to look forward to later this year.
A Universal Operating System
To start Terry Myerson VP of Operating Systems gave us the news we all wanted to hear that windows 10 will be a free for the first year for anyone upgrading from Windows 7, 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1. This serves a practical purpose for Microsoft by trying to compensate for the ill will towards Windows 8 and also by addressing the fragmentation of the 1.5b Windows users which limit developer interest. In the fine print it also suggests that Microsoft may turn to a subscription service like Office 365 since it is only free for the first year, if priced well such a move would still benefit consumers as existing subscribers would have access to the regular updates that Microsoft has promised in this new world of Windows as a service.
It was left to Joe Belfore to do the heavy lifting and showcase the latest features of Windows 10 starting with a recap of what we already know, including continuum the way in which the OS detects and changes between touch and keyboard inputs making it great for a hybrid device. However, it was the introduction of Cortana which everyone was waiting for and it didn’t disappoint as it uses existing features like the notebook to personalise your Windows experience from searching your files and the web to dictating your emails. Cortana like the other apps that Belfore demonstrated including a touch friendly Office with near full functionality are all universal apps across phones, tablets and PC’s with synced settings in addition to a similar UI experience that is scaled to a specific device.
Finally the worst kept secret was on show with Project Spartan, Windows new browser. The streamlined design and new rendering engine won’t really draw much attention but are the key to making a better working experience. The real excitement comes from the note taking mode which allows you to annotate using a pen or keyboard web pages and share them with others. In addition the new reading mode maybe the answer to getting rid of annoying advertising when you’re browsing and combined with the reading list will help keep track of your interests online. Of course Cortana come imbedded and I really liked the idea that if you’re looking at a restaurant she will get you everything from directions to reviews and importantly this can easily be synced with your phone.
To finish software part of the presentation it was passed to the head of Xbox, Phil Spencer, to showcase gaming on Windows 10. Starting with the Xbox app which brings all the social features we have become familiar with on Xbox One including the activity feed and friends lists. This means that we remain connected to our fellow gamers even when we are away from the console and using the new built-in Game DVR function ( Windows + G) we can share our PC gaming experience. However, for me it was all about the games and the promise of Direct X 12 to improve detail so it was Phil’s demonstration of playing Fable Legends on a Surface Pro with a Lauren from Lionheart using an Xbox One. This is something I have wanted for a long time (since Halo was released on PC 10 years ago) as I have never been great with a keyboard but still wanted to play alongside friends who don’t have an Xbox, finally my dreams have been answered. To complete my gaming paradise with Windows 10 we can stream any game from our Xbox One to our PC screen, perfect for when my fiancée wants to watch Sex in the City.
That’s it for part one, tune back in tomorrow for my take on the hardware surprises unveiled today.