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PS5 vs. Xbox Series X: Which Should You Pick Up?

PS5 console, 'VS' text, Xbox Series X console

With the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series both out in the wild, players are now presented with an ultimatum: which console should you pick up for the next generation of gaming? 

Improved technology in both consoles will allow for gameplay not previously possible on old hardware, pushing the boundaries for video games to come. But that technical leap comes at a cost. The prices of consoles and new game releases are at an all time high, so this is a crucial decision for players going forward. While the best solution would be having the luxury to purchase both new consoles, the reality for many is that it’ll be one or the other.

Both the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X boast never-before-seen performance and visuals, exciting features, and, of course, new video games. But which console is the best option for you?

LAUNCH TITLES

Above all else, games are the most important factor when deciding on a new console purchase. Why buy a shiny new gaming box if there's no worthwhile games on it? Luckily, both the PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X have a fair amount to choose from at launch, though their lineups are quite different.

For PS5's exclusive titles, players can expect to find Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Sackboy: A Big Adventure, Demon's Souls, Godfall and The Pathless at launch. Notably, Insomniac Games has snuck another rerelease into the launch lineup, that being Spider-Man Remastered, which is bundled with the Deluxe Edition of Spider-Man: Miles Morales

Many of these games are shaping up to be must-haves on the PS5, with Miles Morales getting a lot of buzz from fans over social media. Spider-Man: Miles Morales and Demon's Souls are the major technical showcases at launch, truly providing that next-gen experience that Sony is promising. Both games feature near-instant load times and high graphical fidelity, with Miles Morales also utilizing ray-tracing for its lighting and reflections.

The Xbox Series X was originally intended to launch with the tentpole game Halo: Infinite, the supposed return to form that Halo fans have been hoping for. With the game's delay to 2021, that leaves the Series X with a lack of strictly new content for the console. That does not necessarily mean that there is nothing to play on Microsoft's latest console. The system has acquired some timed exclusives of several enhanced ports, including Yakuza: Like a Dragon and Tetris Effect: Connected.

Microsoft's hope, though, is for players to pick up Xbox Game Pass, which should offer almost everything that a Series X owner should need. In addition to giving access to new releases as soon as they drop, Game Pass has a massive backlog of past titles like Halo: The Master Chief Collection, Gears 5 and Minecraft. Game Pass has all bases covered. Game Pass will also offer access to select titles from EA Play, which expands the catalog to include Fifa 20Titanfall 2, The Sims franchise and the Battlefield franchise. All in all, Game Pass offers terrific value for its price and is a must-have for avid gamers on Xbox Series X.

There are also a few third-party games that are available on both consoles at launch, which includes Assassin's Creed: Valhalla, Bugsnax and Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War. There will also be a number of past titles that will re-released on the PS5 and Series X, some of which coming with brand new features not present on past-gen consoles. This includes Borderlands 3, Devil May Cry 5: Special Edition, Dirt 5, Fortnite, NBA 2K21, No Man's Sky, Overcooked: All You Can Eat, and Watch Dogs: Legion, among many others. 

UPCOMING RELEASES

What players have come to realize by now is that a new console is an investment. New consoles come with new releases, but many of them will take some time before they arrive in players' hands. Luckily, there is plenty to look forward to for both consoles.

For the PlayStation 5, Ratchet and Clank Rift Apart is the next major release, expected to release in the first half of 2021. The latest entry in the series will be a proper continuation of Ratchet and Clank's adventures this time around, and has already proven to take full advantage of the new hardware. Also on the horizon is Guerrilla Games' Horizon: Forbidden West, which is expected to continue Aloy's journey in the second half of 2021. Deathloop applies a fresh twist to the time loop trope, following an assassin whose night is reset every time he is killed. The game releases as a timed console exclusive on the PS5 on May 21, 2021.

Kena: Bridge of Spirits features gorgeous visuals akin to a Disney Animation or Pixar film, allowing players to essentially play a 3D animated film in 2021. RPG fans will get a kick out of the timed console exclusive Final Fantasy XVI, which appears to be a much darker entry in the iconic series. While not officially announced, the sequel to Final Fantasy 7 Remake is almost surely on the way as well. God of War: Ragnarok will follow on from the gripping cliffhanger from the first game, undoubtedly bringing exciting gameplay with it. Kratos' fight against the Norse gods continues in 2021.

For the Xbox Series X, the aforementioned Halo: Infinite is the next big game to look forward to, though it is currently without a release date. Master Chief is back in the driver's seat, which should hopefully herald a return to form for the single player campaign and the inclusion of fun, moment-to-moment multiplayer sessions. Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice was widely lauded as being a work of art for its narrative and themes of psychosis, so its sequel, Senua's Saga: Hellblade 2, should be a dark and thrilling continuation to the first game.

From Rare, the studio behind Banjo Kazooie and Sea of Thieves, comes Everwild, a visually stunning game with a cel-shaded art style. For racing fans comes Forza Motorsport, which features incredibly realistic graphics and driving mechanics. The RPG Avowed comes from the developers of The Outer Worlds and Fallout Vegas, whose grim, fantasy setting is somewhat of a departure from their typical wheelhouse. On the opposite side of the fantasy genre, the whimsical and tongue-and-cheek Fable franchise is making a return with a brand new entry. No gameplay or release date has been revealed, but the teaser trailer ensured fans that the latest game should be a worthy followup in the franchise.

Upcoming releases from third party studios are also on the way, with many new IPs and follow-ups currently in development. Cyberpunk 2077 is the latest game from CD Projekt Red, and features an expansive, sci-fi world for players to explore every nook and cranny. Barring any further delays, it should arrive on December 10, 2020. Hitman 3 follows soon after, which will conclude Agent 47's recent missions on January 20, 2021. Horror junkies will undoubtedly be excited for Resident Evil: Village, which notably brings Chris Redfield back into the fray. Far Cry 6 finds Breaking Bad's Giancarlo Esposito taking the helm as the villain, and should prove a formidable foe for players in 2021.

PERFORMANCE AND SPECS

The big push this generation is performance, with both Sony and Microsoft demonstrating that their new consoles have made a giant leap forward. Previews of the consoles have already shown their impressive load times, which are just about as lightning fast as a cartridge for an SNES thanks to the consoles' SSDs.

Courtesy of TechRadar, the PS5 and the Xbox Series X are able to output gameplay at 4K/120fps and has support for 8K/60fps gameplay too. It is unlikely that 8K will be commonplace for releases starting out, with the focus really being on optimizing games for buttery-smooth frame rates. Both consoles will also feature improvements to the frame rates for select past-gen games, boosting many of them to a consistent 60fps.

Games have already begun to skyrocket in file size, with games like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare having gargantuan storage requirements. The PlayStation 5 has around 667 GB of usable storage space, whereas the Xbox Series X has around 802 GB of usable storage space. Both can be expanded, though the PlayStation 5's method is a bit more cumbersome, requiring users to open up the console themselves. Whilst there are SSD and USB ports on the console, utilizing these for storage comes at the sacrifice of the PS5's speedy load times. The Xbox Series X, on the other hand, is compatible with Seagate's 1TB expansion card, an admittedly pricey solution that allows players to expand their storage whilst maintaining wicked-fast loading speeds.

The Xbox Series X has a few additional features that sets it apart for the competition though. Quick Resume allows the Xbox Series X to hop between multiple games or applications without the need to close them. This brings players right back to where they left off in a game, even if the console has been turned completely off and unplugged; no more loading from the main menu required. The Series X also includes Auto HDR, that brings HDR support games even if they were not natively developed with it in mind. This allows for more dynamic range in the game's visuals, creating an even more vibrant image.

While the performance of both consoles are relatively comparable, the Series X does boast a few extra features that sweeten that next-gen experience. 

CONTROLLERS

It's not just how the game looks, but how it feels too. The game controller is your gateway into the digital realm, so it's important that your controllers are as comfortable and fully functional as possible. 

The PlayStation 5's controller has seen a complete overhaul with the DualSense's design, sporting haptic feedback that builds upon the traditional rumble used in controllers of old. This creates much more sensitive vibrations in the controller, better matching actions on screen to create worlds that are even more immersive. The DualSense is also packed with adaptive triggers, which change the exertion necessary depending on the in-game situation. For instance, drawing a bow could be made to feel more like the action itself by artificially changing the required pressure. Sony is putting immersion at the forefront and the DualSense is one of the many components that aids that mission.

Microsoft is opting for the old adage of "If it still works, let's just slightly change the D-Pad." While not a revolutionary design, the controller for the Xbox Series X works just fine, still being the Xbox controller that players have come to enjoy over the past few years. Because the design is so similar, this also means that players can continue to use their controllers from the Xbox One family of consoles for the Series X. What Microsoft lacks in innovation here, it gains in interoperability. Therefore, if you don't want to shell out for a whole new set of controllers just to play some local multiplayer with friends, you won't need to if you hold onto your old controllers.

BACKWARDS COMPATIBILITY

Making a leap to a new console generation also comes with the unfortunate task of leaving behind past games. The PlayStation 4 ditched the library of its predecessor, whereas the Xbox One X added firmware updates during its lifespan to add support for its legacy titles. This time around, both consoles support backwards compatibility in some capacity.

The PlayStation 5 will support the vast majority of PlayStation 4 titles, allowing players to bring their library with them into next-gen. Select titles will also benefit from Game Boost, enabling some games to perform better on the PS5. Players will still be able use the subscription service PlayStation Now, which allows users to stream and download PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4 games. However, players that may have been looking forward to utilising their entire backlog of past PlayStation games may be out of luck.

Xbox Series X goes beyond this, making select titles from the Original Xbox, Xbox 360 and Xbox One available to play right out of the gate. Players with a vast Xbox game library can rejoice, as they can continue using their physical and digital games going forward. Improvements to past games are also achieved with the Series X, including "faster load times, higher resolution, more stable frame rates, and better input latency." Microsoft is clearly rewarding players who have stuck with the Xbox family of systems and has ensured that the best place to play past those Xbox games is the Xbox Series X.

VALUE

Even after you've bought your gaming box of choice, one may cower in fear at the thought at having to shell out a few extra bucks for necessary peripheries. With most AAA games now releasing at a whopping $69.99 a pop, players may have to be a bit more careful when deciding what to buy.

First, the consoles themselves. The PlayStation 5 runs for $499, whereas the Digital Edition retails for $399. The Xbox Series X retails for $499, whereas the Xbox Series S runs for $299. If you want the best of the best in terms of graphical fidelity and performance, you'll have to pay a handsome price for the experience. However, if physical games aren't a necessity, the PlayStation 5 Digital Edition is a much cheaper alternative to its disc-drive bearing cousin. If games are your priority over the most optimum performance, the Series S is also definitely a viable option. Also being a digital-only console, the Series S may compromise on specs, but still allows users to get in on the next gen experience at a cheaper price.

Next comes the additional services, which have now been mostly consolidated for this generation. PlayStation Plus returns as the online service for the PS5, which players will need to play online multiplayer games like Call of Duty, Overwatch, Fall Guys and GTA Online. A new service to PlayStation Plus comes in the form of The PlayStation Plus Collection, creating a built-in catalogue of greatest hits from the PS4, exclusive to PS Plus members. While not as expansive as Xbox Game Pass, the library adds amazing PS4 titles, like God of War, Persona 5 and Bloodborne, at no additional cost to users' online subscription. The service costs $9.99 for one month, $24.99 for three months, or $59.99 for a year. 

PlayStation Now also allows players to play select PS2, PS3 and PS4 titles for $19.99 per month, $44.99 every three months, or $99.99 for a year. While not entirely necessary, it may be tempting for those who want to get a taste of more of PlayStation's legacy content.

For the services on Xbox Series X, Microsoft offers Xbox Live Gold and Xbox Game Pass. Xbox Live Gold is the system's online service, so is required for online multiplayer games like the upcoming Halo: Infinite. Xbox Live Gold on its own runs at $9.99 a month, with no yearly option available. There are two versions of Xbox Game Pass on the Xbox Series X, that being Xbox Game Pass and Xbox Game Pass Ultimate. Xbox Game Pass is the standard version, providing access to its extensive catalogue and costing $9.99 a month. Xbox Game Pass Ultimate consolidates everything, costing $14.99 a month for Xbox Game Pass, Xbox Live Gold and access to Xbox Game Pass on PC. 

Finally are the controllers. Both consoles, luckily, come with a controller bundled in box, but consumers will need to buy extras if they want to play locally. An extra PS5 controller will run you back $69.99, whereas a new Series X controller comes out slightly less at $59.99.

So now it's time for some cold hard numbers. If a consumer were to buy the most expensive version of the console, a new game, 12 month of online and an extra controller, this is how it would work out: The PlayStation 5, a copy of Demon's Souls ($69.99), 12 month of PlayStation Plus, and an extra DualSense controller would cost $698.97. The Xbox Series X, a copy of Yakuza: Like a Dragon ($59.99), 12 months of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, and an extra Xbox Series X controller would cost $798.86.

Those are big digits. Purely from a numbers standpoint, the PS5 comes out on top. This is all assuming that one would put aside money for Xbox Game Pass Ultimate for a full year. In actuality, a consumer would only pay for one month at launch, bringing the grand total down to $633.97. This is around the same as if you reduced PlayStation Plus to just a month, which reduces the PS5's total to a more comparable $648.97. Arguably, Game Pass Ultimate provides much more value to its services to justify its higher cost, as it will provide access to new releases as soon as they are available. Consumers will just have to decide what they want to prioritize. 

VERDICT

The PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X have two varying approaches this generation, simply because their goals are quite different. 

For those who want to experience something entirely new, PlayStation 5 has a stellar lineup already, with many exciting titles coming incredibly soon. If players want to see what next-gen is capable of, a PS5 might just be the way to go. Currently, Sony's approach seems to be to craft tailored and polished triple AAA experiences on their platform. This has been the company's prerogative since the last generation and they are showing no signs of slowing down their output. They want you to buy the games. 

For those who want to play the games they already own at the best performance possible and are willing to wait just a bit longer for a true next-gen game, the Xbox Series X may be the console of choice. While the Series X doesn't offer anything new software-wise, it is arguably the best way to play past-gen games. The Xbox Series X is somewhat of a stepping stone for Microsoft, in an effort to further an ecosystem that gives more choice to players. With Xbox Game Pass offering pretty much everything that a player could need, consumers can be content with purchasing the service for PC, or settling for an Xbox Series S. However, for those that crave that higher performance, the Xbox Series X will not disappoint in giving fans a satisfying first dip into the next generation of gaming.

The PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X are available for purchase now.