Compare Best Games Consoles 2014, 2015

Gaming Bad

Gaming: it’s a pretty broad label, right? This is a fairly obvious statement to make considering that we’re about to enter into the year 2014, with all of the technological advancements and brilliance that has happened and indeed is yet to come, but gaming is a pastime for some, a cause of employees getting to into trouble during work time for many, and even a profession for the lucky few out there that have managed to get you dream jobs in the gaming world. I would therefore like to take a few moments, or perhaps a few pages’ worth of moments, to pay some respects to the chips, graphics cards, power supplies, memory sticks, and other such collections of hardware which make gaming possible. That’s right, I’m talking about the games consoles themselves, and even though we’ll be leaving personal computers somewhat out in the cold for obvious reasons, I wish to take a miniature literary excursion through the various consoles available, briefly exploring and weighing up their relative merits and drawbacks in a summative and even a comparative fashion along the way.

PS4

playstation 4

I’ll start as I mean to go on, which is by putting the only sane console choice at the top of this list, which I will claim isn’t actually order of descending greatness but actually is because well, in my opinion there is a steep drop off from this point onwards. I’ve always been a supporter of Sony, a pusher of the  Playstation if you will: right from the very first of their Playstation consoles up until the current and superior PS4, I’ve been there, and I’m not going to be hopping to the Microsoft camp anytime soon.

The reason I shall always remain firmly with Sony (unless they do something drastically silly or off-putting/offensive) and the PS4 in particular is above all the sheer weight of the hardware that you get under the hood. Though there isn’t much in it this year, Sony beats the Xbox in terms of sheer might of its hardware: an 8-core AMD Jaguar CPU, a Radeon graphics core with more shaders the Xbox One’s, and 8 DDR5 RAM next to the Xbox One’s DDR3. It’s not just a case of hardware, however: its design is sleeker, there wasn’t a big uproar about the DRM (digital rights management), and the PS4 is around one hundred dollars (60) cheaper. I still begrudge having to pay for access to the Playstation Network, but this is a small concession that allows me access to a network that supports the very best console available in the world at the moment. I wonder where Sony will go from here with it's PS5.

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Xbox One

xbox one

Though I’ve been gushing about the PS4 a little, this doesn’t mean that I don’t think the Xbox One isn’t worth your attention either (it just didn’t get the attention of my wallet, is all). As mentioned above, the One is pretty evenly matched with the PS4, with similar graphics processors and CPUs; the real differences in the consoles are mainly the their design and personal preference, really. The Xbox One’s controller for example is ergonomic and I will admit feels superior to the PS4.The problem I have with Microsoft’s fourth-gen offering is mainly its box-like design, the higher price tag ($499 in the US/£429 in the UK compared to PS4’s $399/£349 respectively). The fact that Microsoft seems to be shifting away from quality games and more towards becoming a central hub for all your social needs also swung me towards the PS4. It isn’t that I don’t like having a smarter TV and an interface that groups together all of my technological stuff, I just prefer the PS4’s solid focus on the gaming experience, and the fact that it outperforms the One, even if by just a fraction. See what we expect from the Xbox 4.

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Xbox 360

xbox 360

Though this 7th Generation console is old news at the time of writing, the 360 still adorns the living room of many-a gamer that isn’t yet ready to move to the current/next-gen consoles quite yet. This console still has its merits, such as the much wider choice of games than the One (what with the lack of backwards compatibility and all). The console is also cheaper to buy if you’re going for the low-end package, though Sony’s PS3 offers more hardware for better value if you buy entertainment system-like bundles. The Xbox Kinect is of course an enticing feature for many, with the whole motion-control gaming thing being quite the attraction for many players.

On paper, the 360 is a little inferior to the PS3 in terms of processing power, but looking at the cross-platform games you wouldn’t be able to see that much of a difference. Game selection isn’t really deal breaker  either since all the biggest games like Call of Duty are for multiple platforms anyhow; Halo players will obviously opt for the 360 however since this game is exclusive to it. The problem with the 360 (and the reason many people own a PS3) is that the 360 online network is a paid-for service while the PS3’s is free to play, and the fact that Xbox live doesn’t offer a better experience overall than that of the Playstation Network can leave a sour taste in the mouths of anyone looking to spend all of their time online. The 360 is still a brilliant console and is level with the PS3 in terms of power and gaming usefulness, but the Xbox Live service puts it behind by a notch.

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PS3

playstation 3

The PS3 is more powerful than the Xbox 360 on paper, which is a point that leads many to selecting it as their console of choice. The processing power is slightly superior, its graphics processor better, and greater value is displayed from the console when purchasing the 320GB version with the various accessories.

The PS3 lacks the motion control might of the Xbox 360 due to the latter’s Kinect hardware, though the games that this can be used with are only for a select audience and aren’t really geared towards the hardcore gamer. As is the case with most console wars, the choice of games available usually dictate a person’s preference, but game choice is so subjective that it can be difficult to judge a console based on this criterion. The design of the console itself (particularly the PS3 Slim) is also more ergonomic and visually-pleasing than the Xbox 360, which is just another feature that edges it slightly ahead of its Microsoft rival.

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Wii U

wii u

At times I feel a little sorry for Nintendo. I grew up with the NES and SNES, essentially cutting my teeth on the games of these consoles, and it feels like I’ve drifted apart from the gaming giant ever since. The problem is that while Microsoft and Sony were catering to gamers that like cutting-edge graphics, sublime multiplayer, and epic games, Nintendo narrowed their focus in order to cater for players that are all about the local multiplayer and the family-friendly entertainment. There is most definitely a place for the Wii U, it simply isn’t on any of my shelves for these exact reasons. See what we expect from the Next Wii Console.

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The U obviously isn’t as powerful as the One or the PS4: it has a mere tri-core CPU, 2GB of DDR3 RAM, and a GPU that carries the gimmicky and altogether overly-fluffy title of “AMD Latte”, none of which are in danger of coming close to the sheer power of Microsoft’s or Sony’s consoles. But this has never been much of a sore point for Nintendo because they simply don’t cater to the hardcore gamer type. Nintendo’s audience consists of families, the younger humans among us, and indeed people wishing to believe that buying a Wii U and some games that claim to be for “fitness” is an adequate substitute for regular resistance-based exercise. Either way, the lower processing power may result in inferior graphics processing capabilities, but the variety of different peripherals, the low price, and the selection of exclusive games and third-party titles.

3DS

3DS

Handhelds are indeed a different ball game to consoles entirely, and in the case of the former, it is the 3DS and the PS Vita that dominate the market. The 3DS isn’t the most powerful of machines: it has a 1GHZ dual-core processor and a puny 128MB of RAM, which puts it behind the Vita in terms of raw processing power. While the 3DS isn’t the most powerful software on paper, it does however seem to have a reputation for utilising its resources – however limited they may be – to deliver a fantastic gaming experience, not to mention the extensive developing might of such a large company.

The enticing factor about the 3DS is of course its main selling point in the first place: the three-dimensional graphics capabilities that it carries. No other handheld or console can deliver true 3D without additional and expensive hardware. Nintendo will also use the 3D capability quite aggressively in the future to continue developing exclusive games that can’t be found anywhere else. It has some brilliant titles such as Super Mario 3D, the yearly release of the wildly successful Pokémon series, and Zelda; these are games that Sony cannot offer to their customers. Once you have decided you want to own a handheld in lieu of a console, the decision of whether or not to buy a 3DS is therefore not one of purely theoretical features like processing power or design: it really comes down to whether you enjoy  the games available for it, and indeed whether you wish for some of these games to come to you in stereoscopic 3D.

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PS Vita

PS Vita

The Vita is the second titan of the handheld market in this list, though this does not make it an inferior choice by any means. As is inferred in the brief 3DS section, the Vita is much more powerful on paper than its 3D rival. Possessing the same Cortex A9 CPU that features in Apple’s iPhone 4 and packing 512MB of RAM, the Vita can process with up to 2gHz of power and offers a noticeably superior graphics experience since it can handle a larger quantity of polygons than the 3DS. The other obvious advantage it has is the 5 inch display which is much larger than that of the 3DS

Clearly the Vita has speedy processing and generally superior power on its side, though its design also makes it much more intuitive to use. Dual-joysticks and a generally more ergonomic feel make it much more pleasurable to handle than the 3DS, with everything just slotting into place while the Nintendo 3DS feels more fidgety and its touch-screen stylus setup much more forced and nowhere near as natural.  For the casual gamer however, the hardware and design won’t really be the selling point since it is the choice of games available that ultimately dictate their choice. If you like epic adventure/action games like Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots or Lost Planet 2, or any of these attractive-looking and smoothly-designed titles, then the PS Vita is for you if you don’t mind the slightly higher price tag of $299 for the WiFi/3G-capable edition.

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PC

Maingear PC

Ah, the mighty PC. It is a point of contention for most gamers that people even choose to purchase a console when they have the option of having their own custom-built gaming PC to fulfil all of their hardware needs. Though it can be hazardous to one’s health and sanity to get involved in any kind of internet war between console and PC gamers, you cannot help but be inclined to side with the PC gamers from a purely logical point of view. After all, with PC gaming, you have the option of what you want to put in your machine. You can upgrade your PC whenever you want in order to keep up with the rapidly-improving hardware that is frequently released. Moreover, PCs can offer a more stable and generally superior performance than a console with matching hardware - a classic example of one of today's most powerful machines would be the Maingear Super Stock pictured above. Framerate dips are frequent in high-end console games (particularly in multiplayer), whilst a PC running with similar hardware will breeze through the most taxing of games and keep up that all-import 60FPS framerate.

The main downside to PC gaming is the price. PC hardware is pretty expensive, particularly the kind of graphics cards that are needed to run today’s games smoothly. Even if money is no object, PC gaming has a reputation for being quite closed-off and almost eccentric: you can’t sit on the sofa with a control and join in friends – you have to sit in a darkened room without eating or sleeping in order to be a hardcore PC gamer. Valve’s Steam OS is looking to combat this problem however, bringing the best of console gaming to your living room and freeing PC gamers from the shackles of the computer desk and keyboard. PC gaming is primarily a matter of budget, but given the choice, any sane person would choose a PC over a console because of sheer processing power and the speed of technological development which can be taken advantage of at any time without having to wait for the next generation of console to drop.

Steam Machine

Steam Machine

Steam has been steadily gaining popularity over the years, starting off as a brilliant platform through which people can purchase a few games and growing into what is now a multi-purpose gaming solution catering to a massive audience. The rise of Steam has been so substantially meteoric that it can now afford to tinker around with its own OS, and as of 2014 will be releasing its very own hardware in the form of the Steam Machine.

The Steam Machine looks to be the first device to empower PC gamers and expand their field of play, allowing them to take advantage of any substantially large TV they have in their living room by using it as a display for a console which Steam hope will change PC gaming forever. The hardware it possesses is pretty closely guarded for the time being, but it will possess an Nvidia GeFore GTX Titan graphics card and powerful CPU to rival that of any PC. The controller is the most notable feature at the moment; it will have two touch-sensitive pads in place of buttons and joysticks; motion control is also going to be a feature in the future. The constroller  will actually be sold separately by Steam itself, who want to serve its existing PC-centric customer base as well as expand into the console-based market as well. This console is one to watch because if it is received well it could very well be the future of gaming.

Ouya

Ouya

In spite of an extremely successful kick-starter campaign, the Ouya didn’t exactly take off when it was released. This tiny little micro-console runs its own Android version and has a controller that is similar in shape to the PS3’s though has Xbox-like joysticks. It has a quad-core. 1.7gHz processor  and has an Nvidia Geforce ULP GPU, neither of which are going to blow rival consoles away, though it is an innovative little device nonetheless.

As it stands, the main drawback of the Ouya is currently the relative lack of games/apps/software for it, making it a poor console of choice for anyone at the moment. It has a slick interface and runs on tried-and-tested Android, but the lack of a substantial software library and a flimsy feeling controller that contrasts with the robust console itself should make prospective buyers think twice before snapping it up.

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Mojo

Mojo

Mad Catz are responsible for the second micro-console on this list, ringing in at a much higher price than the Ouya at $249/£220. The console can fit in the palm of your hand and comes with a decent range of ports (2xUSB, a micro-USB, HDMi, audio, and a microSD card slot) and what Mad Catz are annoyingly calling a “CTRLR”, omitting the all-important vowels in an attempt to sound cutting-edge and “with it”.

The advantages of this console are quite impressive: full compatibility with the Google Play store as well as TegraZone and Amazon; pre-owned apps can be played on it; it has a 1080p output for some seriously high definition entertainment. The problem with this console – and this seems to often be the case with these new Android-based micro-consoles – is that there aren’t enough apps optimised for larger screens, which is a problem considering that it is these very such screens that the Mojo itself designed for utilizing. The hefty price tag is also an issue with this one, which should be steered clear of if one can help it.

Gamestick

Gamestick

Another micro-console that seems to be just a slightly different interpretation on a centrally-running theme , the Gamestick looks pretty slick in that the stick itself is stored inside its wireless controller. The design of the controller itself is clunky an awkward, while the hardware in the tiny little console is fairly lacklustre, being the equivalent of the iPad 3’s processing power, though still rivalling the Ouya on paper.

Annoyingly, the console needs additional power further to simply plugging it into a HDMI port on the back of your TV as well – not quite as slick as it looks, is it Playjam?

Again, problems arise when checking out the games themselves, which are quite inconsistent because of the open nature of the platform. Some games run smoothly whereas others suffer from framerate issues and others simply don’t look good on a large screen. Its price is its only redeeming factor, standing at $79/£80.

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GamePop

gamepop

The Gamepop is a prospective console that is yet to be released, though is intended to compete with the likes of the Mojo and the Ouya. Not much is known about its specs but from promotional pictures, but the design of the console itself looks quite beautiful, much like a cube embedded in the floor with a wonderful blue hue to it. You will be able to control the Gamepop either with your smartphone or a dedicated controller, and there will also be a “mini” version available in addition to the more powerful standard one.

The Gamepop looks to be struggling to beat the Ouya in terms of pricing, but Bluestacks are offering the console +controller for $129 or the Mini + Controller at no up-front cost, only a $6.99 monthly subscription fee. More information can be found on the Gamepop website, but only time will tell if the console is successful or not. 

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