PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One: Is the time right to buy into next-gen?

It’s been just about nine years since the Xbox 360 launched here in Australia, and around eight since the PlayStation 3 graced our shores. Their successors — the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 — have been out for a bit over a year, but is the time finally right to pack your last-gen console(s) away and finally indulge in the current-gen selection? I’ve seen this question pop up a hell of a lot over the last few months, and while it’s always entirely dependent on your personal taste – the time is right.

Instead of listing off the reasons as to why the time is right for a next-gen console upgrade, I’ll start this off by saying that there are still a myriad of problems currently plaguing these systems, with the first and most evident being a handful of titles launching with bugs, glitches, and ludicrous-sized day one patches.

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It’s no secret that games like Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed Unity, 343’s Halo Master Chief Collection and Sumo Digital’s LittleBigPlanet 3 all launched with significant problems, to which some are still even evident today – five months after launching. Unity had significant performance problems and graphical issues, with countless memes spreading throughout the vast world of the internet thanks to a couple of screenshots with a faceless protagonist. Ubisoft worked to rectify these issues, and the game was stable within a month. My time spent with the game was relatively seamless, but I did suffer the occasional glitch and slow down. 343’s Master Chief Collection worked well on the single-player side of things, but getting multiplayer to work was harder than impressing JK Simmons in Whiplash. Matchmaking is only just now starting to function, five long months after launch, with improvements still required to make the experience completely seamless and enjoyable. Sumo Digital’s LittleBigPlanet 3 was also plagued by awful game breaking bugs, and the last time I gave the game a whirl (back in December), I was still encumbered by a lot of slow down and freezing.

Not all was dark, however, as early adopters of the Master Chief Collection were entitled to Halo 3: ODST as a free download later this year as well as getting an extra month of Xbox Live Gold for the inconvenience caused. Those who bought Assassin’s Creed Unity’s Season Pass were entitled to another Ubisoft game free of charge, with the Season Pass canned completely and the Dead Kings DLC released for free as an apology on behalf of the development team. Obviously this was not the situation gamers nor developers were hoping for, and in an ideal world these issues would not have been happening on launch – but at least both dev teams acknowledged their faults and rectified the issues as well as they possibly could have at the time.

It’s a bit odd to start out an article like this by listing off negatives. I’m not going to just list the positives and be done with it though, because as I mentioned above, these new systems are still plagued with problems and probably will be for a few years yet. Developers are still ironing out the kinks in their games, and as time goes on we’ll most definitely see more polished, glitch-free titles. If not — and I certainly hope this isn’t the case — they will surely know about it through both consumer uproar and negative press.

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The systems themselves also had a relatively bad start with UI and interface management but have come a long way since launch. I remember turning my Xbox One on for the first time and not being able to work out how to go to the settings and change various elements of my Gamertag and the avatar attached to it, and if it weren’t for the Kinect who knows how long it would have taken to get to those settings to start fixing things up. It was general clutter in the Xbox One’s UI that made things just that little bit more annoying when it came down to figuring out how to access the simplest of things.

The PlayStation 4’s simplistic UI certainly made things easy when it came to tweaking settings and checking out trophies, but frustratingly there was practically no way to customize the dashboard to your liking, and if you were like me and took a great amount of joy in buying basically every available game for the system, the dashboard got very cluttered quite quickly, leaving a messy (yet somewhat sleek) looking UI to sift through for the better part of a year.

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The UI on both systems have been relatively fixed in various instances, with Microsoft engraining a few shortcuts to help you navigate the menus as well as having a My Games & Apps section that allows you to manage practically everything you have on your system, while one of the later updates for the PlayStation 4 finally made good use of the Library app. The PS4‘s dashboard itself only shows 15 of the latest apps you’ve used now instead of everything installed on the system, with everything else being shelved into the Library app. You can now choose themes for your PlayStation 4 as well, albeit there’s still a small selection, but it definitely gives your console a bit of personality. The Xbox One has now gone completely customizable too, allowing you to choose the color of your tiles on the home screen and their transparency, as well as having the ability to change your background either via unlocked achievement art or by importing a photo from a USB. The UI in both systems have come a long way in just 16 months with more improvements to be added at the beginning of each month.

When it comes down to it, getting a new system means you’re getting new games. The PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 are slowly being phased out of development by publishers and developers, with this being most prominently seen in Techland’s ditching of last-gen consoles for Dying Light and most recently Avalanche’s announcement that PS3 and 360 versions of Mad Max will not be seeing the light of day. This is going to be an ongoing thing, with last-gen versions of games slowly (but surely) fading away into the darkness. A lot of games coming out this year have already taken the leap exclusively to PC and next-gen systems, while most of the proper console exclusives (Halo 5, Until Dawn, Bloodborne) are only coming out on the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 respectively. If you want to enjoy the aforementioned titles, and there’s quite a lot more that I could have listed here, then you’ll have to grab a new console.

Still haven’t had time to play some of the incredible titles on the PS3 and 360? Well, as has been the crux of conversation for quite some time, definitive editions of games on last-gen systems are also coming to PS4 and Xbox One with upgraded visuals and all of their DLC packed in. Obviously not every major success on the previous systems will see their way to the new consoles, but even a year and a bit into the new cycle I’ve had the chance to dive into Sleeping Dogs, DMC, Tomb Raider and in a weeks time Borderlands 2 and the Pre-sequel, with four out of those five being my first time through the game. I’ve been able to experience the best of last-gen on my new console, earning trophies (and achievements) and enjoying all of the DLC tacked on.

I’ve seen a lot of anger over so many of these definitive editions being released for the new consoles, with a selection of gamers being particularly frustrated as to why developers aren’t focussing their attention on sequels or new IP. To be frank – you don’t have to buy these games and it certainly doesn’t take a whole dev team to craft these remasters. Interestingly enough, a lot of the games being remastered I blatantly ignored in my younger years, and it enables me to fill the gap between big new IP releases. If this is still happening four years down the track, it’s probably going to be a bigger issue, but for now I’m completely delighted with these remastered versions coming through.

I mentioned new IP earlier, and this will be my final point in grabbing a new console now. First party titles are slowly filtering their way out for the new consoles, and they’re really taking their time especially with Sony’s lineup this year, but there’s already some genuinely awesome exclusives out on both systems already – with my personal favourites being Sunset Overdrive on Xbox One and inFamous Second Son on PS4. These games are early examples of what the new consoles can do, and who knows what we’ll be playing at the end of this year. There’s already a solid lineup of exclusives to choose from on both systems, and you couldn’t say that 16 months into the 360 and PS3‘s life cycle.

If those games don’t tickle your fancy, have a quick look at what’s already out for both systems, with Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor and Dragon Age: Inquisition being the primary examples of how big a difference the jump from 360 and PS3 to Xbox One and PS4 can make. Looking around the corner, titles like The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and Batman Arkham Knight are both slated for release before this year’s E3. That’s two of the most successful series coming out within three months, only on the new consoles and PC.

Nothing is perfect in the gaming industry. We experience disappointment, frustration and bewilderment a lot, but it’s something we’ve learnt to take on the chin. As a community, gamers have always had the biggest say and developers know that. Amongst the problems these consoles have had, the biggest factor to note is that teams are working hard to fix the issues plaguing their games and the systems themselves, and that’s really what matters. On the bright side, there’s a lot to look forward to over the next year, and the new consoles (and/or PC) are going to be the only way to experience it. From Batman: Arkham Knight, to Star Wars Battlefront, to console exclusives like Bloodborne, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, Halo 5: Guardians, Quantum Break and more, it’s time to start saving for a new console as the time is finally right to indulge in what the next generation of gaming has to offer.

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