2020 was a year unlike any other in a lot of ways, but one specific part of the year was the launch of both next-gen systems the PS5 and Xbox Series X. Unlike any console generation before, these were both delivered in the middle of a pandemic. With that came unusual marketing campaigns, seemingly driven by game delays and a lack of content ready to show, worries around price and questions on how we could get our hands on a console. Now, we’re just over a month past both next-gen console launches and we got together to put our first month impressions together.
I do feel a little guilty having access to both the Xbox Series X and the PlayStation 5 in a holiday season when so many people are having so much difficulty even finding just one of them. But, the last month has given us some early perspective on where these two consoles are heading.
The PS5 is the one that feels the most ‘next-gen’. The haptics introduced in the controller, along with resistive triggers, genuinely change the experience in games like Spider-Man: Miles Morales, and you couldn’t ask for a better demo of all the new technology than the brilliant Astro’s Playroom. It does feel like a generational leap.
On the Xbox side, this launch initially doesn’t feel much different to the Xbox One X launch. Graphical performance has taken another stride forward, but there isn’t a lot to showcase it – yet. There are lengthy and rewarding experiences to play through like Yakuza: Like a Dragon, but the game is available on other platforms and only really benefits from a boost in framerate on the Series consoles.
What is different, however, is the amount of games instantly available to you. While PlayStation’s curated “PlayStation Collection” is a great package of 20 or so games for PS Plus subscribers, if you buy a Series console and subscribe to Game Pass Ultimate, you have access to literally hundreds of Xbox, Xbox 360, Xbox One and Series-enhanced games out of the box, through the huge Game Pass library which will reliably have all of Xbox’s big first-party titles, to monthly free ‘Games with Gold’ and access to the EA Play library of their titles now as well. It’s a console pitched as a service – the easiest way to immediately gain access to a huge library of games, for a monthly fee, and I’m sure we’ll see further Series consoles more regularly come out to enhance players’ experience with this service. There’s two different philosophies here, Sony are playing checkers while Xbox is playing chess. Which strategy pays off, we’ll find out, but I prefer The Grape Escape personally.
Despite advocating for not buying new consoles at launch, I’ve found myself in possession of both a PS5 and Xbox Series X at launch. A month later, and I’m finding that while I’m enjoying myself, once again launch is the worst time to get into a console generation.
More than any other generation before it, there seems to be a dearth of next-generation exclusives, but the great third party games are keeping me going in a way I didn’t quite expect. Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales was great fun, Sackboy is better than I expected and Yakuza: Like a Dragon and Assassin’s Creed Valhalla have already given me hours of enjoyment with many more left. The gaming front may not have too many mega hits, but there’s plenty of solid and even great games here.
Unfortunately, the console OS and software space hasn’t been smooth sailing for me. On PS5 I’ve had game crashes and my PS5 turning on to just display a black screen before restarting, while some of the OS design decisions are frustrating. On Xbox Series X, I had problems with my console suddenly refusing to connect to any controllers when turned on via rest mode and quick resume still not being 100% reliable. Overall, however, these issues have been relatively mild annoyances compared to the hard crashes and other issues others have faced.
Overall, I’d say that I’m cautiously optimistic after my first month with both consoles. There looks to be plenty of good games to play so far (and hopefully we avoid the droughts of the past) while most of my problems are ones that are fixable via software updates in the future.
‘Twas One Month Into Next Gen, and all through the house,
New consoles were whirring, annoying my spouse;
The PS5 laid flat while the Series X stood,
In hopes that they would behave and be good;
The children were interested in Sackboy and Bugsnax,
But when they were gone, I went to Valhalla with an axe;
I played Watch Dogs Legion with its ray-tracing shine,
Its gorgeous reflections and its super-quick load-time;
But part of me thought, ‘is this all that we get?’
Something was missing, not just a headset;
For the launch did not go to plan as they thought,
They ran out of consoles, oh, none could be bought!
The launch window was filled with ‘compatible’ games,
like FIFA, NBA, and other big names;
New IP’s were lacking, and delays brought us grief,
No sign of Gran Turismo, or poor Master Chief;
So we’re waiting for stock to arrive from afar,
It’s all out of stock, we were close, but no cigar;
Yes we’re waiting for games, hell, we’d just like amity,
But we found ourselves playing Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity;
Oh, Christmas is near and there’s nothing under our tree,
Cyberpunk was a bust unless you have a good PC;
But hear me exclaim, don’t rise up, just wait,
2020 WAS THE WORST, 2021 WILL BE GREAT!