Next Gen Buyer’s Guide 2013

Andy stops by with a guide to the new generation of gaming. Are we sitting comfortably? 

When people think of next generation gaming, most will just picture the Xbox One or the PlayStation 4. However, there are in fact several options available all tailored to suit individual circumstances, and I’m here to give you unbiased reviews of each platform without letting my “Sonytendo” alliances get in the way. So, divorce yourself of any brand loyalty and we’ll begin!

Ouya

Price: £100.

Power rating: 3/10 (Roughly 2/3rds the power of the Xbox 360).

Unique features: The Ouya is tiny, and for its size has the most power to cm/3 to any next generation console. The device is completely open to modifications both in hardware and software terms.

Exclusives: Soul Fjord, Survival Instinct Prequel. Launch: Polarity, Yummy Circus.

The Lowdown: The Ouya was hailed the saviour of independent gaming, and I myself supported the idea. However, the Ouya only provides a marginally better experience than an android device, along with a controller that feels cheap. The games themselves are great and run better than what you would get on android, but it does show promise, and in principal, I’m all for supporting the indie scene.

Should I buy an Ouya?: Not really… but almost. The Ouya has the potential to be a neat gift for a casual gamer or someone who can’t afford a decent android device. That said, I underline the casual gamer part because, comparatively, it’s far too expensive for what it is – at least in the UK.

Wii U

Price: £250.

Power rating: 6/10 (Roughly 2x the power of the Xbox 360).

Unique features: Mainly the gamepad which allows for secondary gameplay features on a second screen, and allowing you to play most Wii U titles on the gamepad alone. This allows a loved one or family member not to miss their favourite TV show, gamepad acts as a TV remote.

Exclusives: Titles at Launch: Nintendo Land, New Super Mario Bros. U, Zombi U, Tank! Tank! Tank!, Chasing Aurora. 2013: Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, Lego City Undercover, Rabbids Land, Pikmin 3, New Super Luigi U, Wonderful 101, Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD, Sonic Lost World, Super Mario 3D World, Winter Games, Nano Assult Neo, Pokemon Rumble, Wii Party U, Wii Karaoke U, Wii Sports Club, Wii Fit U. 2014: Mario and Sonic at the SochiDonkey Kong Tropical Freeze, Mario Kart 8, Bayonetta 2, Fast Racing Neo. TBA: Monolith Soft’s X, The Legend of Zelda U, Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem.

The lowdown: Yes Nintendo does have a next gen console, and it’s been out for an entire year with most people thinking it’s an overpriced peripheral for the Wii. I have already reviewed the Wii U (here) but let’s just say it’s an extremely fun HD games console designed at Nintendo fans and families.

Should I buy a Wii U?: A recommendation comes with a caveat. Nintendo have recently gone for a cheaper, less-powerful console not as capable as its rivals. The Wii U is powerful enough to cope with most of what the next gen games can throw at it. In fact, there are more native 1080p games coming out so far for the Wii U than on the Xbox One (so far), and from what I’ve seen, a lot of Wii U games output at 1080p and look gorgeous. Still, Nintendo haven’t been known to get an awful lot of third-party support in the past, and if you’re looking at multiplatform games that look their best, the Wii U is a secondary or tertiary console at best. For where the Wii U really shines is its first and third-party exclusives.

Having a one year head start, the Wii U is packed full of them and they‘re fun, addictive and range from ages three to eighteen-plus, and if 2014 is anything to go by, things are about to get serious with the Big N’s games library. The gamepad really does bring something to the table and I find myself looking for a second screen when playing on my PC or PlayStation 3. The social networking aspect of Miiverse is fun and even the multimedia functions of Netflix are great on the Wii U.

But to cut a Wii U review short, get this console if you are either: 1) A parent looking for your son or daughter’s first games console, 2) A fan of Nintendo franchises, because when third-parties fail to port their games over, Nintendo will give you all of your favourite franchises from its lifetime. Ultimately, if you don’t like games by Mario’s bosses (you heartless monster) or you aren’t looking for a child-friendly console, I’d save your money and buy something else.

Xbox One

Price: £430.

Power rating: 7.6/10 (roughly 8x more powerful than Xbox 360, but its software takes up a lot of resources).

Unique features: A brilliant (comparatively-speaking) operating system which gives you what I can only describe as the ultimate multimedia experience of the next four to five years at least. It has Kinect 2, which is a crazy HAL9000-esque compulsorily peripheral that can measure your heartbeat and probably has a hidden feature that disintegrates you if the NSA ask for it.

Exclusives: At Launch: Forza Motorsport 5, Dead Rising 3, Ryse, Killer Insinct, Halo 5, Xbox Fitness 2013. 2014: Sunset Overdrive, Kinect Sports Rivals, Crimson Dragon, Powerstar Golf. TBA: Quantum BreakD4, Fable Legends.

The lowdown: The Xbox One is the ultimate multimedia machine capable of allowing you to watch TV/Netflix, Skype a friend, and play games all at the same time with just your voice and a few hand gestures. Its OS is second to none and admittedly its selling point. If you want an extremely powerful Smart TV and console in one, and like the Wii U, you don’t mind playing games that look good enough and are still bloody amazing, then the Xbox One is for you. The only other console you may want to consider as secondary is a Wii U, which you can plug directly into the Xbox One.

The Xbox One’s features are multimedia-based designed for you to get everything all in one box. Do not imagine for a second that this is a games console designed to be used by one single person. The games themselves look great, and for any true lifer – good enough. While you will gain a better visual experience on the other consoles coming up, this device is all about a living room experience rather than the traditional “this box is for games” experience.

Should I buy an Xbox One ?: Possibly, depending if you play alone. You see Xbox One is by far the best console for those who enjoy lots of bells and whistles; if you enjoy being able to have that futuristic all-in-one entertainment experience. But it is not recommended if, like me, you mainly play games in your bedroom, on your own, or if no-one in your household cares about all the other features. This console is more of a household experience – a console that is shared amongst your family, loved ones or flatmates. If you’re expecting a console designed just around gaming then, even if you are loyal to the Xbox brand, this kit is not for you. This is a multimedia device which just happens to be able to play next-gen games, too.

PlayStation 4

Price: £350.

Power rating: 8/10 (Roughly 8x the power of the Xbox 360)

Unique features: A weird touchpad on the controller, a share button to record and share a video of your game, plays games instantly even if it’s still downloading or installing your game.

Exclusives: At Launch: Killzone: Shadowfall, Knack. 2014: Driveclub, Earth Defence Force, Infamous: Second Son, The Order 1866Mobile Suit Gunda. TBA: N++, Shadow of the Beast, Deep Down, Untitled Uncharted Sequel.

The lowdown: The PS4 is probably the best value for money multiplatform gaming experience for this generation. Its truly a console designed around gaming. While it can do similar things to the Xbox One, it is aimed mainly at pushing the hardcore console experience with a less resource-gobbling OS to provide the maximum pleasure. It also has good enough graphical capabilities with most games aiming to run at native 1080p at sixty frames per second! Its controller is by far the most comfortable I’ve held out of the current crop, too. The only problem I have is paying to play online, much like the Xbox 360 last generation. Oh, and its cheaper than an Xbox One!

Should I buy a PS4 ?: Almost definitely! The PlayStation 4 is so far the most value for money as far as the hardware in the box is concerned. The games look and play well, and it’s pretty much guaranteed to get every multiplatform title and have some great exclusives during its lifetime. If you want a cheap gaming machine that works out of the box with not much fuss, and its something you mainly play yourself rather than sharing with family, the PS4 is definitely the console to buy. Just be aware that, unlike the PS3, you will need to pay to play online.

Steam Machine/SteamOS

Price: Various.

Power rating: 8 and beyond depending on model and components.

Unique features: You can upgrade parts whenever you want, PC games are visually the most appealing, Steam Sales are EPIC, and the new controller looks potentially amazing, with upgrades that will NEVER become outdated… ever.

Exclusives: N/A.

The lowdown: It’s a PC! Yes, Steam Machines and Steam OS bring you a next generation experience that can, in the long run, save you money and stay next-gen forever. Here’s how it all works: Steam is a digital distribution service for a good deal of PC games. Generally, as its all downloaded, most games are cheaper than a retail copy. Steam Machines are dedicated gaming PCs with SteamOS pre-installed – optimised to play games at certain graphical standards for different wallets, bundled with Valve’s new controller. Put in simple terms: it’s your very own dedicated gaming PC designed around games only.

Steam OS is a way of taking your current PC with or without upgrades and converting it into a dedicated gaming machine without all those resources Windows takes up, allowing your current graphics card to work 50% more efficiently. So long as your TV takes VGA or your PC has an HDMI output, you’re good to go. Of course, you can install it alongside Windows if you wish. Naturally, you don’t have to use or buy Valve’s new controller designed to replace the trusty keyboard and mouse, but you can buy one separately. This option is designed for more advanced users with knowledge on OS instillation and hardware upgrading. The Steam Controller is the only one I can’t comment on. It has two trackpads which have been calibrated to (apparently) work better than a keyboard and mouse, a touchscreen in the middle with four buttons surrounding it, and four buttons including two analogue trigger buttons. It’s best you visit Valve’s official website to get the full specs.

Should I get a Steam Machine?: Yes, if you are willing to take that definitive step in saying goodbye to a console like the PS4 and saying hello to PC gaming. It has always been the more expensive of the options, but recently a lot of hardware that is considered “next gen ready” is cheap enough and good enough to get you through this generation. I upgraded my PC to be next-gen ready for only £210 ( £40 less than a Wii U), and will make a further upgrade with a separate SSD for SteamOS (and maybe my games) for around £40-£60. Even going full-hog and building a Steam Machine from scratch needn’t be the £1500 nightmare, so long as you shop around and get advice from friendly people you can build a SteamOS-only PC for around £450-£500. You could have it running rings around the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One.

Not only that, but Steam has a huge weapon up its sleeve: Steam Sales. Say goodbye to your wallet during Summer, Autumn and Winter because games get CHEAP. I bought Portal 2 brand-new for £3.25 and Bioshock: Infinate for £7.75. Games that you missed out on during the year can have up to 75% off the already-discounted prices on Steam, which means that you save enough money during your time on OS to afford to upgrade your PC once the hardware shows its age. Certainly something to think about before you purchase a PS4 or One, because unless there’s certain irresistible exclusives on a console you want, your best bet is a PC/Steam Machine.

There you have it! All five next generation platforms, all of which are worth purchasing for certain individuals. Personally, I’m sticking with my PC and Wii U unless PS4 or Xbox have that must-buy exclusive (so far, both have failed to provide one at launch).

I wish you all a happy new generation… hope you choose wisely!

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