In a massive stroke of luck that seems uncharacteristic for this year, I managed to secure pre-orders for two consoles over the last few months, and this last week, I’ve put in time with both the Playstation 5 and the Xbox Series S. While it’s likely to be a few more months until people who missed out on pre-orders can get their hands on either of these new machines, we now have a very good idea of what the next 6-8 years of console gaming are going to look like. There are things to be excited about, things to be cautiously optimistic about, and things to be just plain old cautious about. So, without any further preamble, let’s take a look at what the ninth generation of consoles has to offer. 

First Impressions

What immediately struck me in the months leading to these console launches is that this generation seemed much more focused on the experience of the consumer than the last one was. I’m sure many people still remember the infamous reveal of the Xbox One, and this time around, there was nothing so blatantly anti-consumer as that. Instead, we got two vastly different approaches to the way in which each console was advertised; with Microsoft, it was all about getting people invested in a familiar and increasingly ubiquitous Xbox ecosystem at any cost, while Sony went for a more traditional focus on more powerful hardware and a ton of exclusive games. Both approaches had merit, and both offered a particular experience for the consumer. I got my Xbox Series S so that I could continue to play all the games I’ve spent the last 12 years accumulating on a more powerful machine, not so that I could play the newest and shiniest games on the market. To that point, I haven’t been disappointed in the slightest. It feels like an iterative upgrade on the Xbox One, and for the price point of the Series S, that’s a great value to me. On the flip side, I got a PS5 to be my flagship console for the remainder of the generation, giving me a way to play new releases over the next few years the way they were intended to be played, and I haven’t been disappointed with it either. The technology, which we’ll get into soon, is genuinely  impressive, and I’ve had a blast diving into the launch games for it. 

Unfortunately, the lack of launch games is the biggest issue with the new consoles. Microsoft made the questionable choice to advertise the fact that there would be no exclusives to the Series X/S for a few years, and many of the games that Sony was promising were delayed until 2021. As a result, neither console has a particularly robust launch lineup, and much of what I’ve been playing on them since I finished the Demon’s Souls Remake are last-gen games. Granted, this isn’t a terrible thing; on the contrary, I love that both consoles have a way to access a back catalogue of games for a small subscription fee. It negates that ancient problem of unpacking your new console, finishing whatever game you got with it, then allowing it to gather dust while you wait to expand your library. However, there’s only so many times I can play Fallout 4 and Bloodborne, and unless you’re looking to play Demon’s Souls (a remake of a game that’s over a decade old) or replace a previous generation console with a new model, there’s no real reason to buy any of the new boxes yet. 

The Technology

Something that’s really stuck out in this generation is that it seems as though the obsession with realistic graphics is finally over. Make no mistake, the games on the PS5 look fantastic and are incredibly detailed, but I think the general public has stopped being impressed by games trying to visually emulate real life, and the main innovations in the new consoles reflect that shift. From the marketing to the games themselves, it seems that Sony was less interested in showcasing the graphical power of their games, and more on how the PS5 would impact the experience of playing them. The SSD has enabled lightning fast loading times, and while that may not be a feature that’s immediately apparent to a spectator, it has completely changed the way I play. As I went through Demon’s Souls, I stared at the iconic “You Died” screen countless times, and more than once I caught myself reaching for my phone while I waited to respawn. It never took more than a second and a half. In fact, I was usually back to gameplay before I could even reach over to my phone. As someone who’s a big fan of Bethesda and From Software games, I’ve had to contend with some truly egregious load times over the years, and with their elimination, I can already tell I’m going to have trouble ever going back to old consoles. Even from the PS5 home screen, it takes less than ten seconds from the point in which I open the game to the point of having control of my character. Longtime PC players will talk about how they’ve had these kinds of load times for years, but having it on something as accessible and budget friendly as a console is going to fundamentally change game design in the coming years. 

Another huge innovation is the DualSense controller for the PS5, and it is something that Sony has boasted about to no end. To their credit, it is incredibly impressive technology, and despite my reservations about how it would actually feel to use, I was more than impressed. The adaptive triggers feel really satisfying to use, the haptic feedback was used to great effect in the handful of games I played, and from an ergonomic perspective, the design is the best that Playstation has ever had. It also feels a lot sturdier than the Dualshock 4, and given that it’s an expensive replacement, that’s reassuring. With all this being said, my biggest concern is still very much alive; outside of first party Sony exclusives, how many games will actually utilize these features? Even in Demon’s Souls, a game which you’d think could find all sorts of use for something like the adaptive triggers, the only controller function that it took advantage of was the haptic feedback. It’s really cool tech, and I’d love to see it put to good use, but only time will tell if it actually will. 

You might notice this section has been largely focused on the PS5, and that’s not an accident. The Series X, which I was not able (or particularly interested) to get my hands on seems to be largely the same in terms of performance to the PS5, and it’s good to see that they can keep parity with each other, but it lacks the big controller innovations that have defined the the move from PS4 to PS5. On the other hand, the Series S doesn’t have 4k support, a disc drive, or a few other key features of its stablemates, but for the functions I need it to serve, it serves them admirably. The one big new feature is the ability to have multiple games open at once, something that I’ve taken huge advantage of, as I tend to get bored of some games quickly. It’s nice to be able to switch between games in seconds, and while the PS5  doesn’t have the feature (at the time of writing at least), load times are so quick that it barely makes a difference.

As for the new Xbox controller, it’s more of the same, and that’s also not a terrible thing to my mind. As far as I’m concerned, the Xbox One had the best standard controller design of all time, and the Series S/X controller is almost identical, albeit with a better d-pad, more texture on the grips and triggers, and with a dedicated share button. There isn’t anything that will blow your mind like with the Dualsense, it’s just an all around well designed controller with few bells or whistles. 

And yes, 60 FPS seems to be the standard for everything I’ve played.

The Console War

Even when the consoles had just been revealed over the summer, people on the internet were declaring which side had won the console war for this generation. As always, this idea of some great battle of the brands is ludicrous; at best, it promotes unquestioning loyalty to a brand and corporation, and ultimately just serves to deepen divisions in the community. That being said, despite having owned and played primarily on an Xbox One last generation, I think in hindsight most people will recognize that the PS4 was the better piece of hardware. In this generation though, I think both sides have pretty equal footing, they just both serve very different spaces in the market. While Xbox tries to make gaming more inclusive and accessible to everyone through services like Games Pass and products like their accessible controller, Sony has pushed the technology for playing games farther than we could have imagined it would go this generation. Which one you want to play on will depend entirely on what you’re looking for in gaming, and that’s great. There will be a lot of healthy competition over the next few years, and I can’t wait to see what kind of innovations that competition will give rise to. For now though, I have both consoles sitting on my entertainment stand, and I think they’ve both done enough to earn their space there.

With the PlayStation 5 reveal event having wrapped up earlier today, it seems the eighth generation of consoles is about to make way for the next. There is a lot to unpack with the presentation, which was focused mainly on gameplay and new announcements. So, let’s dispense with the preamble and take a closer look at what the next generation will offer us. 

In many ways, this felt like an exceptionally fast paced E3 conference, with announcement after announcement and barely a breath in between. If this is how other companies choose to promote themselves throughout the summer with E3 2020 having been cancelled, the coming months are going to be an exciting time for gamers. It was actually refreshing compared to how the last generation of consoles was announced (who could forget that infamous Xbox One reveal). 

The Games

Sony kicked off the live stream in a puzzling way with an announcement that they would be continuing a partnership with Rockstar and a trailer for GTA 5. To be frank, I found this set my expectations for the rest of the presentation very low. It was a strange choice to have a game from the seventh generation of consoles as the first thing we see on the ninth. What followed was the announcement of a followup to the wildly successful Marvel’s Spiderman, then a new Gran Turismo game. While the Spider-man game was interesting, and i’m sure Gran Turismo will excite a more niche audience of racing game fans, I feel the first few minutes were a misstep. The games looked gorgeous, but there was nothing that I felt I couldn’t have gotten on PS4. Thankfully, things picked up quickly from there and didn’t slow down for over an hour. 

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By my count, there were 24 games shown during the roughly 90 streams, many of which featured actual gameplay. While there is far too much to go into depth on everything shown in this article, some of the highlights included the following. Ratchet and Clank: A Rift Apart – This was the first of the games shown that really impressed me. It’s nice to see that, as the mainstream industry pushes closer and closer to photorealism in games, there are still studios out there who are using the tech to make gorgeous games that are full of colour and almost Pixar-like animation. 

  • Sackboy: A Big Adventure – With Knack having failed on nearly every conceivable level (twice), it looks like Sony is bringing back their last beloved mascot. Based off the Little Big Planet character, it looks like a fun and charming game that will boost the family friendly library on the console.
  • Oddworld: Soulstorm – I know this is one that will really resonate with a lot of people. I don’t have much of a history with the series myself, but I know the fanbase has an undying love for the Oddworld games, and based off the trailer, this will more than satisfy them. 
  • Ghostwire: Tokyo – Originally announced at E3 last year (by one of the most charming people to ever work in this industry, Ikumi Nakamura), we finally got our first look at this supernatural action game. From ghost people to shooting ice from your hands, this looks like it’ll be a blast. It also demonstrated the power of the PS5 in subtle ways that many of the other games hadn’t. I was amazed at how many windows seemed to have interiors, at how much detail was packed into the environment, even as the action drew your focus away from it. This was one that truly looks next-gen. 
  • Godfall – From Gearbox, this one was another game that was intent on showing the power of the new console. A third-person melee action game, this one oozes style, and the moment to moment gameplay looks like it will be a blast. 
  • Hitman 3 – I have to admit, I didn’t anticipate this one getting a third game. I love the Hitman series, especially the newer ones, but the previous two haven’t sold particularly well by most accounts. That being said, I’m thrilled to see a conclusion to this trilogy. Between the breathtaking graphics demonstrated here and the core gameplay which has only gotten more dialed in with every new entry, I can’t wait to get my hands on this one. 
  • NBA 2K21 –  Yeah, those sweat physics looked neat. 
  • Bugsnax – I have no idea what’s going on in this one, but it looks fun and cute as hell. Between the intriguing glimpses of the world and the fact that it comes to us from the creators of Octodad, there’s good reason to keep your eyes on this one. 

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  • Demon’s Souls: Remake – This one is going to be the system seller for a lot of people. Demon’s Souls may not be From Softwares most well known game, but it was the one that started them on the path to the Dark Souls trilogy, Bloodborne, and Sekiro. A lot of people missed out on the original given that it was a PS3 exclusive (and a somewhat more obscure one at that), so hopefully this will be enough to draw in a whole new group of people to the Soulsborne games. 
  • Deathloop – Also announced at E3 this year, this is the new game from Arkane, the studio behind the Dishonored series. I bring this up because that is exactly what Deathloop looks like; more Dishonored with a new art style and an intriguing new setting. While not revolutionary, it’s going to be exciting to see more from the studio. 
  • Resident Evil VIII – Not a particularly surprising announcement given that it was leaked beforehand, this is still something to be excited about. All of the last 3 Resident Evil releases were fantastic, and there is nothing to suggest that this will break that streak. Capcom has been knocking it out of the park lately, and this is bound to be another home run. 
  • Horizon: Forbidden West – Maybe the biggest announcement of the show, the sequel to Horizon: Zero Dawn is what has truly convinced me of the power of next-gen. While there was no gameplay shown, the stunning beauty of the previous game leads me to believe that what we saw at the reveal wasn’t far off from what the finished product will look like.

There were a ton of other interesting titles, all of which look like they’ll round out an incredibly diverse library for the system. This is the biggest selling point of the console for me so far – I can’t think of a single generic looking game during the presentation. No modern military shooters or grey-brown action games here, just a wide array of impressive and fun looking games from all across the gaming spectrum. This is how to reveal a console; after all, playing games is why we buy these boxes. That being said, let’s get into the nitty-gritty a little bit. 

Some Nitty Gritty

There wasn’t much in terms of technical details, seeing as how those were revealed a while back. That being said, we did get confirmation that the system will support 4K. What was more interesting was the in depth look of the new controllers. The DualSense controller will feature USB-C, a built in microphone and speaker, haptic feedback,motion controls, and the adaptive triggers that caused a stir a few months ago. It will also feature a headphone jack, meaning that there will not be an adaptor needed to use headphones. From a design standpoint, the controller looks as sleak up close as it did when it was revealed a while back, and it seems to have taken a page from the Xbox One controller in terms of ergonomic design (a smart move in my opinion). 

Announced alongside the console was a slew of accessories, including a wireless headset with noise cancelling technology, a charging dock for the controller, and a camera, which is presumably to promote streaming on the device. These are currently assumed to be sold separately. Given that the Xbox One was a hundred bucks more expensive because it was bundled with the stupid Kinect, there are no complaints here. Sony also announced a digital edition with no disc drive. While it makes sense given that an all digital future is where the industry is headed, it is sad to think that this generation will likely signify the end of physical games.

There was no price or release date announced, although a few of the games claimed to be coming Holiday 2020, so we can assume it will be before the end of the year. 

So, with the reveal done and having had some time to think about it, I’m really excited about what the PS5, and the ninth generation of consoles, has to offer. A lot of what we’ve seen so far (which is, admittedly, fairly little) has been shown to be pretty pro-consumer, and that bodes well for the next 6-8 years of gaming, especially after the last generation.