This piece is published in longer form on our sibling site The Escapist. If you’re considering one of the holiday season’s big game systems, check out these head-to-head match-ups in the categories that matter—then read the full-length versions.
Pro: The alternating matte and glossy finish is nice—a safe choice somewhere between industrial and home, with the size and straight lines pretty clearly attempting to signal that this is a Powerful Machine.
Con: The thing is too big, and not too quiet, though not nearly as loud as an Xbox 360.
Pro: It’s clearly, obviously, and attractively designed. From the beveled faces to the single quarter of sleek plastic against the matte finish on the rest of the console, there’s a guiding force here.
Con: The glossy finish on the controller easily shows smudges and dirt. It’s also disappointing to see a simple headphone jack. Likewise, the included headphone is incredibly basic, and most gamers will want to replace it.
Pro: Connect and plug in the power brick, connect the Kinect, hook up the HDMI, and voila.
Con: The existence of that power brick. It’s a second piece of hardware that needs to live in a well-ventilated space, given the real possibility of overheating.
Pro: Unboxing the PS4 is like those action movies with the build-your-own-rifle suitcases. You open the already trim packaging, and everything is elegantly laid out for you. You just plug the power cord from the PS4 to the wall, hook up the HDMI to your TV and turn the sucker on.
Con: The camera cord weighs about as much as the camera itself and will often move it.
Pro: There are a series of hard-edged squares and rectangles, brightly colored, and you can navigate them with the controller easily enough. The voice commands of the Kinect are even easier, and it’s amazingly useful to just tell the Xbox what you want it to do. Removing the barrier between your brain’s desires and action is a definite advantage, at the risk of sounding like a moron talking to yourself.
Con: The voice commands only seem to work 65% of the time.
Pro: The first thing you notice about is the obscenely pleasant background music. There’s a streamlined menu system, and it’s simple to press the button on the DualShock 4 and immediately upload a screenshot to Facebook, or start broadcasting on Twitch.
Con: If you’re not a social gamer,and don’t populate your friends list, all of the social stuff and the share features of the UI will be useless to you.
Controller & Input
Pro: It has a nice smooth back, and a natural grip which lets your fingers spread out instead of needing to death-grip the sides.
Con: On the whole it’s not a bad controller, but it doesn’t come out as a marked improvement from the Xbox 360.
Pro: The DualShock 4 is without a doubt the best feeling controller Sony has produced to date. The joysticks and shoulder buttons are all very responsive and spring back to place – gone are the big mushy triggers from the DualShock 2.
Con: The microphone headset is a chintzy earbud on a flimsy piece of wire.
Applications & Sharing
Pro: The new Microsoft Store lets you download all of the applications available for the console, third-party or otherwise. They look and work just like Windows 8 on desktop.
Con: The heavy reliance on voice commands and less refined menu controls doesn’t feel like a seamless experience. You may find yourself searching through multiple screens and menus if your Xbox misunderstands you and inadvertently sends you home instead of back into the game where you belong.
Pro: The share and streaming features are easy to use and integrate seamlessly.
Con: If you were hoping for a major PlayStation Store redesign, you’ll be disappointed. MP3 playback is not supported. Video editing requires you to suspend game play entirely.
Pro: A varied selection and a strong number of games available only online.
Pro: Many multiplatform titles, such as Assassin’s Creed 4, Call of Duty and Madden.
Con: There’s not a lot in the exclusive department to really get us excited.
For more detailed reviews, and to see which machine reigns supreme, visit The Escapist.