Microsoft Resets The Clock With The New Xbox One

Finally, two months after the PlayStation 4 reveal, Microsoft has announced its new console, and on first impressions it’s not quite as impressive as its competitor. For one, calling it the Xbox One seems a fairly unimaginative get-out clause to using a bigger number, and, although probably unintentional, seems like a direct ploy to have a lower number than the PlayStation 4.

Not only has Microsoft reset the clock, it’s also reset its design ethos; Microsoft has taken the stance of creating a multimedia entertainment hub that allows you to jump from TV to movies to music to a game (and it’s listed in this order on the Xbox website). The Xbox One is compatible with your satellite or cable TV connection, and has Skype, which can be used in Snap Mode while you watch TV. Another feature heavily emphasised is that the Xbox One can be voice and motion controlled – this just seems like a flashy gimmick rather than a necessary addition, though. The console will be available later this year.

Getting down to what’s important, the main tech of the Xbox One is as follows: an 8-core CPU, a D3D 11.1 chip with 32 MB embedded memory GPU, 8GB RAM, a 500 GB HDD storage memory and a Blu-Ray compatible disk drive. This machine is surprising similar in architecture to the PlayStation 4, so it seems a mystery as to why Microsoft has so clearly chosen broad entertainment as its focus over pure gaming.

It’s difficult not to compare the Xbox One launch to the PS4 one as they are the main competitors in the home console market, but Microsoft made a wise decision by almost immediately showing the hardware itself (something Sony has yet to do, though they released a teaser just yesterday). It’s certainly nothing like the 360; it’s rectangular and looks more like a TV box than a games console. Its look is completely understated, but it has a few design flourishes; the top of the console is subdivided into two 16:9 rectangles, which is the traditional aspect ratio of widescreen televisions. It does seem that the Xbox One is focused on TV rather than games, being more concerned with people watching Game Of Thrones on their machine than playing the new Halo. Indeed, no games were announced at the launch.

Microsoft also announced a new Kinect, which is more responsive to your movements and has an infrared camera for when you feel like playing a game in the pitch dark. A new controller was also announced, which boasts 40 technological innovations – all of which seem to be slight tweaks in responsiveness and design as no new features have been added. The new Xbox SmartGlass turns your mobile or tablet into a second screen that interacts with the Xbox One for navigation purposes, or to provide extended experiences to all the available media.

It seems that Sony and Microsoft have swapped ideals; with the PS4 becoming a great gaming machine that caters to developers of all sizes (much like the Xbox Live Arcade, which was far better at publishing indie games than PSN) and the Xbox One has become a hub for all types of entertainment (alluding to Sony’s emphasis of its links to LoveFilm and Netflix with the PS3) suggesting that indie developers may struggle to be noticed among all the TV channels.

However, E3 will certainly be the deciding moment for both consoles; the machines, and the games to go with them, will finally be put to the test. In this regard, Microsoft could be playing a very smart game indeed; showing off the console’s overall entertainment abilities first, and then letting the games at E3 do the talking on its gaming prowess. If this is the case, Sony may yet have some very hard competition, and naturally it should be the games that are the deciding factor.

PlayStation Gives a Tantalising Peak at the PS4

In a pre-emptive move before the release of Microsoft’s new Xbox tomorrow, Sony has released a teaser video of the PlayStation 4 console. The console will be fully unveiled at a press conference on 10 June, just before the E3 expo gets underway. The press conference will begin streaming on the PlayStation website at 6pm.

To view more about the PS4, and its original launch, click here.

Sony Reveals the First of the Next-Gen Consoles: The PlayStation 4

In a long-anticipated press conference, Sony has unveiled the PlayStation 4… Well, sort of. All of the machine’s substantial architecture and DualShock 4 controller were revealed, along with multiple developer presentations of games and software demos, but the console itself remained hidden. However, it’s clear that Sony have taken a completely different approach with the PlayStation 4.

Sony PlayStation 4

The process of creating the new console has been a collaborative effort between Sony and multiple developers around the world. It has put a clear focus on gaming; with powerful software to make it easier for developers to make games with a very high graphical fidelity, and a new set-up for consumers to gain quicker and easier access to their games. Sony also wants to make the PS4 the home for indie developers, with the option for self-publishing on the PlayStation Network.

ps4-featuredThe console’s impressive, largely PC components-based, architecture will consist of an 8-core AMD CPU and an advanced AMD GPU (with an approximate peak performance of 1.84 TFLOPS), which will both be on a single-chip APU. It will also have a large system memory at 8GB of RAM, and will have the usual Blu-Ray compatible disk drive.

Whether you understand the computer terminology or not, this is a powerful set-up that has been created with the developer and player in mind. One phrase that sticks out from the launch is that the PS4 is a machine built by gamers for gamers. Its a strong design ethos that is surely what console owners have been waiting for; no longer is the focus on a console being a multimedia hub, and while we may all enjoy the perks of watching Netflix or Blu-Rays on a console, they are gaming machines at their core and Sony have stuck with what’s important. In fact, when you download a game on the PS4, it will be playable within seconds of the first bits of loading. 

The DualShock 4 controller has been given several upgrades from its predecessor; the main additions are a touchpad on the front of the controller, a light bar for motion control (aided by a gyroscope and accelerometer), an improved rumble and a headphone socket (for in-game chats). The triggers and analogue sticks have also been redesigned to be more responsive to the players’ touch. However, perhaps the most prominent change of all is the share button; fairly self-explanatory, it allows players to share recent game footage online or via social networks. Though it’s hard to know if this will be welcome and helpful addition, or if it will just flood the internet with COD pro headshots and troll videos. Either way, it’s clear Sony has changed its game and is willing to share more with the gaming community..

Quantic Dream’s polygon demo

While this all sounds like a heartening tale of the big bad corporation finding a new lease of life, some things don’t change… The games themselves. There was the FPS Killzone Shadowfall, which looks like any other FPS on the current market; Infamous: Second Son title from Sucker Punch, another instalment to an existing franchise; a PS4 port of Diablo III from Blizzard, which will no doubt have been bought already by anyone that wished to play it and Knack, a cartoony brawler, which was the first game to be previewed at the launch and seemed somewhat underwhelming. David Cage from Quantic Dream (Heavy Rain) gave the same pitch about emotions in gaming, and put it all down to the polygon counts, which allow for greater detail and richer facial expressions. Media Molecule also made an appearance, and as the creators of LittleBigPlanet there were hopes for a game that would finally capture our imagination, but the team didn’t have a specific title to show; instead, they presented a sculpting software that used the PlayStation Move controller, which was impressive and presumably very technically sophisticated.

Still, it was a strong presentation by Sony, and we will have to wait till E3 to receive more details about the console. Now, however, it’s just a matter of time before Microsoft responds with its announcement of the new Xbox.