Well, with the next generation of console gaming approaching, it’s time for a Retrospective. This past generation of video gaming has been quite the roller-coaster, with highs like “The New Xbox Experience”, which added avatars to Xbox LIVE, an updated user-interface, and the ability to install game discs to the hard drive, as well as many lows, such as “The Playstation Network Outage”, when millions of Playstation Network Accounts were stolen in an “External Intrusion”, which led to the shutting down of the network entirely for close to a month. While each company has had their good times and bad times, whose console won this generation’s console war? Let’s begin the comparison, shall we?
Both the Playstation 3 and the Xbox 360 contain similar but different internal hardware. Each console sports it’s own custom hardware, built for the optimal gaming experience on each platform. With Microsoft and Sony both partnering with major computer technology manufacturers, both systems were pretty impressive back at launch. From the central processor to the disc drive, each piece of the consoles differ from each other, but, which one is truly “better”?
The Xbox 360 uses a custom tri-core “Xenon” processor clocked at 3.2 GHz, wheras Sony, Toshiba and IBM (STI) developed the “Cell”
microprocessor, with virtually 8 threaded cores (SPEs), which also clocks 3.2 GHz. Now this “Cell” processor has caused a lot of problems with the PS3 for developers of multi-platform titles. While it’s an impressive piece of technology, most developers have a difficult time porting to the Playstation 3, given how awkward it is to develop for. There are a few reasons as to why, one issue being the processor itself. These individually threaded cores make processing very different from the “Xenon” inside the Xbox 360, which processes similar to that of a PC. It’s not that the PS3’s processor is “worse” than the Xbox 360’s, it’s actually faster measured in GigaFLOPS, it’s just that it’s so different, a lot of multi-plat developers don’t take the proper time to master it, which leads to an improper port, which then leads to worse in-game performance. I mean, look how well the exclusives look and perform compared to the multi-plats.
There are major differences when it comes to the GPUs as well. The largest being the amount of memory in each system. This is a huge problem for multi-platform developers as well, because the PS3 only has half of the amount of system RAM the Xbox 360 does. Where the Xbox 360 has 512 MB of GDDR3 RAM, the PS3 only has 256 MB. That’s a big problem, because if a game optimized for the Xbox 360 that uses more memory than PS3, that proves a problem. Another difference would be the Xenos(Xbox 360)’ eDRAM, which significantly boosts bandwidth. The embedded RAM that the PS3 does not use, but instead uses video RAM separate from the system RAM. It’s just a big hassle for developers to port over to the PS3 from Xbox 360.
Peripherals such as the Playstation Move and the Kinect can also be compared, but that would be like comparing a Chimpanzee to a Orangutan. While the the Playstation Move and the Kinect are both centered around motion controls, the Kinect is completely hands-free, while the Move requires the “Wand” controller. While both motion devices have their cons and their… cons, there really isn’t much to compare. There are few actual games for each, and those that there are don’t necessarily work properly.
As for gamepad controllers, they aren’t all that different from each other. While Sony (in the end, after the “Boomerang” flop) used the exact same controller style and layout as it has for the past two generations, the Xbox 360’s saw a few changes from it’s predecessor. The shape and layout was modified a bit, moving things around to better fit the comfort of your hands, as well as replacing the black and white buttons with bumpers. At launch though, both controllers had their flaws. There was (and still is) the Xbox 360’s stock d-pad, and there was the Sixaxis Playstation 3 controller, with no vibration. But these problems were eventually fixed, thankfully. Both controllers feature the same general layout with the same amount of buttons, triggers, etc, only difference being the thumb-stick positioning on the Xbox 360. With the d-pad and left thumbstick position swapped from the Playstation’s, most say that it better accommodates the default positioning of your hands and fingers. That all depends on personal preference.
Xbox LIVE and The Playstation Network. They both serve the same general purpose, giving access to online features; social interactions, online multi-player and digital media delivery. While each subject’s factors vary, they are practically the same. The major difference being that Xbox LIVE Gold memberships (required for online multiplayer) costs money, $60 USD per year whereas on the PS3, all of these features are free.
While the core features of The Playstation Network are free, it does offer a premium subscription, Playstation Plus. Debuted in 2010, Playstation Plus gave Playstation Gamers many deals and perks for subscribing for $50 USD per year. The many advantages include early access to select demos and betas, 1GB of cloud storage, 60 minute full game trials, discounts on games, themes, DLC, etc, and even full games completely for free. So for only $50 ($10 less than Xbox) you get all of Xbox LIVE Gold’s features (albeit, not as “polished”), as well as everything mentioned above. Or you could spend nothing on Playstation Network, and still get the same features as Xbox LIVE, just without the bonuses. You decide which is the better deal.
The differences in quality between Xbox LIVE and Playstation Network’s social interaction features are quite major. While they both generally do the same things, the Xbox 360 does it very differently than the Playstation 3 does. The major complaints about the Playstation 3 is the lack of a party system and cross-game chat. Xbox LIVE allows you to add people into a party of which you can join games together and chat no matter what you are doing, and PSN doesn’t. You cannot chat with people while playing different games, and when you are playing the same game, joining games and inviting friends is much larger of a hassle on PSN. Where it can take minutes just to get into the same lobby with one friend, you and 4 friends could join the same game and already be playing together in seconds. Voice quality is much better on the Xbox as well, when on the PS3 it is often described as people are speaking underwater. Even for Messages, it is much faster on the Xbox to where you just have to press one button to start reading instantly, but on Playstation you have to enter the XMB (Cross Media Bar) and navigate to your inbox and open the message manually, which is difficult because the XMB is very slow when in-game. So while social interaction is practically the same on both services, the Playstation’s is much slower and more complicated than on Xbox LIVE, at a lower quality. These factors must be taken into account when playing with friends is something you plan on doing often.
Now for the meat of the console. The games. We’ve already touched upon multi-platform titles, and I will reiterate, but I am mainly going to talk about exclusives in this section. While each console has it’s own great exclusive franchises, the amount varies from console to console. With tons o’ multiplats and many great exclusive games, which console has the better selection?
The Xbox Original had close to one hundred exclusive games, completely exclusive to the console (which excludes Halo), while the Playstation 2 had almost five hundred. And now currently, the Xbox 360 has about two hundred-fifty, while the PS3 currently holds about two hundred. Surprising, right? Most people would think the Xbox 360 would have less exclusives, because Halo, Gears of War, Fable and Forza are really the only common ones talked about, while the Playstation 3 gamers brag about Uncharted, InFamous, Little Big Planet, Killzone, Resistance, Gran Turismo, God of War and many others. The majority of the Xbox 360’s exclusives are the small ones, as well as Xbox LIVE Arcade. Games like Crackdown, Viva Pinata and Doritos Crash Course are a few that don’t come first to the mind when talking about exclusives.
But when deciding which console holds the best exclusives, quantity isn’t everything. Quality is also important when comparing games. One console could hold 4 times the amount of exclusive games, but that doesn’t mean they are all good. So which console has higher quality exclusives?
Well let’s see, Gears of War on the Xbox 360 would probably best compare to God of War on the PS3, for they are both genre benchmarks (and both acronymed GoW). Gears of War was *this* generation’s benchmark for 3rd person action cover-based shooters. How many other games used the same gameplay formula as Gears did? Dark Sector, Army of Two, Shadow Gun, Inversion? While all of these games are unique in their own ways, the gameplay is strikingly similar to that of Gears of War’s, and while Gears of War didn’t invent this style of gameplay, it did set this generation’s standard, and that is a good thing. Then there’s God of War, which set the standard for action adventure hack and slashes, and that was last generation. And God of War 3 this generation definitely stepped the game up. There were also many “Clones” of this, which isn’t a bad thing. There was Dante’s Inferno, Heavenly Sword, Darksiders and Ninja Gaiden 2 to name a few. Again, this isn’t a bad thing, it is a very good one. That means that these game’s gameplay formula’s were so innovative that they influenced the future. With both of these being outstanding games, with innovative gameplay formulas, interesting stories and amazing visuals, it all depends on personal preference.
As for first person shooters, Halo and Resistance are the most similar. They both have interesting sci-fi elements, such as aliens and futuristic weapons. The first person shooting gameplay is similar, as well as the online multiplayer. While the plot of each game is unique and different, the rest is fairly similar. Another case of personal preference.
Gran Turismo and Forza Motorsport. Need I go into detail? They are practically the same game, on different consoles. They are both highly realistic racing simulators with realistic controls using a steering wheel, photo-realistic visuals and life-like physics. There isn’t much different. So which one is “better”. Well that’s a matter of opinion. Sales numbers seem to favor Gran Turismo 5 over Forza 4.
All in all, the quality of exclusive titles per Console is pretty high. While all of the AAA Xbox 360 exclusives are amazing, it still stands that the Playstation 3 holds a lot more. So it seems the PS3 won this battle by achieving a higher quantity of high quality exclusives, BUT, we still haven’t covered multi-platform titles in-depth. The battle of exclusives may be over, but the war is still dependent on multi-plats.
As we talked about in the hardware section of this article, developers of multi-platform games for the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 find porting their games to the PS3 very challenging. Because of the Cell Processor and difference of memory, multi-plats vary in graphical quality and performance per console. Often times developers optimize for the Xbox 360 and port to other systems and, unfortunately, don’t take the proper time and effort into porting their titles to Playstation 3, leading to a poorer performing game.
In most cases, the framerate is lower, and fluctuates more frequently on the Playstation 3 than on the Xbox 360. Heavier amounts of frame tearing is also common for the PS3. But not all is bad in the graphical quality department for PS3. Often-times the PS3 receives higher resolutions and more anti-aliasing. Also, lighting effects can be drastically different depending on the console, take Dead Space for example. Then there’s the small, subtle differences with things like particle count, post-processing, depth of field, etc. So it’s not uncommon to find a better looking PS3 port, but it is uncommon to find a better performing port.
Of the 3 topics discussed, I’ve pretty much covered the majority of what matters to the common gamer of the seventh generation. While there are many other factors to each console, I’ve covered the basics. Hardware, online services and the games themselves are what matter most when deciding on purchasing a console, but what about after the fact?
Hardware is a difficult topic to come to a conclusion to, because ultimately, the Playstation 3’s hardware is superior to the Xbox 360’s, but that isn’t too often shown. Given most developer’s improper porting, it would appear inferior to the Xbox 360, exclusives aside. If devs took better care of their PS3 ports, who knows what we would have seen? This one is going to have to go to the Playstation 3, Who’s Cell Processor and larger bandwidth make for an overall better rig.
With online services, there is little argument. Playstation Network is the winner. Whereas Xbox LIVE has a mandatory $5 USD monthly payment, you can get the same features for free on Playstation Network. And for $50 USD, which is still $10 less than Xbox LIVE, you can get a bounty of bonus content and perks.
When it comes to games, it all depends on your gaming style and preferences. Are you going to play more exclusives than multi-platform titles? Then the Playstation 3 is the better deal for you. Are you going to play more multi-plats than exclusives? Than the Xbox 360 would be best for you. Do you not even care about performance or graphics? Then PS3 would probably be better for you, since it has a larger library. Are you going to be gaming with friends more often than alone? Xbox 360 caters to you more. Do you like free things on a regular basis? Playstation’s got you covered.
It All Depends… On You.