The internal deliberation over what platform to pre-order Mass Effect Andromeda on is what made me realize: PlayStation are pulling ahead in the console war of this generation. Back in the era of the Xbox 360, it was a no-brainer for me. Mass Effect was played on an Xbox. It started life as an Xbox exclusive, and so it just felt right playing it on the Microsoft console. Mass Effect wasn’t the only reason I loved my Xbox. The memory of countless hours over countless nights plowing away at the waves of enemies in horde mode for Gears of War 2 still gives me joy. The Halo series was still decent, Halo ODST a particular highlight. Though Xbox Live Gold was a paid subscription, I felt it was superior to the PSN. I was confident I had made the right choice in the last generation’s console war.
So why was I finding it so difficult to confirm my pre-order for the latest Mass Effect game on my Xbox One? I’m in a point in my life now where both of the “big 2” are in my possession, although I still haven’t made the jump to either an Xbox One S or PS4 Pro. It was my personal opinion that the breaking of the normal “generation cycle” was just a thinly veiled attempt to get us to part with more money, but the PS4 Pro keeps laying on the benefits of owning one. Although, this was only part of the reason my preference had done a steady back-flip over the last year. My loss of faith in the Xbox console started at that reveal in March 2013.
I was distraught. How could Microsoft have made so many bad calls with the Xbox One? The console was going to turn from being the darling of my living room, to some Orwellian nightmare machine. Always on, always connected, always watching. The low point of the whole affair was when Sony published a video making fun of the Xbox One’s inability to share used games. My friends knew how much I loved my Xbox 360. When the inevitable barrage of jokes hit, I just couldn’t think of a line of argument in defense of the Xbox One. Thankfully, during the E3 period of June 2013, Microsoft reversed some of their terrible decisions from a few months earlier, and made it so that you could once again share physical copies of games. The living-room surveillance system in the guise of a console had also been scrapped in favor of the more traditional “off-means-off” approach. I think Microsoft still hold the world record for “fastest U-turn”.
Though my pride in the Xbox was still badly bruised, things were certainly starting to look how they should have looked with that reveal. With an interesting and exciting showcase of games, such as Titanfall, Ryse: Son of Rome, and Quantum Break, I decided to just keep the faith in Xbox, and pre-ordered my day one edition console. I loved Ryse: Son of Rome. Though the general reception of the game wasn’t great, I thought there was a real Batman: Arkham Asylum-level of finesse to the combat. This, and Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag, kept me happy on the Xbox One until the utterly great Titanfall. Despite all of this, I should have just stopped to think for a second. The early warning signs were all there. The really bad user interface, which is still terrible to this day. The feeling that the focus was shifting from gaming to becoming an entertainment center. It was just starting to feel like the Xbox had lost its soul, and was now simply a machine, whereas the PS4 was a lively, vibrant character in the console war.
The thing is, even though the PS4 had definitely come out on top after the reveals, there was a noticeable lack of games for the system over the first year of it’s release. Or at least, there was nothing I was interested in. Killzone Shadow Fall, Knack, and Infamous Second Son didn’t really get my engine running, and after scoring average reviews (apart from Infamous), I wasn’t convinced. Anything I wanted to buy was multi-platform, and I had my Xbox One, so there was still no need to take the plunge. One year after release, and I was relatively happy in my Microsoft bubble. That is, until a PS3 entered my life. Looking back, I highly regret not owning a PS3 during it’s heyday. I played Beyond Two Souls with my partner and absolutely loved it. I finally gave The Last of Us a go, and immediately understood why it was so lauded. Journey‘s sensual assault of vibrant art is rarely matched.
It was at this point I started to notice a difference between exclusives for the PlayStation, and exclusives for the Xbox. Where Xbox games tended to focus on massive, world shifting and shattering narratives rife with hugely cinematic moments, PlayStation games were more about the characters, and their interaction with other characters. PlayStation games were, to me, far more emotive, and I immediately felt more connected to the stories that were conveyed by PS3 games. At this point, I had played my fill of the spectacular. I wanted to feel. Then Bloodborne came along. This game was probably the reason I bought a PS4. After a long dry spell on the Xbox One (Sunset Overdrive never really appealed to me), Bloodborne‘s gorgeous aesthetic and unique style of gameplay were extremely attractive. Bloodborne was a masterpiece in every facet of design, and was the first nail in the coffin in my internal console war.
From my point of view, the PS4 never really stopped hammering the nails in from that moment. The highly underrated and underplayed Until Dawn was like a brilliant mesh of the Japanese style visual novel and classic American horror, all with a Hollywood budget. The fact that the PS4 was running games at higher resolutions than the Xbox One was baffling, even though Microsoft assured us that the much touted and never really demonstrated “cloud-computing” capabilities would eventually ensure the leg up on Sony. Even the UI was vastly superior. Navigating the home screen, especially now with folders, feels a whole lot quicker than on the Xbox One. At this point, I was buying an increasing amount of multi-platform titles on the PS4, such as Fallout 4. My heart was being swayed.
I desperately wanted to keep the Xbox One as my primary console. I had over 100K Gamerscore. All of my friends were on Xbox. And there was some hope in the shape of a few upcoming exclusives. Quantum Break was on my radar first. Remedy Games’ Alan Wake was a masterpiece in my opinion, so I had high hopes that Quantum Break would provide some relief from my ailing faith during the console war. Like many others, my feelings on the game were mixed. While unquestionably gorgeous, with a unique take on narrative delivery, I still came away feeling it was all more style than substance. I had also been intending to purchase ReCore, but after my customary week of allowing the reviews to come in, I decided against it. The PS4 was gaining ground in the console war.
What really made my transition complete was The Last Guardian. If the PS4 needed a persona to represent them aside from Nathan Drake, Trico would be it, the big bird/cat/dinosaur that accompanies you through the story. The Last Guardian managed to be spectacular, but also intensely emotive and personal. If the kinds of experiences presented by Until Dawn, Bloodborne and The Last Guardian were representative, then I wanted more. At this point, the cancellation of Scalebound didn’t bother me, I was too busy looking forward to Nioh, Nier: Automata, and Horizon Zero Dawn, a 1-2-3 combination of blows that cemented the dominance of the PS4 in my mind. Even the future of gaming on the PS4 was mind-blowing: Detroit: Become Human, The Last of Us Part II, Death Stranding. I can honestly say there isn’t a single Xbox One exclusive coming out in the next year that I am at all interested in.
So now I make my decision. The Xbox One version of Mass Effect Andromeda had been sitting in my virtual shopping basket until now. In the end, the logical choice is to swap my pre-order to the PS4 version. In some ways, it still feels like betrayal, but when I think about the continual disappointment experienced over the 3 years of owning an Xbox One, the feeling is somewhat numbed. Admittedly, Games with Gold usually provides some gems that I wouldn’t have usually played, but more often than not, I download the monthly offering, and never have time to play it.
The PS4 is the runaway winner in this particular leg of the console war, and I can only see it pulling further ahead as time goes on, unless Microsoft pull off some big moves at this year’s E3. What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments below.