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This article also appears in the July Edition of the Gametraders magazine - out now!
Microsoft and Sony have both taken the wraps off of their new consoles, and the world is divided. There are the inevitable Sony fanboys who will snap up the PlayStation 4 regardless of what anyone says, and more than a few "Xbots" who stand behind their console of choice despite the drama. But then there are the rest of us - gamers who just want to know what the new consoles are about, what the differences are, and what we'll be able to play on them.
If you're in that third camp and are more than a little confused by all the announcements, backflips and backstabs going on in the console world at the moment, here's a few bits and pieces that might help you make a decision when the new hardware hits shelves later this year. (Remember, while we don't have a set date for the PlayStation 4 beyond "Holiday 2013", the Xbox One is confirmed for November!)
First off: The consoles themselves.
The Xbox One comes with a new 500 gig harddrive, built into the device. While you won't be able to change that, you can attach an additional external harddrive via USB if you need more space for your save-games or media files. As you might expect, we're also looking at 8GB of DDR3 RAM, wireless internet capabilities, HDMI in/out, USB 3, and - wait for it - a Blu-ray drive.
The PlayStation 4 is pretty similar: A 500 GB hard drive you can take out and swap over as you like, 8GB of GDDR5 RAM (more expensive, faster for transferring large amounts of data, but not as good for smaller chunks, better for handling more complicated graphics), HDMI in/out, USB 3, a Blu-ray drive, and Bluetooth capabilities.
Both consoles feature cloud storage, for save-games, Achievements/Trophies, personal data and other information. Under the hood, the PS4 is powered by a single-chip x86 AMD Jaguar processor and 8 cores, while the Xbox One has 8 cores running a custom Microsoft CPU.
Price-wise - in Australia, at least - they're also comparable. An Xbox One will cost $599, with a PS4 a little cheaper at $549. The extra $50 for an Xbox One reflects Microsoft's choice to include a Kinect 2 peripheral as standard. If you'd like to use motion-sensing or voice commands on your PS4, you'll have to buy a PlayStation 4 Eye and PlayStation Move separately.
But that's enough about the hardware - what will really help you make up your mind is the games themselves.
Right now, third party publishers like EA, Ubisoft and Activision are keeping relatively quiet on their upcoming projects. This means that most of the games we know about that are only headed to either PlayStation 4 or Xbox One are being published by Sony and Microsoft.
That doesn't mean we're not looking at some great games, though:
In the PlayStation 4 camp, we have a brand new racer, Driveclub, from the developers of MotorStorm. Taking the driving action back to on-road tracks, Driveclub focusses on asynchronous multiplayer (so you're racing against times rather than players), and emphasises the benefits of teaming up with other drivers.
Knack is another all-new franchise, described as a bit like a mix between Crash Bandicoot and Katamari Damacy. Knack himself is a three-foot-tall creature with mysterious powers (including the ability to transform into a giant wrecking machine!). Knack can incorporate substances into his body to give him special powers - and these powers are then used to solve puzzles and take out enemies.
Alongside these new games, the PlayStation 4 lineup at this stage is boosted by some big-name sequels. If you're in the market for some more inFamous or Killzone, you're in luck! New games from both series are available only on PlayStation 4.
inFamous: Second Son is set seven years after the (good) ending of inFamous 2, with a new lead character, graffiti artist Delsin Rowe fighting against the Department of Unified Protection. Killzone: Shadow Fall follows on thirty years after Killzone 3, and war is still raging. This time around, the first-person shooter looks at the cold war between the Vektans and the Helghast - one fighting to survive, the other fighting for the right to exist.
Flipping over to the Microsoft camp, and the Xbox One offerings put the emphasis around the other way. The launch lineup contains a handful of big-name sequels, but all the light's being shone on some exciting new franchises.
Ryse: Son of Rome is headed our way from Crysis developer Crytek. You'll lead general Marius Titus from early childhood right up to becoming a leader in the Roman Army in this action-packed hack 'n' slash epic.
Quantum Break is also new - a time travel experiment has gone wrong, leaving a small bunch of people with the ability to manipulate time. Then there's Sunset Overdrive, a ridiculous neon explosion of agile combat, acrobatics and mutants.
Don't overlook the sequels, though... Forza Motorsport 5 has been highlighted as an Xbox One exclusive, bringing the racer to an all-new generation. Dead Rising 3 is set to scare the pants off of a new bunch of gamers in a new, open-world survival experience, and - of course - there's a brand new Halo on the way.
Microsoft wants the new Xbox to be the One console in your living room. Sony is content to just make a killer gaming machine. The hardware's comparable, and there are plenty of games coming to both consoles - so at this stage, it doesn't seem that there's an outright winner (particularly after Microsoft confirmed the Xbox One will not be region locked and will not require an always-on internet connection).
Both new consoles are due out by the end of the year, so you've still got some time to make up your mind. Keep an eye out for gaming exclusives - if you're a Halo fan, obviously you'll need an Xbox! - but if you're still sitting on the fence, you might just have to flip a coin.
I like video games and music and cups of tea and noodles and beagles and colour-cycling LEDs.
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Jimmy the Geek