Confessions of a Console Addict

Console vs PC - Past to Present

Self-confessed console addict, Robert Vaughan, gives his take on the evolution of gaming and what has influenced his buying choices over the past 30 years.

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Glory Days

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Let me start by saying I’m a bit of a console whore, but it wasn’t always that way…

My first memory of computer gaming was ‘Horace Goes Skiing’ on the ZX Spectrum (48k), and I was hooked. Anyone who remembers loading a game via external cassette and the frustration of it failing will know what I’m talking about. The 128k version with a disk drive was always a bridge too far.

Soon after, I was lucky enough to own a Sega Master System, then a Sega MegaDrive. Around this time, we travelled to the US a lot, as my dad worked for British Airways. This meant that I was lucky enough to be one of the first people in this country to get their hands on a Nintendo Gameboy, so Tetris and Super Mario Land will always have a place in my heart.

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I still have a fondness for games such as John Madden Football (the original, not the overcomplicated and joyless mess it’s become today) and NHL Ice Hockey, where the button- mashing fistfights were a particular highlight.

Late-night Streetfighter 2 battles at university were another way of instantly bonding with flatmates, though I never seemed to move beyond Ryu and Ken’s ‘Hadouken’: The dexterity needed to hold down the D-Pad and then strategically press punch or kick at the exact moment for the other characters was something I never had the ‘guile’ for (geddit)


Home > Arcade – The shift no-one talks about

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What I find fascinating is the sea-change in technology these days, compared to back then: - It used to be that home versions of games were pale imitations of what you’d find in Arcades, but the reverse is now true.

Go to any arcade these days, and you’ll be confronted with a blocky ‘Time Crisis’ Sequel, that’ll you’ll not even feel compelled to shovel more coins in to keep going until the end. I’m always shocked at how rarely this is picked up on in gaming articles or by other gamers. I still remember playing ‘Afterburner’ at the Trocadero for £2 (a lot of money in those days) in a cage that threw you around at what felt like several ‘G’. The line between video games and theme park events was more blurred in those days.

I skipped the PlayStation and PlayStation 2 eras, entirely, though I’m not sure why. Possibly because I never had any money.


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By the time I got my first regular job, however, I was lured by the promise of Halo on the Xbox – You know the one with the massive ‘Duke’ controller. I’d always loved the immersion of FPS games like Half-Life and Deus Ex on PC, which I’d played on my parents PC late into the night, once I’d figured out how to tweak the Open GL drivers to make everything pretty and the anti-aliasing look on point.

I think the original Xbox promised a decent halfway point for those who no longer had a PC (myself, having recently graduated, and skint) and the pick up and play element of a console is something that remains appealing: - With PC Games, by the time you’ve tweaked the graphical settings to within an inch of their life, you’re left with an image that looks great, but is a virtual slideshow and, even worse, results in blue screens, and crashes to the desktop, without even a hint of why it’s happened.


Failure to join the PC Master Race

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For years, I’ve bought PC magazines such as PC Gamer, and gone on PC- building sites, to spec out my first build, yet it’s never happened. I think I know why this is: - I invariably would wish that I could just increase the spec to better options for the CPU, GPU, SLI, Water-cooling, you name it. There’s always someone with a better rig, who wants to tell you why yours is sub-par compared to theirs, it does seem to be a large -scale d*** measuring contest, with people posting breakdowns of their rigs on forums, which just isn’t for me. I can see the appeal of having a decent PC, but where do the upgrades end? That’s why, for me, the latest and greatest consoles win out as a marriage of value for money and convenience. Also, who wants to shell out £2k and find out they can’t even play Crysis 3 or some other game that came out over 5 years ago!!!

Despite this, I do still long to recapture that feeling of playing PC games, long into the night, minus the distractions you sometimes have playing console games, but the convenience factor with consoles always appears to win out.

Earlier Console Generation / Gaming Monitors vs TVs

When I recently had the Xbox One X and PS4 Pro (only the premium versions will do) which I’d been using with my Samsung KS9000 4K UHD TV, I was tempted by the promise of zero input lag to try out a dedicated gaming monitor.

I duly then bought a 4K monitor to test this out. What I found was disappointing: - Sitting right in front of the monitor emphasised any flaws in the picture, and I soon missed the massive scale (and HDR) of the Samsung TV. Being a Mac user, I sold my monitor to my PC gaming friend and work colleague, and he seems to be happy with it.


Xbox (Pros / Cons)

The eco-system – All your games, from every gen, in one place


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I’d been happy in the Xbox eco-system right through the 360-era, with its introduction to 720p and 1080i gaming, which is why I was one of the few unfortunates to buy the original Xbox One when it first came out, based on the trust that Microsoft had built up over the years.


The ‘entertainment centre’ mis-step

I do agree with much of the criticism that Microsoft focussed too much of their attention on the ‘entertainment’ integration. It was useful being able to view your TV / Freeview box through one HDMI port, but other than that there was little else to recommend it, and Microsoft lost their way with first party titles in this era, with no decent ‘Halo’ or ‘Gears of War’ titles to prop them up, as they had in the 360 era.

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One of the best features was called ‘Snap’ or ‘Picture in Picture’, so you could play games whilst watching TV via a small ‘snap-in’ window, in the top right, but that window was much too small, meaning that much of the screen real estate was underutilised.


Microsoft gets its act together

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After that, the Xbox One X was a great upgrade. It was slightly limited by CPU, but cross- platform titles such as Rainbow Six Siege did look noticeable better on the One X, compared to the base PS4 or PS4 Pro, though there were no frame rate improvements.


Next-Gen finally here


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I’m now happy with the Series X, which has brought nice features such as Auto HDR, FPS boost and back compatibility for all Xbox titles back to original Xbox era – Some of these like the original Splinter Cell games, genuinely look like modern games, upgraded to 4k with smooth anti-aliasing. It’s shocking how good the AA and brute force frame rate leaps it brings to older titles. I’m still not overly enamoured with the UI, which is bafflingly not 4k, and hard to navigate, but it is highly customisable.


Robust external storage support


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Xbox support for storage options is also commendable, with (pricey but convenient) high-speed storage (like an SD card) you can buy and slot in at the back. I’ve also had no trouble using both SSD’s and regular hard drives as external storage. My main objection is that developers seem to be late to optimise their games for Series X and I’ve been underwhelmed by a couple of these (I’m looking at you Cyberpunk and Crysis Remastered!!!)


PS5 (pros / Cons)

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Not Enough Storage

You only get 1Tb of storage, and much of this is used up by the Operating System. You can now use external drives, due to a recent software update, but can only store PS5 games on external storage, not run them from there.

PS5 also currently has no external high speed added storage option, like the Series X has, but this is likely to come with a future system update.


You still need to be on the same platform as your buddies

Most of my friends are PS4 owners, and most multiplayer games aren’t cross platform, so even if I’d been on the fence about the PS5, I was likely to always buy one at some point. I was lucky enough to get one through Curry’s / PC world, who had a system of registering your interest with them. I was shocked to receive a call to say they could reserve me one, which I did, despite thinking I would just keep the PS4 Pro during the PS5 drought. The desire to play the upgraded versions of PS4 games, and the promise of future exclusives was what convinced me, and still being able to play multiplayer with my friends who were still on PS4.


No must-have games yet – But PS4 games do get 60 FPS boost and some even have ray-tracing options

As soon as I got the PS5, I was impressed with the quick setup and the snappy UI. Despite this, there are still no real ‘must-have’ or ‘system seller’ titles yet.

Games such as ‘Ghost of Tsushima’ and ‘Spiderman Remastered’ look noticeably better with their ‘Performance RT ‘(ray-tracing) options. This choice appears to be sweet-spot, I’ve found. If there are options for just performance (60fps), quality (4k) or that, this gives you a nice balance.


The Controller….

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The Dual Sense controller, too, is a revelation, with the free game, Astro’s Playroom, showing off the adaptive triggers and variation in different haptic feedback, to emphasise what you’re doing in the game such as ice-skating, or piloting a rocket ship.

It’s a charming giveaway, which also celebrates the PlayStation’s illustrious history, which I’d sadly been absent for most of, up until the PS4 era.


PlayStation has the best games

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I genuinely think Sony do have the better games, all of my favourite games of the past generation have been Sony ones: Uncharted, Spiderman, The Last of Us 1 and 2, God of War (to a lesser extent) They just seem to have a pizazz and polish that MS games fail to match, and I think whatever checker-board rendering technologies they’re using are spot on – Many games actually tend to run better on PS5 than Series X, but this is changing, as Microsoft gets its act together, and I expect the Xbox to always come out on top, going forwards.


Nintendo Switch

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For a brief time, I had a Nintendo Switch and enjoyed ‘Legend of Zelda, Breath of the Wild,’ ‘Super Mario Odyssey’ and others.

The ability to instantly transfer your game from hand-held to screen is amazing, but the lower resolution is unforgivable, given the competition, and distracting if you have a 4k TV.

I’d certainly be interested in a Switch Pro (with 4k), but I think Nintendo needs to pull it’s finger out and not lean so much on titles for kids. It’s the nostalgia factor that hooks people to buy Nintendo, but this runs out eventually. I wouldn’t recommend anyone buying one machine to go with the Switch, as cross platform games will look and run noticeably worse on it than on other consoles or PC.


Discs Vs Digital

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At the start of the last generation, I went ‘digital only’ to save the faff of swapping discs, as it’s so much more convenient.

The downside of this is that: -

a) Games tend to be a bit more expensive digitally, which is strange, given there are no manufacturing costs for digital games.

And…

b) You won’t be able to sell on a game you don’t like.

There are often sales in the Xbox and PlayStation digital stores all the time, though, and Xbox Game Pass is great value for money, with many first party titles such as ‘Forza Horizon 5’, ‘Halo Infinite’, ‘Microsoft Flight Simulator’ coming on the first day.

The days of spending £70 per title appear to be coming to an end and you could even get by without ‘buying’ a single game if you have this service. Gaming will move to a ‘Netflix’ style arrangement, sooner rather than later, I’m convinced of it.


Final Thoughts

I think for anyone that wants the best of both worlds, and has money to burn, I would go with PC and PS5.

The reason for this, is that, whilst more and more PlayStation games are coming across to PC, they don’t come out until about a year after release on PlayStation (i.e... Horizon Zero Dawn)

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Most Xbox games are available on ‘Game Pass for PC’, so you really don’t need both a PC and Xbox.

However, if you’re on a slightly lower budget, and want all the latest titles, get the PS5 and Xbox Series X, especially if you want to play most of your games in your living room, on a larger screen.

With both Sony and Microsoft now in a good place, it looks like that beast of a gaming PC I’ve been yearning for all these years will just have to wait. [Don't worry, the high end graphics cards required are impossible to get nowadays anyway, bless - Retro]

One day though......
 

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mikeitstop

Well-known member
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20 Jun 2021
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As one of those PC gamers doing the d*** measuring (and believe me, rarely measuring up), it's nice to read about experiences from the other side of the fence. Only thing I'd say is that you don't need to spend £2k on a rig to play current games at quality settings, let alone 5yo ones ;)
 
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