PS5 & Xbox Series S/X: 2 Years Later

The PS5 and Xbox Series S/X are at the forefront of console gaming, pushing the boundaries of what the medium can achieve. After two years, both consoles have seen their high points and lows. Here's where both consoles stand as we approach their second anniversary.

PS5 & Xbox Series S X - 2 years later

We’re rapidly approaching the second anniversary of the PS5 and Xbox Series S/X. Neither manufacturer adequately prepared for how devastating the Covid pandemic would be and how it would throw everything, from production to delivery, into chaos. Each console has had its share of ups and downs over the last two years, so let’s pinpoint those highlights and lowlights.

PS5

Highlights – The Exclusive Pipeline Continues

It sounds like a broken record, but PlayStation’s selling power lies squarely in the company’s ever-expanding catalogue of exclusive games. Beginning with the PS3 and growing over the PS4’s lifespan, PlayStation has built its reputation of experiences you can’t find anywhere else, apart from the odd PC port. Franchises like Uncharted and The Last of Us have made the console a must-own for longtime fans and a tempting prospect for newcomers unimpressed with the output of Xbox.

God of War: Ragnarok drop on the console in November

God of War: Ragnarok drop on the console in November.

Since the PS5’s release in November 2020, the console has seen a slate of first-party bangers that have sold the machine’s worth to gamers still on the fence about which to choose. These include the rogue-like Returnal, the universe-bending Ratchet and Clank: Rifts Apart and the stunning remake of Deamon Souls. Sony Santa Monica’s God of War: Ragnarok, a possible GOTY attender, releases in November, tying a bow around two impressive years. With plenty on the horizon, the future’s looking bright! Insomniac Games can lay claim to much of this success as their love-in with Marvel continues to flourish, having many gamers excited for the near future; a future resplendent with spider’s webs and adamantium claws. 

Lowlight – Limited Supply and Wonky UI

Pandemics are rarely kind enough to give us prior warning, and the ongoing global health crisis is no different. When PlayStation should have been ramping up production, they were met with empty factories and a global glut in electronic components. When the console was revealed, a promising slate of first-party titles and a radical redesign ended in a debacle. PlayStation assured early adopters would be able to pre-order the console with little issue. However, major retailers decided to open pre-orders not 30 minutes after the reveal. Even after two years, many question (half-jokingly) that the PS5 doesn’t exist, that it’s simply a Tulpa formed in the heads of avid fans.

A detailed overview of each PlayStation Plus tier

A detailed overview of each PlayStation Plus tier.

For those lucky enough to have one, a stripped-back UI awaited them. Missing many of the elements appreciated on previous consoles, the PS5 UI felt half-baked. A lack of folders has left the screen looking messy and disjointed. Is this a slight niggle of an OCD sufferer? Yes! PlayStation has announced a software update to fix this problem, but it has taken two years to get here. A distinct lack of customisation and media/screenshot management (since resolved) have also been disappointing oversights until recent patches. Lastly, the confusion about PlayStation Plus’ new tier subscription model and what each tier contains. Many longtime subscribers were flummoxed about whether to stick with basic or upgrade to extra or premium.

Xbox Series S/X

Highlights – Big Spending and Bigger Plans

My criticism of Xbox has been, since the release of the Xbox One, the company’s lack of focus. Thankfully, Microsoft seems to be focusing that aimlessness thanks to GamePass and the Xbox Series S. This dynamic duo has made it easier than ever to get into the gaming space, especially in these tough economic times. Newcomers and old-hands alike can access some of the latest exclusive games like Forza Horizon 5 for a fraction of the cost, along with over a hundred other titles to download and enjoy. The Xbox Series S packs a powerful punch for a reasonable price compared to competitors or even the Xbox Series X.

Forza Horizon 5 delivers a visual spectacle on either Xbox console

Forza Horizon 5 delivers a visual spectacle on either Xbox console.

The company has spent significant bucks on acquiring Bethesda, locking some of gaming’s biggest IPs under the Xbox canopy. While spending big doesn’t necessarily equate to console-selling exclusives, I have more hope than ever that Xbox is on its way back! Along with more considerable improvements, smaller advancements deserve recognition. The magical quick resume system allows you to have three games on the go without worrying about losing progress. The brand’s message of having a family of consoles has made its cross-gen transition clearer than the PS5. A combination of affordability and an extensive back catalogue make Xbox an attractive proposition.

Lowlights – Unproven IPs, batteries and the risk of over promising 

Could the seeds of Xbox’s downfall lay with their recent successes? Perhaps. While big money and promises of new exclusives have grabbed the headlines, little has materialised from it. Bethesda’s Starfield has already been delayed until early next year. Little gameplay has emerged, and as a brand new IP, it doesn’t carry the weight of The Elder Scrolls or Fallout. Other projects, including Fable and an Indiana Jones game, seem years away from dropping into players’ laps. At the time of writing (August 16th), Xbox has no blue chip exclusives to entice buyers. With the holiday season fast approaching, this absence of new console-selling games may negatively impact sales.

Starfield has a lot of expectations behind it. But, can it possibly live up to the hype

Starfield has a lot of expectations behind it. But, can it possibly live up to the hype?

The Xbox controller is still as comfortable in the hands as always, but its stubborn reliance on batteries is questionable. Since 2006, the controller has seen little change, both cosmetically and technically, for no reason apart than the company’s unwillingness to consider other ways of charging. Batteries aren’t cheap, and while one can invest in a rechargeable battery pack, the additional costs of playing Xbox begin to rear their head. It’s crucial that Xbox delivers on this new generation’s capabilities and makes people want to play on their console. Doubtless, they can do it, but massive acquisitions and funding don’t necessarily create great games – passion, ideas, and talent do. The following year or so may dictate the future of Xbox’s generation.

Conclusion 

Both consoles have hinted at the possibilities of video games in this generation. Alas, a combination of a global pandemic, limited hardware suppliers and logistical problems have hindered the first few years. PlayStation is steamrolling ahead with its exclusive line of IPs. Xbox has made console gaming more affordable than ever with the Series S and GamePass, an attractive package for any gamer on a budget. What highlights and lowlights have stood out to you over the past two years? Leave a comment down below.

Starfield: Official Gameplay Reveal