Xbox One vs PS4: battle of the next-gen consoles

fight

Whether it’s Apple vs Microsoft, iOS vs Android or Facebook vs Twitter, the tech world loves a good head-to-head. In recent weeks we’ve seen one of the greatest heavyweight battles yet as both Microsoft and Sony launched their much-anticipated next-generation consoles. The reviews are in, but which machine has the edge? If you’re thinking about making a purchase in time for Christmas, or are just curious about who’s offering what, we’ve pulled together a rundown of opinion from some of the most influential sites on the Web.

Microsoft Xbox One

xbox-one

Unlike Sony, Microsoft has a phone and desktop ecosystem to consider as well as a gaming one, and these other platforms make themselves felt on the Xbox One. The Verge picks up on this, saying that it’s both a games device and “a sprawling, ambitious attempt to be the most important thing in your living room for the next decade.” The review also notes the importance of Kinect: you can use voice commands to launch games, run searches and record gameplay, though it’s often frustrating to use. It’s even clever enough, in theory, to recognise your face and log you on automatically.

The digital media handling of the Xbox One is praised, though the review suggests the PS4 has the superior controller and the faster loading times. The theme running through the piece is that the Xbox One has lots of unfulfilled potential in terms of its Kinect functionality, TV integration and support for Windows apps. The article concludes:

“The Xbox One is here for a decade. If Microsoft can deliver on all its promises in that time, it will have built a console truly worthy of Input One — but that’s a big if.”

This overarching idea — lots of potential, but not there yet — is continued by Keith Stuart in the Guardian. The review compliments the Xbox One’s improved interface, advanced multi-tasking capabilities and helpful Kinect integration while lamenting the rather lacklustre selection of launch day games. Ultimately, writes Stuart, “something about the PS4 feels fresher and more seductive”.

At games site IGN, the Xbox One picks up a respectable 7.8 out of 10 score, and again the main theme is the “split focus” as Microsoft looks to please gamers and more casual users with the breadth of its offerings. According to IGN’s Fran Mirabella, the software and hardware ” isn’t totally ready for what the Xbox One’s trying accomplish.” Gameplay and Kinect integration are much improved over the Xbox 360, says the review, and there’s praise for the integrated digital media apps and television functionality.

In the end though, MIrabella comes to the same conclusion as many other reviewers, that while the Xbox One’s attempts to own the living room are laudable, the functionality isn’t quite there yet (and for the moment the PS4 beats it as a gaming machine). His final verdict:

“If you’re purely interested in gaming, you may want to wait until the platform stabilises or drops in price. However, if you’re more like me and are tired of the dumbest screen in your house being your TV, the Xbox One will change your living room forever.”

Sony PlayStation 4

ps4

If the Xbox One is trying to broaden its appeal, then the Sony PlayStation 4 is built primarily for gamers. According to the Verge, the PS4 is an attempt to build “the game console of our dreams”. The DualShock 4 wireless controller is described as “the best gamepad Sony has ever built” and the on-screen interface is described as putting games and associated apps front and centre.

Sharing and broadcasting your exploits is also a big deal for Sony’s console — there’s even a Share button on the controller. You can capture a screenshot or video of the last 15 minutes of gaming action and even broadcast your screen live. It has its own basic Kinect clone in the form of the £55 Playstation Camera, and then there’s the £180 PlayStation Vita, the portable console that can act as a second screen and complementary controller for the PS4.

In the end, The Verge argues, the PS4’s problem may not be the Xbox One but the PS3: “The PS3 was a media powerhouse, and the PS4 goes way too far the other way.” As the wrap-up puts it:

“Right now it’s a fast, powerful console with a great controller and a mostly useful interface… For right now, though, there’s little incentive to spend $399 on a PlayStation 4. Not only are there few games worth the price of admission, the vast library of PS3 games is more compelling than anything the PS4 currently offers.”

Over in the Guardian, Keith Stuart is once again on reviewing duties. “Everything is geared towards making the technology accessible to programmers,” writes Stuart. The trackpad is more comfortable, the interface is better, and the social and sharing aspects are better than its rival, claims the review.

The PS4 earns itself an 8.2 score at IGN, putting it slightly ahead of the Xbox One. “The PS4 not only brings the PlayStation platform into a more modern era, but establishes a strong foundation for long-term evolution,” writes Scott Lowe. While the PS4 has similar specs to the Xbox One, Lowe points out that Sony’s console runs more quietly in a smaller form factor. There’s praise for the DualShock 4 controller and the “gorgeous, straightforward” operating system, while Lowe also has good things to say about the PS4’s social and sharing features. The review concludes:

“The PS4 is an exceptionally well-crafted console. It’s impressively small and attractive design sets a new bar for the industry, and its powerful hardware offers not only stunning visuals, but higher player counts, constantly connected experiences, and larger, more detailed worlds.”

In summary

It isn’t difficult to pick out the common themes from the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 reviews on the Web. Both machines have the potential to be great, but lack any outstanding titles at launch. The PS4 offers a purer, faster, more sophisticated option for gamers; the Xbox One has more strings to its bow in terms of digital media and app support. The advice seems to be wait and see, unless you’re desperate to get your hands on a next-generation console: the final verdict on these two heavyweights won’t be made for several years yet.

We’ll give the final word to Keith Stuart in the Guardian: “If you love games, PS4 is a smart choice, and if you want a progressive media hub, Xbox One is your thing.” You can pick up the Xbox One for around £430 online, with the PS4 retailing at £350 or thereabouts; don’t forget, though, that Microsoft’s console comes with a Kinect camera included, whereas the Sony equivalent is £55 extra.

PS4 image © Sony Computer Entertainment, Inc.

E3 Roundup: XBox One vs Playstation 4 – Price vs. Promising Lineup

PS-Four-vs-XBox-One

Gamers struggling to make a informed decision on whether to buy an Xbox 1 or PS4 this Christmas are not alone – but you will be glad to know both console makers laid their cards on the table at last night’s E3.

Both console makers gave a firm launch window of Winter 2013 for Europe and the US – basically November. The biggest headline from both shows was: price. Microsoft unveiled that their new console would cost $499/£425 – which on the face of it is quite pricey. Compared to the Xbox 360 launch the price point it’s a scary one. For example when the first Xbox 360 launched 8 years ago the base model was a mere £209, admittedly, though you didn’t get a lot of functionality for that price. When Microsoft wrapped up their presentation they unveiled their price-point and collective gasp echoed across the show floor like an icy wind.

Sony on the other hand unveiled an incredibly competitive price point of $399/£349. But that didn’t actually get the biggest cheer from the gaming fraternity. Oh no. Jack Tretton then went onto fully explain Sony’s stance on the thorny issue of DRM, he confirmed that the company wouldn’t be employing any form of draconian secondhand game policies. So if you want to lend a game to friend: you can. If you want to trade a game in at a retailer: you can. If you want to play any PS4 game offline: you can. Basically Sony made a massive song and dance that their console, on paper, is faster, it’s cheaper, and isn’t looking to completely re-write the whole paradigm of game ownership. Now, in the interest of impartiality, you can do almost all of that with Microsoft’s system, too, but their solution is a lot more convoluted and requires games to be online at least once every 24 hours, whilst secondhand games can be traded in depending on whether third party publishers get a cut of the trade-in fee – but it’s their decision, if they want to block trade-ins they can though – a worrying trend as we move towards a digital era.

Both console makers showcased as veritable smorgasbord of incredible titles coming exclusively to each console. It’s clear Sony won the battle of price and DRM, but there’s no doubt that they didn’t have a stronger software lineup compared to Microsoft’s own war chest of games. Games like Dead Rising 3 and Titanfall (from ex-Call of Duty devs) are exclusive to the Xbox One and look like hardcore games that will shift units fast. In almost every area of gaming both companies had exclusive titles; Microsoft showed of Forza 5, the latest installment of their biggest racing title, Sony’s answer was Drive Club, but on the face of it just can’t compete with Forza’s scope and vision.

Trying to decide which console to get is an exercise in futility, but now there are some big difference between the two consoles. Sony has also confirmed that their console will be region free, this means you can import a US console, for example, for a cheaper price and play games from Japan on it. Microsoft’s console on the other hand isn’t region free – again another big difference.

It’s clear that Microsoft and Sony have two different visions for their respective consoles. Microsoft is going for a walled-garden system akin to Apple’s iOS, with full control. They want to move the console into the world of the digital era, and, along with it, change the way we buy and consume games. This means games are intrinsically linked to your profile – much like they are on any digital store. Whilst Sony has stuck to its guns and will continue with the current model of open trading of games and the traditional ownership model – much to the delight of hardcore gamers.

E3 on the whole was great for both Microsoft and Sony – Microsoft clearly had the stronger software lineup with Titanfall, Forza 5 and Ryse, all shooting for the lucrative launch window. Whilst Sony nailed the all-important price point and DRM model, though their software lineup didn’t eclipse Microsoft’s with Killzone: Shadow Fall, Drive Club and The Order.

It’s clear that many gamers are still on the fence when it comes to choosing their next console, and that won’t change until they can get their hands on the controller, the system and, most importantly, the games. But on the face of it Sony’s decision to undercut Microsoft’s price point could well be the smoking gun for many. After all with such a dire economic outlook a cheaper price point is likely to secure a lot of those floating gamers who have yet to make their decision.

Will Microsoft rethink its price point? Unlikely. Will they rein in some of their draconian DRM? Quite possibly, but it’s been long suggested that their decision on DRM was at the behest of publishers unhappy at losing revenue to secondhand sales. So quite how Sony has managed to negotiate a different model does seem a bit puzzling, though, Sony’s decision to charge for online gaming could see a cut of that money going to publishers now – but at the moment that’s just pure speculation.

XBox One vs Playstation 4: Next-Gen Console Showdown

XBox-One

To the naked eye there doesn’t seem to be that much of a difference between the Xbox One – which finally got its unveiling last night – and Sony’s PS4. Both consoles rely on the same PC-like X86 architecture; both the console makers have gone to the same suppliers for CPUs, GPUs and the rest of the console’s components – so what actually are the differences?

Well, one of the main differences between the Xbox One and PS4 is the vision for what each console can do. Sony went out hard on addressing problems developers had with the last PlayStation – so they’ve looked to address problems such as the difficultly in which games are made. Microsoft doesn’t have such worries, they have decades of experience in creating the tools to create great consoles games easily, so they’re vision is to conquer the living room and the TV.

A Glimpse of the TV of the Future

Last night, Microsoft painted a vision of how their Xbox One will change the way we watch TV forever – that’s right, the first segment of the unveil was their plan for dominating the lounge, and in turn the TV. They want to achieve this by have two HDMIs ports on the console, one for input and one for output. The crucial addition is the HDMI input. This means users can connect their subscription TV set top box through a Xbox One, which in turn will be seamlessly overlaid onto the Xbox One’s dashboard.

What this essentially means is the realisation of proper, superfluid, multi-tasking between apps, Live TV, Skype, games – you name it. During the presentation Microsoft bigwigs showed as number of novel ways this could change the way we watch TV forever. One example was snapping an NFL fantasy league app directly to the Live broadcast to create a new level of engagement, another way was calling up info about a film you’re watching and snapping it to the side of the film whilst it’s still playing. Now, this might not sound that revolutionary, but what impressed me the most was the speed in which you could change from game to TV to Skype or combine different apps altogether – basically seamless doesn’t really do it justice.

But there are obviously concerns – what if you don’t have Sky box within range of your Xbox One? How do you connect it to the console? Or can this feature be done with a standard freeview box? What if your TV signal comes from a built-in freeview via coaxial? All of these points remain unanswered. But if Microsoft manages to achieve its vision it could be a real game changer.

XBox-One-Racing

Microsoft has said it is “anticipating a global launch over time”.
“Our goal is to enable live TV through Xbox One in every way that it is delivered throughout the world, whether that’s television service providers, over the air or over the Internet, or HDMI-in via a set top box (as is the case with many providers in the US),” it says on the Xbox news site. “The delivery of TV is complex and we are working through the many technologies and policies around the world to make live TV available where Xbox One is available.”

The Real Difference Could be in the Architecture

One of the main differences between the two consoles is the software it will be running, Microsoft explained they’ve gone for an innovative system whereby there is actually 3 operating systems, the first is a new version of Xbox 360 OS; its soul purpose is to run games, the second is the Kernel from Windows 8; this is used for surfing the web and apps; and then there’s a third OS that allows instant switching between the two. Essentially it’s a bit like a double clutch system, the console is constantly able to switch between the two without any delay whatsoever. This means you can switch from TV to a game as if you were changing a channel on your TV. It’s that instant. No loading games, no loading apps, nothing.

Kinect 2.0

The other major difference between the two consoles is Microsoft’s continued support for Kinect. Every Xbox One will come with the camera. According to Microsoft several upgrades have been made to the camera. So it can now handle 6 players at once, with much higher levels of accuracy, and without any lag. They didn’t actually show any new Kinect games, but they did show off the camera’s improved voice recognition, and wide-angle field of view, which Microsoft said, would work in all living room layouts.

Detailed by Microsoft corporate vice president of Xbox Live Marc Whitten at yesterday’s Xbox One presentation, the new Kinect “understands the slightest rotation of wrist, shift balance, transfer of motion, and when you’re exercising it can read your headbeat.”

XBox-One-CoD

Battle of the RAM

Another subtle differences between the consoles can be seen in the way each console addresses RAM, Sony has decided to the give the PS4 8Gb of GDDR5 RAM, which is usually the preserve of high-end graphics cards. Microsoft has decided to go another way and has chosen cheaper, DDR3 RAM – which on face value doesn’t seem like a fair fight. But Microsoft has also added what is referred to as “secret sauce”, an extra pool of ERAM, which is highly expensive and will look to address the differences in capability and bandwidth.

Until we see multi-format games side-by-side it going to be hard to predict how these slight changes manifests themselves in the actual look and performance of a game. But it could easily be the case the Sony’s OS isn’t as efficient as Microsoft’s and therefore needs more memory, but just as conceivable is PS4 multi-format games will look better due to the extra memory on offer – basically we just don’t know, and to honest, no-one does.

Discussing the making and capabilities of the Xbox One during a video feature for Engadget, Greg Williams said: “We purposefully did not target the highest-end graphics. We targeted more as a broad entertainment play and did it in an intelligent way.”
Williams went on to say that Microsoft has approached development of the new console “strategically”, with hardware that’s “truly unique”.

XBox-One-Game

The Elephant in the Room

Instead of discussing games, though, the gaming community descended into farce after the initial unveil last night regarding the thorny issue of used games. At first Microsoft inferred that games would be tied to user accounts – so if you want to lend a game to friend he would have to pay to access both the single and multiplayer, unless you sign into your account on their console, over the course of the evening various Microsoft sources begun to send out conflicting messages.

“Microsoft corporate vice president Phil Harrison has suggested that customers who activate a pre-owned retail disc for the Xbox One will need to pay the same price as the original buyer to access the content.
When asked by Kotaku whether the secondhand owner will be “paying the same price we [the original buyer] paid, or less” Harrison responded “let’s assume it’s a new game, so the answer is yes, it will be the same price.”
Harrison also said that owners can trade their secondhand games online, however the company is “not talking about it today”.

The resulting confusion saw Larry Hyrb, head of Xbox Live, write a blog post about the confusion.

“We know there is some confusion around used games on Xbox One and wanted to provide a bit of clarification on exactly what we’ve confirmed today. While there have been many potential scenarios discussed, today we have only confirmed that we designed Xbox One to enable our customers to trade in and resell games at retail.
“Beyond that, we have not confirmed any specific scenarios,” he added.
“Another piece of clarification around playing games at a friend’s house – should you choose to play your game at your friend’s house, there is no fee to play that game while you are signed in to your profile.”

The crucial word there is “your” profile – so lending of games seems to be off the cards, and with it renting games, too. If this is true, and Sony doesn’t go the same draconian way of controlling the second hand market, then this could be one of the major differences between the two consoles.

In truth Microsoft’s unveil was a bit light on games, but the vision they painted was an impressive one, everything from the seamless integration of social aspects of content discovery to the absolutely stunning multi-tasking did look mighty impressive. In two weeks time it’s E3 and both Microsoft and Sony have promised to share a lot more on their respective next-gen consoles – but after round 1 we’d have to call it a score draw.

Elgato Game Capture HD: For gamers who don’t play around

Some people like to think that after they die they live on through their work. But now it’s possible to live on through your play with Elgato’s Game Capture HD – designed to immortalise you. If you’ve even seen the Frogger episode of Seinfeld (where George realises his high score on an arcade game might be his greatest achievement in his life) you’ll understand the importance of preserving your “legacy”.

Elgate-Game-Capture-HD

The Game Capture HD, a simple solution for recording and sharing PlayStation or Xbox gameplay using a Mac or PC. If you’ve been over to YouTube recently, you’ll see it’s peppered with videos of young people making other young people feel bad about themselves with their superior gameplay. Now you can join in on that fun. With software specifically tailored to the needs of gamers and a built-in H.264 encoder it’s pretty easy to record, edit and share a gameplay video.

“Gameplay videos created on the Mac or PC are reporting explosive growth, especially on YouTube. Elgato Game Capture HD offers the community an unrivalled and efficient way to create gameplay videos in maximum quality with minimum effort. It brings together years of video-encoding and editing experience.”
Adam Steinberg, Vice President Marketing at Elgato.

The H.264 hardware encoding means Elgato Game Capture HD records in HD quality without burdening the hard disk with large files. And as someone who records as lot of high definition DSLR video footage, believe me this is a good thing. I’ve shelled out on far too many hard drives in my time and it’s getting old. Set up is pretty simply using a single cable from the XBox 360 or the PS3, capturing all your gameplay through the magic of HDMI.

Elgato Game Capture HD lets gamers focus on what matters – family, friends, the world outside … I’m kidding obvious. Making recording simple means you can focus wholeheartedly on dominating at Fallout or whatever it is the kids are playing these days.

Thanks to the unique Flashback Recording feature, Elgato Game Capture HD remembers the gameplay that has preceded it, even if the record button wasn?t pressed. The gamer can then simply revert to the start of the scene they want to record and begin recording retroactively. With a single click, videos can be shared with friends and fans on YouTube, Facebook or Twitter. And with Elgato Game Capture HD software, it’s even possible to trim gameplay videos for later editing using a video-editing program.

Elgato Game Capture HD will be available from the start of June from Elgato, Amazon, and selected retailers for £179.95 including VAT.

Zone – console gaming on the cheap

Everyone loves a bargain. Unfortunately, when that bargain happens to look like something more expensive with much worse functionality, people are bound to be disappointed. Enter the Zone 3D, 60 and 100.

Each of Zone’s products closely resembles a market competitor: the Zone 3D is Playstation-like, the 60 is all Wii (complete with accessories) and the 100 has a more-than-passing resemblance to the Xbox 360. Still, if you can’t afford any of the main consoles, you can always buy one of these and hope your friends are stupid. It’s a shame, because if they didn’t try to look like the major consoles, they’re not without some positives.

Zone

Zone 3D

Still in development, the Zone 3D should have between 20 – 30 3D games. This’ll be bolstered by around 80 bonus 2D games, meaning that everyone should find something to gauge their interest.

We played a skateboarding gaming, which responded well to the wireless controller. The graphics and gameplay were about on-par with a Playstation One. The 3D is powered by anaglyph – the old style green and red offset with compulsory goggles. It does mean you get 3D gaming without buying any special (expensive) kit, but it’s not the most impressive.

The system is available in the summer for around £50.

Zone 60

The sequel to the original Zone 40, the new system has bumped up the graphics to 32-bit. We didn’t see any 3D, so expect lots of SNES-style gaming. It didn’t look the best on the HD LCD TV was saw it on, but it’s not finished yet so it’s hard to pass judgement. There will be around 25, 32-bit games, the rest 16-bit ports from the old system.

We got to play a Table Tennis game on beginner mode, and thoroughly thrashed the opponent by simply mashing the A button. Although it looks like a Wii, swinging the remote was completely unnecessary for our victory. On the other hand, there’re plenty of accessories to tack onto the remote, which was half the Wii-fun. Summer, £50.

Zone 100

This one was out of batteries when we got to the stall, but simply it looked like a white Kinect. The benefit is that you can plug it into the TV without plugging in a power cord, so it’s highly portable. The downside? Running out of battery while gaming is frustrating.

The best gadgets you’ll actually buy (2010 edition)

We see a lot of electrics here at LG, and spend even more time reading about them. It makes us a bit shallow, really, going from gadget-to-gadget in a glut of unabated consumption.

So when something stays in our mind – or even more impressive, stays in our house, we like to give it some credit. Here are my favourite gadgets of 2010, three of which live in my house, two of which I bought myself and one that I gave as a gift.

iPhone-4-Round-Up

iPhone

The world’s greatest smartphone – and I’ve been sampling Android and Windows Phone 7 phones all year. It’s beautifully designed, while the screen’s high pixel density makes words appear printed.

There was a bit of an antenna PR disaster at first, but realistically, the only thing barring me from surfing the web on-the-go is Orange’s poor network. On Three, Vodafone or O2, however, it’s like holding the future in your hands.

For 2011, I genuinely hope that the Android-invasion finally usurps the smartphone crown.  Unfortunately, at the moment it’s just a bit too ugly, and not as user-friendly.

Kindle

Two months and two product samples later, the Kindle beat the Sony Reader. The lower price and always-on 3G – plus a unique design – made it my ideal eBook reader. The screen is phenomenal – the glare of an LCD monitor (or iPad) simply cannot compare.

Kindle-Roundup

Despite my admiration for the Kindle, every day I wish for the Sony Reader’s touchscreen and the better PDF support. If the Kindle didn’t exist, I’m certain the Sony Reader would have made this list.

OWL Wireless Electricity Monitor

It’s not glamorous, but it is indispensible. Putting a number – be it wattage, price, or tonnes of CO2 – on electricity consumption is a great way of visualising some laisse-faire electricity habits. It’s not for everyone, but it definitely proves the “don’t leave your TV on stand-by” message.

Kinect

I don’t own a Kinect – or even an Xbox. But that’s okay, because it hasn’t made the list for its gaming prowess. The Kinect has been hacked by so many people, doing so many cool things, that eventually 3D camera chat, Minority Report-style interfaces and camera-based product recognition should all be household staples.

Air2Air DraganFlyer X6

At £21,585, maybe this is out of everyone’s price-range (at least if they’re in a reasonable frame of mind). Peeping toms and News of the World reporters can rejoice, however, as it floats high into the air and carries a 12.1 megapixel camera – perfect for sleezing. There’s also an infra-red option for night-time reconnaissance. Nefarious uses aside, it’s pretty awesome.

Microsoft Kinect vs Playstation Move: World in motion

This Autumn, the biggest console conflict in recent years is set to begin. Will Sony Move the Xbox out of its way, or will the Xbox Kinect itself to the champion’s trophy? We demoed both at the EuroGamer Expo last weekend and are ready to give you our verdict.

Move-vs-Kinect

Sony: Moving You To Tears of Joy and Frustration
You’ll never forget the first time you play the Move, especially if the game is Hustle Kings. To quote PJ Hruschak, “The few minutes I played Hustle Kings in the Sony Booth at E3 2010 were easily the most frustrating of all my gaming endeavors and time spent at the expo.” Perhaps the game isn’t terrible, but using the Move to control it makes you want to take the motion-controller and smash it through the television – especially if that is also made by Sony.

It’s an example of everything that went wrong with the Wii, and what is going wrong with the Move and Kinect. Move support feels random, bolted-on and awkward. Then, when you understand it, it feels pointless. The same goes for the KungFu Rider, which made CrunchGear “want to turn off the PS3, curl up into the fetal position, and cry [their] pain away”. For us, it simply led us to the next stand and a revelation in Move gaming: SOCOM 4.

Andrew Yoon describes the experience best. For SOCOM 4, “PlayStation Move worked exactly as we thought it would, resembling the experience of playing a Wii FPS. Aiming is very fast and responsive.” With the graphics prowess of the PS3 combined with pointing-to-aim, the Move has created one of the most immersive first-person experiences. The same is true for the Heavy Rain integration, where you shove the control forward to push people out the way, or roll it to the side to avoid a fatal stab to the neck.

The controllers themselves are what you’d expect from a Sony-copy of an older technology – refined and beautified. The black finish, no matter how beaten up, will never look as gross as a well-used, dingy Wii controller does. The ergonomics are also a massive improvement. The controllers are light, and the hands wraps easily around the curved design. The big light-orb at the top is much smaller and less dorky in real life, too.

And unlike the Wii, there is no wire running between the main controller and the one with the analogue stick – independent motion is much easier without a flailing cable.

Xbox: Sort-of What You’d Expect, Given That There is No Controller

Although Apple has hijacked the word, the Microsoft Kinect truly is magical – more so than anything Apple has ever produced.

By using your body as a controller, using the system is as easy as it is intuitive. You poke your hand out in front of you and the Kinect will recognise it as the controller. Move your hand, and the on-screen cursor will dutifully follow. Want a friend to play? All they have to do is stand next to you and the camera will recognise a second player, instantly adding them to the gameplay. For games like Kinect Adventures, it means that people can dip-in during their favourite mini-game, and escape afterwards. It’s a completely novel and casual gaming experience.

The system is full of nice touches, too. For instance, in Kinect Sport, the game not only recognises actions relevant to the game, but your whole body’s movement. If you’re playing online, you can wave at the opposition and your character will do the same. If you want to win, whip out the lewd gestures and watch as your opponent gets put off. It’s a priceless feature. The games also use the camera to take pictures of you in-action, so you can view your actions after the match has finished. It’s like an instant-reply, but of you instead of the gameplay.

The real joy, however, comes from games like Dance Central, which can only be played due to the unique technology of the Kinect. The premise is simple: copy the on-screen dance moves to the music. It’s like Guitar Hero, but for your whole body. As the Kinect is the only device on the market that can track your whole bodies movements, head, body, arm and leg movements all come into play. It’s like you’re actually dancing for points, rather than the flailing-arms experience of the Move or Wii.

The Proof is in the Ping Pong
Luckily for us, the two systems have provided us a control for the comparison: table tennis. Available as a launch game for both systems, the humble sport outlines the difference between the two systems.

Move table tennis is a very precise affair. It takes a while to get to grips with and takes into account even the smallest movements of the arm, the most delicate twists of the wrist. It’s a game that people can master with enough practice – giving advanced users a sense of achievement. The Move does best with precision, small movements – hardcore gameplay.
Kinect table tennis, on the contrary, is much more Wii-Sports. Wave your arm and the ball gets hit. Sure, velocity of the shot is detected, and yes, it does detect both fore- and backhands. But, as explained by the Xbox rep, the game doesn’t even detect your hand. It registers our most opposable extremity as an extension of the forearm. The accuracy and precision is just not there, replaced instead with instant, accessible fun.

And what else would you expect from a system with no buttons? It would be impossible to match the twelve input keys of a regular controller, plus analogue sticks, with just body-control.

Conclusion: We’re Copping Out. Sorry.
Luckily for consumers, it seems like the two companies have aimed for completely different markets. Sony have taken the control system of the Wii, and fine-tuned it for hardcore gamers, including added support for three-dimensions. Microsoft, however, have upgraded the Wii’s soul: the fun, party-play potential is extraordinary.

Which is best? It’s impossible to say. Rather ironically, however, the one we won’t be buying – the Kinect – is probably the one that’ll have the biggest impact on gaming in future. The Microsoft device will be well worth the purchase should you have a big living room and often have friends over. It will, almost undoubtedly, produce the finest party games of the current generation.

If you are like us, however, and don’t host regularly, then it’ll be the Sony that moves you the most.

Your Shape: Changing the shape of gaming, and your waist-line

Your Shape is part of a new generation of gaming – the Xbox Kinect generation. The aim is to free you from the shackles of traditional control pads by using the movement of your entire body as the controller. But does it work? Is an updated version of the Sony EyeToy worth a £150 outlay? We got our hands – well, our bodies – involved in the new game to work up a sweat, as well as work out the answer.

YourShape

The amazing thing about Your Shape, and the Xbox Kinect, is how intuitive the control system really is. As soon as you step in front of the camera, you instantly feel in absolutely control. And with the camera sensing 24 different joints of your body – joints that you use every day – you can understand why it feels so natural.

Thanks to the Kinect, all of the Your Shape mini-games are extremely easy to use. Our favourite, the balance-objects-on-a-board game, is both the simplest and most fiendishly addictive. Hold an imaginary board level to stack falling objects, and then drop them into the open pit at either side to score points. The more blocks you stack, the more they are worth. While the game is fun, the most amazing feature is how easily non-gamers could pick it up – most took mere seconds.

While games like board-balancing fire up the testosterone, other games deliberately aim in the opposite direction. In fact, the game recommends you end with one of these relaxation sessions – like Tai Chi Tutor – to warm-down.

When practicing your Tai Chi, the camera provides you with visible feedback on your positioning. You’ll instantly know whether you are a Tai Chi master, or a poor imitation whose body is not quite in the right position. The visible feedback lets you instantly improve your technique – it is as if a real teacher was watching and analysing any mistakes. It will be a disservice to compare this to any other game, because it feels so much more like a real training experience.

There are plenty of more fitness orientated exercises for you to enjoy (or endure), but the key to development is the ever-evolving exercise programmes. The better you get, the more intense the work-outs become.

Your-Shape-Punch

Your success at getting fit isn’t just at the mercy of the console either, as Your Shape also lets you check out your exercise achievements online. Head to YourShapeUp.com and you can see your progress on various exercise, as well as the calories you’ve burnt over a period of time. It’s like an achievement record for your gym-skills. Being able to keep track of your successes really adds to the lifespan of the game – you can make sure that you’re keeping yourself going and continuing to improve without guesswork or time-consuming record taking.

Aside from burning calories, some of the games are actually quite fun. The aforementioned board-balancing game is a bit like Tetris for the twenty-first century. The basics are simple, but there are plenty of strategies and techniques to make you a first-class player. For example, hold your arms higher to raise the board in the air, making the objects drop slowed. Drop your arms to your waist, and the games speeds up its block dropping. It’s then up to you to work out when to tip the blocks into the catchment areas.

Your Shape is a great example of gaming for a new market. The party-play may not be there (although board balancing can get quite competitive, especially when you are pitched against the insurmountable Super Chick), but never before has such an interactive exercising game existed. It should be the pin-up of the current crop of Kinect games – an interesting game that literally couldn’t exist without the Kinect technology.