I know we're all electioned out, but I can't help feel like the rare swing voter in this new console generation. I don't blame you for rolling your eyes at the notion. We live in a deeply divided gaming realm where only a few are brave enough not to wear blue, green or red. But I assure you, I entered the new era as an undecided voter.
My console choices have jumped from one platform to the next for various reasons. The Nintendo 64 introduced me to console gaming and was followed by a PS2. I had a brief stint with Sony, opting for the PS3 before buying a Wii U and jumping over to the Xbox One.
I kept my mind and wallet open going into this latest generation, patiently waiting until Sony or Microsoft revealed the killer feature that would help me make my decision. In the end, I purchased a PS5 on the strength of the DualSense controller and a more compelling catalog of first-party games.
Note: This article isn't intended to rub salt in the wounds. I sympathize with those attempting to purchase a PS5 from a legitimate storefront. Sony and its network of retailers are to blame for these frustrations. Fortunately, PS5 supply should continue to improve in 2021 to eventually reach demand. Feel free to bookmark our PS5 stock updates page for the latest on availability.
Why I chose a PS5 instead of the Xbox Series X
I came into this console generation split right down the middle. I've owned consoles from each of the major brands and never regretted any of them — yes, even the PS3 and Wii U had redeeming qualities.
Before the launch of these latest consoles, I played on an Xbox One S. It was tough to abandon PlayStation after playing Uncharted 2 and The Last of Us on PS3, but most of my friends owned the Xbox One so I jumped ship to team Microsoft. My memories of playing on the Xbox One are generally positive. I love the feel of the controller, the system was usually snappy, and the box had all the streaming apps I needed.
The Xbox One was, by no means, a perfect console. Microsoft tinkered with the UI on what felt like a weekly basis, online outages happened all too frequently (as they did on the PS4), downloads were sluggish despite my gigabit Ethernet connection and, as much as I liked the controller, I cycled through no fewer than five of them in as many years due to hardware failures and an abysmal warranty policy.
Certainly, some of the troubles I faced with the Xbox One S made it easier for me to go back to Sony. But the real catalyst was the PS5 DualSense controller. I knew the moment it was announced that the DualSense would add an extra layer of immersion missing on the Xbox Series X or Series S. It was enough for me to overlook whatever marginal power advantage Xbox has this time around. And so far, I'm glad I did.
The DualSense controller is truly next-gen
Most reviewers won't give a definitive answer when addressing the inevitable "Which console is better?" question. There's a good reason not to. For one, it's too early to tell — consoles are unrecognizable at the end of their life cycles compared to the start. It's also impossible to judge the selection of exclusive games so early on, although there is a clear winner when it comes to current launch titles.
But I'll be more decisive; the PS5 is the better console at launch. It starts with the DualSense controller. I wouldn't say it's any more comfortable than the Xbox Series X — I'm a sucker for those asymmetrical analog sticks — but there is no arguing against the PS5 controller as the more innovative peripheral.
The adaptive triggers feature an adjustable actuation force, meaning the amount of pressure you need to apply changes based on your in-game scenario. In Fortnite, shooting hundreds of rounds with an SMG requires practically no effort whereas firing a single sniper round requires you to push with all the strength in your index finger. In FIFA 21, the triggers, which control sprint speed, becoming increasingly difficult to press as players become fatigued.
Notice something about the above examples? They're third-party games available on all consoles. That's important because it indicates that non-Sony studios are adopting these features, suggesting they won't be limited to games made by in-house developers.
The same goes for haptic feedback, the clever vibration system that lets devs stimulate certain feelings and environments. I had my first "OMG" moment playing Astro's Playroom when I could feel raindrops splattering against my hands as my character braved the rainfall on the screen in front of me. The heartbeat of my nervous player in FIFA 21 gave me flashbacks to high school sports and the dreadful anxiety that overcomes anyone lining up to take a penalty kick.
These sensations engage your sense of touch in ways no other console has before, and they're missing on the Xbox Series X and Series S, which use a controller with a fairly standard set of features. For me, the DualSense controller alone is enough of a reason to buy the PS5 over the Xbox Series X, but it's not the only one.
PS5 launch exclusives
There is no need to harp on this for too long; Sony unquestionably has the better lineup of launch games. In fact, many are making the case that the PS5 has the best launch games of any console in history.
It's less about quantity than it is quality. Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Sackboy: A Big Adventure, Demon's Souls, Bugsnax (also on PC), and Astro's Playroom all enjoy a Metacritic rating of 75 or above. Miles Morales and Demon's Souls are contenders for many Games of the Year lists while SackBoy is a fantastic co-op game and Astro's Playroom comes free with the PS5.
The Xbox Series X's launch selection is, well, thin. The best games on Xbox Series X are the best games already available on Xbox One. Some of these titles will load faster and look better, but the experience of playing on the Series X will otherwise feel familiar (for now).
Don't write off the Xbox Series X
I'm not saying Xbox Series X owners should regret their decision; there are some clear advantages Xbox has over the PS5 that could give it the edge in the long run. Among those are a larger 1TB SSD (I've already run out of storage space on my PS5), a bit more power, more extensive backward compatibility, a smaller physical footprint, and of course, the killer app Game Pass.
But the extra teraflops haven't been pushed to their limits just yet and the lack of exclusive games makes the Series X launch feel like somewhat of a damp squib. I'm sure I'll envy the Xbox Series X at some point, perhaps when Halo Infinite finally launches. Until then, I'm glad I purchased a PS5, a console that already feels next-gen.