For some time, Tom’s Guide gaming guru Marshall Honorof and I have been saying you don’t need a PS5 or Xbox Series X, noting a lack of major games or huge exclusives that make either console a must-have. But I’ve been ping-ponging, from suggesting gamers buy neither, to suggesting that they buy both.
After spending some quality time with both consoles, I now feel that the systems are actually well worth hunting down, even if it means having to refresh PS5 restocks and Xbox Series X restocks constantly.
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This revised opinion comes in spite of the delay of Deathloop to this September, removing a killer PS5 exclusive game for the spring. My reasoning is that both consoles are now the best places to play last-generation games, even if the high-end AMD Ryzen chips inside aren't being pushed to their limits just yet.
The beast of backwards compatibility
The Xbox Series X has stellar backwards compatibility. It gives old original Xbox and Xbox 360 games some automatic spit and polish by adding Auto HDR to boost their color ranges.
And even if the Series X doesn't explicitly boost the performance of older titles, its sheer graphical grunt can smooth over a lot of performance hiccups that were present on older hardware.
But now, some five months after its launch last November, the Xbox Series X has more titles optimized for it. These provide smoother experiences, including 120 frames-per-second gaming, 4K graphics and compatibility with Quick Resume. Forza Horizon 4 — an already-beautiful game — looks stunning in it’s optimized form, offering a 4K 60 fps experience. And Halo: The Master Chief Collection is just a joy on the Xbox Series X. Gears 5 also looks and plays even better than before on the latest Xbox hardware.
Then there’s the cross-generation Assassin's Creed Valhalla, which looks fantastic on Microsoft's machine, to the extent that I’d no longer consider playing it on older hardware. I’ve not tried Cyberpunk 2077 yet, but I’d hazard a guess that it’s not a particularly good experience on last-gen consoles.
The pinnacle of PlayStation
The PS5 doesn't do backwards compatibility as well as its Redmond rival. But Sony's console offers more exclusives, almost as a form of compensation. But Demon’s Souls and Astro’s Playroom, both of which are excellent, aren’t quite the exclusive game bounty we’d been waiting for. And wait we shall, given that Horizon Forbidden West hasn't been given any clearer release date than "2021."
But despite this, the PS5 has won me over by being the best machine to play last-gen PS4 games. I’ve already written about how good God of War looks and plays on the PS5 now that it’s had an update. But other games have been getting a next-gen boost, too. Destiny 2 and Control are two major titles that can harness some of thePS5 ‘s power.
Hitman 3, one of the best games I’ve played this year so far, also looks fantastic on Sony’s big games machine. This title also makes use of the DualSense controller, which can occasionally be a bit distracting. But it's also very cool from a tech perspective.
Horizon Zero Dawn hasn’t had a PS5 update, but the PS5 gets access to the PS4 Pro’s enhanced graphics mode, which is something I’d not experienced as an owner of a base model PS4. What’s more: It’s nice to play the game without a lot of console noise. My PS4 would sometimes sound like it was going to take off.
I’d certainly not be against some more exclusive or true next-gen games for either console. But as it stands, I’d now consider the effort of tracking down either the PS5 or Xbox Series X, or indeed both, as an investment in your gaming future, as well as the best way to play any last-gen games you missed.
Better performance, quieter gaming and speedy load times can take critically acclaimed games and turn them into truly seminal experiences. And as someone who plays games for the full ride — from booting a game up, to seeing the end credits roll — I can't deny that the PS5 and Xbox Series X both make for tantalizing must-have gaming prospects.