We tested the ninth generation of consoles

Xbox Series X. PlayStation 5. Prepare to see those words on holiday gift lists, because the ninth generation of consoles is – theoretically – hitting shelves. A moment to be marked with a white stone, each “new generation of consoles punctuates[ant] the history of video games, recalls Bernard Perron, professor specializing in video games and cinema at the University of Montreal. It literally marks the new generation of players who will have experienced its release ”. This may be even more accurate, since these two high-end machines from Sony and Microsoft spark a new generation of more immersive games. And keep their promises.

“It breathes life into the industry,” also notes Philip Barclay, executive producer at Studio Sabotage in Quebec. The more people buy games, the more games you can make. Even in times of pandemic, millions of people buy consoles high end. This is completely crazy. “

Pandemic requires, precisely, the two consoles were launched online in order to avoid the long traditional queues in front of the stores. Quickly, stocks were emptied. At the time of this writing, it was next to impossible to find one on the shelves. Microsoft and Sony both provided their consoles to the Duty for us to give it a try. Let’s dive in.

Seven years of technology

If the start of their design dates from well before the pandemic, the two consoles share an apocalyptic aesthetic that resonates with the times. Sony’s huge, white PlayStation 5 makes it look like a beluga has washed up in our living room. The slender, austere, black Xbox Series X looks like a standing stone abandoned by a lost civilization.

Under their hoods, we find the latest AMD – Zen 2 microprocessors and RDNA 2 graphics processors – allowing a significant leap in raw power compared to the previous generation of PlayStation 4 (PS4) and Xbox One, launched there is already seven years old.

But it is especially thanks to their storage medium, semiconductor disks, that this generation stands out. Already very present in the computer world, these ultra-fast disks were considered too expensive to be integrated into a console. Their addition to the PlayStation 5 (PS5) and Series X is a game-changer, making it possible to enter a game in seconds and sometimes even eliminate load times once inside them.

To the delight of the developers. “Our developers see a stimulating challenge [dans chaque nouvelle génération], explains Julien Laferrière, producer ofAssassin’s Creed : Valhalla at Ubisoft Montreal. It’s a bit like Christmas for us. “

For those who have a TV that allows it, both machines are capable of rendering games at up to 120 frames per second, in 4K resolution and with great dynamic range. “We were able to experiment with kits for developers, says Philip Barclay. This new generation allows us to simulate many more polygons and particles. “

“If we compare to the Nintendo Switch, which remains a great console with excellent market penetration, we have the impression of going back 10 years,” he adds.

This technology comes at a price. Both consoles retail for around $ 600, an increase of around $ 150 from the launch of the last generation. These prices seem less off-putting when compared to the world of video game computers. A custom PC that achieves similar performance can cost almost double.

Games from the big studios, whose development budgets continue to explode by dint of designing ever more detailed worlds, are reaching $ 90, or $ 10 more than before. Not to mention the deluxe editions including various supplements, which can reach $ 130. Ouch.

Games first

The interface of the two consoles puts the games in the foreground. We can still use it to watch our movies and TV series, but this is secondary. This refocusing is particularly visible on the Series X. Thanks to a skilful use of its electronic disc, one can pass from one game to another instantly, without having to return to their respective home screen.

The mobile applications of both consoles have been modernized. “The new game stores are a revolution for us,” says Philip Barclay enthusiastically. As a studio, we now have direct access to the players. We can share news with them or offer them our other games. “

The two consoles are equivalent to each other on the performance side – the Series X still manages to extract a little more power from its components – it is in the software field that we can decide between them. And on this battlefield, it is Sony who has the beautiful game right now with its exclusives.

Marvel’s Spider-Man : Miles Morales, from the Insomniac studio, an intergenerational exclusive to the machines of the Japanese firm, makes brilliant use of these technologies, mainly in its lighting effects. On PS5, all reflections are generated by ray tracing. The effect is particularly striking when one observes the streets of New York reflected in its skyscrapers.

The remake by Bluepoint studio from classic Demon’s Souls from developer FromSoftware, exclusive to the PS5, is also particularly beautiful.

These two games make full use of Sony’s redesigned controller, the DualSense. The latter vibrates with much more subtlety and its two triggers adjust their tension according to the context. In Spider-Man, for example, we can feel the cobwebs at the end of our arms through the triggers.

It remains to be seen whether the studios which also develop games for other platforms will use it, the Microsoft controller having remained almost unchanged. For example, Assassin’s Creed : Valhalla, available on both Series X and PS5, is guilty of this omission.

No Series X exclusive games are available yet. Most games exclusive to the Xbox platform will be compatible with previous generation Xbox consoles and Windows computers.

Backward compatible catalog

But the backward compatibility features that mark this generation of console make it possible to compensate for the lack of new games by catching up. Industry veteran Ed Fries told a talk at MEGA + MIGS last week that this generation is the one who most applies “the vision” he had when he helped design the first Xbox. of a console that “looks like a PC”.

By sharing the same type of computer architecture as the previous generation, and using components similar to those offered on PC, the Series X and the PS5 are able to run almost any game of the previous generation, often better. On Microsoft’s side, this backward compatibility even extends to the Xbox 360 and some games from the original Xbox. It is up to the developers to optimize their games.

The racing game Forza Horizon 4 from Turn10 Studios, exclusive to Microsoft machines and optimized for the X Series, is for example rendered at 60 frames per second with the equivalent of “ultra” settings for PC.

In addition to being able to purchase these titles individually, the two platform owners now offer subscription services.

The Redmond company showcases this vast catalog of backward compatible games in its Game Pass, which allows users to download nearly 350 games from a rotating selection for $ 17 per month. At Sony, PS5 gamers are offered a tighter selection of around 20 award-winning games from the previous generation through the PS Plus Collection, including the excellent Person 5, Bloodborne and The Last Guardian.

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