Both next-gen consoles are duking it out in the first E3 since their release, with Microsoft bringing out Halo's big guns to counter Sony's hardware innovations – the Project Morpheus VR kit and PlayStation TV.
Normally, by this point in the release cycle, one of the consoles would be pulling ahead of the pack, bolstered by a killer app – some exclusive game or feature that makes it a must-have.
Trouble is, that killer app doesn't seem to have materialised – on either console. The few exclusive titles haven't really grabbed my attention, and the glut of familiar cross-platform IPs are hardening my resolve to bite the bullet and pick up a gaming PC.
The Order: 1886
The exclusives largely trod familiar ground; Microsoft leaned heavily on Halo; Sony on Uncharted. If you're not already invested in those franchises, there are some new IPs – Xbox One gets Sunset Overdrive, which has an interesting multiplayer co-op mechanic, but its energy-drink-fuelled visuals and knowingly sarky tone remind me of all those desperate corporate attempts at cool in the 1990s. Remember Poochie from The Simpsons? Exxtreme to the maxx, dude.
Over on PS4, there's Bloodborne and The Order: 1886. Bloodborne, a "spiritual successor" to Demon's Souls and Dark Souls, can reasonably be expected to be more of the same; fine, if you like that sort of thing. As for The Order: 1886; I'm not really one for cyber-monocles and laser blunderbusses and other steampunk trappings.
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Like many, I've been waiting to see which of the next-gen consoles is worth investing in; the exciting prospect for me was what they could do that PCs couldn't. Both Microsoft and Sony initially talked up their consoles as being the centre of an entertainment hub; swiping through TV stations with Kinect, game-sharing on PS4, and so forth. But there seems to be little of that in evidence in the titles on display at E3 – bar a few flashes of innovation, buried in Microsoft and Sony's indie games presentations.
For the most part, the story was one of a retreat from interesting new technologies and game mechanics, back towards tried-and-tested franchises. Since neither of the next-gen consoles is making the most of their unique features (indeed, Microsoft's even releasing an Xbox One minus the previously-essential Kinect), you're left with a numbers game based around specs and titles – and on both counts, the PC looks to have the consoles trumped.
It's PC gone mad
Now, I'm no PC gaming evangelist; I do most of my gaming on a PS3, and my antiquated notebook struggles to run Skyrim on low settings. But spec up a current gaming PCs and you have something that's easily on par with the PS4 and Xbox One on raw graphical grunt. And almost all of the non-exclusive titles are making their way over to the PC; Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, Rise of the Tomb Raider, Far Cry 4 and GTA V are all releasing on PC alongside the console versions.
PC specs are as good as you're prepared to shell out for; upgradeability means that you can start small and upgrade as cashflow allows, and with Steam's Big Picture mode, you finally have a PC gaming interface that sits happily in your living room. The launch of Valve's Steam Machine project may have been delayed, but then, PCs are an open platform, and if you want to bung SteamOS on your machine, there's nothing stopping you – once it launches, of course.
The library of titles available on PC includes all the big cross-platform franchises, plus some exclusives like the expansive Star Citizen and Syndicate throwback Satellite Reign – both of which employ the interesting game mechanics that the big console-exclusive titles seem to shy away from. There's also a vibrant indie scene on PC that the consoles are only just catching up to.
I could be wrong; Sunset Overdrive might turn out to be the best thing I've ever played. But on the current evidence, neither of the next-gen consoles are making the most of their unique features – and that leaves me wondering what, exactly, they do that a PC can't.
4K Xbox One and PS4 console refreshes could land later this year