Jeff’s Game Reviews – PS5 vs. Xbox Series X – Which Should You Buy?

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PS5 vs. Xbox Series X

2020 will likely go down as one of the most challenging years in modern history, not in the least for commerce, business, and technology. Small mom and pop stores and large corporations alike felt the crunch, and one industry in particular suffered unexpected misfires even the incoming Biden administration felt compelled to investigate.

I’m speaking, of course, of the video game business, specifically digital entertainment powerhouses Microsoft and Sony and their brand-new home consoles, the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5. Both companies came to the market in November 2020, and both probably regret they did. Don’t get me wrong, having used each system extensively, I can attest to the quality of both. Neither has been without launch jitters and bugs, but Microsoft and Sony have, in their own time, gone a long way toward patching and improving problems as they’ve come up.

The real trouble with the Xbox Series X (and its kid brother, the Series S) and the PS5 is that they were both released without a steady supply of fresh product in the pipeline. A lot of excitement built up in the gaming community over the course of 2020, and by the time the launch window finally arrived in November, you would’ve needed to be exceptionally lucky or downright Google-gifted to snag a preorder. Add to that a huge issue with reseller bots buying consoles at unprecedented rates and creating a kind of gaming black market on eBay, and you’ve got a recipe for mass frustration.

But let’s back up a bit. Assuming you can in fact get your hands on a system, which should you choose? The truth is subtler than you might expect. Though graced with different architecture, the PS5 and Series X run third-party titles in a virtually identical manner. Games look great, sharp, clear, detailed. You’ll need a decent 4K television to see this stuff in full next-gen glory, but assuming you don’t mind upgrading, I can guarantee an excellent experience either way. That being said, services, content, and a few hardware points do enough to properly differentiate Series X from PS5. In the end, it all comes down to individual preference, so let’s look at each in turn.

Xbox Series X

Microsoft released two consoles last autumn, but the Series S is meant to be a less powerful and cheaper option designed for gamers who don’t care too much about 4K or enhanced performance or owning the biggest and baddest on the block. It’s a full $200 USD cheaper than Series X, and therefore makes for an appealing option. The Series X is the real star here, however, so let’s zoom in on it.

Consider this article for a full rundown of the Series X’s technical specifications. Needless to say, there’s a lot of power under the hood. The Xbox brand has one major trump card called Gamepass. For a monthly fee, players can gain access to a huge library of old classics and modern stunners. In fact, if you were so inclined, you might not even need to buy games at full retail value again. The Series X is also bolstered by its impressive zeal for backward compatibility. Almost every single title available on the previous generation’s Xbox One, including older Xbox 360 and original Xbox games, is playable here. Most if not all older titles benefit from lighting-fast load times and post-processed HDR (High Dynamic Range color and lighting). In addition, the system has quick resume functionality, which allows players to jump back into their games precisely where they left off, even if the system has been in sleep mode for weeks or even months.

It all goes for $500 USD, the same price as PS5. Happens to be the smaller of the two systems, too, which is admittedly a non sequitur. PS5 is massive, just massive, but Series X is fairly large as well. It is currently a bit easier to find at online retailers,. PlayStation sales are through the roof, but if you want a system right now, you could do worse than Series X.

See my video review of the Xbox Series X

PlayStation 5

Ask any diehard Sony fan why they keep coming back to PS and you’re likely to hear one answer above all others: the exclusives. See this article for a full list of tech specs for PS5.

Truthfully, Sony has the better history producing first-party games. The list from the last few years alone is impressive, the PS4 having been the exclusive home of some truly great titles like Spider-Man, Final Fantasy VII Remake, God of War, Ghost of Tsushima, Grant Turismo Sport, and many others. Fewer old PlayStation games are backwards compatible, but the ones that are sure pack a punch.

Another great feature is the PS5’s controller, dubbed the Duel Sense. It has impressive haptic feedback sensitivity, including articulate rumbles at multiple contact points and adaptive triggers that adjust tension on the fly. It feels great in your hands, but time will tell how many new games take full advantage. Sony is keenly aware of Microsoft’s desperation to pull into pole position with its myriad services and freebies, so expect the PS landscape to include sudden unannounced benefits as the months and years mount up.

The PlayStation 5 is arguably the buggiest of the two consoles even half a year after release, so take that into account when making your purchase. I fully expect Sony to hunt these known issues down and patch them appropriately, but Microsoft has had a bit more pep in their step on this point.

Check out my video review of the PS5

Conclusion

Not everyone is interested in new gaming consoles right now, and that stands to reason. Those who are have driven the gaming marketplace to dizzying new heights. The PS5 is the fastest selling game system in US history, which is pretty amazing considering the fact it’s almost impossible to find. Big box retailers don’t carry them at physical locations, which means the internet remains your only method of procurement. I can guarantee you’ll have an excellent time playing on either of these two behemoths, but look, if you don’t mind waiting, then go ahead and wait. You won’t have to tear your hair out running the online circuit from Amazon to Best Buy to Target to Walmart … see what I mean? Both companies have produced great pieces of hardware, and that’s the honest truth. Excellent exclusives or tempting membership benefits and services, you decide.

I’ll be back with another Jeff’s Game Reviews here on Writing to be Read. Until then, keep your trigger fingers at the ready, folks. Never know when you’ll have to do a little console hunting. Take care.


Jeff Bowles is a science fiction and horror writer from the mountains of Colorado. The best of his outrageous and imaginative work can be found in God’s Body: Book One – The Fall, Godling and Other Paint Stories, Fear and Loathing in Las Cruces, and Brave New Multiverse. He has published work in magazines and anthologies like PodCastle, Tales from the Canyons of the Damned, the Threepenny Review, and Dark Moon Digest. Jeff earned his Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing at Western State Colorado University. He currently lives in the high-altitude Pikes Peak region, where he dreams strange dreams and spends far too much time under the stars. Jeff’s new novel, Love/Madness/Demon, is available on Amazon now!

Love Madness Demon Cover Final

Check out Jeff Bowles Central on YouTube – Movies – Video Games – Music – So Much More!

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Jeff’s Game Reviews – The Medium

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Reviewed on Xbox Series X – Also available on Xbox One and Xbox Series S

Fear can be a tricky thing to nail down. From a storytelling perspective, it’s more complicated than basic jump scares and grotesque slight of hand. In order to really scare people you’ve got to get inside their heads, and that’s exactly what independent Polish game developer Bloober Team has tried to do in their latest Xbox exclusive, The Medium. The basic selling point is a new gaming mechanic in which the player is occasionally required to control their character in two different spiritual “realms” at the same time. It’s a cool idea, novel in the sense that dedicated gaming consoles have never been powerful enough to render this kind of thing before, but it’s also a little bit gimicky, and that’s hard to ignore.

Whether it’s the stunning and seriously disturbed environments found in the land of the dead, the screaming, groping, crying, ever-present monster who shamelessly plagues you wherever you go, or the expertly revealed mystery of the murder of one lively little dead girl, the game is seriously invested in freaking you out. Does it do its job? For the most part, but there’s not a whole lot of basic modern scare tactics in use here that we haven’t seen before. The game’s narrative is anything but perfectly realized, and certain technical shortcomings hurt the overall experience, but The Medium is more than the sum of its parts. This could’ve been a huge disaster. It’s not though, even if it is the brand new system’s first and only true exclusive. Watch our video review for a good look at the game in action:

Our hero, the eponymous medium of this ghost story, is a young woman named Marianne. We never really get the sense she’s super experienced at this gig, because contextually speaking, she seems to be using many of her incredible abilities for the first time. First time having an out of body experience, first time getting stalked by a giant, faceless, pan-dimensional demon with a serious skin fetish. I mean it, there’s this frightening and freakish dude who follows you around for the entire second half of the game. No attacking, shooting, bludgeoning, or stabbing for you. The only way to win is to keep running and hiding. Can’t we get a moment’s peace?!

More or less The Medium’s shortcomings boil down to this: the camera is locked off in old-school Resident Evil fashion, making navigation cumbersome and awkward. Additionally, puzzles and quests are never as smart as you want them to be. The much-touted split-screen mechanic of simultaneously dwelling in both the world of the living and the land of the dead is unique and visually striking, but it seems to be limited to the use of passing arbitrarily administrated spiritual barriers, blasting demon bat thingies with an electric shield bubble, and slicing through large sheets of skin with a bone straight-razor.

Ew, gross.

And yes, a terse and limited story about shame, fear, death, and rage is continuously hampered by narration that tells more than it shows. Truly, the dialogue and voice acting try to keep pace with bigger games of the genre, but they never quite get there. It’s kind of a shame, because there’s lots of scary concepts and dark emotional undertones percolating just below the surface. Moments of sheer terror be damned, Resident Evil and other genre master series are capable of nailing gameplay AND story, so what’s the deal here?

The one thing that truly elevates the overall experience is the atmosphere, which is rich, dense, and undeniably disturbing. It’s hard to imagine The Medium pushes the powerful new Xbox hardware to its limits, but the launch release is plagued by framerate issues and other graphical kinks, so push the Xbox it must. Even so, dense forests and a haunted Polish resort hotel are handled with style in both the material and ghost realms. You’ll have a good time playing this game, especially if you’re a horror nut, but doubts will continue to linger as to whether or not you’ll remember it once you put it down.

Jeff’s Game Reviews gives The Medium a final score of SEVEN out of TEN.


Jeff Bowles is a science fiction and horror writer from the mountains of Colorado. The best of his outrageous and imaginative work can be found in God’s Body: Book One – The Fall, Godling and Other Paint Stories, Fear and Loathing in Las Cruces, and Brave New Multiverse. He has published work in magazines and anthologies like PodCastle, Tales from the Canyons of the Damned, the Threepenny Review, and Dark Moon Digest. Jeff earned his Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing at Western State Colorado University. He currently lives in the high-altitude Pikes Peak region, where he dreams strange dreams and spends far too much time under the stars. Jeff’s new novel, Love/Madness/Demon, is available on Amazon now!

Love Madness Demon Cover Final

Check out Jeff Bowles Central on YouTube – Movies – Video Games – Music – So Much More!


Exciting Happenings for Writing to be Read and WordCrafter

2021 is off to a great start and today, I wanted to take a minute to update you on the really cool stuff scheduled on Writing to be Read in the coming months. I’ve talked about some of these new additions previously, but one or two have only come together recently and I can’t wait to share them.

Dark Origins

You’ll find Robbie Cheadle’s new series, “Dark Origins”, posted on the fourth Wednesday of each month, and the first post will be this coming Wednesday, January 27th. Robbie will be delving into the origins of nursery rhymes and fairy tales, which can be very dark indeed, so be sure and watch for it.

Jeff’s Game Reviews

Jeff Bowles already shared the first post in his new video game review series, “Jeff’s Game Reviews”, where shared his thoughts on Hitman 3. This series will post the fourth Friday of each month, and each post includes a link to the video version of the review.

WordCrafter Book Blog Tours

Last but not least, February will see the launch of WordCrafter Book Blog Tours. The first tour will be for the Spirits of the West western paranormal anthology. Later in the month, tours are scheduled for Arthur Rosch’s poetry and photography collection, Feral Tenderness, and Barbara Spencer’s first book in the Children of Zues trilogy, A Click of a Pebble. I do hope you’ll all join us in learning about these wonderful books and their authors. Tours include interviews, book reviews and informative posts by the authors. You’ll find the complete tour schedule, as well as instructions for scheduling your own book blog tour on the WordCrafter Book Blog Tours page.

Where Spirits Linger

I’d also like to remind everyone that there is still time to submit your story in the 2021 WordCrafter Paranormal Short Fiction Contest, and to have it included in the resulting anthology, Where Spirits Linger. See the full submission guidelines for details. There is a $5 entry fee, which you can pay with a button right on the contest post, and the winner receives a $25 Amazon Gift Card and guarenteed inclusion in the anthology. But don’t wait too long. The deadline is April 30th.

2020 was a pretty good year for Writing to be Read and WordCrafter, in spite of the unusual circumstances of the pandemic and the “new normal”, which isn’t normal at all. After all the lock downs and mask mandates and social distancing, I think everyone needs a little makeover, and this blog is no exception. Writing to be Read may be getting a facelift with new types of content which will change it’s appearance a little, but the end result is that the blog will be so much better for them. Jeff’s and Robbie’s new series, the WordCrafter Book Blog Tours, and this year’s contest and anthology, are all welcome improvements, and I for one, can’t wait.

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Jeff’s Game Reviews – Hitman 3

Reviewed on Xbox Series X – Also available on PS5, PS4, Xbox One, and PC

The thrill of the kill is everything in the Hitman series. Are you a master craftsman of death or just a sociopath for hire? Who cares? Finding almost limitless possibilities to achieve your objectives and wipe your targets off the map is every bit as fun now as it was when the original game debuted way back in 2000. A sharp reboot in 2016 and a great follow up two years later bring us up to this little gem of a next-gen title, Hitman 3. This series about creative and covert assassinations has been around a long time. So what’s changed?

Well, certainly not the production values, which are often glorious to behold. Played on the new Xbox Series X in stunning 4K HDR, the game’s graphical achievements are evident at almost every turn. Lighting effects are brilliant, environments are large and incredibly detailed, and character models are just advanced enough to ensure players the new gaming generation is off to a good start. Even the music is fantastic. Fully orchestrated and grand, just like a prime entertainment experience ought to be.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to bring down the super-secret apparatus our bald-headed, barcoded protag, Agent 47, has spent an entire bloody career killing in the name of. It’s not crucial to have played the previous two entries in the series, but the campaign is well-written and well-acted, so you may want to go back and give the others a shot once you’ve cleared this one. Gameplay is essentially stealth-based, punctuated by moments of tense action, not unlike a good Bond or Bourne movie. Show up at a location, infiltrate, assassinate, get out. But the myriad ways to go about your grim work provide an impressive array of opportunities for fun and creativity. Sure, you can slink your way around, steal a disguise here, set up a killer trap there. Or you can be a bull in a China shop and bludgeon and murder your way to your targets. The choice as always is yours, but rest assured, you’ll never want for options.

Hitman 3 is a bit on the short side, with only six maps and therefore six overarching missions. But the replayability of the game is and should be a factor in your purchasing decision. Are you the sort to want to play huge missions again and again to get all the bloody nuance? Or is once and done enough for you? Developer IO Interactive is now working on a hotly anticipated 007 game, so you might want to get in your covert murder and espionage practice while you can.

Check out the video review here.

The most accurate thing to say about Hitman 3 in relation to its predecessors is that its scope and scale are a tad more robust. Yes, only six maps, but those six maps are gorgeous, huge, and contain so many fun secrets and hidden nooks and crannies you’re crazy if you’re not at least a little bit interested in diving back in after you’ve finished the campaign. Sometimes boneheaded AI and the intense and frequent need to save your game make it feel old-fashioned, but the more time you spend with Hitman 3 the more you realize just how sophisticated it is.

It’s not what you do, it’s the way you do it, your ability to bring down mega-baddies with style and finesse. The game rewards you for not being seen, setting up kills in advance, clearing stages quickly, and so on. Very rarely does Hitman 3 hold your hand. Its main interest is in providing you a worthy sandbox, and it does so with flash and ingenuity.

I must admit that after early experiences with the Hitman franchise when I was a young adult, I haven’t been all that excited to play a new one in quite some time. I’m terrible when it comes to stealth gameplay. Really, just awful at it. Give me a machine gun and an open field to mow down any day. But Hitman 3 has made me rethink its prominence in the popular gaming imagination. It can be so rewarding to sit on top of a target for five or ten minutes, shadowing them like a pro, waiting for the perfect time to strike. Similarly, discovering alternate paths to my objectives, appropriating disguises and equipment, scaling walls and being an unseen agent of chaos, it all makes for an engrossing ride, one for which I’m glad I paid full admission.  

This is a game for the meticulous, the completionists among us, and it’s incredibly rewarding on those levels. New players may find it tricky and challenging at first, but patience is a virtue. And so is a good garrot wire. Can’t leave that behind.

Jeff’s Game Reviews gives it an Eight out of Ten.


Jeff Bowles is a science fiction and horror writer from the mountains of Colorado. The best of his outrageous and imaginative work can be found in God’s Body: Book One – The Fall, Godling and Other Paint Stories, Fear and Loathing in Las Cruces, and Brave New Multiverse. He has published work in magazines and anthologies like PodCastle, Tales from the Canyons of the Damned, the Threepenny Review, and Dark Moon Digest. Jeff earned his Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing at Western State Colorado University. He currently lives in the high-altitude Pikes Peak region, where he dreams strange dreams and spends far too much time under the stars. Jeff’s new novel, Love/Madness/Demon, is available on Amazon now!

Love Madness Demon Cover Final

Check out Jeff Bowles Central on YouTube – Movies – Video Games – Music – So Much More!