Why the move to “next-gen” is not the time to buy “next-gen”.

audible collective gasp!

audible collective gasp!

If you’re looking to buy one of those sweet next-gen gaming consoles, I’m going to give you my advice:

Don’t.

Whoah whoah whoah! Don’t get either?! Why would you even say such a thing?!

Now is not the time to move to the next iteration of the Playstation or Xbox. This is because this generation of gaming may be one of the best times to make the switch and get a gaming PC instead.

Perhaps if the biggest reason you’re excited for PS4/Xbox One was because of games like Uncharted and Halo, (ie exclusives) you might be completely justified in your decision. However, for all the other games, a gaming PC will give you a much better experience.

  • Games look better.

The difference in graphical capability between consoles and PC’s is significant. On even a mid-range gaming PC, resolutions are greater, and frame rates are higher. Textures are of better quality, and other settings such as anti-aliasing (which reduces the appearance of ‘jaggies’ on curved and angled objects) is available, whereas it may not be enabled or of lower quality on a console.

People like to market “runs in HD!”, but the truth is, very few games, if any, truly run at a native 1080p resolution. Rather, games run at a lower resolution, such as Battlefield 4, which runs at 900p on PS4, and 720p on Xbox One. Then, the image is scaled up to fit your 1080p TV, similar to what happens when you try to resize an image in Paint to make it larger. The image is bigger, yes, but it doesn’t look that great anymore.

PC’s will play modern titles at true 1080p, often with higher frame rates (many games on consoles, especially non-shooters, have their frame rate locked to 30 FPS.)

That’s not the greatest comparison, since it’s YouTube and you only get half a screen each, but you can see things generally look nicer on the PC side. The lighting is better, things look more real, there’s less aliasing and jaggy edges, and scenes generally are more detailed.
There are additional comparison screenshots on Eurogamer.

Also, if you get a 1440p monitor (like me!), games will run at 1440p! …Or at 4K if you’re rich or something.

In certain games, you can download modifications (mods) that improve the game’s graphics. (More on mods later)

  • You don’t have to pay extra to play online.

No Xbox Live memberships, no PS+ fees.

  • Games are less expensive.

The average console game costs $60. Big-name PC games also cost $60 at launch.

However, PC games go on sale much more frequently, and for better prices. The game distribution service Steam holds several “Steam Sales” a year, where an incredible number of games can be found at great discounts.

SSS1

SSS2

Now don’t tell me these don’t look juicy.

If you can wait for sales on Steam and other stores, imagine how much you’ll save on games. Especially when you’re used to buying games at $60 each.

There’s also the Humble Bundle, where you pay what you want for a selection of games that changes each week, and a portion of what you pay goes to charity. Recently, I paid $5 for all of: Batman: Arkham Asylum, Batman: Arkham City, Lord of the Rings: War in the North, and Scribblenauts Unlimited. If you’re a cheapskate short on cash, you can even pay a buck and get all sorts of awesome games.

  • You have access to whole libraries of games not found on consoles.

I’m mainly talking about MMOs and RTS games. Some of the most famous games can’t be played on a console. Strategy games such as StarCraft, WarCraft, DotA, League of Legends, Total War, Age of Empires, and Command and Conquer are computer games. World of WarCraft, Ragnarok Online, Guild Wars, DayZ, are just a few of the countless MMOs that can be found.

Some other well-known PC-only games are Amnesia: The Dark Descent, Arma, StepMania, Kerbal Space Program, I Wanna Be the Guy, and Red Orchestra.

Oh, and Touhou. Can’t forget about Touhou. PC-only.

  • Emulation

With the magic of emulation programs for nearly every legacy console, you can play all the retro games you like… for free! That’s how I got to play Earthbound, Mother, Persona 3 and 4, even though there are no copies to be found in stores. If I wanted to play Kingdom Hearts over again, I could hook up the PS2 again, or I could play it via emulator. There’s even HD mods that allow you to play old games such as Kingdom Hearts in HD.

Dolphin (Gamecube and Wii emulator) also allows some games to be played online via netplay, like Super Smash Bros Melee.

Super Smash Bros for N64, running on an emulator

Super Smash Bros for N64, running on an emulator

  • Backwards compatible, forever

Maybe you’d like to play your old games sometimes, too. Next gen consoles (except Wii U, which isn’t quite “next-gen”) can’t play older games… but PC games will always be compatible with PC.

That’s a pretty big deal, isn’t it?

  • Mods.

I’m not talking about hacks and cheats. If you’ve seen my Skyrim screenshots, those are of my *modded* game. If we focus on just Skyrim, there is a mod for just about anything. Custom armor and weapons, different body types, improved skin textures, more kill moves, more hair styles, more eye colours, new quest lines, new areas, gameplay overhauls, graphics overhauls, and even little things like a mod that makes your character leave footprints in the snow, or adding a water droplet effect on surfaces when it rains.

In The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, my character wielded the Oblivion keyblade from Kingdom Hearts. That’s right. (Unfortunately, I don’t have any screenshots anymore)

Then we have Left 4 Dead, which can be modded to have new maps, improved item and weapon appearances, different character appearances, different soundtracks, and etc.

I’ve also heard that Grand Theft Auto looks great when modded.

  • Keyboard and Mouse controls

The keyboard and mouse, especially for shooter games, is the superior method of control. You point at something, and then you shoot at it. There’s no waiting for your crosshair to line up with your target. You can do fast, sweeping movements to turn around, and then make minute aim adjustments to be as accurate as you can be, depending on how far you move the mouse. (See: CounterStrike players)

On a console, the game helps you aim via aim-assist. If you aim down the sights while looking in the general direction of the enemy, your crosshair ‘snaps’ to them for you. It will even track and follow the enemy on its own, so all you have to do is press down on the trigger. Now, I don’t know about you, but I can follow a target just fine on my own without my hand being held.

For some games, such as DotA games, StarCraft and WarCraft, the keyboard and mouse is basically the only way to go. (Unless you’re that one kid who plays Protoss with a 360 controller)
I can’t even imagine playing any of those with a controller.

The worst thing is that you’re locked into the controller as a control scheme when playing a console.

…but not on PC!

  • The option to use a controller

Some say the PC is really about choice. Especially in 3rd person action games, such as Sleeping Dogs, Dark Souls, or Assassin’s Creed, you may prefer using a controller. If you have a wired USB controller, you can just plug it in. Xbox controllers, Playstation controllers, and 3rd party gamepads all work on PC.

I use my PS3 controller for emulated PS1 and PS2 games, and it works great.

The choice is yours!

  • Be proud of your gaming rig!

Most PC gamers swear by building, rather than buying their computers. It may sound intimidating at first, but with research, experienced advice, and an open mind, it can be a relatively simple thing, like a set of LEGO. PC gamers are proud of their personal machine. People see this:

white nzxt phantom

and they’re all like, “wow, nice computer!” to which you reply, “thanks! I built it myself!”, as you puff out your chest and get a +20 boost to self esteem.

Warning: may cause everyone you know to come to your for their computer problems.

  • The ability to upgrade

If, down the line, you want a bit more eye candy or performance than you’re currently getting, if you’re playing on Medium graphics and want to bump it up to High, you have the option to do so. After all, PCs are modular, and upgradeable! Grab a second graphics card and run an SLI or CrossfireX setup, or sell your old card and upgrade.

Or you can not upgrade, because you’re fine with Medium. There’s nothing wrong with that, either. You don’t have to upgrade; it’s not like your PC will suddenly stop playing games because you didn’t upgrade. If it’s not running well enough for you, you also have the option of turning down your graphics settings.

Do you need more storage? Add another hard drive. Yes, you can replace your HDD with consoles too, but do consoles have SSDs?! I think not!

  • It’s a computer, too.

A gaming PC, shockingly, is also a PC. That means it can do whatever a computer can, AND it can play games! What can a computer do? Lots of things! Listen to music, talk with your friends on Skype, check your Facebook, check Reddit, do work, check your email, watch videos, play games, and any combination of these. If you have multiple monitors, do them simultaneously. All on one machine.

You probably already have a computer. It might be slow, or getting old. Maybe instead of buying both a new computer and a new console, you could just get a gaming PC.

  • “But aren’t gaming PCs really expensive? I can’t afford $2000!”

If you live in the US, a PC that matches (and surpasses) next-gen consoles start at around $400-$450, depending on the parts. If you need a Windows license and can’t get it for cheap or for free, add $100. Considering that the Xbox One retails for $500 and PS4s retail for $400, that’s not too bad.

For a bit more, you’ll get more for your money. The “mid-range” is usually considered to be around $600-800, and will get you an awesome machine.

  • “My friends don’t play on PC!”

If it’s really that important to you, I can’t argue with that. Go ahead and get your next-gen console…

Alternatively, play on a PC and blow your friends’ minds when they see how much more awesome you’ve got it.

  • Oculus Rift

PC-only. ‘Nuff said.

  • Star Citizen

Also PC-only. That’s not pre-rendered footage, by the way.

Aww yeah.

.

Of course, at some point in the future I’ll need a PS4 to play Kingdom Hearts III, Metal Gear Solid 5 (if it doesn’t come out on PC), and Uncharted 4 (assuming it’s good). Gotta wait for dat inevitable price drop, or ‘slim version’, right?

But, for everything else, PC, all the way.

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