Battle lines are slowly being drawn in the next-gen console arms race between the PlayStation 5 and Xbox’s Project Scarlett.

Words Bec Summer

Now that the PlayStation 5 has officially been named the PlayStation 5 and a holiday 2020 (anywhere between October and December) release date has been confirmed along with a few additional details, we can begin to form a fair idea of what we’re going to get from both camps.

Microsoft’s strategy ahead of the upcoming release of its new console has been one of relative transparency. Although it had acknowledged the development of new hardware last year, Microsoft unveiled its new console, codenamed Project Scarlett, at its flamboyant press conference at E3 this year, along with a list of features and specifications.

Conversely, Sony chose to sidestep the big Los Angeles game show in 2019 and, outside of lead system architect Mark Cerny’s first disclosure of the console’s features through Wired in April, the Japanese gaming giant has been keeping its cards close to its chest.

What we do know so far is both consoles are shaping up to look remarkably similar, so let’s start with the PlayStation 5. As already mentioned, all of the details revealed about the PS5 have come through exclusive interviews with Mark Cerny. Internally, PS5 will have an 8-core CPU and a graphics processor to enable real-time ray tracing effects (advanced lighting in games).

A solid state drive (SSD) is a welcome addition and will mean faster loading and booting times and the ability to segregate chunks of content to load. So if you choose only to play the single-player part of a game, you’ll be able to just load that part and save precious space. The PS5 will support 3D audio and 8K video with 120HZ refresh rate and will be backwards compatible with PS4 games and PSVR hardware. If you’re like us and prefer to have a physical copy of a game in-hand, an optical drive will take 100GB Blu-ray discs and will act as a Blu-ray 4K disc player.

“At this stage there doesn’t appear to be a significant difference between the two.”

Some of the biggest changes revealed are in the controller. The design will feature adaptive feedback, so pulling back a string on a bow will feel completely different from pressing the trigger on a machine gun. This will translate to traversing terrain; if you’re trudging through mud it will feel like you’re trudging through mud.

Touted at its E3 reveal as four times more powerful than the Xbox One X and with four times the loading speed, the new hardware from Xbox, codenamed Project Scarlett, will also feature an 8-core processor (designed by AMD, the same company working with Sony on the PS5) and will have a GPU capable of using real-time tracing effects.

Scarlett will also use an SSD for faster load and booting times, support 8K with a 120HZ. It will also have a physical disc drive and not only is it backwards compatible with Xbox One games and controllers, but the entire family tree of software from Xbox and Xbox 360. Details on the controller and its functionality are not yet known.

At this stage – and a lot can change in a year – there doesn’t appear to be a significant difference between the two. But the battle will initially be fought on the software front. Project Scarlett will launch with Halo Infinite – the first time an Xbox console has launched with a Halo title since the original Xbox released back in 2001. Sony are tight-lipped on PS5 launch titles, although the president of Bluepoint – the studio behind the remaster of Shadow of Colossus and Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection – has revealed that a launch title is in development.

So, will Sony continue to dominate into the next generation or will Xbox strike back with a stunning counter-offensive? Only time will tell.