2016 has proven to be a great year for gaming, especially for those who happen to own either a PS4 or Xbox One (or both). Sony and Microsoft were hellbent on making sure that this year proved to be even better than the last. To do so they focused on solid presentations that showed off some promising upcoming releases, introduced new technology, and, of course, released some exclusive titles out into the wild to get players to pick up each of their respective platforms.
Now that the year is coming to an end, and we’ve seen the final major exclusives for each release ahead of the ball dropping, we can finally look back on what they each brought to the table over the past 12 months, and see who really put their best foot forward three years after this generation’s start.
The PS4 has been pretty much smooth sailing since it released back in the end of 2013. A strong message helped get the console out of the gate, then some great games helped push it along. 2015 was a light year in terms of major exclusive titles. To show that they weren’t just resting on their laurels, 2016 came with some big games, thought it did have its fair share of shortcomings.
It’s difficult to ignore the elephant in the room that is Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. It’s a strong GotY contender for many, and the fact that it’s only available on the PS4 is a real feather in Sony’s cap. Then you have another stellar exclusive in the form of Ratchet and Clank releasing the month before. They even held down baseball with MLB: The Show 16. It wouldn’t be until much later in the year (just this week actually), that the company would release its next and final major PS4 exclusive, The Last Guardian.
They each sit above an 80 on Metacritic, with The Last Guardian currently at 84, MLB: The Show 16 and Ratchet and Clank at an 85, and Uncharted 4 at a 93. Of course, with only three major Sony exclusives this year, they had to look elsewhere to bolster their third party offerings. Street Fighter V (77) was a major grab as a console exclusive for the platform, even if it did have a troubled release, and several JRPGs also bolstered the PS4’s lineup.
A lot of Sony’s exclusives this year, though, came as part of their new hardware, the PSVR headset. Rez Infinite (89), Batman: Arkham VR (75), EVE: Valkyrie (73), and RIGS: Mechanized Combat League (78) are just a few of the big names that helped to introduce the new device to the world.
All in all, Sony provided a pretty solid lineup of exclusive titles to accompany the string of third-party offerings released throughout the year. There were a few exclusive deals in tow with those, such as more exclusive content for Destiny: The Rise of Iron and a renewal of their DLC deal with Activision in regards to Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. There was a little something for everyone, ranging from smaller indie titles to triple-A blockbusters covering a wealth of genres and playstyles. While some titles are available on PC, the company offered some strong reasons to pick up a PS4.
Microsoft’s Xbox One
The Xbox One had a more interesting year due to Microsoft’s new Play Anywhere initiative, which makes digital copies of games work on both the Xbox One and PC. It largely removes the need for the console at all, allowing fans to access Xbox Live and other console features directly from their Windows PC or laptop. Of course, that doesn’t mean there weren’t any exclusives, although most of them fall under the umbrella of “console exclusive.”
The first major title of the year was Quantum Break, which is currently sitting at a 77 on Metacritic. It was a solid experience with a new take on storytelling, offering live action episodes that your decisions in-game could alter. The next majorly billed exclusive didn’t come until early September when Recore (63) released for the Xbox One and PC. Although that was a relative low point for the year in terms of Microsoft’s major video game offerings, things did pick back up later on thanks to some heavy hitters. Forza Horizon 3 is the highest rated Xbox One title, sitting at a 91, then you have Gears of War 4 coming in at 85. The console’s last big exclusive of the year, Dead Rising 4, sits currently at a 74.
While the major releases were available on PC, a couple of exclusives could only be found on the Xbox One. Horse Racing 2016 only has two reviews on Metacritic, with the highest being a 30/100. Then you have Kung-Fu for Kinect (60), which requires a device that doesn’t even come with the base console anymore.
Still, if you have an Xbox One, this year was filled with a few great games not found on the PS4. These were supplemented by a few intelligent indie partnerships, although quite a few of them, such as that with Inside, were timed.
PS4 vs. Xbox One: Who Wins?
Who provided the best exclusive lineup on their consoles this year? There are multiple ways to view this, including perhaps the most important criteria: your personal preference. If you love Gears of War with a passion, you probably don’t need to stress over further comparison, and nobody could fault you for that. Another oft-used standard would measure the number of true exclusives, console games you can’t play anywhere else (not legally, anyway).
Through this latter lens, there’s no competition. The PS4 may not have had a large list of games only playable on that platform, but there were virtually none of these to be found on the Xbox One. All of the best games on Microsoft’s platform can be purchased and played on PC.
If you decide to include console exclusives in your measures, the lists open up a bit more to the Xbox’s many PC-compatible titles, but it appears that Sony still has the edge, at least from a critical standpoint. Sony managed to hit more highs throughout the year, starting off strong in the Spring and closing off right with a highly anticipated title.
That isn’t to say that Microsoft had a bad year. Forza Motorsport is easily one of the best racing games we’ve seen in a long time, and Gears of War 4 showed that the franchise is indeed in good hands. But another light year makes it difficult to contend with Sony’s rapidly growing library.
Either way, 2016 was a great time to be gamer, and we can only look forward to what each platform has in store for us in the coming months.