Ask LH: How Can I Train Myself For The Next Generation Of Consoles?

Dear Lifehacker, I've always been interested in gaming but over the last few years when I was at university I didn't really have time or the money for it. Now that I'm out of uni the timing seems right to wait until November and purchase the new XBox One or PlayStation 4. Before playing the latest releases I'm really interested in playing through some of the titles from the last five years I've often heard praised such as Portal 2, GTAIV and Bioshock. Will I be able to do this on a new console?

The PS4 seems to boast some backwards compatibility, but it's unclear whether these particular titles will be downloadable from whatever their version of the cloud is.

Gamers that I've asked about this say I could play anything I want and get more bang for my buck anyway if I built my own gaming PC. The Lifehacker articles on this are quite helpful but I've never built a computer before and it feels like I could lose a lot of time to the research alone. Any advice? Thanks, Late to the Cake

Dear LTTC,

When you go to the cinema, do you like to sit in the front row with your popcorn and forget about the technology involved? Or do you secretly want to be the projectionist?

While the above analogy is shamelessly broad, the answer does help to indicate whether you're better suited to console or PC gaming.

Judging by your post, you're probably not overly fussed about anti-aliasing, blistering frame rates and maxed-out settings. Subsequently, the effort and expense it takes to build a PC gaming rig probably isn't worth it. We think you'd be better off with a console which are relatively cheap and designed for comfortable bouts of fuss-free gaming. Indeed, once you've plugged it into your TV, the only thing you really need to worry about is the controller in your hands.

Given the low prices these days, I'd suggest buying an Xbox 360 or PS3 right now and enjoying those games at discounted prices (each console currently costs around $300 and most of the games you mentioned can be snapped up brand new for $20 or less). This removes the backwards compatibility issue and also means you can start gaming straight away.

Once you've got some quality Xbox 360/PS3 gaming under your belt, you can decide if you're keen enough to want a new machine, which are also reasonably affordable — both the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 will retail for under $600 in Australia. You can find out more about both next-gen consoles in our Xbox One and PS4 launch postmortems.

If any readers feel LTTC would be better off plumping for a PC, feel free to challenge us in the comments section below. Also be sure to let LTTC know which games he should pick up from the current generation.

Cheers Lifehacker

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Comments

    Yep totally agree with the answer. Get a ps3 and start with InFamous 1 & 2, Heavy Rain, Red Dead Redemption. Grab the others you mentioned above and don't forget The Last of Us. Truth be told you probably won't even be able to finish all that and keep up to date with the next gen - there are not enough hours in the day to be a gamer anymore - there is tonnes of content and a lot of it is great!

      Red Dead Redemption is a must. I'm also oddly fond of Mercenaries 2.

      He didn't mention how much cash he had to splash around, but if on a budget then PS3 is also a good option because of PlayStation Plus. Pay the $70 or whatever it is for a year of PS+ and get a steady stream of quality games for no further outlay.

    I s'pose I should really get around to playing RDD and Heavy Rain. And Infamous 2. The first one was awesome.

    You can also buy a PC that plays games well for a little bit of a price. I paid $1300 for a Dell XPS somethingorother (not in front of the machine at the moment) and while it's primarily a photography machine, it's still powerful enough to play most recent games on the higher / highest settings. It runs Portal 2, GTA: IV, Skyrim (dangerous game, that one. 300 hours and counting for me!) and plenty of other games perfectly.

    You could also borrow a console off a friend for a while, so you don't slap down money on something you're not sure you want.

    Have a look on Gumtree, there's heaps of secondhand Xbox 360s and PS3s going for cheap, often with several games included.

      "Only one owner and he won't be back till next Thursday." :P

      Gumtree can have some pretty unrealistic prices I feel, I've seen EB Games sell preowned stuff cheaper.

    Xbox One will have no backwards compatibility, so expect to wait another five years to play the other games, and I think the PS4 is taking a similar path due to the radically different architecture.
    Your best bet for enjoying the latest games as well as those of the last generation would be to pick a game you really want to play, build it a little above the recommended specs and go from there.
    With Steam and a little patience, you'll be able to score massive discounts on old games while still being able to enjoy the latest games.

    I think going back the past five years is too broad, play it safe and stick with releases from early 2011 to now, being accustomed to the modern tinge is vital to moving to the next gen I feel.

    Custom PC all the way. Just get someone (or a friend) to build it. Bought mine 3 years ago for just on $1k, has the same specs as next gen consoles still runs everything I throw at it (plus heaps of mods), its a media centre, hooks straight up to the TV, has internet, and doesn't have some bonkers monthly payment fee to play a game online ive already paid for. If I built another now, with the same specs it would be roughly $500-600.

      Don't even worry about getting a friend in, just get the store to do it for you. It cost me $100 to get everything put together, not risk of breakage and they did full cable management as well. Damn the inside of my PC looks sexy.

      Also posted this on the Kotaku section:

      Haven't upgraded my PC in over 3 years now, and it still runs games like BF3 on the highest possible settings. To be fair, I spent roughly $4000 AUD building the system. If you want to go down the path of the PC, build it your self. Whilst you can buy very powerful PC's that seemingly come off a production line, you will usually be paying +/- $1000 extra because it was all done for you.

      In terms of the difficulty levels of a self-assembled PC? I've seen LEGO Technic sets that are about the same difficulty. Most PSU's come with all of the cables you need for the rest of your components (i.e. VGA card and MOBO). If a plug doesn't fit somewhere it's because it's the wrong connector/socket. It's so easy because PC's are made to be DIY projects by the manufacturers.

      When I pulled my PS3 apart (Important! It was out of warranty) to apply new thermal paste to its chip sets, it was a great deal more difficult to reassemble, Simply because it is a console, they are not made to open up/customize/self diagnose/repair yourself.

      If you want to spend the extra $$$, simple, get a PC. That way you won't have to worry about it being made redundant by 'a next-gen' system. And believe me, spend more the first time, that way you will have a nice long go at playing top of line games on their respective maximum settings.

      Having a console does have it's advantages though....

      It is so much easier for developers to make games look incredible on consoles. Why? Easy answer. A console is essentially a PC (current gen consoles would be considered very low end by now). The parts inside are just modified so you can't just get a better VGA card etc. But because each one has more or less identical hardware and OS software, there will almost never be any compatibility issues (exception: PS3's Skyrim). Where as with a conventional PC the CPU, MOBO, VGA, RAM, HDD/SDD, & PSU combinations you can have are almost limitless. So you may find a problem in your build that no one else has ever encountered, simply because no one else has ever used that exact combination of hardware. Don't worry, It's not too common, and the vendor you're buying parts from should be more than happy to check the overall compatibility for you, slimming those chances even more.

      If you want to go and buy a PC, I personally recommend: http://www.pccasegear.com/index.php

      For easy pick-up-and-play, without worrying about anything but the enjoyment of playing, get a PS3/X Box 360 to help you decide whether or not to get a PS4/X Box One.

      Hope this helps......

    1. Get a PC. It's not really "that" expensive these days for one that's good enough for playing games.
    2. Get Steam.
    3. Wait for the Steam sales.
    4. Buy all the great games he's missed out on from the last few years.
    5. ???
    6. Profit

    Well there is 2 routes to go really and its all up to preference. (Just buying next gen consoles will leave you missing out on old stuff)

    I personally prefer console gaming and as such would recommend buying a brand new 360 and then scouring all over for each and every game that you want, from EB new or used, ebay or the UK it doesn't matter just get all the games at the cheapest price point. By now most games have the GOTY edition with all the DLC bundled in while being released similar to the "platinum" specials from previous generations.

    You could go with a ps3 too, but having owned both i have always preferred the 360 in every single respect. The online is more robust with proper universal voice chat (instead of the ps3's specific game only) and the actual multiplayer experience is better amongst other things. The only downside is xbox doesn't have Ps+ which for someone in your position would be very handy since you can pay minimal $$ and get access to a wide range of top tier games for throughout the generation.

    Though the best possible option would be the PC, but only if you prefer it to console gaming or are indifferent. You can spend around $1000 -$1500 and get a machine that will play everything but a select few games at maximum settings ( Like crisis 3 which basically needs a $1000 titan card to max).

    For this just get a standard $1-150 hd monitor (can pick up 20 inch samsungs for this price). For the actual pc there are a few things that give the BEST bang for buck bar none and these are.
    120gb SSD, Intel core i5 CPU, 8GB Ram, and now the Nvidia GTX 760 GPU, everything else is subjective and any parts more powerful start ramping up the cost for significantly less benefit.

    Other things like power supply and motherboard vary widely in regards to how many USB ports you want, HD outputs and if you want SLI (2x nvidia graphics cards)n or Crossfire( 2x AMD cards) capability and the reliability of the power supply.

    For a reference, a PC like this one offered on OZ bargain would play any game currently out at a more than adequate level. Its currently expired but these types of deals are regularily offered (Though you have to watch out as they try and up sell things like i7 cpu over i5 even though its no better for gaming. Though its often pointed out in the comments.)
    https://www.ozbargain.com.au/node/107089

    I

      The i7 is possibly the best thing to happen to gaming PC builds.......

        Um you realise the i7 gives ALMOST no benefit to gaming (as in 1-5fps at best on a handful of games)and cost alot more money and as my list pointed out i was listing best bang for buck.
        The ONLY benefit an i7 has is for graphical design and other such work related things.

        So keep your incredibly incorrect opinion to yourself, i really don't like having to tell every muppet off when they say something so stupid.

          Wow, you're a pleasant little chap aren't you???

          An opinion is simply that, not correct or incorrect. That would defeat the purpose of having one.

          I over clock a lot, everything from RAM to GPU's, even my PCIe SSD. All this over clocking DOES indeed give me more benefits then '1-5fps'. The frame rate isn't the only thing worth looking at when you're a PC enthusiast.... There are a number of things that I can do that will keep me using the same hardware for years (6-7+), without having to replace anything due to the grunt of the i7.

          There are many other advantages too. Also, I never said anything bad about the i5 or any other CPU for that matter.

          Please be constructive next time. Being tough online because you are anonymous, and simply being rude makes you look like a 15 year old.

            You made a needless comment in a passive aggressive manner, to which i can only assume you did in an effort to undermine whatever you didn't like in my post.
            If some person comes along and looks at that they will be confused and not really understand,
            "if the best thing in gaming is an i7 why is he saying buy the i5???".

            The point was to help the person for which this post is about. The parts i recommended are 100% non disputable as the best bang for buck for a starter pc to play anything. If you want to have a wishy washy schematic argument about i5 vs i7 go someplace else, the only thing you did was make me think your a tosser who doesn't have something valuable to add and just wants to look "smart".

              Ok so I'm a tosser now.....

              You'll see that I too am trying to help. I meant no offence to you what so ever. I have a lengthy comment even further up the page so I'm not just dropping irrelevant one liners either.

              Also, all the points I had in my response are valid, so there is no reason not to consider them.

    If you think you might like gaming but aren't sure if you really want to get back into it I would recommend a PC if only for the reason it will be useful even if you choose not to use it as a gaming rig.
    The 'build the best rig' type articles are interesting but they are really for the people who want to delve into performance and worry about frame rates and ensuring everything can run on ultra details.
    Just buying a decent PC with a quality graphics card will be all you need. It will be able to play all recent games and you also have the huge back catalouge to play with. All you need to do is go into a computer store, explain your budget and what you want and they will give you a PC, no need to do anything yourself.
    Depending on your budget, PC gaming could also be a much cheaper option if you plan to build a large library of games, especially if you don't care about physical copies. Grab yourself a steam account and have fun.
    The other consideration is the space you have and how often you plan to be gaming. And your living situation. A console is good if you only have limited space and no room for a full time PC sitting around. However with console gaming you will be using the TV whenever you want to game so if other people in the house use the TV for downtime only one of you can have access at a time. Since 'you can game anytime but this show is only on now' generally wins your gaming time can be greatly reduced.

    Disclaimer: Proud member of the master race

      Good point about using up the TV Tigs.
      In a larger household you might need to fight for it, or buy a separate one, which further increases the cost.
      On the other hand, consoles are generally better with kids because they can play with 2-4 players on the one device especially with things like the Wii U

      Yes, good point. But I have only one TV also, this is used pretty much only for TV and movies, and mostly by my girl friend. You will find though, that pretty much every single PC monitor on the market has HDMI inputs.

      So whack a PS3 on the desk in your study/office, plug it into your monitor, and switch the inputs.

      Easy!

    Gotta agree with @lambomann007
    I think PCs are the most versatile devices.

    Whenever someone asks what console to get or if PC is better than console, I ask them this:

    WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM YOUR ENTERTAINMENT DEVICE?

    Putting price aside for a minute, what kind of person are you?
    For example.
    Do you like AAA games like COD, Madden, Bioshock etc, or do you like indie titles?
    Consoles can be easier to start with, and cheaper however the games are generally more expensive and it's easier to find older titles and indie games for PC. Have a look at the Steam platform, it still beats any Xbox live, Playstation Network or Wii U Store hands down.

    Do you travel lots and want gaming on the go?
    A mid-high end laptop will play most new titles and still let you do all your work and internet browsing in your hotel room. And again on PC you'll get the benefits of Steam.

    Are you super keen on platform exclusives?
    Consoles have a few exclusive titles such as Last of Us, the Uncharted Series, Halo etc... If you really want to play those, you're kind of out of luck.

    Do you want you're entertainment device to do other things?
    Consoles make OK media centres, but can be limited to some degree. Limited hard drive space can be an issue for example. Where as PCs can store all your, photos, documents, movies etc. Do you need a PC to touch up family photos, or for email etc. I have a PC as a media server connected to the TV.

    Do you already have a PC for "work" stuff, printing, documents and browsing?
    If you do then you won't benefit from another computer as much as someone who doesn't have a computer.

    And finally (this one is more of a personal preference), Do you prefer a controller or a mouse + keyboard for gaming?
    For the most part you can use controllers on a PC but not the other way round.

    Last edited 09/07/13 3:34 pm

      Also, it's important to remember that a console is ideal for the lounge, and the PC is generally more suited for a desk.

      My PS3 is plugged into a 42" plasma and I get to laze around on a nice comfy sofa, whilst using an expertly created wireless controller.

      My notebook is plugged into a 24" monitor and I get to sit in an office chair and use a bog standard mouse which won't compete with other players across multiplayer, or with a Logitech wireless controller which does seem to do the job, but isn't as nice to use as the PS3 controller, and seems to have some compatibility issues with some games.

        Yep, I agree, though I would add that I play steam games with a wireless controller on my Home Theatre PC too. Especially now with Steam Big Picture Mode and full controller support for some games.

    Yep I would advise buying a PS3 (new super slim can be bought for $199 - although best to insert a 500gb or 1tb hard drive into it) or a 360 (4gb as low as $138, Big W). Personally I would go for the PS3 and immediately purchase PSN+ (presuming you're able to download large files).

    PSN+ currently costs $70 per year, I think Dick Smiths currently have a 20% off PSN cards (or that offer may have just expired), and PSN+ gives you the following games for free, for as long as you are a PSN+ member. If you let your subscription expire you won't be able to play the free PSN+ games, but you will be able to play any PSN games that you purchased utilising the PSN+ discounted price. If you resume your PSN+ membership you'll be able to play all previously "purchased" free PSN+ games.

    The games offered by PSN+ for free as part of the Instant Game Collection rotates - and 2 or 3, sometimes more, titles are added each month - with the same number of titles being removed.

    This month, the following games are included:-

    Battlefiled 3 - which is regarded as one of the premium multilayer orieted FPS games this generation

    Saints Row 3 - which is regarded as one of the premium open world games this generation

    Payday The Heist
    - which is regarded as a fairly solid co-operative FPS

    Uncharted 3 (Single Player) (multiplayer is free on a seperate download without requiring PSN+) - which is regarded as one of the premium third person shooter games this generation

    X-Com - which is just one many Game of the Year (2012) awards

    Little Big Karting - which is regarded as a solid and fun karting game

    ICO and Shadow of Colossus - which is regarded as two of the most artistic games of the previous generation (PS2)

    Demon's Souls - which is regarded as one of the most sado masochistic games this generation

    Catherine - which is regarded as a very unique and quirky japanese game

    In addition to the above, PSN+ also get a couple of PSN smaller games, and some Vita titles.

    All up, PSN+ is amazing value especially for those that have held off from buying a console up to this point.

    PC gaming might also be a good option, but console is the cheaper and easier option.

    I've recently purchased a new notebook for around $800 - i7, 8gb RAM, 2gb graphics card - and i've made several Steam purchases including F1 2012 ($13), Sonic Racing ($10), Left for Dead 2 ($5).

    So far the games have held up pretty good. I think a decent mid level notebook will likely play most current generation console games and there are definitely bargains to be had via Steam or Origin sales - but having said that, there's an abundance of low cost console options out there - ebay, UK imports, PSN.

    If the budget is tight or you don't want to commit much money to get started again, I'd recommend an xbox 360 slim, according to the BigW website they're selling them for $138 which frankly tempts me to go down & get one just for the bargain. IF that BigW price is accurate (it does seem awfully low but the site says it's right), you can get the console, grab a 32gb flash drive to use as storage for it, grab a copy of red dead redemption & GTA4 complete edition and have shitloads of entertainment for under $250.

    The PS3 has a few more interesting exclusives but the machine itself is more expensive and if you have large hands, it might mean the controller won't be particularly comfy. I've spent something like $170 on new controllers made to fit my hands but then I am a giant freak (Also, I have large hands) so it may not be an issue for you. Ideally you should have a look at each console controller in store and see how they feel for you.

    PC is an entirely different beast. It gets most of the games the consoles do and gets several things the consoles don't but they often veer towards the complex. If you're into things like simulations then the PC is a no brainer (I'd be remiss in my duties as a fanatic to not suggest you buy a PC entirely for ARMA3, its just that awesome). The down side of course is the cost, I put together a quick build from pccasegear that came to a bit under $1000 for a solid gaming PC that should last a few years before it needs any upgrades (cheaper if you have stuff you can recycle like hard drives, windows, keyboard/mouse/monitor etc). Think of the PC as a long term investment, it costs a lot to get started but it can last you longer than consoles and games tend to be cheaper, particularly with steam & greenmangaming having regular sales & discount coupons. The most you'll save on new console games will be shopping somewhere like ozgameshop which means you'll pay $50-60 for new games rather than $80-110, still a hell of a bargain but by comparison, my brand new release day purchases or preorders from greenmangaming end up costing me an average of $37 so PC gaming has the potential to be more cost effective in the long run. There's also gog.com if you want to find some retro classics you may have missed, most games there are under $10.

    Last edited 09/07/13 4:04 pm

    Oh, in terms of recommending games...

    Call of Duty series is excellent. I personally find the single player campaigns to be excellent. Multiplayer is much loved but can be challenging. It's not the kind of thing you can do casually - you need to dedicate a lot of time to it, or expect to be minced meat.

    Uncharted series is excellent. 1,2 and 3 are must haves. Having not played Gears of War, Uncharted is by far the best third person shooter series out there - and the games are so much more than that.

    Ratchet and Clank - A Clank in Time, and another one that I can't remember - Tools of Destruction I think - both really fun.

    Heavy Rain - should be experienced

    Need for Speed Shift 2 - Pretty much all of the racing games this generation are excellent. There are a few racers to avoid, such as Sprint Cars, WRC, MUD. Gran Turismo 5 apparently has some loading issues so i've skipped that one.

    Dirt 3 - or Dirt 2 - both excellent

    Motorstorm Apocalypse - mad fun

    Batman Arkham City - if only for Mark Hamills performance as The Joker

    Prototype 2 - huge fun. Completely silly

    Shadows of the Damned / Lollipop Chainsaw - for bizarreness

    Yakuza 4

    F.E.A.R. series - solid FPS with nice atmosphere

    Killzone 2 and 3

    Resistance 1 and 2 - although only for nostalgia - they're not as strong as more recent FPS

    and i'm tempted to say Far Cry 3 although i've not played it yet. I have Blood Dragon on the PC and that's going down well

    Okay, I just accidentally refreshed the page and lost a fairly lengthy reply. I'm going to give the short version of my original reply.

    If you're planning on playing in front of the TV, get a 360 if you like shooters (particularly multiplayer due to the apparently larger community) and if you want to focus on single player, get a PS3. I would personally get the PS3 because Journey, Uncharted 2 and The Last of Us are worth the price of admission alone.

    If you get a PS3, get PS+. It's truly fantastic value and the games you get every month for subscribing will help boost you collection without any real commitment.

    If you're playing at your desk, you could still get a PS3 assuming your monitor has HDMI inputs. This is what I do for console gaming (I also have a 360, just to avoid people declaring me a fanboy).

    Alternatively, you could use your current PC and see just how much use you can get out of it. Install Steam, partake in the upcoming Summer Sale to get a ridiculous plethora of games that are fairly low requirements and enjoy things. Definitely grab a wired 360 controller if you're doing this. Some games are just better with a controller.

    If your computer isn't as powerful as you would like (which basically means that there are AAA titles released in the last year or two and your computer is fairly old) then you might want to consider building a new PC.

    Whirlpool has a truly fantastic guide on picking the right parts and I can tell you that putting a computer together these days is about as difficult as building IKEA furniture. Get a friend to help if you need to but again, I don't think that building a PC is a must if you're interested in getting into PC gaming. People honestly underestimate the power of their computer, so it's best to just jump on Steam and see if an upgrade is needed.

    Basically, I think that both installing Steam and seeing what your current PC can do and buying a PS3 will work out well. Installing Steam will give you access to a lot of games for a very low price and buying a PS3 will give you a reliable way to play pretty much everything else, including some exclusive titles that you really must play.

    Last edited 09/07/13 4:23 pm

    I got back into gaming in a big way this generation after the GameCube nearly killed it.

    Get either a PS3 or 360

    My recommendations:

    FPS: Battlefield. COD is more popular but also more frustrating and abusive and more expensive with their prices stating high for years. To add to their problem the older games are plagued by hackers and cheats. BF eases you in better with other ways to progress up the greasy pole aside from headshots.

    3PS: Vanquish. Gears is good if you get a 360 but vanquish takes the stop and pop formula runs it through a shredder and sticks a motor under your ar$e. Raucously fun shooter.

    Platformer: Assassins Creed (any of them) to me parkour is the evolution of the platformer this generation; Mirrors Edge, Crackdown, Prototype, all games which have played with free running and parkour but the AC series does it best.

    RPG: mass Effect 2 (don't bother with the first it's a broken mess which suits only the hardcore RPG enthusiast, the third one seems to have pissed off everybody but the middle instalment hits every mark

    Adventure: Batman Arkham (insert title here) like Zelda crossed with a beat-em-up. The best beat-em-up mechanics ever seen in a game and a great variety of game play to boot

    Last edited 09/07/13 10:08 pm

    Don't buy any hardware. If you want to play older games, then there's a good chance that your current PC will already be able to run them.

    Obviously it depends on how powerful your current PC is, and how intensive the games you play are, but it's worth looking in to before spending hundreds of dollars.

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