Newbies Guide to Console Gaming

Newbies Guide to Console Gaming

New to console gaming? Unsure of where to start? Let this guide show you.

There are still a lot of people in the world who haven’t discovered the wonderful world of console gaming, or video gaming beyond playing Angry Birds and Bejeweled. But the thing is, many of these people show more interest in gaming, but just don’t know where to start. When a friend of mine suggested that I write an article for her (and others) to sort it all out, I thought, “What a great idea!” So here it is: A Newbies Guide to Console Gaming.

Let’s start with a disclaimer: yes, you can game on a PC. And most people with PC’s already know that. However, if you have a low-end PC or a Mac, gaming on your computer is not really an option. There are those who would insist that PC gaming is the end-all-be-all of gaming, but I tend to disagree (please see my previous post on why I believe that here.) Also, now with the next generation of consoles hitting the market, console gaming is becoming an even better experience.

The Consoles

The first thing you’ll need to know about are the consoles. We’ll start with the older consoles and work our way up. I’m not going into technical specs because those are readily available via a Google search. Let’s look at the gaming experience instead, shall we?

Wii: The Wii is popular in a lot of family households. If you like standing up while gaming and swinging a stick around to simulate movement, this is the system for you. It’s my opinion that the Wii is for people who like to exercise or play more casual games. I’ll be honest: I don’t know much more about this system because I don’t really consider it a hardcore gaming system. I’m sure the Mario and Zelda titles are great, but beyond that, I’d skip this one.

Xbox 360: This was my gaming console of choice for a very long time. When it was initially released, it seemed like this was the system to have if you wanted to play a great variety of games. And there is a huge back catalog of games for this system. Considering that the new Xbox has just been released, this would be a fantastic buy now, especially considering I’ve seen prices as low as $150. If you pay an additional $60 a year, you can also access Xbox Live, which gives you the opportunity to discover even more games (including several hit titles from independent studios). Even better? The Xbox 360 games will also now be cheaper because they’re older. Used games can be had for a song. Also, an Xbox Live paid subscription comes with streaming services like Hulu, Amazon Video On Demand and Netflix. Note, though, most games exclusive to the Xbox 360 tend to be first person shooters or sports games.

PS3: I’ve only had a PS3 for about a year, but it replaced the Xbox 360 as my console of choice. Why? The games. Games exclusive to the PS3 generally tend to think much more out of the box and include some amazing roleplaying games with wonderful stories, as well as innovative gameplay. In fact, if I had to choose between exclusive games on the PS3 vs. Xbox 360, the PS3 would win hands-down. Again, if you’re new to console gaming, grab this up for about $150. Games for the PS3 are also cheaper now and there’s a great amount of them to choose from. What I really like about PS3 is that you do not need a paid subscription to stream video via Hulu, Amazon VOD and Netflix (unlike Xbox Live). I also think the PS Network has a greater selection of games for immediate download than Xbox Live. However, I recommend the PS Plus subscription ($60 per year) for the free games you get every month. I’ve had PS Plus for several months now and it’s easily paid for itself with some awesome games.

Wii-U: See what I wrote above about the Wii. There are some innovative features of the Wii-U, but Nintendo just really doesn’t appeal to hardcore gamers anymore. The Wii-U is the next generation version of the Wii, and honestly, it doesn’t really appeal to me. I do miss games like Mario and Zelda, but not enough to spend money on this system. I just think Nintendo has really failed its gaming core with these two consoles.

Xbox One: This is the brand new version of the Xbox. It boasts better graphics, faster processing and an all around better gaming experience. And although the initial announcement of its release came with some major missteps, Microsoft has back-tracked on much of what initially irked gamers about the system (including its policy on used games, which I’m still unclear on). The motion-controlled Kinect automatically comes with this system, as well, even though a lot of gamers still have no use for it. Finally, the price tag is a little disconcerting: $499 is a lot of money to spend on a gaming console. Xbox Live will be available with this system, as well, and again, you’ll have to pay if you want to stream from your favorite video services. Most of the exclusive titles announced for the Xbox One so far are first-person shooters and sports games.

PS4: The PS4 was initially released with gamers in mind. Sony set themselves apart at this year’s E3 by stating up front that players would definitely be able to play used games on this system. That alone convinced many (myself included) to pre-purchase this one. There is also a large variety of games that will be exclusive to the system, including roleplaying games, first-person shooters and action/adventure games (similar to the sort of games exclusive to the PS3). PS Plus is also still a good value on the system, and at launch, the fantastic indie game Contrast will be available to PS Plus subscribers for free. Where PS4 wins this round of the console wars, though, is with its price. At $399, it’s $100 cheaper than the Xbox One.

So are you overwhelmed yet? Don’t be. My suggestion for new console gamers is to start with the last generation of systems: Either the PS3 or the Xbox 360. If you like games that are more roleplaying oriented, go with the PS3. If you like first-person shooters, go for the Xbox 360. You could probably have both systems, though, for around $300. I would definitely not recommend spending $300+ for one of the next-generation systems before deciding you like or don’t like console gaming.

The Games

As I’ve mentioned above, each system has exclusive titles that usually revolve around certain types of games. But what if you don’t know what kind of games you might like? Where do you start once you have a console? Well, I hope that the information below might help. There are a lot of genres, so I’m just going to mention a few that I think new console gamers might like.

Action Games: Several game genres fall into this category. Generally speaking, on consoles, this will include shooters (games where you shoot something), hack-and-slash (games where you fight with swords, sticks, etc.) and fighting games (games where you’re fighting, boxing, etc.). Some shooters, like the BioShock seriesalso have compelling stories, while others are based on mindlessly shooting zombies. If you’re a newcomer to such games, check and see if the game offers an “easy” option. This will give you a chance you delve into the game’s story while learning how to use the game’s mechanics.

Action-Adventure Games: These games involve a little more in-depth gameplay than traditional action games. This genre includes stealth games, where the object of the game is to be hidden and unseen while performing a variety of tasks: assassination, pick-pocketing, stalking, etc. If you’re looking for a great stealth game to get started, I recommend the Assasins Creed series. Action adventure titles can also feature survival horror, which often combine elements of straight-up action games with learning how to deal with things like ghosts and monsters.

Adventure Games: Some of the first games ever created were adventure games, so, obviously, old-school point-and-click adventures fall into this category. And although many classic point-and-click adventures were designed for the PC, there are some that are fantastic on console. I highly recommend The Walking Dead game (and if you don’t get emotionally involved with that story, your heart is dead). Most of these kind of games are created by indie developers and can be found inexpensively for download on either Xbox Live or PS Network.

Roleplaying Games: I have to admit here that this is my favorite type of game to play. These games put you in the shoes of a character and drop you into a story that will leave you laughing, crying and everything in between. They usually involve a quest, as well as a lot of small side missions, that keep you busy as a gamer, and constantly entertained. Some of my favorites? Both the Dragon Age and Mass Effect series. Pretty much anything by developer BioWare falls into this category.

Multi-player Games: Most multi-player games are also roleplaying games, but not all roleplaying games are multi-player (most games on consoles are, in fact, only single player). In fact, these sorts of games are still relatively new to consoles. I’m mostly a solo gamer, and cannot recommend any right off the bat, but I am still looking forward to The Elder Scrolls Online, when it’s released for Xbox One and PS4 later this year.

The thing is that most modern games cross genres. A shooter can also be a roleplaying game and a roleplaying game can also be an action/adventure game. There really is no easy way of categorizing games. The best way to determine if a game is for you is to read online reviews and articles about what the game is about. I always recommend roleplaying games to newbies because they are a great way of getting into the story elements of gaming and getting hooked. There are so many good titles out there that qualify, but here are just a few: The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim (you’ll lose six months of your life to this one), Dragon Age series, Mass Effect series, The Kingdoms of Amalur, and the Fallout series. That should keep you busy for awhile.

As far as exclusive games go, my best recommendations are as follows:

Xbox 360: Alan Wake (action/adventure/survival horror) and Fable 2 (RPG). Yep, it’s a short list, but again, Xbox exclusives have always tended to focus on sports and shooters.

PS3: Beyond: Two Souls (Action/Adventure/RPG), The Last Of Us (Action/Adventure/RPG), Heavy Rain (Action/Adventure/RPG), Infamous series (Action/Adventure) and Uncharted series (Action/Adventure/RPG)

So that’s it, my guide for you newbie gamers. If you still have questions, please leave them in the comments. And for you well-seasoned gamers, feel free to leave tips for newbies, too.

(Veteran Gamers: Yes, I know I left out the Ouya console, but I really don’t know enough about it to recommend it. And for newcomers to gaming, I don’t think it’s quite where it needs to be to create the next generation of gamers.)

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