You know the score: you want to play fast-paced, action-oriented games that focus on speed, stealth and gunplay. You want strong single-player campaigns and the best in online action. In fact, you probably already own a current generation console, and if you don't it's because you've only just got sick of constantly upgrading your monster PC.
Here things get really controversial. On the one hand, the Xbox 360 has several key advantages in this area. First, it has really strong exclusives such as Gears of War 2, Halo 3 and next year's Halo 3: Recon. Secondly, it's still noticeable that cross-platform action games - with the exception of the Burnout and Call of Duty series - still tend to look better on the Microsoft console than they do on the PlayStation 3. For all Sony's talk of superior technology, many of this year's biggest titles have either run at marginally higher resolutions, slightly smoother frame rates or with more effects or fewer artefacts on the Xbox 360. As long as Microsoft's machine remains the lead platform for many developers, this is unlikely to change.
On the other hand, there's still a feeling that - at a time when Microsoft's console is arguably peaking - we still haven't seen the best from PlayStation 3. Those with a knowledge of console history will remember that this is always the case with Sony; we didn't get titles of the quality of Gran Turismo on the PlayStation or God of War on the PS2 until late in the system's life cycle. So far only Metal Gear Solid 4, GT5: Prologue and Uncharted have really given us a glimpse of what Sony's hardware can do when pushed (and it looks like we'll be adding Resistance 2 to that list pretty soon). Next year Sony might wow us with God of War 3, Infamous, Tecmo's Quantum Theory and Killzone 2, the latter two potential Gears and Halo beaters (though bearing in mind that the original Killzone never lived up to its hype, it would be unwise to get our hopes up too much).
Of course, the Xbox 360 has always had the edge for online play, but here the PlayStation 3 is making inroads. Resistance 2 makes some big strides forward for co-op play, Sony's Warhawk is the nearest thing on a console to a proper Battlefield-style game and the 256-player Massive Action Game (M.A.G.) sounds exciting. Remember, too, that Sony doesn't charge an annual subscription for every player using the console online, and the benefits of Microsoft's stronger user interface are roughly balanced out. Sony fanboys have no reason to be defensive - the PlayStation 3 remains a fantastic games machine.
It's a tough decision, but this year at least our verdict leans Microsoft's way. At £170 for the full system or £229 for the Elite the Xbox 360 offers - quite literally - more bang for fewer bucks than the Sony rival. Given that, we're liable to forgive such failings as noise levels (still excessive), failure rates (still a worry) and the lack of built-in Wi-Fi (which the PS3 has). Next year things may be different: this isn't a decisive victory by any means.
Our choice: Xbox 360 Premium Pack