The PlayStation 4 launched last week with 23 titles (including downloadable and free-to-play games), and after putting the system through its paces for a week, it’s clear there’s no killer app that you must play right now. Many of the launch titles are upgraded ports of multiplatform games that already released on PS3 and Xbox 360, some more improved than others. But for those who are taking the next-gen plunge, there are definitely some solid titles that are well worth your time. Here are our favorite PS4 games available now that should get you through the holidays.
5. Killzone Shadow Fall
Sony’s would-be Halo killer was never able to come close to Microsoft’s big gun, but Killzone has carved out its own niche over the years. Shadow Fall is one of only two first-party retail releases (the other is kiddie platformer Knack, and the less said about it, the better), and the PS4-exclusive shooter is arguably the best-looking of the lot. Set in a more open world than prior entries, it has enough high-tech gadgets, powerful weapons and overwhelming lens flares to make even J.J. Abrams jealous. The best addition is the OWL, a drone you control using the PS4 controller’s touchpad, the best implementation of the touchpad so far. Unfortunately, Killzone is still the story of horrible people doing horrible things to other horrible people, and its relentless nihilism wears on you, particularly when clumsy level design forces you to replay sections over and over until you figure out what it wants you to do. Even so, Shadow Fall is easily the best in the series and a good showpiece for what the PS4 is capable of.
4. Battlefield 4/Call of Duty Ghosts
Whether you prefer Battlefield or Call of Duty is a deeply personal life choice akin to politics, religion, or soda preference. As similar as the military shooters are on the surface, diehard fans know that they differ greatly once you dig deep. I won’t dare suggest that one is superior to the other, rather I’ll just say that both have received significant graphical upgrades on PS4 compared to PS3/Xbox 360. They also both feature pretty terrible single-player campaigns. But hey, don’t shoot the messenger! They both have excellent multiplayer modes that benefit from larger player counts on PS4 to make up for it.
3. Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag
Another recently released title that benefits from the leap to next-gen, Assassin’s Creed IV looks better than ever on PS4. The island foliage is denser, the ocean waves more immersive, and the frame rate in the huge open-world environment is much smoother, all rendered in true native 1080p. Graphics aside, the game itself is a huge improvement over the mediocre ACIII, fixing many of the traversal problems that plagued that game. The game also supports an iPad and Android companion app that serves as a map, so you never have to stop the action on-screen. ACIV is arguably the meatiest single-player game available at launch and will give you plenty to do with your shiny new PS4.
2. Need For Speed Rivals
Need for Speed is the only racing game available on PS4 right now, but even though it wins the race by default, it’s an excellent game in its own right. You speed around an enormous open world as either a thrill-seeking racer or a crash-happy cop. The game seamlessly merges the single-player campaign with multiplayer, populating the world with other real-life players you can challenge to races or try to run off the road. The cops vs. racers dynamics offers a great deal of tension, as your races are often interrupted by the police, turning them into exhilarating, chaotic (and occasionally maddening) escape attempts. The autolog feature tracks essentially everything you do, so you can constantly compare racing times and progress with friends. Though available on PS3 and Xbox 360, it also receives a noticeable graphical upgrade on PS4, with a solid frame rate and amazing weather effects.
Ok, you just bought a brand-new $400 system, and there are dozens of big-budget $60 games competing for your wallet and attention. So what’s the best PS4 launch title? Geometry Wars flashback!—It’s a $15 downloadable title that is free to PlayStation Plus subscribers ($50/year). Resogun is a twin-stick shooter developed by Housemarque, creator of PS3’s addictive Super Stardust HD, and it’s an absolute blast. Essentially an updated Defender, it has you piloting a ship around a circular arena, shooting waves of alien enemies while trying to save the few remaining humans. It’s brilliantly simple but endlessly replayable. There are only three different ships and five stages, but it scratches that arcade itch of high-score chasing thanks to online leaderboards. A thumping techno soundtrack and retina-searing visuals round out the package. It may not be a system-seller, but Resogun will keep you playing just one more time until PS4 gets its killer app.