Compared to its dreadful launch of the PlayStation 3 in 2006, Sony is doing a lot right this time around. If there’s one thing Sony understands now, it’s showing off a product that speaks for itself. Instead of expecting people to pay $600 for a next-gen console, Sony has priced the PlayStation 4 at a reasonable $400. Instead of trying to cram in last-minute features into the console, such as PS3’s Sixaxis, it has focused on making solid hardware without any flashy gimmicks. While the PS4 can stream video and do anything a $99 Roku box can do, it’s also a machine that’s meant for playing next-generation games. It plans on doing that damn well.
Yet the main thing to look forward to is the list of games coming out within the next couple of months. While the number of exclusive PS4 launch titles is small, Sony has pulled a smart, forward-thinking move by making the free-to-play games “Warframe” and “Blacklight: Retribution,” which are both critically acclaimed, available for download upon purchasing the console. So for those who forget to pick up a game or perhaps have run out of money after shelling out $400, there will still be something to play. That isn’t to say that the multiplatform launch releases are looking bad either. Those wanting to pick up a franchise title such as “Call of Duty,” “Battlefield,” “Madden” or “FIFA” will be able to on launch day.
Looking toward the future, there are plenty of titles that should make you excited. “Destiny,” “Infamous: Second Son,” “Watch Dogs” and “The Order: 1886” all seem like phenomenal AAA games coming out within the next year.
The most overlooked but most exciting part about the next six months, though, is Sony’s push for independent games. One of the most anticipated independent games of next year, the mysterious puzzle game “The Witness,” developed by Jonathan Blow, is launching on PS4. Expect charming, goofy indie games such as “Octodad: Dadliest Catch” — where you play as a father who is secretly an octopus as he goes about this daily routine — within the next couple of months as well. Anyone who enjoys games, no matter what genre, will find something for themselves in the upcoming months.
As the first free game offered to PlayStation Plus members, “Resogun” is shaping up to be a solid downloadable retro-throwback launch title similar to what “Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved” was for the launch of the Xbox 360. One of the three exclusive launch titles and the only exclusive downloadable title at launch, “Resogun” is an independent game PlayStation 4 owners will get to experience first. Though the game doesn’t have a production value or price tag similar to those of any of the new disc-based launch games (“Resogun” will cost $14.99 on PSN for those who aren’t PSN+ members), it makes up for it in charm and pure yet difficult gameplay.
Developed by Housemarque, creators of the critically acclaimed PSN exclusive “Super Stardust HD,” “Resogun” is heavily influenced by the classic arcade game “Defender.” You control a spaceship, which you can fly both left and right, while blasting alien ships and rescuing green men scattered across the map. Part homage to old-school side-scrolling shooters, the game holds true to its retro roots, complete with levels, high scores and leaderboards. Expect cooperative play, voxel-based graphics, boss battles and a flashy retro soundtrack.
Though the game doesn’t seem to utilize the newfound power of the PS4, “Resogun” is a great example of the independent games Sony is pushing on the PS4. Placed next to all the AAA launch titles, it is the perfect “break” game to play in between “Killzone,” “Battlefield,” “Call of Duty” and “FIFA.” While most players won’t be playing “Resogun” for 12 hours straight, it will be the game PS4 launch owners come back to again and again. Simply put, “Resogun” is looking to be a well-designed retro side-scrolling shooter, which is a great change of pace from every other launch game in the running for the defining experience of the next generation.
‘Killzone: Shadow Fall’
“Killzone: Shadow Fall” is the sixth installment in developer Guerrilla Games’ “Killzone” franchise, which has stayed on the side of the Sony consoles all the way back to the days of the PlayStation 2. The series is to the PlayStation family what the Halo series is to the Xbox family. “Killzone: Shadow Fall” is the staple shooter-genre exclusive for the PS4 that is sure to bring the full functionality of this new next-gen hardware.
“Killzone: Shadow Fall” is set 30 years after the events of “Killzone 3” when the Interplanetary Strategic Alliance destroyed the Helghast home planet, Helghan, killing more than 1 billion of the Helghast. This caused survivors to become refugees on the ISA home planet, Vekta. The story has a lot of Cold War-type elements; the Helghast are only allowed to stay within the limits of a wall disconnecting them from the rest of the planet. Now the pawns of their enemies, the Helghast seek to take vengeance on their oppressors, while the ISA is attempting to maintain peace on its planet.
The visuals the PS4 tech has brought to this long-awaited title look nothing short of stunning. The architecture of the buildings and the colors of the sky really inspire awe. In addition, the guns fire in a more powerful manner, giving the player a more in-depth experience in fighting the Helghast. As a result, players will find themselves enjoying the firefights not only because of the challenging gun battles but also because of the spectacular battle arenas.
The multiplayer portion of the franchise is also set to return on this PS4 exclusive, allowing players to choose from three classes, a diverse selection of weapons and 10 multiplayer maps to fight in. The game’s multiplayer component will be quite immersive and fast-paced, offering a unique multiplayer experience.
With its beautiful graphics and futuristic setting, “Killzone” is in a league of its own and is a great exclusive title to add to anyone’s PS4 game library.
‘Assasin’s Creed IV: Black Flag’
One game to look out for is “Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag.” This title has already been released on the current-generation consoles, but the definitive version will certainly be on the PlayStation 4. The beauty of the game world has improved as well: The simulation of the oceans is more realistic, the shading and particle effects have been improved and the frame rates are much higher.
“Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag” takes the player back to the golden age of piracy. You play as Edward Kenway, a privateer-turned-pirate-turned-assassin trying to attain fame and fortune. The game’s naval portions have improved vastly since the first time naval gameplay was brought to the series with “Assassin’s Creed III.” With more customization options and upgrades for Kenway’s ship — the Jackdaw — and new controls for firing cannons, swivels, mortars and fire barrels, “Black Flag” is the staple of pirate games.
Finally, the stealth component of “Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag” has been radically improved. The developers have put more emphasis on making stealth a more obvious option through the implementation of more stalking zones and the incorporation of a new tagging system. But this core gaming experience is the same in the current-gen (soon to be older-gen) versions of the game. On the other hand, the next-gen version of the game pays much more attention into stealth. In the current version of the game, when Kenway moves through stalking zones, such as bushes or sugar canes, the stalks simply move through Kenway’s body as he passes them, as if he were some transparent ghost. In the new version, the foliage actually moves around him as he traverses through it. Each leaf moves as Kenway goes through the bush, giving a predatory sense to the gameplay that can’t be found in the current version.
The experience of “Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag” is essentially the same across the current-generation and next-generation consoles. But if you want to play “Black Flag” as it was meant to be played — with better graphics and more realistic environments — then the PS4 version is the one to pick up.
Art Siriwatt covers video games. Contact him at [email protected]
Contact Evan Carr at [email protected].