Did you get a PlayStation 4 for the holidays? Wondering what to do with it? If you don’t feel like watching old TV shows and movies through Netflix and Amazon Instant Video, or streaming your own makeshift TV show through Twitch or UStream, you could always play videogames on it. That is why it exists, after all. In order to help you decide what games to target, we’ve written up this quick look at the games currently available for Sony’s brand new console. We’ve broken it down into three categories: games that are exclusively available on the PlayStation 4; third-party games that are also available on other systems; and games originally released for the PlayStation 3 that are now also available for the PlayStation 4. This doesn’t cover every game on the PS4, and we’re not saying you should play every game on here—we’re just giving you the skinny on some of the more notable games on the system. And tomorrow we’ll do the same with the Xbox One.
The PlayStation 4’s list of exclusive games is surprisingly light at the moment. There are only four games available for the PS4 that aren’t on other systems, and this sentence is the only time you’ll ever see me mention Pool Nation Extreme / FX. The three major exclusives for the PS4 include two games available on disc or through download (Knack and Killzone: Shadow Fall) and one downloadable game (Resogun) that’s available for free for anybody who subscribes to PlayStation Plus. It’s a weak line-up, but Resogun alone is almost awesome enough to make up for it.
Resogun could have existed at any point in the last 30 years. It feels like a classic old arcade game, a dual-joystick version of Defender, but upgraded with modern day graphics and sound. It’s an exciting, tension-filled shooter with multiple goals that often work at cross-purposes. Beyond surviving each wave of each level, you have to save ten humans from death or abduction while increasing your score multiplier and driving up your points total as high as possible. That means precise dodging, quick reaction times to rescue humans, and canny juggling of the game’s three special power-ups, bombs, overdriven weapons and a lightning-fast blitz maneuver. And it all feels like you’re in a rave, with pulsing lights and overpowering dance music both distracting you and spurring you on. Resogun is the best game on the PlayStation 4, and it’s free if you subscribe to PlayStation Plus (which is a necessity, if you intend to play games on-line).—Garrett Martin
Killzone: Shadow Fall
Killzone games are known for their beautiful and exactingly detailed depictions of drab, anonymous military installations. Sony’s first-person shooter franchise doesn’t have a lot of personality, but its focus on Eastern Bloc architecture and Cold War metaphors within a laughably overwrought alien invasion framework provides a distinctly austere identity. Shadow Fall is the most beautiful Killzone yet, and the mechanics and level design remain competent. It’s still a little too familiar and a little too uninspired, and it’s still vindicated slightly by multiplayer modes that are more interesting than the campaign. Shadow Fall is the best graphics demo for the PlayStation 4, but you can probably skip it if you aren’t a Killzone superfan or in the market for a shooter that can only be played on the PS4—Garrett Martin
Family-friendly 3D action-platformer Knack feels rushed. That’s true of many launch games throughout the industry’s history, of course. Knack coats a few hours of jumping and beating things up with a cartoony veneer and sense of youthful adventure that should appeal to less cynical children. It doesn’t look or feel like an upgrade over the PlayStation 3, and you likely won’t remember it that long after playing, but like Killzone Knack is a competent game that fills a niche in the PS4’s software library.—Garrett Martin
The usual suspects pop up on both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Such major third-party publishers as Ubisoft, 2K Games, Activision and Electronic Arts are fully on board with the two newest consoles, pushing out versions of their biggest franchises and holiday releases for the full range of PlayStations and Xboxes. If you already bought some of these games for your PlayStation 3, you can download the PS4 version for an extra $10. Here are the best of the multi-platform games from third-party publishers.
Assassin’s Creed IV
Assassin’s Creed IV is delightfully earnest. It takes itself very seriously without ever devolving into tired grimness or cynicism. At its best it captures the tone of the Flynn-de Havilland classic Captain Blood and other old Hollywood swashbucklers, presenting light-hearted adventure without any winking irony. It also gets the most out of its open world design by dropping us in an enthralling real-world setting with a generous freedom of motion. It’s one of the few open world games where the buildings that make up that world actually seem to matter, even if you still mostly can’t go inside them.—Garrett Martin
Skylanders Swap Force
Skylanders is a brawling platformer that adapts Pokemon’s “gotta catch ‘em all” ethos into a series of collectible toys. Swap Force, the latest game, will drive demand for new toys higher than ever. Not only does every new figure unlock a playable character in the game, but every Swap Force figure can switch torsos with another to unlock new powers and abilities. Combining elemental classes expands the combat possibilities of Swap Force, and also allows for new variations on familiar puzzles.—Garrett Martin
Call of Duty: Ghosts
It would be disingenuous to write off the yearly Call of Duty installment just because it just does the same thing incredibly well again. Ghosts is by no means the most creative or flawless game in this series, but it nails its core competency better than any Call of Duty before it. The immediate, uncluttered return of a successful shot paired with the rubric of near-future warfare and an inviting warehouse of unlockables still commands the attention of millions of gamers worldwide. The tightly-balanced nuance of competitive online play and its endless variables continue to draw attention, even devotion. Ghosts is my biggest supporter when I play Ghosts, and that feeling is mostly, though not entirely, mutual.—Dan Crabtree
What’s really broken through in FIFA 14 is the depth of the Career Mode play. While not as OCD as the Football Manager franchise (the absolute gold standard for futbol hipster shut-ins) the robust front office elements between matches frustrate and surprise the way a great narrative game should. Painstakingly scouted transfers turn out to be junk, clutch squad members go through mood swings and dips in form, the board denies your fund requests, freak training injuries force total tactical rethinks, you can say stupid things that piss off your players, and it all makes the actual matches feel more important. The “Seasons” mode introduced a while back keeps the long-game promotion/relegation drama they added to the twitchy addictiveness of the online venue alive and well too. The franchise has never felt more physical or more immersive.—Martin Pavlinic
There is a certain amount of kinetic joy in playing NBA 2K14, and it stems from the controls. Each relatively lifelike player has a unique speed rating, and when you have a fast one, you feel it. You feel how gigantic and lumbering the bigger players are. Nothing is floaty—except a floater, if you choose to shoot one—and having the ball in your hand, weaving through the lane and making the split-second decision between shooting or passing to the open man is consistently, bafflingly thrilling. You will, for lack of a better term, whoop and holler when you slam dunk the ball or block your opponent’s shot.—Adam Harshberger
Sony is big on the idea of the PlayStation family, an interconnected series of systems that includes the PlayStation 4, the handheld PlayStation Vita and the gracefully retiring PlayStation 3. Part of that movement is the concept of “cross buy”—a single purchase will let you download the same game to all three systems. The first few games to test that idea are all remakes of older downloadable games from the PlayStation 3. The three games below don’t represent every cross buy title that’s currently available for the PlayStation 4, but it does include the three you should play at some point in your life.
The PlayStation 4 version of Flower is largely unchanged from the PS3 original. The visuals are slightly crisper, the bright blues and greens popping off the screen. Playing the game feels better on the new controller, which is a little bit longer, flatter and easier to balance than the PlayStation 3’s. If you’ve already owned it on the PS3 there’s little need to buy this game again. If you’ve never played Flower before, though, you might want to make it the first game you get for the PlayStation 4.—Garrett Martin
The same caveats apply for Sound Shapes. This music-based puzzle platformer and level creator is one of the best games to ever hit the PlayStation 3 or Vita. If you already have Sound Shapes on the Vita or PS3, the PS4 version isn’t expanded or improved in any notable way and thus isn’t worth a separate purchase.—Garrett Martin
Again: See the note about Flower above. Flow, the first game from Flower’s designer Thatgamecompany, is a relaxing, low-key trifle about evolution and the food chain. It’s similar in tone to Flower, but less ambitious and less poignant. It’s an interesting meditation on games and nature, and certainly worth playing, but again the PS4 version is not markedly different from the original. If you’ve played it on the PS3, then you’ve already played the same game you’d be getting on the PS4. If you haven’t, buying it now will unlock it for the PS4, PS3 and Vita.—Garrett Martin
Garrett Martin is Paste’s games editor and the games reviewer for the Boston Herald.