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Your buyer's guide to PlayStation's premier titles.
By Adam Mathew
Ask any fanboy who's fighting tooth-and-nail in the trenches of the latest console war – the crown jewels of any gaming platform are its exclusives. First-party titles, typically made to lure in fence-sitting customers, are treasured, or enviously desired by the have-nots across no man's land. Bragging rights may also be secured through third-party games that could've been released on any machine, but, for whatever reason, stayed monogamous to one platform-holder. Make no mistake: if you're looking to get into console gaming for the first time, exclusives should factor heavily on your choice of purchase.
That said, a few disclaimers before we begin. In recent years, the games industry has adopted an irritating system of 'timed exclusives'. Essentially, a third-party publisher of games will agree to give one platform-holder a head start on the release of their game. Typically, the game on offer will be a much-in-demand AAA title, and the delay until secondary release can range anywhere from months to a full year. (It's also worth noting that some companies apply this practice to their downloadable content, too – the PlayStation versions of the Destiny games, for example, receive extra maps and weapons well in advance.)
It's important to remember that while the information contained in this (sporadically updated) article is correct at time of writing, the landscape of gaming exclusives is in a state of constant flux. I'm also only talking “console exclusives” here; the games listed are NOT currently available on competing platforms, though in many cases you could probably find a PC version out on Steam. This is especially true with any title not published by Sony.
In 2017, PlayStation 4 continued to capitalise on in its impressive first-year sales by drawing in a greater number of console exclusives compared to its market rivals, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch. (Though, to be fair, the latter only entered the race in March.) The task of whittling down a hundred odd titles to an elite list of ten wasn't an easy one, though I did get some help when a few exclusives were delayed until 2018. We'll all just have to wait a little longer for God of War, Detroit: Become Human, and Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom. My instincts tell me there's a good chance that some, or all, of the above will feature in the 2018 issuing of this article.
Speaking of instincts, it's always worth knowing the credentials of any list curator. Basically, I've been gaming for 30 years, ever since I was old enough to learn how to tune in the RF signal to play Pong on my parent's spare, black-and-white television. I've owned (and still own) every console since the late 70's and I've been extremely fortunate to have spent 15 years in the games industry (five in the retail space, ten editing full-time for major websites and nationally-produced gaming mags). At a minimum, I've played every single game that was eligible to make this list. In the majority of cases, I've clocked them on Stupid-Hard difficulty. With all that said, let's get started...
10. GT SPORT
To be completely honest with you, I wasn't a huge fan of Gran Turismo Sport when it rolled out of the factory. Sure, it was TV-lickingly beautiful, but what I, and many 20-year veterans, expected from “the definitive motor racing experience” wasn't this thin solo offering which, oddly, needs you to be online to pick at said bare bones, or even save. On the flip side, Polyphony Digital had their eye in on the multiplayer, but its “sportsmanship rating” dicked innocent bystanders out of progression just as much as it did newbies cornering by braille (and deliberate trolls).
Polyphony Digital had their eye in on the multiplayer
Despite that rookie L-plater stall at the green light, GT Sport is heading back on track, thanks to the magic of post-launch updates. SR is fairer, the car physics simulation model has been improved, offline gameplay restrictions have been rethought, a slow trickle of new cars has started to drip in, and they've also bolted on GT League (a more traditional solo experience that harkens back to ye olde tuner fun of Gran Turismo). All that said, still no extra content for the exceptional, headset-selling tech demo that was the VR Tour, though. Fingers crossed because the limited mode we have now has phenomenal potential.
9. Gravity Rush 2
Though you're forgiven for missing the premiere of Gravity Rush, released on the ill-fated PS Vita handheld, you really should have caught the remaster they did on PS4. No matter, though. This fully-fledged sequel makes no assumptions, so you can happily leap into the continuing adventures of Kat, a gravity queen who can shrug off the surly bonds of physics in order to zip around floating cities in a manner that turns open-world gaming on its head.
Blends French comic book aesthetics with Japanese manga
Better yet, you can traverse these vibrant, bustling sky cities – and kick the crap out of the Venom-esque globs hoping to invade them – by earning and improving new combat styles. Liquid-like light-weight combos can be yours through the Lunar Style, devastating heavy-assaults can be meted out with Jupiter Style, and for (literal) finishers you can execute the sort of over-the-top tag-team attacks that put the theatrics of most anime to shame. Throw in a gorgeous art style, that blends French comic book aesthetics with Japanese manga, and Gravity Rush 2 soars to high-quality heights that few games can match.
8. Crash Bandicoot N.Sane Trilogy
While Crash may be loopy – though not as nuts as Naughty Dog's WTF understanding of Australia's native flora and fauna – this beloved marsupial is recognized as the undisputed mascot of the PlayStation brand. He's been quite an absentee figurehead of late, but the widespread appeal of his earliest antics prove to be well worth a spin after all these years. And, of course, the timelessness of any 90's game is always enhanced if you swap polygons jaggy-enough-to-have-your-eye-out with 4K visuals more delectable and lovingly-prepared than Grandma's wumpa fruit pie.
Middling players who try to platinum this may go insane
Vicarious Visions didn't just stop with the lick of paint, though. Crash, Crash 2 and Crash 3 have all had their controls and draconian save systems modernised (and, side-bonus: Coco is playable). That said, be aware that the diamond-hard core of these games has been left very much intact. None of this Easy Mode, play-the-game-for-you crap. It's on the tin, folks – middling players who try to platinum this may go insane.
7. Uncharted: The Lost Legacy
When the credits rolled, after Uncharted 4: A Thief's End bitter-sweet epilogue, I found myself wanting more. Never in my wildest dreams, however, did I think Naughty Dog would deliver just that, but with the fan-favourite character – and consummate kick-arse Aussie sheila – Chloe Frazer. Forget DLC though, mate, Uncharted: The Lost Legacy is a lengthy, standalone chapter that covers the unseen aspects of this saga while whisking us off on a quest to snatch an ancient Indian artifact that belongs in a museum (or on eBay, knowing Chloe). The only things standing in the way of that: Indy-esque traps, one ruthless war profiteer and his army of mercs, plus the jagged alliance you've formed with Nadine Ross, secondary antagonist of the last game.
Uncharted: The Lost Legacy is a production that's very much of the ND pedigree
Despite its shorter runtime of 8 or so hours, Uncharted: The Lost Legacy is a production that's very much of the ND pedigree – sumptuous visuals, a strong narrative, well-constructed puzzles, and some of the best third-person gunplay you can poke a stick at. You really don't need to look before you leap into this Hindu-themed high-adventure. Just go and get it India.
6. WipEout Omega Collection
In 2017 we welcomed back a true member of PlayStation royalty; a racing franchise that's hi-octane nostalgia fuel and a deserved entrant in any Coolest Gaming Soundtracks listicle out there. Under the hood of Omega thrums a generous greatest hits mix of Wipeout HD, Wipeout HD Fury and Wipeout 2048. Seeing this anti-grav racer explode back onto a screen, in eyeball-searing 4K / HDR, 60 frames per second, is watching the PS4 Pro at its best.
Strap in and feel the Gs at your earliest convenience
The old breakneck pace and stomach-twisting loop-de-loops are all back with a vengeance, as is the infectious risk-reward decisions you'll need to make in combat, whether it be in the taxing solo campaigns, 8-player online, or friendship-ending two-player split-screen. Bloated with content and oozing with style, Wipeout Omega Collection really is the rapid combat racer that defies gravity and defines generations. Strap in and feel the Gs at your earliest convenience.
5. Yakuza 0
Look, I get it. Games built specifically for Japanese audiences are received by Western consumers like a dish of fugu (adored by diehards, is an acquired taste to some, and, if all becomes lost in translation, it's outright poison to others). I'd be very surprised if you couldn't learn to love the cultural exchange that is Yakuza 0, though. It's the hard-boiled crime drama where you bust heads in with stolen bicycles, smash out hilaribad karaoke and nail high-scores in Space Harrier during the hedonistic 80's. Also, being a prequel, this is the perfect hopping on point for newcomers.
This is the perfect hopping on point for newcomers
In no time you'll be brought up to speed on mainstay protagonist Kazuma Kiryu and series regular Goro Majima as they fight like hell through Tokyo and Osaka to climb the underworld ladder (typically by buying skills, 3D brawling, and chugging enough caffeine drinks to kill a small horse). Do yourself a favour and order this unique cocktail of drama, humour, and a shotgun approach to quirky, distracting mini-games.
- Read our full review
- Purchase Yakuza 0 here
When FromSoftware delivered Dark Souls III: The Ringed City – the effective end of its best-known series – gaming masochists everywhere began wringing their hands nervously. “Where shall we go now for our medicine?” they shrieked, much as they could with ball gags on. The worry was unfounded, though. Team Ninja was more than happy to step in to dominate us all over again with Nioh, an unabashed love-letter to the hellish difficulty of Dark Souls.
To label it a clone is a serious injustice, however, as Nioh enhances the formula with refined hack 'n' slash combat, the best loot-farming this side of Diablo, and the most endearing demon-samurai art-style since the Onimusha series. This is bloody, and bloody long, too: mastering every weapon style, meticulously learning enemy weaknesses, and exploring a plethora of side content will steal a hundred hours away if you let it. Nioh may look derivative on paper, but in practice, it's an extremely well-made game, a supremely rewarding challenge, and a worthy inheritor to the currently vacant throne of a sub-genre.
3. NieR Automata
What's not to like about an action role-playing game like NieR: Automata? It asks you to hew through murderous robots using YoRHa 2B, a super-powered android in a maid's outfit who wields a sword big enough to be mistaken for God's own letter-opener. And that affection will turn to love when you reach the wonderful genre and perspective switches. Because, while the bulk of fighting is done as a lightning-paced open-world 3D brawler, you'll experience inexplicable shifts to 2.5D platforming and even the odd Raiden-esque sh'mup level. Automata nails every discipline it attempts and manages to be as engrossing as it is unorthodox.
This gameplay design attitude of “you'll never know what's coming next, but you'll love it when it arrives” is mirrored in Automata's eclectic soundtrack and Yoko Taro's delightfully bizarre script. Expect off-the-wall moments and well-written characters who explore everything from existentialism, the complications inherent in artificial intelligence, and what would happen if you got foul-mouthed robots to put on a Shakespeare production with 3 Romeos and 3 Juliets. The answer, like a larger metaphor for what NieR: Automata delivers, is: absurdly fun ultra-violence that'll entertain “the shit out of thee”.
2. Persona 5
What a masterpiece. Persona 5's claws will sink into you early and deep, thanks to its tale of a group of troubled high school students who live dual lives as Phantom Thieves. The day-to-day drama of being a Tokyo high-schooler must still be navigated, but there's also the need for the Phantoms to undertake fantastical adventures by using otherworldly powers to enter the hearts of people. Needless to say, when their stories start to delve into the dark nature of humanity (while delivering a series of masterful plot-twists that genuinely play upon your emotions) expect Persona 5 to enter your own heart and take up permanent residence.
Oozing with a slick, psychedelic visual style, and a face-melting acid jazz soundtrack, Persona 5 is the most polished JRPGs in years; an impossibly high benchmark set for the genre. The only potential pitfall: neophytes may not set aside enough of their calendar before becoming hopelessly captivated by this game's fast-paced battle system, vibrant world, and loveable rogues who demand triple-digit hours of your attention. Upside: you'll love every single second you spend here.
1. Horizon Zero Dawn
An open-world action-RPG where you stalk ludicrously dangerous dinobots and harvest their innards for precious loot: that's essentially what Horizon Zero Dawn is, and of course the formula works. The icing on the top is Guerrilla Games including a grounded and likeable heroine, a slew of creative weaponry, and visuals that consistently put jaws on floors
. Over the course of many centuries, decimated tribes of humanity have clawed their way back to some semblance of civilization, and learning the history of this world, and the nature of the aforementioned megafauna machines is a gripping adventure. Finding out how the robo-pooch got this screwed requires many hours of exploration, leveling, and sifting through the old world tech that litters the corpse of this world. Indeed, Horizon Zero Dawn itself feels like you’re digging through the bytes of gaming's greatest mechanics, too – stealth and platforming harken from the Assassin's Creed series, while the hunt-loot-and-craft shenanigans are reminiscent of Far Cry. It may crib from the genre greats, however, the moment-to-moment action HZD stylishly weaves feels fresh, frenetic and often superior to the source of influence.
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