Lock and load for a list of lead-flingers that’ll fire-up your DualShock.
By Nathan Lawrence
The humble shooter has been popular ever since its birth in granddaddy FPS Wolfenstein 3D. Since then, shooters have grown in complexity, jumped between first- and third-person perspectives and in the case of the PlayStation 4 (and PC), stepped into virtual reality. PlayStation VR is a great piece of tech, but we’re now only just exiting the first-phase experiential approach to VR games and entering the second-phase of full-fledged gaming experiences.
Because of this, the first ten items in this "Best shooters on PlayStation 4" list don’t include any PSVR titles. Yes, I’m aware that PSVR games like RIGS and Farpoint are solid contenders (I like both of them), and step beyond the first-wave experiential design logic, but they’re both a bit too generic for my tastes to take a spot in this first ten. Shooter fans will likely notice other existing shooters omitted that aren’t of the VR variety.
As much as I adore first-person games like Preyand Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, they’re both action-RPGs as far as I’m concerned, and calling them shooters is a disservice to their core appeal. You can play them as shooters, but you can also play them without shooting.
Then there are the games that are more looter than shooter: the Destiny and Borderlands franchises of the gaming world. They’re more about the loot than they are about the shoot, so they miss this list, too.
I’d also like to mention LawBreakers and PlanetSide 2. These are solid shooter experiences, but both play considerably better on PC than they do stacked next to their console counterparts, which is why they miss out here. Perhaps most controversially, I’ve left out Call of Dutybecause, in my opinion, not a lot has changed for the better since the release of Modern Warfare. Hell, Modern Warfare Remastered had problems the original didn’t suffer from.
In similarly controversial space, Doom isn’t in my list. I had fun with the campaign, but that fun was in short bursts (it became very samey very quickly), and the multiplayer was torn between competing CoD- and Quake-like pillars, which made it feel like a lesser version of both of those franchises. That’s enough about what hasn’t made the cut; read on to see which games are in my sights for the best shooters that you can play right now on PS4.
The first game I truly fell in love with was Wolfenstein 3D. After Wolf 3D left its mark and because of the lack of variety at the time, I’d try and play any shooter I could get my hands on. The 90s was filled with classics like Doom, Rise of the Triad, Duke Nukem 3D, Quake, and Half-Life (and a fair share of junk shooters, too).
All of those were my jam. In terms of the console space, I sank countless hours into GoldenEye 007 on Nintendo 64 despite not owning the console, and lost hundreds of hours to Halo: Combat Evolved.
When I finally got around to buying my first PlayStation, I got right into the Resistance and Killzone series. Perhaps more important than my long history with shooters is my professional credentials. I’m the unofficial shooter expert at IGN and I spent most of my career writing for Official PlayStation magazine, where I was also the go-to shooter guy. Nowadays, while the publications may vary and the games have evolved, you can still count on me to have a lot to say about any big shooter release.
10. BioShock: The Collection
PLATFORMS: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
RELEASE DATE: 15 September 2016
DEVELOPER: Blind Squirrel Games
PUBLISHER: 2K Games
It’s a testament to the forward-thinking skill of master storyteller Ken Levine and Irrational Games that the BioShock series holds up today. The irony is that Ken and co were looking back to the past – at games like System Shock and Deus Ex – to help inspire BioShock’s potent mix of tight gunplay, magic-like abilities, believable characterisation, engaging storytelling, and killer twists.
For BioShock 2, gameplay trumped storytelling, and while the second outing in Rapture lacked the connected elements of its incredible predecessor, the gunplay refinements and Big Daddy protagonist were fantastic inclusions to the series. BioShock Infinite took the series back in time and up to the heavens, and while it skewed its story priorities above gameplay, it featured some epic set pieces, especially with the more open combat arenas.
The fact you can play all three games, with appropriate visual upgrades across the board in a single package, means BioShock: The Collection is a must-own title for shooter fans, whether you’ve clocked the series, or it’s your first time discovering its rapturous delights.
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BioShock collection includes all three titles in the BioShock video game series—BioShock, BioShock 2, and BioShock Infinite. Beside this, it also includes BioShock 2's Minerva's Den and BioShock Infinite's Burial at Sea. Go for it now!
The simplest pitch for World of Tanks is “Counter-Strike in tanks”. There’s technically a longer time-to-kill – an important factor in shooters that often boils down to a personal-preference division over whether shorter or longer is better – but that also depends on the type of tank you’re in. Teamwork is usually the best road to success, but there are tank types that reward lone-wolf players looking for the clutch flank play.
Best of all, World of Tanks is free-to-play, and since it takes time for your turret to catch up with your target (plus time between shots), it feels great on a controller.
Newer players can plug away at enemy tanks from any angle, but play for a few hours and you’ll soon realise that there’s depth to the shooting mechanics. Ricocheting shots can rob you of kills or save you from death if you’re on the receiving end, and attacking enemies from behind or the side is the best tactic. This leads to tense games of cat and mouse, where you’re often both cat and mouse.
World of Tanks is easy to learn and tricky to master, but rewarding the more time you play.
8. Plants vs. Zombies Garden Warfare 2
PLATFORMS: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
RELEASE DATE: 25 February 2016
DEVELOPER: PopCap Games
This is the family-friendly shooter you’ve been looking for. That said, to call Plants vs. Zombies Garden Warfare 2 one of those “my first shooter”-type games would be an insult to the depth that you dig up the more you play. The versatility of the Frostbite 3 engine is on show, this time with stylised graphics and cutesy sound effects that will make you say “naaaw”, while providing the right kind of straightforward visual and audio cues to help you get better at the game.
Garden Warfare 2 is a feature-rich offering out of the pot, too. There’s a lot of fun to be had on your lonesome, whether you’re defending your home hub in Backyard Battleground or taking part in a variety of solo missions. The fun and challenge steps up once you jump into co-op, and it grows again in the familiar (albeit with a Plants vs. Zombies twist) competitive modes.
Plants vs. Zombies made a smooth genre jump from tower defence to shooter with the original Garden Warfare, but the formula evolved in all the right ways for Garden Warfare 2.
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While the Chimera from Resistance have yet to invade new-gen PlayStation screens, Guerrilla Games’ shooter series (thankfully) launched with the PlayStation 4. It copped a bit of stick at launch, as is the trend with console-launch titles, but it worked as a shooter that continued the series, while simultaneously showing off the power of the PlayStation 4. The open-approach design to the larger levels is a treat, and there’s a weightiness to the arsenal that makes the gunplay feel particularly "oorah" on a DualShock 4 controller.
Jump online to take on human opponents and Guerrilla Games shows its forward-thinking approach as one of the first new-gen developers to champion the importance of 60-frames-per-second multiplayer gameplay. Even if the TV manufacturers at the time were still cottoning-on to the importance of higher frame rates and low input "game modes", it meant the 24-player multi feels more responsive than your standard 30fps fare. Couple this with tight map design and dedicated servers for a smooth online experience, and Killzone: Shadow Fall ticks all the right boxes.
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PLATFORMS: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, Mac, Linux
RELEASE DATE: 21 July 2017
DEVELOPER: Superhot Team
PUBLISHER: Superhot Team
After the runaway success of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds on PC and Xbox One (fear not, Sony brethren: it’ll come to PS4 eventually), it’s good to see that indie shooters can pinch the limelight from AAA titles. But before there was the epic scale of PUBG Corporation’s Battlegrounds, there was a truly unique solo-shooter offering from Superhot Team. Superhot (that’s the game, not the dev) splices first-person shooting with a Fallout 3 VATS-like understanding of time and a John Woo approach to action set pieces.
The results are outstanding.
Time only moves when you move your avatar, which gives you ample time to spot your preferred way to take down the next goon, or figure out how you want to clear the rest of the room. It really feels like you’re directing the start/stop action in an action-packed movie, and the most fun comes from challenging yourself to taking the hordes of goons out with the most creative methods.
If you’re a PSVR owner, it’s also well worth taking for a spin in VR so you feel even more like John Wick.
5. Sniper Elite 4
PLATFORMS: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
RELEASE DATE: 14 February 2017
DEVELOPER: Rebellion Developments
PUBLISHER: Rebellion Developments
Sniper Elite 4 is another indie shooter despite its polish, and another one that satisfies a different itch from the usual run-and-gun norm. That said, the fantastic thing about Sniper Elite 4 is it’s the best place to start for newcomers because you can play it like it’s Call of Duty: WWII. If you want.
You’ll actually be making the game tougher if you do this, but it’s good to know that you can go loud when a plan falls apart and the scheisse hits the fan.
In case you weren’t clued on by the name, Sniper Elite 4 really wants you to snipe. As someone who finds sniping boring, Rebellion Developments deserves an explosive tonne of praise for making the art of pitching a tent feel tense and awesome.
It helps that there’s nothing quite like the feeling of pinpointing Nazi nads from across the map and watching a detailed X-ray cross section of your shot landing. That’s been a series staple, and it never gets old. Killing Nazis has never felt so classy.
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REASONING: Microsoft may have pulled a sneaky one and won the exclusive rights to the original Titanfall – which was bad news for shooter fans on PS4 – but thankfully, the sequel was a superior version of the fast-paced formula. For starters, Titanfall 2 has a campaign, and while it’s rudimentary for the most part, it does feature two of the greatest shooter levels of recent times (if not of all time).
However, the real shining star is the multiplayer. The fast pace and wall-running returns from the original game, but it’s complemented by a grappling hook. That might not sound like a big deal, but if you wrap your mind around how to combine the hook with wall-running, you can fling yourself around the map at Flash-like speeds.
This in turn makes the map design feel tighter, and there's also the presence of those gargantuan Titans to fight in and against, which creates plenty of memorable multiplayer moments.
It’s just a shame that EA didn’t delay its release until early 2017 so it could get the kind of attention it deserved (it launched one week after Battlefield 1 and a week before Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare).
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In a gaming era where big-name publishers are bemoaning the death of single-player, it’s great to see a series that refuses to artificially tack-on a lacklustre multiplayer mode. Case in point, the Wolfenstein series under the guidance of new custodians MachineGames. This studio is comprised of veterans who made some of the best left-of-field shooters of the 21st century.
Some of the key talent hail from Starbreeze Studios, which was responsible for The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay (a movie tie-in that rocked), The Darkness (a killer comic adaptation), and Syndicate (an underrated first-person remake of a classic strategy game). The MachineGames name was new, but the talent were old hands at taking existing IPs and making something fresh.
With Wolfenstein: The New Order, MachineGames near-perfectly spliced old-school mechanics with contemporary shooter systems. For The New Colossus, MachineGames escalated the sequel in all the key areas to one-up what they’d done before.
If you want to see what the new-age corridor shooter looks like, look no further than The New Colossus. It’s a brutally challenging (especially on higher difficulties) but incredibly satisfying experience that makes me glad MachineGames has already confirmed there’s another game on the way.
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There’s a lot going on in that game title. Yes, the game is set in the late Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six universe, but this is a very different beast to the slower Rainbow Six games of old.
The most important part of the title has been saved until last: Siege. There simply isn’t a comparable shooter experience to Rainbow Six Siege, and whether you’re playing as an attacker or defender, the tension of each besieged round is regularly off the chain.
Chat to the devs and they’ll tell you the original inspiration was a painting of a medieval siege, which contains all the core elements of the game: attackers, defenders, asymmetrical weapons, and destructibility. This latter point is what makes every round feel unique and, like the high-flying Quake games of old, means you have to think and fight in three dimensions. Throw in MOBA-like hero characters with unique abilities, and Siege is a game that rewards the patient player in a multiplayer shooter experience where strategy trumps aim, but quick reactions and landing headshots certainly go a long way.
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I was worried that the release of Star Wars Battlefront II would mean I stopped playing Battlefield 1. After the shaky launch of Battlefield II, I’ve never been so happy to be so wrong. Battlefield 1 is a shooter experience that keeps on giving. There’s no reason to play through the campaign more than once, but the vignette of individual stories means it tells a great story that’s well worth experiencing.
As is the trend of Battlefield games, the real longevity is found online. Instead of feeling like an incremental upgrade – which was the case for the jump between Battlefield 3 and 4 – Battlefield 1 takes some big risks that pay off.
The World War I setting is a fantastic change of pace from the futuristic thrust of other shooters. This means the military tech had to be rolled back, and in doing this, DICE created an even clearer delineation between the classes, forcing players to play to the specific range of each class’s primary weapon category. Naturally, it all looks and sounds amazing, which is the kind of polish that’s easily forgotten when you’re caught up in explosive moments that you can’t find in any other game.
Battlefield 1 is all-out war at its best.
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