The Sony PlayStation 4 game console is launching with about a dozen games available in retail stores, plus a handful of download-only digital options. Some are excellent, some are uninspiring, some are tantalizing hints at where next-gen gaming can go once developers have more time to learn the capabilities of the new hardware.
Once you shell out for a PS4 console ($399), PlayStation Plus membership ($49), extra controller ($59), and PlayStation Camera ($59), your gaming budget may be tight, so we've gone through the launch lineup and picked our favorite five (by general consensus) to get you started. Be warned, some of the choices on this list may be controversial, so feel free to make your own suggestions in the comments section below.
Multiplayer military shooters are among the most overdone of game genres, but this new console generation is still kicking off with a couple of big-budget examples: Battlefield 4 and Call of Duty: Ghosts. BF4 is the more "serious" of the pair, and until now, playing it on a high-end gaming PC was the only way to really get the full experience, as the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions have lower-end graphics and limit the numbers of players in a multiplayer match. The PS4 version of Battlefield looks nearly as good as on a monster gaming PC (such as the recently reviewed $4,000-plus Alienware 18), and allows for massive 64-player online shootouts.
This 2.5D arcade-style shooter is one of the surprise hits of the PS4's early days. It shares some creative DNA with casual space shooter Super Stardust HD (itself a killer PlayStation Network download for PS3), mixed with a bit of Defender, the coin-op classic. The best part: it's free to download for PlayStation Plus members (and as you need Plus for online multiplayer, it's much more likely you'll be a member in this generation).
The free built-in augmented reality showoff app may seem like an unusual choice as one of our best new games, but it's oddly addictive, and deeper than a cursory glance would suggest. The most often seen mini-game features an army of tiny robots that hide in your controller and react to your hand movements, but you can also play a pong-like two-player game, get a guided tour of the DualShock controller, and more. It's a freebie timewaster, but everyone who sees our PS4 for the first time ends up playing with it for at least 15 uninterrupted minutes.
Another great generation-over-generation visual upgrade, watching NBA 2K14 reminds me of that moment when (many, many years ago), I saw NBA 2K for the Sega Dreamcast for the first time and momentarily forgot I wasn't watching a live television broadcast. It's also worth mentioning that watching other people play NBA 2K14 live over the PS4's broadcast feature is an amazing exercise in trash talk voyeurism. Note that NBA Live is also coming to the PS4, but doesn't have nearly the buzz this game has.
Like Madden and Call of Duty, Need for Speed is one of those series that never seems far from a new installment. While the PlayStation 4 launch version may not be as filled with eye candy as Xbox rival Forza 4, it still shows why a great driving game is always important to have on Day 1. From the gleaming paint jobs to the excellent particle and environmental effects, it's one of the best ways to show off that you're playing on a next-gen console.
The two big exclusive PS4 launch titles are not on our Top 5 list. Both are perfectly competent, but fall prey to the same problems that plague previous generation launch games, in that both Killzone and Knack are unoriginal, unchallenging, and do nothing beside recycle long-standing concepts and gameplay with slightly nicer graphics (Killzone is perhaps the Perfect Dark Zero of this generation of consoles).
There are, of course, other valid choices for the Top 5 PS4 launch games. Some of our colleagues lobbied for FIFA or Madden over NBA 2K14, or Assassin's Creed IV over Battlefield 4. If you've got a different list, post it below in the comments section.