Monday 12 October 2020

My Top 10 PlayStation 4 Games

With Sony's PlayStation 4 system only days away from being usurped by a newer, sexier model, I wanted to take the time to look back at some of my favourite titles to grace our screens this generation. 

Before we get started, just one rule of law; no remasters that first debuted on an earlier platform, which means no The Last of Us or Grand Theft Auto V – despite the fact both titles received a sizeable upgrade on PlayStation 4. 

Honourable mentions: God of War, Until Dawn, Assassin's Creed Odyssey, Far Cry 4, Titanfall 2, Alien: Isolation, Rocket League, Rise of the Tomb Raider, Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, Fallout 4.

10. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order (2019, Respawn Entertainment)

The second half of 2019 was wall-to-wall Star Wars; from the excellent debut of The Mandalorian to the colossal disappointment that was The Rise of Skywalker. Thankfully, somewhere amidst all that, Respawn Entertainment and Electronic Arts were able to buck the trend of terrible Star Wars games with Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order.

Set, as so many supplementary Star Wars stories are, between episodes three and four, Fallen Order is centred on Cal Kestis, and his journey from outcast Jedi apprentice to headstrong knight who can go toe-to-toe with the Empire's best. 

With slick swordplay remiscent of Dark Souls, platforming borrowed from Uncharted and the dazzling visuals of EA's Frostbite engine, Fallen Order was a patchwork quilt of mechanics, with the Star Wars aesthetic lavishly applied on top of it all. It was a fun, compelling spin-off tale that introduced some interesting new characters and ideas to a galaxy far, far away, and I'm keen to see where the sequel goes next.

9. Mass Effect: Andromeda (2017, BioWare)

Yeah okay, I realise it's at this point that all credibility drains from this article. But I really liked Mass Effect Andromeda, and there's nothing you can do about it. It had its fair share of flaws (and then some), but by and large this sequel kept its end of the bargain by delivering new characters, new worlds, new aliens and new ideas. 

The crew of the Tempest were endearing, particularly Peebee and Cora, and the storyline – in which you played as a 'Pathfinder', tasked with turning hostile worlds into habitable outposts – was a cool spin on frontier living by way of the Mass Effect universe. Gameplay was improved too, with changes to the cover system and movement making it a slicker shooter. I may be alone on this one, but I still have my fingers crossed for a sequel that builds on what worked and irons out the kinks. 

8. Batman: Arkham Knight (2015, Rocksteady)

The fourth and final game in the Batman: Arkham series, Arkham Knight was a big as they come when it comes to blockbuster games from this generation just gone. After hitting a home run with 2011's Arkham City, Rocksteady took its time crafting the conclusion, and this final chapter was more than worth the wait. 

What it lacked in narrative surprises, Arkham Knight more than made up for in scope and ambition. Plunged into a vast section of Gotham City overrun with ghastly goons, Batman finds himself faced with a new foe (sort of) in the mysterious Arkham Knight, all the while battling his inner demons, which now take the form of the deceased Joker, and taunt him from the darker recesses of his mind. After earlier entries debuted on older platforms, Arkham Knight also marked a leap forward for the series from a graphical perspective.

Plus, on top of all that good stuff, there's the Batmobile (at last). Enough said.

7. Ghost of Tsushima (2020, Sucker Punch Productions)

Okay, this one is cheating just a smidge because, technically, I haven't actually finished Ghost of Tsushima yet. At the time of writing, I'm still knee-deep in its rich story and world, scything from side mission to side mission as samurai slash shinobi Jin Sakai. 

But it is just so good, this list would feel amiss without it. First up, the games is unbelievably beautiful to look at. Sucker Punch have drizzled this depiction of 13th century Japan with all manner of ripe orange sunsets, deep red leaves, crisp blue seas and gloomy grey forests. The story itself is inspired by the films of Kurosawa, as lone warrior Jin bounces from village to village, freeing peasants from the tyranny of the Mongol invaders and mounting a brave resistance. 

From intense katana duels atop windswept clifftops to composing intimate haiku, Ghost of Tsushima is a rich, textured and compelling historical yarn that remixes classic cinema with all the gameplay elements of Sony's stacked single-player library. As one of the last exclusives on the platform, it's is a fitting farewell to the PlayStation 4.

6. Red Dead Redemption 2 (2018, Rockstar)

After years of waiting for Rockstar to return to the world of 2010's Red Dead Redemption, this prequel at first felt like something of a disappointment for me. The sluggish first act and Rockstar's slavish attention-to-detail felt restrictive and cumbersome. 

From polishing your pistols to taking a bath and trimming your beard, Red Dead Redemption 2 was a game designed to be enjoyed at a snail's pace. Arthur Morgan and Dutch van Linde's posse of roguish outlaws may bounce from one botched, breakneck heist to the next, but the bits in between were tiresome to say the least.

It isn't until the cracks start to divide our heroes deep into the second act that the game finds its rhythm. From there, Red Dead Redemption 2 features some of the best storytelling from this past generation. Any reservations I had about its flaws – of which there are many – were brushed aside, as the game's enthralling story builds and builds to a hugely satisfying conclusion and bittersweet epilogue. 

Is it as good as the original title from 2010? Maybe not, but without a doubt a watermark for storytelling this generation, even if the fiddly gameplay itself didn't blow me away.

5. The Outer Worlds (2019, Obsidian Entertainment)

Obsidian's spacefaring adventure The Outer Worlds didn't try to reinvent the wheel – it simply delivered a polished and well-crafted, tried-and-tested RPG that follows the familiar formula evident in its forebear, Fallout: New Vegas

After a slow start, The Outer Worlds really finds its groove when the player character is first faced with some game-changing choices; like many RPG storytellers, Obsidian takes its time to establish the world, its conflicts and consequences, before making the player tear it limb from limb through some decisive decision-making. And as the captain of a stolen spaceship soaring amongst the stars, you come into contact with quite a few sticky wickets throughout the sizeable single-player story. 

In one chapter, do you choose to preserve the status quo by rerouting the power to save the colony? Or do you instead opt to upend the playbook and side with the plucky outcasts? The Outer Worlds is all about the world – or worlds, believe it or not – and the colourful characters and fractious factions who populate them. Navigating this and how they all intersect makes for one of the more entertaining tales you can embark on via the PlayStation 4.

4. Spider-Man (2018, Insomniac Games)

There have been Spider-Man games before, but Insomniac really went above and beyond with this 2018 PlayStation exclusive. As you swing through the streets of Manhattan, spinning webs and catching thieves, you really feel like you can do whatever a spider can. 

Colourful to look at and exhilarating to play, my wife and I poured hours upon hours into this open-world adventure, where there are all manner of goons to fight, photos to take and backpacks to collect. It took the tried-and-true Arkham formula and applied to the world of Marvel, to maximum effect. 

It's no surprise that Sony is calling on a sequel (of sorts), featuring sidekick Miles Morales, to launch its new console next month – they know they've got a winner on their hands in this flourishing franchise. 

3. Uncharted 4: A Thief's End (2016, Naughty Dog)

Since 2007, roguish treasure hunter Nathan Drake has been the poster boy of the PlayStation library, so when it came time to farewell the character in 2016's A Thief's End, it's no surprise that developer Naughty Dog pulled out all the stops. 

A classic tale of an ageing hero being enticed out of retirement for 'one last job', A Thief's End saw Nate come face-to-face with his long-lost older brother Sam, for a globetrotting adventure that visited Panama, Scotland, Italy and Madagascar. 

As a fan of blockbuster storytelling on the big screen, the Uncharted series has been a firm favourite of mine since I first picked up Among Thieves back in 2009. A Thief's End was a compelling continuation of Naughty Dog's commitment to large-scale, interactive storytelling, one which kept me gripped from beginning to end. The visuals were stunning (no surprise there), but it's in the storytelling department that this game (and series) shines brightest. Not just a fitting farewell to Nate, but a troupe of fan favourite characters as well, this is an absolute must-play for any PS4 owner. The standalone spin-off, The Lost Legacy, is worth a crack as well. 

2. The Last of Us Part II (2020, Naughty Dog)

Revered by some, despised by others – Neil Druckmann's divisive The Last of Us Part II is not unlike Rian Johnson's Star Wars: The Last Jedi, on account of the extreme reactions it elicited from its ardent fanbase after arriving on Playstation 4 earlier this year.

Almost ambitious to a fault, The Last of Us Part II goes to great lengths to explore the fallout of the first game, by charting the ways in which an extreme act of violence can ripple outwards and catch people in its wake. The dual narrative, where players were made to walk a mile in the shoes of both Ellie, from the first game, and new character Abby, was a bold one on Naughty Dog's part. And for what it's worth, I think they nailed it. 

It might not be everyone's cup of tea, but I found The Last of Us Part II to be an emotional journey that explored some of the darkest and most desperate corners of humanity – and some of the sweetest too. Those contrasting elements and how they collide with one another makes for a compelling narrative, whatever way you slice it. Some slick gameplay improvements and graphics that need to be seen to be believed aren't aspects that should be sniffed at either.

1. Horizon Zero Dawn (2017, Guerrilla Games)

Choosing between The Last of Us Part II and Horizon Zero Dawn for the top slot was essentially splitting hairs, but I plumped for the latter on the basis of it being an original, instead of a sequel. Built from the ground up as a completely new venture for Guerrilla Games (who had previously been lumped with making endless Killzone games for nearly two decades), Horizon Zero Dawn radiates this aura of exploration and adventure.

Set in the far-flung future, the game is about around red-haired archer called Aloy, who finds herself at the centre of a mystery that spans millennia. With the overgrown world of the 'Old Ones' now overrun by vast machines, Horizon features four fragmented human tribes –  the Nora, Banuk, Carja and Oseram – who are facing extinction, unless someone – that's Aloy – puts a stop to the rampant robots.

With its imaginative sci-fi setting complemented by frenetic and varied combat, a sprawling open world waiting to be explored and an engrossing narrative, Zero Dawn was a world I was more than happy to lose myself in for hours back in 2017. With the sequel, Forbidden West, set to arrive next year, it sounds like the future's bright for this new PlayStation staple.

1 comment:

  1. I have played three from your top 4, currently trying to get through Spiderman and then I'm on to Horizon Zero Dawn though I suck with shooting stuff :D

    Have you played Detroit Become Human? That's one of my favs since it's the one I've finished.



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