PlayStation 4 Hands-On: Five Launch Games Tested

Last night, we stopped by the EB Games Expo to check out some of the games that will be launching alongside the PlayStation 4, including Killzone: Shadow Fall, inFAMOUS Second Son and Drive Club. Having recently tested a handful of flagship Xbox One launch titles, we were eager to see how Sony's lineup would compare. Here are our first impressions.

On 29 November, Sony will launch the PlayStation 4 in Australia; around one week after the release of the Xbox One. Unless you count Valve's Steam Machines, it will be the final piece of hardware to enter this generation's console war.

Once again, cash-strapped gamers will be forced to choose a side — do you jump on the hype wagon and embrace the PS4 or ignore the naysayers and put faith in Xbox One? This is where exclusive launch titles can make all the difference.

Last night, we got some hands-on time with five PlayStation 4 games that will be available around the time of launch. It was a surprisingly eclectic bunch, ranging from obligatory "AAA" sequels to bizarro indie concoctions. Here is what we thought of each game in its current guise, along with our current 'excitement' levels.

Killzone: Shadow Fall

While never managing to reach the dizzying heights of Halo, Guerrilla Games' Killzone titles are among the finest first-person shooters on the market. Boasting realistically gritty story lines, a terrifyingly relentless enemy in the Helghan and lashings of gratuitous gun-porn, they arguably make Bungie's rival franchise look juvenile and silly. There's no accounting for taste, we guess.

During the EB Expo PS4 showcase, we were given a taste of Killzone: Shadow Fall's multiplayer component and it was probably the most fun we had at the event. While the other guests snapped up sniper rifles and all-in-one assault weapons, I threw subtlety to the wind and plumped for the biggest gun in the game — it looked exactly like Jesse Ventura's gatling gun from Predator, only bigger. Maximum carnage ensued.

As with many next-gen titles, I was left with a distinct feeling that I'd seen it all before. Sure, the scope is larger, the effects are prettier and everything looks a bit more realistic — but the majority of improvements are wholly superficial. Squint a little and you could almost be playing Killzone 3.

That said, there's only so much you can do with a multiplayer FPS, so it would be churlish to expect Guerrilla Games to reinvent the wheel. If you just want to play a bigger, better version of Killzone with minimal surprises under its sleeve, we suspect you wont be disappointed. We're also anxious to see what kind of set pieces the game can pull off using PS4 technology.

Excitement factor: 8/10

DriveClub

The rubbishly titled DriveClub is an all-new racing IP developed by Evolution Studios that will basically act as a substitute for Gran Turismo 7 at launch (think of it as a serviceable rental car). Much like Killer Instinct on the Xbox One, the game will be offered as a free download to PlayStation Plus members. A Blu-ray version will also be made available which will include additional cars and tracks.

As its name implies, DriveClub has been designed with online multiplayer in mind with an emphasis on forming professional racing teams with other gamers. You can then pitch your skills against rival clubs by sending and receiving various driving challenges. As is par for the course these days, an array of car licences cars and real-world locations are included in the game, with all graphics built from scratch on PS4 hardware.

I took Drive Club for a brief test drive during the EB Expo event and was left feeling pretty neutral. The game comes with all the car views you could want and the vehicles handle realistically and reliably — but I never really got that "wow" feeling that's supposed to come from a next-gen title, especially in the graphics department. Indeed, my colleague Mark Serrels reckoned it looked inferior to Gran Turismo 6 on the PlayStation 3. That said, the game is sure to get racing fan's motors running and the fact it's free to PSP members is certainly a huge bonus. With any luck, Evolution Studios will add a fresh lick of paint prior to launch.

Excitement factor: 7/10

Knack

In the same way that DriveClub will fill the void for Gran Turismo players, Knack is the launch lineup's answer to Ratchet & Clank. Described as a "fun-filled and action-packed adventure of colossal proportions", the game is a 3D platformer starring a plucky robot who can incorporate metals, minerals and other substances into his body. It looks to be the PlayStation 4's flagship launch title for kids and will doubtlessly find its way into a console bundle at some point.

To be honest, Knack left us feeling decidedly underwhelmed. We weren't especially wowed by the graphics and the body absorption gimmick is hardly new. We were also flabbergasted to discover that the game's camera cannot be controlled with the analogue stick; instead you're stuck with whatever angle the AI deems is best which can be troublesome in the heat of action. This is a problem that should have been fixed in the PS2 era.

The environment also keeps you roped in like those Crash Bandicoot games of old. Presumably, the full game will include larger areas to explore but the demo almost felt like it was on rails. Still, we're sure it will serve as a suitable babysitter for the kids until the next Ratchet & Clank comes around.

Excitement factor: 6/10

inFAMOUS Second Son

inFAMOUS Second Son was one of the biggest hits with audiences at this year's E3; in large part thanks to a pyrotechnic demo reel set to the volatile wail of Nirvana's Heart Shaped Box. (Justification: The game takes place in a digital reconstruction of the band's hometown, Seattle.)

inFAMOUS Second Son was the only game that we didn't get to play at the event. Instead, we were given a guided tour by a couple of developers from Sucker Punch Productions. The demo consisted of a few brief skirmishes with superpowered enemies. It was all over far too quickly, but did give a good indication of what sandbox games will look like on the PlayStation 4. Simply put, there's more of everything and it all looks far better than anything you've seen on current-gen consoles.

It's the little improvements that make the biggest difference — stuff like rippling water reflections and photo-realistic lighting effects. While the game still has a cartoony flavour, there's a level of realism to this game world that really needs to be experienced. Out of the five games we saw yesterday, inFAMOUS Second Son felt the most "next-gen" by a considerable margin. But the proof will be in how it plays.

Excitement factor: 8/10

HohoKum

"What manner of nonsensical fever dream is this?" That was the thought that went through my mind when first confronted with this highly experimental 2D indie title. Hohokum has no narrative, no tutorial, no tangible objectives and seemingly no point, other than exploring and feeling groovy. It presents you with a squiggly serpentine avatar and sets you loose in a psychedelic landscape reminiscent of Pepperland from The Yellow Submarine mixed with Adventure Time's Land of Ooo.

The game left me feeling perplexed and mystified — it was as if a clown had popped out of nowhere, handed me an animal balloon and then disappeared in a puff of smoke. Weird doesn't really begin to cover it.

I'm not 100 percent sold on HohoKum yet, although a lot of that probably had to do with the fact that the TV was muted (aural immersion apparently plays a big role in the game.)

Nevertheless, we think Sony should be commended for its consistent support of small, independent works. In today's climate of samey sequels and multi-format releases, it's unique stuff like this that will make the PS4 stand out from the crowd.

Excitement factor: 8/10

All in all, we think the PlayStation 4 has a more compelling and varied launch lineup than the Xbox One — especially if you don't care about Kinect. But things could quickly change in the months that follow. There's the behemoth known as Halo, of course, as well as a new Fable to look forward to. But based purely on the launch window, we think Sony may have Microsoft beat.

We'll be reporting back with a more thorough comparison of the two consoles closer to launch, including how the hardware, controllers and UIs compare.

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Comments

    That just made me feel more confident in my XBone purchase.

      Enjoy your no games.

    Isn't it Killzone Shadowfall?

    Anyway, I'm getting more and more excited for PS4 (although I won't get one until early next year) - and they've still got most of their heavy-hitters up their sleeve. Although we've seen Killzone and Infamous, we've still seen nothing from the likes of Naughty Dog, Santa Monica and Media Molecule.

    I'm dying to get my hands on Infamous, but I didn't think it was a launch title. I'll get grabbing Watch Dogs for sure, then Infamous as soon as it hits. I'll be getting DriveClub since it's free. I'd love to get Killzone, but in the end it's just another shooter, albeit a beautiful one.

    Can't wait for the PS4, it's looking awesome.

    Infamous is a Feb 2014 game, not a launch title.

      It's a launch window title. Like I said in the intro: "we got some hands-on time with five PlayStation 4 games that will be available around the time of launch. "

        Three months later isn't really 'around the time of launch'. The title of the article is 'launch games' and nowhere in the article do you explicitly mention that it's later in the window, everything is referred to as a 'launch game' or part of the 'launch lineup'. A lot of people are expecting this to be at launch (IMO it looks far better than the actual Sony launch lineup games) and disappointed when they find it won't be out for an extra 3 months. That makes a big difference to me as to whether I'd buy the system on Nov 29th or not, and I'm sure it'll make a difference to other people unaware of this as well.

          If they haven't already pre-ordered it then chances are they're probably not getting it on November 29th even if they do want to buy it then.

        You also entitled the article "PlayStation 4 Hands-On: Five Launch Games Tested" and continued with "we stopped by the EB Games Expo to check out some of the games that will be launching alongside the PlayStation 4, including Killzone: Shadow Fall, inFAMOUS Second Son and Drive Club."

        So you kinda make it sound like a launch title buddy. You cant really say the launch line up is better when one of the games isn't available on launch day nor is it available in the same year. It available Feb 2014.

          I had the same exact argument in the Xbox One article regarding Kinect Sports Rivals. In both cases, it's one of the first games that will be released on the system and thus I am judging it as a launch title.

          The obsession with day one availability only makes sense if you're rich enough to buy all the games you want at launch. Otherwise, an extra month or two means absolutely nothing.

          Now, if the game wasn't due for another year you'd have a point, but Feb is still inside the launch "window".

            I wouldn't call it an obsession with day one availability so much as you calling games launch games when they're not.

      HohoKum and Knack aren't launch titles either, they both come out early next year too.

        Knack's definitely a launch title. November 15 US, November 29 AU/EU, Feb 22nd JP.

        I wouldn't be surprised if Infamous ended up being a JP launch game too given the release timing.

          D'oh, silly me. Skimmed Wikipedia and only saw the Japanese release date. Oops.

    I was thinking the same thing while reading that article. Wonder if this changes Chris's option? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infamous:_Second_Son

    Interesting opinion given that despite the Xbox One's hardware issues and marketing blunders, the launch lineup is the ONE thing that is almost unanimously agreed upon as the one area the Xbox has the PS4 beat.

    Also, inFamous isn't until next year.

      Not really sure who unanimously agreed on that. I mean, Forza looks great (certainly better than DriveClub, that's for sure) but the rest of it is either multiplatform (WatchDogs, Assassin's Creed, COD, Battlefield, etc) or looking pretty average (Ryse, Dead Rising 3).

      Personally, I don't see anything in either line up to warrant a day 1 purchase. Especially when I've still got a few in the current-gen backlog to play.

      Despite the initial stumbles, Xbox One finally learned how to dance.

    I can't say either console is encouraging me to run out and buy one at launch. Especially when I have a huge backlog of unfinished games on the 360, PS3, PC, Vita and 3DS. And that's to say nothing of the increasing amount of time I seem to be spending on mobile games.

    Not a single good game coming out to PS4 anytime soon. Will continue playing GTA V + DLC, Last of Us DLC and Beyond Two Souls. Should last until about Q2 2014.

    But release Uncharted 4 and I'm in.

    IMO, none of the 2 new gen consoles have any system seller titles. the games are just good games.

    When I buy the xone, it will be when Titanfall is released.

    weak launch for sure. but i had a xbox last time around and apart from dark souls nothing has interested me in the last few years. But on the PS3, that studio ghibly (sp) game and LAst of US looked fantastic. This time i won't miss out and will pick up a ps4 and wait for the better games. that said, Titan Fall looks great and is like the only game i will miss playing. But i'm hoping it gets ported to ps4...

    "we think the PlayStation 4 has a more compelling"

    I was reading a different article then? Most of your feedback on each title sounded pretty underwhelming.

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