The launch window is over. The PlayStation 4 is, for now, leading the sales charts and the best way for Sony to keep driving that momentum this generation is with -- what else? -- compelling games. This year's showing at Sony's E3 booth is no different than the last: You've got your smattering of indies, AAA titles and downloadable content. So what should you expect to add to your growing collection in 2014? We took a tour of Sony's booth to find out.
The Order: 1886
Developer Ready at Dawn's third-person shooter is set in an atmospheric London during the Second Industrial Revolution and pits the knights of the order against half-breeds -- supernatural-like figures. You play as the quasi-immortal knight Galahad in an attempt to strike down the rebels trying to overtake the monarchy, as well as creatures like the lycans (that's fancy for "werewolves").
The playable demo on the show floor focused mostly on the game's rote shooting mechanics, and stayed far away from The Order's promised supernatural element. But Sony also let us into a closed-door session that teased a protracted fight between Galahad and an impressively detailed lycan that shifted seamlessly between in-game cinematics, (dreaded) quick-time events and good 'ol shooting. If there's anything to praise The Order for, it's that dynamic shift between real-time events and cut scenes. Sure the studio spent a fair amount of time researching London to get the surrounding landscape and in-game objects just right, but it's still just another shooter, no matter how pretty it's been dressed up.
Sackboy is back and, thankfully, much easier to control in this PS4 debut for the LittleBigPlanet franchise. For LittleBigPlanet 3, Media Molecule paid attention to fan feedback and made sure to tighten up Sackboy's platforming controls, making his movements more precise and less slippery. The title also adds in three new helpers: Toggle for heavy lifting/speed, Swoop for flight and Oddsock for agility. Each of these new characters offers players unique abilities to tackle the multi-layered world's many puzzle elements in the single player story mode or during level creation. And speaking of layers, the studio's bumped the game's level of depth to 16 layers, a massive increase from the previous title's three. LittleBigPlanet 3 is absolutely gorgeous on the PS4 and with a vast library of user-generated levels available for download, it should make for an enticing, if not familiar addition to your PS4 library.
If you've ever played Rez on the PS2, you'll feel right at home with Pixelopus' Entwined. There are no bad guys to take out, but the core flying mechanic through a trippy visual space is much the same. Players take on the role of two separated lovers -- a frog and a bird -- trying to reunite (into dragon form) as they fly through color-coordinated goals and gain power-ups. Entwined moves along on a rail and forces the player to control each character (and each side of their brain) simultaneously using the left and right analog sticks. The graphics are simple, yet brilliant and the game's intoxicating score lends to its Zen vibe. And it's already available on PSN. So gamers looking for an alternative to the kill kill kill mechanic we see so often shouldn't hesitate to pick this relaxing title up.
The two superpowers of the world are in a race to blow up the moon (yes -- "blow up") in CounterSpy and it's up to you to foil their plans. This Cold War-inspired effort -- the first from Dynamighty -- adheres closely to the stealth genre with some third-person shooter twists that keep the 2.5D side-scrolling action from wearing thin. It's not only a fun romp through a Bond-esque world, but it's also beautifully designed. Which isn't all that surprising considering the studio's creative director is a former Pixar employee. CounterSpy will be available across PlayStation platforms, so you'll have your pick when it hits this summer.
You might remember this one from last year's E3. Driveclub was supposed to be a PS4 launch title, but developer Evolution Studios wasn't quite happy with the game's social framework. And with the blessing of Sony's Worldwide Studios, the game got pushed back to a release this fall.
So what's new? Well, for one thing, that longer development time means the game's graphics are that much prettier, though it still runs at 1080p30. Small details like the deep draw distance, lighting effects, car damage and the ability to see into the driver's dash in bright sunlight ensure the game's status as a true next-gen title. But don't go thinking this is a driving sim; controls for the various cars may be realistic, but Evolution Studios has layered on mini-challenges to keep you immersed in the fun even if you're racing in dead last place. That said, the game really shines when you're engaged in a friendly club vs. club networked multiplayer.
Swedish developer Arrowhead Games' top-down shooter is the type of game that's made for local multiplayer. Helldivers lets up to four players control delinquent space cops as they explore procedurally generated worlds and mercilessly slaughter hordes of alien enemies. The game leans heavily on co-op play, but there's an interesting mechanic baked in that gives Helldivers added tension and difficulty: Players can wield a rich arsenal of weapons and exosuits to help clear out a level, but accessing each of them involves frantic sequenced button pushes (e.g., 'down, down, down, down' gets you a rifle). It's maddening in practice, but we mean that in the best way possible.