2013’s best games are 2014’s finest so far too.
Last night I finished Diablo III Reaper of Souls on PS4. It was, miraculously, my first experience with a Blizzard game and one I overwhelmingly enjoyed my experience with it and the funny thing is, all of the game I’d rate most highly on the console have either been available on another platform already, as in the case of Diablo III, or are remasters.
Blizzard’s dungeon crawler is almost impeccable on Sony’s platform and while I have no experience of the PC version, I’ve been told more than once that it is as good, if not better, than the original (shocking, I know). This comes not long after Naughty Dog released The Last of Us Remastered and though it was only a year after that game’s original launch on the PS3, it has very much been a highlight of my playing time on the PS4 since the system’s launch last November (you can read my review of the game here).
Fundamentally it was the same game, improved graphics can’t overshadow that fact and while the inclusion of Left Behind was a nice touch, The Last of Us is, and was, a phenomenal experience on its own terms. It’s a game worth experiencing more than once and a year was time enough for it to make a powerful, harrowing, and touching impact once again. The game would have had the same impact if played again on PS3 but nevertheless, I played Remastered and while the same nagging nuisances – occasionally shoddy A.I. being the main culprit – remain, The Last of Us is the best game I have on PlayStation 4. Few developers, save perhaps Naughty Dog themselves, are likely to top it in the years to come.
The furore over Rise of the Tomb Raider’s timed Xbox exclusively also brings to mind Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition, a game which sold most copies on PS4. There’s been plenty said on the subject of third party exclusivity since gamescom, including on this very website, and that’s not the issue here. Regardless of your thoughts on the deal between Square Enix and Microsoft, the fact remains that Tomb Raider was a good game last year and its Definitive Edition was a good game this year. Even Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag wasn’t developed specifically with the systems in mind and remains one of the best AAA titles of the last year on Sony’s newest console.
Only a week after Diablo, Metro Redux arrived and unlike the examples so far mentioned, does actually afford some significant change in the two games it has packaged together. Players can choose to make the more horror based 2033 a shooter or the more action orientated Last Light a scare-fest. It was announced just this past week that State of Decay is heading to Xbox One and Saints Row 4 is making its way to both new consoles next year.
It has been said that the platform holders were caught unaware by the launch of this new generation and certainly AAA new-gen only games have been rare on both consoles to date (inFamous: Second Son being the only major one I can think of from this year). Almost ten months into this gen my favourite games on PS4 shouldn’t be from PS3, and yet they are.
This tells me two things; first, that 2013 was a great year for games, and second, that to date, 2014 really hasn’t been. Sure, we’ve had inFamous, Titanfall, and a surprise hit in Wolfenstein: The New Order but those games can’t quite compare. The next six months or so will radically change things of course – Destiny, Bloodborne, Far Cry 4, Assassin’s Creed Unity, Dragon Age: Inquisition, The Order: 1886, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt to name just a few – stand to totally alter the AAA landscape on PS4 and Xbox One.
Maybe not all of those games will be as good as we hope or expect but they have every chance to unset the PS4’s best games to date. Of those, only Bloodborne, Unity, and The Order are exclusive to new-gen but we could be getting far worse. Plenty of indie games have come to new-gen, and maybe they don’t justify a €400 price tag but in terms of AAA games, 2014’s best games have been out for quite some time. Even indie aren’t immune with the likes of FlOw, Flower, Journey, and The Unfinished Swan all making the leap from PS3 to PS4.
The value of releasing a game only a year after its original début with little to no changes to gameplay allows developers to test their tools and engines, fills gaps in publishers’ schedules, and, most importantly, it works – Sony dominated two summers in a row thanks to The Last of Us and Diablo III also went straight to the top of the charts. Just this week the top three games on the UK charts were, in order, Metro Redux, Diablo III, and The Last of Us Remastered simply because there’s little else. It would be nice to have new game or if we must have re-releases, to at least have ones which play better than they did originally.
The Last of Us Remastered was superb but we can hope that the PS4’s best is yet to come, perhaps within the next year or perhaps at the very end of its cycle – as with the original release of The Last of Us on PS3 or Shadow of the Colossus and God of War 2 in the PS2 era – and we’ll be playing those games again on the PS5 in time to come.