Ah, Christmas. A time of joy, generosity, love, peace, consuming six times your own bodyweight in food and drink, Fairytale of New York, and of course, presents. And if you’re looking for PlayStation 4-related gifts for a friend or loved one – or yourself, if you’re an angry loner – then look no further, for I have a bulging sack of Christmas inspiration and am willing to share it with you lovely people.
Christmas Hardware – PlayStation VR
If you’ve been a fan of videogames for more than one console generation then you know the excitement that can come with the announcement – and then release – of a new piece of hardware.
The recently launched PlayStation VR has garnered attention not just for being a new piece of hardware on which to play new games, but also because of its focus: virtual reality.
While it’s safe to ignore idiots who reflexively insist that virtual reality is now the sole way forward and that the traditional way of playing videogames is suddenly obsolete, at the same time there’s no reason not to believe that virtual reality can remain a part of the videogame landscape in the future. Even if I’m personally dubious of wearing a vision-impairing headset due to my living under the constant threat of ninja attacks.
Perhaps one of the largest criticisms which could be made against the general selection of early PlayStation VR titles is that many are more akin to mini-games than full-fledged titles, although it should be noted that some of these, such as Batman: Arkham VR and Until Dawn: Rush of Blood have still received a decent amount of critical acclaim as being entertaining experiences. Also, there are larger PlayStation VR experiences on the way, such as Capcom’s Resident Evil VII: Biohazard.
One of the greatest things about the videogame medium is the huge variety of experiences it can offer, and so, despite virtual reality technology still being in its relative infancy at the moment, there’s no reason not to embrace PlayStation VR if you’re keen on new hardware and new ways of experiencing videogames.
Christmas Subscription – PlayStation Plus
A PlayStation Plus subscription may not seem like the most exciting present at first glance, but given the variety of services said subscription can offer, it’s a gift for which a PlayStation 4 owner may well be very grateful. And if they’re not? Well then, next Christmas you burn their house down and see which gift they prefer then.
Now, it can certainly be argued that Sony gating online multiplayer gaming on the PlayStation 4 behind the PlayStation Plus subscription was a shitty move, but to be fair, at least you’re receiving more than just that in return for your money.
For example, a subscription allows you access to beta trials of certain upcoming games as well as ten gigabytes of internet storage space for your PlayStation 4 save files. There are also the PlayStation Plus-exclusive discounts on digital games on the PlayStation Store – even if you only buy digital titles occasionally like I do, saving a few pounds with every purchase can certainly add up over time.
Finally there’s the Instant Game Collection, a PlayStation Plus service which offers a rolling selection of free games for the PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita, with the selection being swapped out on a monthly basis. Although the service can certainly be hit-and-miss – you can’t please everyone all the time, after all, as clearly evidenced by the whiners who complain month-in and month-out that the latest monthly selection is the worst thing ever because it doesn’t cater to their particular whims – it still offers enough high-quality titles to make it worthwhile, even to someone like me, who will always choose physical over digital if given the choice.
PS4 Accessories - Headset, Arcade Stick and Racing Wheel
Bringing the most out of your PS4 gaming experience is the name of the game. With many PS4 accessories available, you really are spoilt for choice. Here we take a look at three contenders for your stocking filler.
Wires aren't just ugly, but they are of great irritation to the majority of gamers. The freedom that wireless brings is certainly welcomed. This officially licensed headset merges all of the things you'd want from a great headset and piles them into one. You can't go wrong with the Wireless Stereo Headset 2.0, it looks great, is very comfortable, and can last many hours before needing a re-charge. You even have the option to go with white or black – which will tickle your fancy?
Arcade Stick - HORI Real Arcade Pro 4 Kai
The DualShock 4 controller is brilliant, but for fighting games, well, nothing can beat a good quality arcade stick. You need to be a fan of this genre to warrant purchasing a PS4 arcade stick, this is because the good ones aren't cheap. HORI is renowned for producing some of the best fight sticks, and this is especially true with the Real Arcade Pro 4 Kai - it is classed as 'tournament grade'. Importantly, it is designed with comfort in mind - so your hands can rest and interact easily. Fighting games will never be the same again - you won't regret opening this piece of kit on Christmas day.
Racing Wheel - Logitech Driving Force G29 Race Wheel
PS VR puts you into the racing scene, but owning a racing wheel allows you to interact as though you are actually driving a real vehicle. It doesn't get any better than this when it comes to realism. What's more, the upcoming exclusive game, GT Sport, will be tempting enough for many to consider purchasing a racing wheel. This racing wheel from Logitech is the perfect solution, providing durable and realistic option, producing accurate motor-force feedback. What's more, all of your buttons are easily located on the wheel. It is also compatible with the PS3 and Windows. The only real put-off for some might
Christmas RPG – Dark Souls III
Any time of year is a great time to play one of From Software’s Souls titles or Bloodborne, so if you’re looking for an incredible and challenging action-RPG experience this Christmas, one which might have newcomers to the series initially pummelling their Christmas puddings in rage only to then wear their Christmas turkey as a crown of glory when they finally emerge victorious, then Dark Souls III is the game for you.
I’ve loved the Souls games since first playing Demon’s Souls on PlayStation 3, finding them (including Bloodborne) to be utterly enthralling experiences which have come to rank amongst my favourite videogames to date. Although I consider Dark Souls II to be by far the weakest entry in the series, it’s still a very good game, and on the whole the series has become renowned for offering deep, varied and challenging combat; incredible and memorable boss fights; fascinating lore; masterful level design; brilliant art design; and more.
Dark Souls III does follow on from its two direct predecessors, and although the game contains a large number of references and details which long-time fans will notice and appreciate, at the same time this is no reason for newcomers to the series to be afraid to begin with Dark Souls III, as the game still stands as its own experience.
Dark Souls III was a critical and commercial success, and it’s a fantastic game which deserves every bit of it. Also, if a new player should play through the game now and love it then they’ll be glad to know there’s more content available beyond the base game, with one downloadable expansion, Ashes of Ariandel, having recently been released, while a second expansion is set for release in early 2017.
Christmas Action – Wolfenstein: The New Order
Christmas is of course a time of peace and goodwill towards everyone. Except for Nazis, screw those guys. And if you’re in the mood to give the gift of hot lead to hordes of Nazi scum this Christmas then you can do so in one of the best action titles on PlayStation 4, MachineGames’ Wolfenstein: The New Order.
A first-person shooter starring series mainstay William “B.J.” Blazkowicz, the majority of Wolfenstein: The New Order takes place in 1960, fourteen years after Germany won World War II and conquered the world thanks to their unnaturally advanced technology. Now, B.J. must join a small group of resistance fighters to take the fight back to the Nazi menace.
The shooting which makes up the majority of the gameplay is extremely enjoyable and offers a wide range of weapons, while further depth and variety are added via an upgrade system, vehicle sections, a cover system, alternate paths through some levels, hidden collectibles, and the fact that stealth is occasionally a viable option. The game also offers a decent level of challenge, and there’s a nice Wolfenstein 3D-related Easter Egg to discover.
But for me, some of the biggest highlights of Wolfenstein: The New Order are Brian Bloom’s performance as B.J., and the writing in regard to two particular aspects: B.J.’s character and dialogue, and the way in which the game manages to be both an over-the-top, action-packed shooter but also an experience genuinely respectful of World War II and the horrors of that conflict. That’s a difficult line to walk, but MachineGames have managed it with aplomb.
Also, if you’re looking for a related follow-up gift, you’ll be pleased to know that prequel expansion Wolfenstein: The Old Blood is also available to serve up more Nazi-smashing.
Christmas Open-World – Metal Gear Solid V: The Definitive Experience
Although it can be a daunting prospect to commit dozens – or even hundreds – of hours to a single videogame, when an open-world title is done right then wandering and exploring its vast digital world can be a great experience. Although the two large maps present in Konami’s Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain – Hideo Kojima’s final entry in the decades-long series – are fairly barren compared to many other open-world games, The Phantom Pain has simply cut away the fat present in so many open-world titles in order to excel in the most vital area: the gameplay.
Powered by the extremely impressive Fox Engine, Metal Gear Solid V is actually an experience of two parts, initially sold separately: Ground Zeroes, a brief but significant prologue chapter which sees legendary mercenary Big Boss infiltrating a US military black site; and The Phantom Pain, which takes place nine years later, with Big Boss carrying out missions in Afghanistan and Africa as he seeks revenge on his enemies.
Metal Gear Solid V: The Definitive Experience is the best way to enjoy both parts as it combines Ground Zeroes and The Phantom Pain while also including previously released downloadable content.
While Ground Zeroes is enjoyable on its own merits, it’s in The Phantom Pain that the gameplay really opens up, the latter’s wide array of options and interconnected mechanics offering the player a huge amount of freedom in how they choose to tackle the game’s various objectives and develop Diamond Dogs, Big Boss’ mercenary group.
The game also just feels incredible to play, and this and its many other qualities help to make it one of the finest stealth-action titles ever made, and a game which, if it hooks you, can easily offer many, many hours of entertainment.
Christmas Horror – Alien: Isolation
Christmas is obviously a terrifying time, what with an omnipotent, omnipresent fat man breaking and entering into millions of homes all across the world in a single night and gorging himself upon the milk and mince pies of those unfortunate homeowners. So why not maintain the tension and dread of the holiday season with an incredible horror game like Alien: Isolation?
A first-person, stealth-focused survival horror, Creative Assembly’s Alien: Isolation is not only a brilliantly suspenseful and unnerving title but also an incredibly faithful videogame adaptation of an existing franchise from another medium, the game being based on the Alien sci-fi / horror movie universe.
Set fifteen years after Alien, the game casts you as Amanda Ripley, who arrives on board the remote space station Sevastopol in a search for answers as to her mother’s disappearance. Unfortunately, an alien is already loose on the station, and so you must progress through the game while being hunted by the incredibly lethal creature.
And this is where the genius of Alien: Isolation lies: after decades of movies, videogames and other mediums gradually robbing the creature of much of its menace, this game makes the alien scary again. You run, you sneak, you hide – because you can’t kill the alien, the best you can do is survive.
And this tension, along with some great level design, satisfying gameplay elements, and the incredible attention to detail in recreating the original vision of the Alien universe – complete with some original cast members reprising their roles – makes Alien: Isolation one of the best horror experiences available on PlayStation 4.
Christmas Co-op – Dying Light: The Following – Enhanced Edition
Finally, let us remember that Christmas is a time for us to come together, to be united as fellow human beings in harmony. And if such cooperation happens to involve scrabbling across a zombie-infested city while battering the shit out of the undead like an incredibly violent and nimble pair of monkeys, then all the better.
Techland’s Dying Light: The Following – Enhanced Edition is a significantly bulked-up edition of their first-person open-world survival horror title Dying Light, itself a spiritual successor to the Dead Island series, this edition including a large amount of previously released downloadable content along with The Following, a brand-new and sizeable expansion.
The game sees the player take on the role of Kyle Crane, an undercover agent sent into the fictional city of Harran, one currently under quarantine due to a zombie outbreak, a situation you must survive via use of your parkour skills and weapons proficiency, the combat focusing on melee weapons, although guns are also present.
There are various zombie types roaming Harran, with perhaps the most dangerous hiding in darkened areas and only emerging at night, and this relates to one of Dying Light’s strongest features: its day-night cycle. Nights in Harran are very dark and very dangerous, and this is a significant contribution to the game’s status as a horror title, as sprinting and leaping through the almost pitch-black streets at night while a pack of snarling, running zombies follows close behind is a tense and thrilling experience.
As a co-operative experience, Dying Light: The Following – Enhanced Edition stands as one of the most enjoyable I’ve experienced on PlayStation 4, the entire game being playable by up to four players online. The online infrastructure is smooth and reliable, making co-operative play a simple and frustration-free process, and exploring Harran and fighting – or running from – the undead is even more fun with a friend.
As the freezing winter cold sets in and I frantically try to finish typing before my fingers turn blue and fall off, I leave now in the hope that the above list might offer some useful suggestions for those looking for PlayStation 4-related gifts this Christmas. It always takes time for a console to really hit its stride, and at this point, it’s a great time to be playing games on PlayStation 4. Merry Christmas.
Uh-oh, there go my fin.