Sony’s PlayStation 4 is now in stores, ushering in a new era of high-definition video games. Perhaps you’ve already read the largely enthusiastic reviews, pored over the tech specs and watched the eye-catching online videos. And you’ve decided to fork over $400 and invite the new machine into your home.
Of course, you have to buy some games too. That’s easier than ever, thanks to the online PlayStation Store, through which you can download any of the 22 PS4 games now available. If you prefer the more traditional approach — buying a game on a disc that comes in a plastic box — you can drive back to the mall and grab 14 of those items.
Whichever way you go, here are the best titles available so far for the PS4:
• "Need for Speed Rivals" (Electronic Arts, $59.99): This addictive arcade racer pits cops against crooks in an alternate California that’s blissfully free of traffic jams. The cars and environments look gorgeous, but what makes "Rivals" compelling is the smooth flow of events. You can start off in an innocuous head-to-head race and end up on the run from half the highway patrol.
• "Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag" (Ubisoft, $59.99): This swashbuckling pirate adventure, set in the Caribbean during the 1700s, is even more rousing with the PS4’s vivid graphics. When the waves are crashing onto the deck of your ship, you can almost taste the salt water.
• "NBA 2K14" (2K Sports, $59.99): The reigning champion of sports sims bounces into the next generation with a new "Eco-Motion" engine. Not only are physics, lighting and player animations more realistic, but the ballers seem to react emotionally to events during the game. You don’t want to make Kobe Bryant angry.
• "Battlefield 4" (Electronic Arts, $59.99): Console warriors have never before seen combat on such an epic scale. You can join forces with or against up to 63 other humans online, and EA’s "Levolution" system turns the theater of war into a constantly changing circus of destruction. Think gunfire is scary? How about having a skyscraper collapse on you?
• "Killzone: Shadow Fall" (Sony, $59.99): The only shooter built from the ground up for the PS4, "Killzone" is a somewhat hackneyed tale of humans fighting a relentless alien foe. But it looks phenomenal, showing off the machine’s graphic power with breathtaking landscapes and an uncanny attention to detail.
• "Skylanders Swap Force" (Activision, $74.99): The Skylanders phenomenon — collectible figurines who come to life on your TV screen — has exploded over the past two years. "Swap Force" was already the best of the Skylanders adventures, but on the PS4, the animation approaches Pixar quality. Best of all: If your kids already own a bunch of the figurines from earlier years, they can still play with them on the PS4.
The following are available via download only:
• "Resogun" (Sony, $14.99): This retro outer-space shoot-em-up will appeal to fans of the arcade classic "Defender." It’s a fast-paced, nerve-racking test of reflexes as you fight off wave after wave of smartly designed alien invaders. Before you set off that smart bomb, be prepared for a jaw-dropping fireworks show.
• "Flower" (thatgamecompany, free): This mellow, contemplative journey — you control the wind as it races across a meadow — is even more hypnotic on the PS4, whose graphic prowess brings every bit of grass to life. And Sony’s new DualShock 4 controller, with its upgraded motion sensors, makes exploring this peaceable kingdom smoother and more intuitive than ever.
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