At last week's Gamescom, Sony and Microsoft revealed a whopping 56 games that will launch on the same day as their respective consoles – 23 for the Xbox One and 33 for the PlayStation 4. But wait just one second, let's take a closer look at that list. Call of Duty: Ghosts? Assassin's Creed IV? Madden NFL 25? Most of these are releasing on the Xbox 360 and PS3 as well, and some are already out right now. In fact, if you strip away the games that will also be available on current consoles, PCs, and mobile devices, you're left with 15 games in total that will require a next-gen console to play when they're released. So the real question is, would any of these titles convince you to make the leap to next-gen?
Every game console launch has been marked by at least one title that's designed to show early adopters just what their brand new gadget is capable of, and Knack fits the bill nicely. The whole game focuses on the titular character, a magical entity that absorbs and drops thousands of objects to change its size, allowing the PS4 to show off its beefed-up processing power.
It's also the only PS4-exclusive on this list that's aimed at both children and adults, with a cartoon-like style and gameplay reminiscent of older platformers. It even has a local co-op mode where kids can play as a robotic version of the main character without having an influence on the game's progression, which anyone who's tried playing co-op games with a little kid will appreciate.
Killzone: Shadow Fall
If Knack is the game for younger gamers, then Killzone: Shadow Fall is the one to show off the PS4 to the adults. The series has long been known for its over-the-top action and exquisite graphics, and some early gameplay footage seems to indicate this latest entry will carry on the tradition.
Once again, the player will be cast as a soldier pitted against the glowing-eyed Helghast in a futuristic world across both a robust single and multi-player mode. This time around though, you'll have some extra support from an OWL combat drone, which can be activated via the PS4 controller's touchpad to take down enemies or act as a shield, among other uses.
Killzone may not be quite on the same pedestal as other shooter franchises like Halo or Call of Duty, but for some gamers, this latest entry represents the main reason to purchase a PS4.
It just wouldn't be a video game system launch without one title showcasing painstakingly photorealistic cars. DriveClub is the new racing game from Evolution Studios, probably best known for the equally detailed MotorStorm series on the PS3.
This time around, the focus is on social interaction, as the game makes full use of the PS4's expanded online features, allowing players to form their own racing clubs and rise up through the leader boards by completing various challenges. Some early footage shows the promise of a realistic feel with arcade-like gameplay, as players compete on tracks across the globe in highly-customizable cars.
PS4 owners with PlayStation Plus will also have free access to the game, but only with a limited amount of cars and tracks, so subscribers who need a racing fix may want to hold off on grabbing a full copy of DriveClub until they have a chance to try it out.
Not much is known about this bizarre downloadable title just yet aside from a few scant details and artwork from the developers. According to them, Basement Crawl will pit up to eight players against each other in various maze-like levels, where they'll set traps while attempting to level-up their own skills. We'll probably see more from this game as the PS4's release date approaches, but for now you can still get a sense of the game's tone from the three characters that have been revealed so far: a blind girl with a demonic teddy bear, a small clown riding a unicycle, and a legless crash test dummy.
Another downloadable game for the PS4 that hasn't shown off any specifics yet, N++ is the latest sequel to N, which debuted way back in 1996 and made quite a splash when it was updated for the Xbox Live Arcade as N+. So far, the developers have only revealed that this new version will feature the same fast-paced ninja platforming as its predecessor, but with a new visual style, some extra multiplayer modes, and an expanded toolset for creating your own levels.
Housemarque made a name for itself with Super Stardust HD, which pushed the PS3 to its graphical limit while it was still in its infancy, and the Finnish developer seems ready to do the same with Resogun on the PS4. The game will play much like a 2D side-scrolling shooter as you pilot a spaceship through highly-detailed cylindrical worlds. The studio has stated the game will have a retro feel for the most part, but with intense HD visuals and a deeper sense of strategy.
Ryse: Son of Rome
Microsoft has been putting Ryse: Son of Rome front and center as part of its Xbox One lineup, and with good reason. As the latest game from Crytek, developer of the Crysis series and the first Far Cry game, Ryse displays the new system's visual capabilities like no other launch game.
The story follows the life of a Roman soldier as he rises to the rank of general and leads other soldiers through brutal, cinematic battles. Most of the combat will involve precisely-timed strikes along with gory executions that will net experience points for players to upgrade their abilities. Gamers will also have the option to bring the Kinect into the action by shouting voice commands at on-screen troops or using physical gestures in place of button presses.
Early demos of the game have certainly been eye-catching, and Ryse may show us just what the next generation of gaming has to offer.
Dead Rising 3
Capcom's Dead Rising series is widely regarded as one of the premier zombie-slashing franchises of the past few years, which is saying something considering how many zombie games there have been. This latest entry departs somewhat from the humorous tone of past titles with a grittier style, but it still retains the manic “everything is a weapon” gameplay.
One new addition will have players outfitting various cars with weapons and other enhancements, then taking to the streets to mow through the undead hordes. Anyone with a tablet will also have the option of using the Xbox One's SmartGlass feature to access special missions and call in air strikes from above. With the Xbox One's Kinect sensor, zombies will even respond to noises in your own living room. From what's been shown so far, Dead Rising 3 is already shaping up to be a signature title for the new Xbox.
Forza Motorsport 5
For years now, Forza titles have acted as the Xbox's go-to realistic driving simulators and the first title on Microsoft's new console looks ready to do the same. According to its developers, Forza Motorsport 5 has been built specifically for the Xbox One to take full advantage of its improved processing power and crisp graphics. One important new addition is the Drivatar system, which will monitor your play style and automatically upload it to the cloud as a detailed AI. Even when you race against opponents in single-player modes, you'll actually be competing against other Drivatars downloaded from all over the world.
If you're a Forza fan, chances are you already knew you would be picking up an Xbox One just for this title the day it was revealed.
Ubisoft's next Kinect-centric game is promising to deliver what some gamers have been asking for ever since Microsoft first debuted its motion control peripheral: an intricate fighting game where the characters on screen mimic the player's real-life actions. Fighter Within will sport an array of different characters with their own fighting styles, which players will be able to spar with through solo tournaments as well as local multiplayer matches.
Luckily, you won't have to spin wildly around your living room to have a chance of besting your friends, since the game's more spectacular moves are triggered by specific combos instead. It could be a unique, if exhausting, experience, but it's hard to say at this point how accurate and fluid the motion controls will feel, especially if the developer adds online fights into the mix, as rumored.
There hasn't been a fresh Killer Instinct game since the late 90s, so you can imagine the fervor that fans of the fighting series have been harboring for a modern entry. The latest game is billed as a reboot with full 3D graphics, but it still retains the signature combo-heavy gameplay that made the original such a hit.
Since it's a brand with an established fan base though, Microsoft seems to be taking the opportunity to experiment with its pricing. Essentially, the game will be available for free through Xbox Live, but with only one character, Jago, unlocked. Additional characters will then cost US$4.99 (€4.99) individually or at discounted rates for content packs. It's an odd gamble to take, but it may entice more people to give Killer Instinct a try on launch day. One has to wonder, though, just how many Jago-on-Jago matches will crop up in the first few weeks of release.
Crimson Dragon is another downloadable game with high expectations, since it shares a lot in common with the Panzer Dragoon series, including its director, Yukio Futatsugi. Like its spiritual predecessor, the game will revolve around following a set path and shooting down enemies while flying a dragon through an intricate fantasy world.
Depending on preference, players will guide the dragon either with a controller or through Kinect gestures as they take on increasingly challenging missions, either alone or with an online friend. Among the Xbox One's downloadable offerings, this game already stands out more than others with its sharp graphics and creative enemy design.
Developer PopCap Games hasn't revealed many specifics about Peggle 2 other than it will be a timed exclusive on the Xbox One, and that's probably because it doesn't appear very different from the first game. If you've played it, then you know the drill: you shoot a ball at colored bricks and try to hit as many of them as possible with the help of some choice power-ups. It's simple, easy to pick up, and is almost guaranteed to steal away hours from a person's life without them even noticing.
However, this being a title from PopCap Games, which is mostly known for the Bejeweled and the Plants vs. Zombies series, you can probably expect to see this game showing up on everything from computers to mobile devices sooner or later.
Powerstar Golf has been drawing a lot of comparisons to the Hot Shots Golf series with its similar arcade-style gameplay and design. Like those games, players will take to the links with a cast of colorful characters, each with their own quirky back stories and unique abilities, and line up their shots with precise button presses.
The game will incorporate some social elements, like seeing how your friends did on a particular course in real-time and challenging them to beat your own scores, but for the most part it seems to involve the standard golf game tropes. It may be a fun enough game once it's released, but you'd be forgiven for not getting too excited about an average-looking golf game from Zoë Mode, a developer whose past credits are mainly the SingStar and Zumba Fitness series.
Both PS4 and Xbox One
NBA Live 14
The new NBA Live game is a bit of an anomaly, since it's the only launch title that will be available on both the PS4 and Xbox One at launch, but not any other platform. Like the upcoming Madden NFL 25, NBA Live 14 will run with EA's new Ignite engine, which promises to deliver more lifelike AI and character animation. Along with the usual tournaments and online matches, the game includes a Rising Star mode, which allows players train a custom player over the course of a 25-year career.
Basketball fans can also get their fix from NBA 2K14 however, which is launching at the exact same time on next-gen consoles, and over a month earlier on current consoles and PCs. But the fact remains, if you want to play the latest entry in the NBA Live series – the first one since 2009 – then you'll have to pick up at least one of the next-gen consoles.
So there you have it. Eight games launching only on the Xbox One, six on the PlayStation 4, and one on both. Already, the competition is looking interesting.
The Xbox One may have an edge with two major franchises in its corner (Forza and Dead Rising) compared to one on the PS4 (Killzone). Sony however is certainly letting the indie developers shine with the PS4's downloadable titles, whereas the Xbox One's online lineup seems to be mainly comprised of titles from major studios.
Of course, the launch games are just one aspect of the two consoles to consider when deciding whether owning a brand new system on day one is worth the cost. There are still plenty of other features to factor in, like live TV control, social media integration, or remote play on the Vita, among many others. Some titles that are releasing simultaneously on current consoles, such as Watch Dogs, will reportedly have even more detailed graphics on the new systems.
One thing's for certain though, gamers are going to have plenty of options when the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One make their way to store shelves later this year.