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PlayStation 4 On The Cheap: The Free Games At Launch

by Mike Futter on Nov 11, 2013 at 11:02 AM

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Gaming is an expensive hobby, and if you want to hold off on purchasing too many retail games for fear of wallet pain, the PlayStation 4 has plenty for you. At launch there will be five free games, with at least one coming by year's end. We've played all of them at Sony's launch event in New York City and have the rundown for you.

Every new PlayStation 4 will be coming with a voucher for 30 days of PlayStation Plus (along with 30 days of Music Unlimited and $10 to spend in the PlayStation Store). That means that every PlayStation 4 owner for a limited time will have access to Compulsion Games' Contrast and Housemarque's Resogun. Additionally, Sony Online's DC Universe Online, Digital Extremes' Warframe, and Zombie Studios' Blacklight Retribution are free-to-play and ready on day one. Finally, War Thunder from Gaijin Entertainment will release at the European PlayStation 4 launch on November 29 and by year's end in the US.

We're pleased to report that each of these is worth a look. Read on for the details.

Resogun should be your first stop on the PlayStation Store. Housemarque's follow-up to the stunning and engaging Super Stardust HD is a visual triumph. Everything in the circular-shaped environments can be obliterated. As enemies and terrain explode, they shatter into their component voxels, filling the screen with confetti.

Players choose one of three ships to take on the enemy, with certain foes unlocking cages holding humans. Bonuses are awarded for picking people up and escorting them to teleporters (or just throwing them into the tractor beam. Extra bombs, overdrive super weapons, shields, and basic weapon upgrades are randomly awarded for getting a civilian to safety.

Each planet has a huge, multi-tiered boss that ups the ante by filling the screen with its size. Resogun is pure bullet hell, but offers players a dash move to get to safety. Staying engaged with the enemy is crucial for high scores though, as a multiplier builds with every connected shot.

The thumping music by Ari Pulkkinen (Super Stardust, Angry Birds) completes the atmosphere. A voice notifying when vulnerable humans are available for rescue, when Overdrive is charged, and other important details comes through the Dual Shock 4 speaker.

Most importantly, Resogun weighs in at under 500 MB. It should be your first download so you have something to play while everything else is loading up.

The other PlayStation Plus title available at launch will be Compulsion Games' Contrast. This puzzle platform tells a rich story as players take on the role of imaginary acrobat Dawn, an invisible friend.

Dawn's ability to merge with the wall and jump on the shadows created by other objects provides intriguing challenges. In the first 30 minutes of the game, Compulsion ramps up the challenge by instructing players and then letting them experiment.

From what we've played of Contrast so far, it will most certainly appeal to fans of Portal, The Swapper, and other cerebral platformers. As long as you maintain your PlayStation Plus membership, you'll continue to have access to this title.

DC Universe Online
Sony Online's superpowered action MMO is making the jump to PlayStation 4 at launch. The visuals greatly benefit from the power of the new console, with much longer draw distance, destructible objects, and a more fluid feel to the combat.

Players won't need to choose a server, as Sony Online has made it so that server nodes expand and are sectioned off dynamically. You'll be able to play with your friends without pre-planning or losing your progress.

The business model classifies players as free-to-play, premium (spend at least $5 in the online shop), and legendary (subscription-based). The higher tiers give players access to convenience-based items (like larger inventory sizes) and all of the DC Heroes and Villains that have been released for use in Legends mode.

If you haven't played DC Universe Online or haven't been back in a while (the title is about to celebarate it's third anniversary), now's a good time. If you've got friends playing on the PS3, don't worry. The PS3 and PS4 servers are the same, and you can voice chat across systems.

Digital Extremes' free-to-play space ninja title has been out on PC for some time, and now the title is coming to consoles. The four-player cooperative battle takes place across our solar system, as the Tenno (keepers of balance in the galaxy) fight off a variety of alien species.

Players outfit their warframe with guns and bladed weapons, along with magical powers (which can be activated with a swipe of the DualShock 4 touchpad). Enemies will occasionally drop cards that can be used to upgrade attributes, basic skills (sprinting, wall running, etc.), and powers. These also add different visual effects, similar to equipping an elemental weapon in an action-RPG.

By finding new blueprints and the component materials, players can spend in-game credits and craft new character types. Real money purchases can be used to speed up things up a bit, but everything is unlockable by playing. DIgital Extremes claims that nothing here is pay-to-win.

There are a number of different game modes, including position defense, survival, enemy extermination, and intel collection. Players can form clans, kit out a clan hall, and duel with clanmates. If you are looking for a competent co-op experience, Warframe is worth trying out (and you can pre-order a free booster kit on the PlayStation Store right now).

Blacklight Retribution
Where Warframe scratches the third-person/co-op itch, Zombie Studios' Blacklight Retribution is your go-to for free first-person competitive fun. This shooter offers a deep level of customization and unlockable armor pieces that all impact core player stats.

In addition, every weapon can be tweaked with new barrels, stocks, magazines, and scopes. These affect a number of different stats, including spread (on the move, from the hip, and aiming), scope time, reload, range, firerate and more. Both armor and weapon tuning feels a bit like tricking out a car in a sim racer.

During matches, players will earn currency to spent at weapon depots. Think of this like the in-match money earned in MOBAs. Instead of cashing in for higher powers though, players can pick up a turret, grenade launcher, air strike, minigun, and more. These are similar to kill streaks in Call of Duty except the currency isn't reset at death.

There are bot matches to hone your skills and test loadouts in a number of modes, including deathmatch, team deathmatch, capture the flag, kill confirmed, and domination. The community's favorite map, Helodeck, exists in its own playlist. I had a lot of fun playing Blacklight Retribution, and I'll be putting aside the 3.2 GB for the download come Friday.

War Thunder
If dogfighting in historically accurate planes is more your style, Gaijin Entertainment's War Thunder is where you'll want to look once it releases in the U.S. by the end of the year.

Gaijin has implemented a fair free-to-play model, and paying for premium membership only speeds up the rate at which you earn experience. Two different control schemes are available. One is more traditional, but a controller-friendly, AI-assisted mode makes the game feel a bit more like an arcade dogfighting title.

Gaijin is also implementing keyboard and mouse and USB flight stick support for launch. The title is cross-platform with PC and Mac, so if you have been playing there, you can jump over to the PS4 with no problems.

War Thunder also supports the PlayStation Camera for head tracking. We didn't see this in action, but we're eager to. Gaijin boasts 300 aircraft in its title, and plans for ground-based tank warfare are coming soon.