Maybe there really isn't such a thing as a free lunch (though my pick-pocketing Khajit in Skyrim would tell you otherwise), but there is definitely such a thing as a free game. The burgeoning digital market has allowed the free to play market to flourish on consoles, and Sony's PlayStation 4 is no exception, with its online PSN store offering dozens of great free games that can offer more hours of entertaining gameplay than some of the priciest titles out there.
This is no longer the era of mobile-style pay-to-win experiences either, as many free PS4 games boast triple-A production value with no strings attached, sustaining themselves through a fair and balanced micro-transaction economy that doesn't separate the 'have's from the 'have not's. So read on, and we’ll break down the best PS4 games you can get started on right now, with not a single thought for your wallet. Some of them are even the best PS4 exclusive games...
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Fortnite Battle Royale
Fortnite Battle Royale is probably the hottest, free multiplayer game right now, and for good reason. Taking Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds’ basis of a vast, 100 player, last-man-standing shooter as its starting point, and then evolving it with natty, on-the-fly, tactical construction, Battle Royale is an instantly accessible hoot with serious long-term depth. Parachuting into a huge, open-world island map – initially completely unarmed and entirely devoid of supplies – the opening minutes of any match are a giddy, tense scramble as you attempt to glide to a spot free of competition (but hopefully bountiful of resources), search for a weapon, and quickly smash up the environment in a bid to accrue a few of the building resources you’ll need as things heat up. As the map boundaries close in, player numbers dwindle, and base structures become ever more elaborate, a different kind of tension ramps, as the game’s demands dynamically evolve. It’s an unpredictable joy every time, and with developer Epic updating Battle Royale at a heady pace, one that’s only going to grow over the coming months.
Forget PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale. Actually, forget that instruction. No-one remembers PlayStation All-Stars. Sony’s mascot-touting, Smash Bros. ‘homage’ made a splash akin to a pea in the Pacific back in 2012, and the light, breezy, platform-brawler fighting game genre has (mostly) remained the sole preserve of Nintendo ever since. But no longer! A decidedly slick, accomplished, and even slightly more energetic take on the Smash formula, Brawlhalla presents a nonsensically eclectic cast of mythical and historical warrior archetypes – taking in Valkyries, Vikings, medieval knights, and er, ‘30s gangsters – and lets you go wild. With an increased focus on empowered air-control, and bigger scope for epic, high-flying ‘off-stage’ duels, Brawlhalla also does a good job of standing (somewhat) distinct from it inspiration. And its free-to-play model is rather friendly too, offering a limited selection of the character roster on free rotation, with earned in-game currency or real money buying the rest.
Part third-person action game, part competitive shooter, part RPG, part co-operative PvP team game, Smite takes the loose spirit of the MOBA and turns the genre in an entirely more immediate direction. You’ll earn gold and experience with which to level and enhance your character’s power and abilities, but – much like in something like Destiny – the RPG numbers mean nothing if your action skills and combat strategy aren’t up to standard. Not that this s just about instinctive twitch play. With a current line-up of 93 playable hero deities covering ranged and melee archetypes (with separate magical and physical combat types), spread over five distinct classes, there’s a huge amount of tactical team play to get stuck into. The free-to-play model is pretty damn pleasant, too. You get five permanent gods for free when you start, and five more will cycle into the roster on a weekly basis. From then on you can buy or rent your chosen champions as you go, or pay for the full package and get access to every one that’s been released, and every one that ever will be.
Let it Die
A hectic, borderline-sadistic hack-and-slash, you should only play Let it Die if you have a penchant for getting your ass handed to you. Or thrown over the other side of the room as one of its many insane bosses rips you in half in ways you didn’t know existed. No, I’m not going to compare it to that game about darkness and souls. Grinding your way through its many levels, you’ll have to beat boss after boss to make it all the way to the top of a tower that’s mysteriously risen up through the earth. On your way you’ll meet characters that look like someone pitched them based on random word combinations. The most memorable by far is the skateboarding Uncle Death. Who wears spiral sunglasses and biker boots. He’s… interesting. There is a slim monetisation aspect to Let it Die, but you get a ton of ‘death metals’, its currency of choice (*metal horns gesture*), thrown at you after completing special events so you don’t have to drain your wallet to play. Plus each time you die your player will appear in someone else’s game as an additional enemy. So we promise all those deaths mean something. Promise.
DC Universe Online
Imagine having the whole pantheon of DC comics at your fingertips, where superheroes saunter through city streets without fear of prejudice and adventure lies around every corner. That's DC Universe Online in a nutshell; a battle-tested MMO in which players create their own superhero and battle it out in a sprawling multiplayer landscape inspired by the comic books that brought us Bats, Supes, and all the rest.
The game's over seven years old, so its visual oomph isn't as impressive at it once was, but developer Daybreak Game Company has been so committed to enriching the game with new updates and content since launch that it's hard not to be impressed by the sheer breadth of gameplay available for free. A must play for DC fans, and definitely something to try out for those on a budget, DC Universe Online is a super sized corker of a free product.
Multiplayer shooters can be hit or miss when it comes to the free to play market, but Loadout is one of the good ones, offering competent bullet-strewn action with distinctive character and a balanced microtransaction economy bubbling under the hood. It's got a whole Team Fortress 2 meets Gears of War 4 vibe going on, as big burly soldiers shoot each other in a comically violent visual milieu that looks a bit like what would happen if Quentin Tarantino made a Saturday morning cartoon.
Shoot someone, for instance, and an entire chunk of their body will go missing, allowing you to easily identify the weak from the strong. Don't expect the kind of shiny production value seen in full price shooters but, as far as its no cost price tag goes, Loadout is a brilliant addition to your digital collection.
PlayStation’s attempt at Minecraft feels a little more like Dragon Quest Builders, with hours of building fun in store. In between bouts of piecing together your house/castle/lair of choice in Trove there are vastly different landscapes to be explored. Yes, there’s the usual forest, desert, and arctic sections. Scattered into the mix is also a bright pink, saccharine-sweet candy realm, and a futuristic tron-like world with high-tech enemies. Slashing your way through levels of each dungeon is surprisingly tough at points, yet it gradually gets easier. Each boss drops a variety of weapons and masks, which you can equip to give yourself some skill boosts. Perhaps you think you can guess what kind of characters you’ll be playing. No offence, but you’re probably incorrect. Choose between Chloromancers who control the plants that spring from the ground to deadly effect, or a Candy Barbarian who gives the phrase ‘sugar rush’ a whole new meaning.
Cyberninjas. Does that word alone not sell you on Warframe instantly? With your main aims being assassination, looting, and trying out as many frames as possible, at first the amount to do is intimidating. You see, ‘frames’ are loadouts (in the form of different sets of armour) that determine your abilities, and therefore your playstyle. To amass different frames to try you’ll first need blueprints, which will be splurged out of bosses you defeat. Use these to buy the frame you’ve got your eye on. One will be able to teleport, another will be able to summon a frost nova or a sonic boom. Encouraging you to play the game however you want and try out new approaches, it helps that each frame has an eye-catching design for you to yearn after. It’s outperformed usual free-to-play expectations by making it entirely possible to get to a high level of expertise without paying a single penny, though expect to grind quite a bit in the process. With over 26 million users, there’s a very active community to play too.
Similar to Warframe, Hawken gives players the option to hold onto their hard-earned cash and instead grind their way to the top. Stomping around in a giant mech is exciting enough, but the main attraction of the game is the fact that ammunition is unlimited. Of course, there is a catch. Your guns will overheat, turning you into the equivalent of a squishy damage sponge, so you’ll have to retreat to recover your energy and get those guns firing again. Don’t expect to be lumped with a specific mech loadout either, as you can customise the weapons, equipment, and select different mech upgrades to suit how you want to play. Lumpy movement is to be expected from giant robots. To be as nimble as a ballerina the giant buckets of metal can side dash and boost their way across the arena, and turn around speedily at the cost of a draining fuel tank. If you want to see how a massive mech could be that elegant, give Hawken a go.
Lone wolves, step away. Those who yearn to be part of something bigger, to have brothers-in-arms shooting by your side, step up to the plate. The raucously hectic FPS Planetside 2 has you join one of three factions and battle for domination of the planet Auraxis by using foot soldiers, monstrously huge vehicles and air support. The premise will be familiar to anyone who’s played an online FPS match. Each outpost you conquer and retain gives your team extra resources and limits the spawning options open to your enemies. You can only capture outposts that are near ones you’ve already claimed, so there’s no voyaging deep into enemy territory where you’ll become over-familiar with bullets in various body parts. There’s just the right amount of direction to keep Planetside 2 from becoming overwhelming, so it’s ready and waiting any time you want a bit of free sci-fi FPS action.
Want more? Check out all the best deals on PS4 controllers... because you may need a new one pretty soon, with all these free games.