Money, as we all know, can’t buy you happiness. So by the same logic, a lot of fun things must be free. And lo and behold, they are! And we’re not talking about the obvious, weak-ass options here, like sunsets, love, or the sound of children’s laughter. No, we’re hitting the good stuff. Video games.
Free games have come a long way since the old days of mindless XP clicking and endless pay-to-win options. Now you’ll find the full spectrum of gaming experience, from full-bodied action-shooters, to RPGs, to narrative adventures, to competitive fighting games, just begging you to make them part of your life in exchange for exactly zero money. 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 PS4 exclusives...
Fortnite Battle Royale
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 basis, 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.
Life Is Strange, Episode 1
Bewitching players for two years now, finally you can see what all the fuss is about for free. Everything changes when lead character Max discovers she can rewind time, saving the life of her rebellious best friend Chloe in the process. Life in their home of Arcadia Bay gets dark when the pair start using Max’s power to investigate the disappearance of Rachel Amber, one of their school friends. Rachel’s absence causes ripples in the town, and they find themselves drawn deeper into the uncomfortable goings-on that have remained in the shadows until now. Altering the past creates its own problems, though. The game as a whole has multiple endings, so there’s a huge replayability factor. Episode 1 is a good sampler of the entire saga though, so there’s really no reason not to give Life is Strange a try.
Ready for some outlandish mental images? Here we go: a tiny imp riding a warbeast with a mouth big enough to swallow a walrus whole. An angelic white-and-gold angel android. An engineer with one extra robotic arm clinging to her back. I assure you each one of these characters exists. And you can find them in Paragon, a multiplayer battle arena game bursting with havoc. Powered by Unreal Engine 4, everything looks beautiful, which you’ll want to focus on when you’re trying not to get shot to bits. Building your deck (no cards here: it’s a fancy name for perk cards) will help to delay the inevitable, as you can select different perks or items to suit your playstyle. But wait, there’s more! Different items will pop up during the game depending on the cards you chose, so you can easily vary each session by dropping some different perks into your loadout. These cards are earned through gameplay too, so you won’t have to face people who have bought their way to the top of the game. It’s all very fair, and is a good stop-gap while you eye that Overwatch purchase hungrily.
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.