So you waited in line to be one of the first people to take home a shiny, new Xbox One or Playstation 4. Now what? Console launches are typically littered with terrible games, but we’ve done the heavy lifting for you, ripping through the launch lineups of both new consoles to pick out the diamonds in the rough. These are the games that’ll get you through the holidays while we wait for next-gen blockbusters like Titanfall and Destiny to make their debut in 2014.
XBOX ONE EXCLUSIVES
The only open-world Xbox One exclusive, Dead Rising 3 takes all the zombie-killing, weapon-crafting mayhem to the next-gen. Cut scenes flesh out the story in a tremendous way thanks to the new graphic horsepower of the Xbox One, and the ability to use the Smart Glass app as an interactive map for the game adds a new dimension to gaming, as you’re able to complete missions via Smart Glass that aren’t otherwise available. Dead Rising 3 is straight up mass-murdering chaos, so if you wanna get your bloodlust on, this is a top option.
Ryse (we honestly have no idea why they spelled it like that) follows the rise of a Roman general. The game takes many cues from the Gears of War franchise with its over-the-shoulder point of view and close-up combat. The game is actually littered with quick time events where you’re prompted to press a button and failing to do so will get you killed, but the animations are good fun to watch if you get the sequence right. Being able to control your squadron via the Kinect voice control is a nice touch too, ordering soldiers to secure flanks or launch catapults. We wish our pets would listen to us like that.
The definitive next-gen racing simulator offers a staggering number of car options, lots of race classes, and, most importantly, some of the best-looking graphics you can get out of your Xbox One so far. We were put off by Forza’s initial assumption that you’re an idiot who doesn’t know how to brake, let alone drive, but after some digging in the options settings, we were able to gas it through hairpins and drift like a pink slip was on the line after just a few races. Bonus: Turning off the idiot settings actually rewards you with XP bonuses to let you advance your career and upgrade the cars in your garage even quicker. If you’re looking to spend time with some of the most beautiful cars in the world and actually get a legitimate feel for how they handle, Forza 5 is a must-own.
PLAYSTATION 4 EXCLUSIVES
The only exclusive First Person Shooter so far this generation is an integral part of the PS4 launch lineup. Killzone as a franchise has lured fans in for years with its epic story of resistance from the evil Helghast. Shadow Fall takes that story, adds a new variety of environments, pumps up the graphics, and lets you use ziplines! We’re not gonna lie, those ziplines are pretty Goddamn sweet. We’ve found Killzone’s campaign to be excellent, but its multiplayer is a bit lackluster compared to other next-gen FPS offerings, so if you’re sitting around waiting for your friends to get a PS4, this is the game for you. Otherwise you may want to go with some of the better Online Multiplayer experiences of the next-gen, like Battlefield 4 or COD: Ghosts.
The obligatory platforming experience of a next-gen console, Knack looks a lot like a Sonic the Hedgehog game but plays like a God of War game. If you can get past the cutesy animations and childish take on a Frankenstein story (it’s alive!), then there’s some decent fun to be had in Knack’s levels. If you’re looking for a game to enjoy on your own or with younger siblings too, Knack is gonna fit that bill.
You might think that Resogun costs $15, but you’d be wrong, because, with the free month trial of PSN+ that comes with your PS4, Resogun is actually entirely free, so you have precisely zero reason to not download it to your system. The highly addictive, bullet-hell shoot-em-up is a terrific time suck and a nice change of pace compared to the other games in the launch window. Also, did we mention it’s free?
Need for Speed: Rivals takes the Most Wanted formula but puts players on the sides of both the cops and the criminals. The always-connected open-world means there’s no shortage of other gamers out there to race or chase. Top it off with a sick array of cars to choose from (we started in a Porsche; none of that Mazda Miata shit), and Need for Speed: Rivals blasts you to the red line faster than other games teach you how to brake.
If you haven’t already played through the latest installment of the Assassin’s Creed franchise, it’s time to take to the high seas and get your swashbuckle on. Black Flag may have come out earlier this month on 360 and PS3, but its next-gen counterparts are bringing this Caribbean treasure hunt to life like you haven’t seen before. Add in the extra gameplay that comes with the PS4, and there’s never been a better time to climb up to a crow’s nest.
Easily the best multiplayer FPS experience you can get in the next-gen so far (sorry, COD fans), you’re just not gonna see a better 64-person death match on a console this year, next-gen or otherwise. Battlefield also has a campaign, apparently, but, for the life of us, we haven’t met anyone who actually played it. If BF4 isn’t a part of your launch collection, you’re doing it wrong.
Look, we know it hasn’t been the best year for Call of Duty, with gamers railing against the aging franchise for its lack of innovation and exodus of multiplayer gamers to other games (see above), but Call of Duty still puts up a damn good show in the solo campaign department. If you long for the high kill counts and over-the-top scenes of ‘80s action movies, COD: Ghosts is gonna fulfill your holiday bloodlust.
Just like jumping from SD to HD broadcast, sports tend to benefit the most from new technology. This remains true for video games as well, since Madden 25 for the next-gen is a gorgeous upgrade over its previous iterations. Gameplay is nearly identical to previous versions, but, if you wanna get down with your friends on the gridiron, Madden 25 on Xbox One or PS4 is the way to go.
Even if you’re a huge NFL fan and the only reason you watch soccer is to chant “USA, USA” once every four years at the World Cup, it’s undeniable that FIFA is the best sports video game out there, with a bigger user base, more modes, and better support than any other competing franchise. If you want to join a global community of fervent fans in a game that requires skill, speed, and honed reflexes, FIFA 14 for Xbox One or PS4 is your best bet.
Also on Maxim.com: