The PlayStation 4 is renowned for its excellent AAA exclusives, with some of the most notable titles being Atlus’ Persona 5, Bend Studio’s Days Gone, and The Last Of Us Part 2’s Remastered predecessor. However, which is the best?
Horizon Zero Dawn is the most noticeable exclusion from this list, and that’s simply because I never experienced enough of it to wholeheartedly agree with the near-perfect critical reception. But, if you want, you can read why it’s so good was The Verge’s Game Of The Year back in 2017 by clicking here.
Meanwhile, Detroit: Become Human isn’t featured as it’s no longer a PlayStation 4 exclusive thanks to being available on the Epic Games store along with Heavy Rain and Beyond Two Souls.
Days Gone is a solid foundation that will catapult Bend Studio and the series to bigger and better things like Drake’s Fortune did for Naughty Dog and Uncharted. It suffers from technical issues and the open-world genre’s worst tropes, but it’s still a relatively fun and satisfying experience thanks to its narrative and characterisations.
Spying on Nero, removing all of the Hordes’ nests, and emptying all the bandit camps quickly becomes tiresome, but Deacon St. John and the story are enough motivation to stick with and complete the game. Similar to Nolan North with Nathan Drake, Sam Witwer can become one of PlayStation’s most likable and iconic protagonists, and he can spearhead Days Gone to a bright future.
Deacon and his motorcycle are the stars, but Bend Studio’s narrative continues the PlayStation 4’s excellence in the storytelling department. It’s initially a tad slow and some parts are repetitive, but it eventually moves out of second gear and becomes a memorable delight.
Insomniac’s story suffers from poor pacing and recycling of Batman Arkham City in the third act, but their portrayal of Peter Parker and Mary Jane rescues the narrative. The couple’s stressed relationship is cheesy and occasionally relatable, and Insomniac succeeded in capturing the aspects that make Peter Parker a grounded superhero when he’s not donning the flamboyant Spider-Man outfit.
In addition, the web-slinging is a blast and the combat is advanced and unique enough to be out of Batman’s mighty shadow. The drawbacks are that none of the boss fights are memorable or truly that fun (the final boss encounter is a major let down), and – similar to Days Gone – Insomniac’s New York is spoiled by the Ubisoft checklist of chores to complete.
None of the side activities add anything to the experience other than XP to level up gadgets and acquire new costumes, and the story is sometimes hindered by obtuse and pointless stealth missions with Mary Jane and Miles Morales.
What makes Until Dawn better than Detroit: Become Human is that it’s not trying to be anything more than it is. While David Cage stupidly believed Detroit: Become Human is this story that needed to be told to make us all wake up to the fact that – gasp – racism and slavery is bad, Until Dawn proudly wears its horror clichés and guilty pleasures on its sleeve.
It’s idiotic, cheesy, and full of the most laughable tropes, but Until Dawn is also an engaging love letter to horror. And that’s all it needed to be; a fun horror romp you can play with your friends, family, or girlfriend/boyfriend.
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
I’ll admit that I have never regarded the Uncharted series as the PlayStation’s pinnacle. As everyone adored Among Thieves and – to less of an extent – Drake’s Deception, I merely saw them as fun but repetitive adventures. Among Thieves was just Drake’s Fortune with better gameplay, set-pieces, and presentation, and Drake’s Deception was a repeat of Among Thieves but in the desert and with horses. Each installment recycled the same plot beats, and they always concluded with Drake finding a lost city and getting back together with Elena.
And A Thief’s End copies the same blueprint to an extent, but there’s a self-awareness and maturity that the prior entries didn’t have. A Thief’s End doesn’t blow its load too early with an over-the-top spectacle that can’t be topped, and the narrative isn’t designed around the set-pieces. There’s also more of an emphasis on exploration and platforming rather than combat, and the verticality of the level design is a significant improvement as it makes the inclusion of stealth more relevant and useful.
A Thief’s End admittedly ends on a downer with another lacklustre boss fight, but Rafe is the series’ most charismatic and charming villain, and the game’s narrative is the strongest. Like Naughty Dog with Uncharted, Nathan Drake can’t continue these adventures, and it’s about the time expeditions be handed to another developer with Cassie Drake in the spotlight.
God Of War
Similar to A Thief’s End with Uncharted, Sony Santa Monica’s soft reboot for God Of War was a step above everything that came before. Not only did Cory Barlog make Kratos so much more than a blockheaded and entitled Neanderthal who did nothing more than bark about revenge and screw goddesses with QTEs, but they also provided a more mature narrative where you could empathise with everyone involved.
Again, similar to A Thief’s End, there’s a self-awareness that needs to be applauded. Kratos and Baldur are very aggressive forces of nature cut from the same cloth, and it’s understandable why Baldur is filled with so much rage. None of the characters are perfect as they all make mistakes, and Kratos makes a significant one in his misguided, self-righteous, and hypocritical rescue of Freya.
The combat is superb, the direction is wonderful, the soundtrack is epic and emotional, and the visuals are stunning. However, it’s the characterisations and story that makes God Of War so phenomenal.
Before yapping on about why Bloodborne is so good, I must first admit that I haven’t completed it. I’ve always wanted to return to its gothic setting and overcome this particular behemoth that forced me to quit like a baby, but I’ve never had the time and it frustrates me that one of my favourite games remains incomplete.
With that being said, I still feel that I got my money’s worth and that Bloodborne is the best title to come out of From Software’s studio. Yes, the combat is intense and engaging, and the boss fights are brutally difficult, but it’s the landscape that makes Bloodborne stand out from Dark Souls and Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice.
As a gothic environment that comes across as a mixture of H.P. Lovecraft and Castlevania, the setting is a foreboding and creepy nightmare that will never be forgotten. It’s beautiful yet wicked at the same time, and there are a plethora of unnerving secrets to be discovered.
Unlike the other games mentioned in this list, I also appreciate that Bloodborne has a wicked narrative and disturbing characters underneath its surface. If you engage with the world and its lore, there’s a terrific story and number of secrets to be found.
The Last Of Us Remastered
The Last Of Us was my favourite PlayStation 3 exclusive, and its Remastered brethren is close to being my favourite PlayStation 4 title. There’s no denying A Thief’s End is incredible, but the post-apocalyptic adventure of Joel and Ellie is a magnum opus I never knew Naughty Dog were capable of delivering.
Sony are renowned for delivering excellent exclusives with an emphasis on story and character, and that’s again why The Last Of Us is such a special game. The stealth, combat, exploration, and scavenging for resources is immersive and brutal provided you play on Grounded, but it’s Joel and Ellie who make The Last Of Us one of the most critically acclaimed video games of all time.
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson both provide stunning performances, and the direction and writing from Neil Druckmann is magnificent. Joel and Ellie are just two of the most captivating and realistic characters in the medium, and the world they’re stuck in is a hostile and unforgiving hell.
Here’s hoping The Last Of Us Part 2 lives up to the hype and expectations set by its unbelievable predecessor.
If you didn’t already heavily disagree with this subjective list, then there’s no doubt in my mind that the vast majority of you are scoffing and shaking your head at the placement of Persona 5 as the PlayStation 4’s best AAA exclusive.
Atlus’ latest installment in the Persona series undoubtedly has issues as there’s too much exposition, the dialogue choices don’t really matter, it’s admittedly too long, and the holidays aren’t as good as Persona 4 Golden. If I was being objective, I’d have put Persona 5 behind A Thief’s End, and I’d have given The Last Of Us Remastered the number one treasure.
However, Persona 5 is my favourite PlayStation 4 exclusive and I’m vulnerable to my own preferences. Persona is my favourite series and Persona 4 Golden is my favourite entry, but Persona 5 is still an astronomical achievement that has propelled the franchise into the mainstream spotlight.
Unlike Final Fantasy which doesn’t want to be a JRPG anymore, Persona 5 is an innovative yet faithful installment which is approachable for newcomers and series veterans. The turn-based combat is swift and stylish, the soundtrack is lovemaking to the ears, the confidants are some of the best social links yet, and the Phantom Thieves are the series’ best protagonists behind the Investigation Team.
I wish there was a tad more humour in the story and I’d have liked Atlus to distance themselves from the character archetypes they established back in Persona 3, but Persona 5 is still my most fun PlayStation 4 game to play. And I can’t wait until The Royal.
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