Sony Online Entertainment finds itself in an interesting position. Now that the PlayStation 4 has been released, players have the option to play games that would have formerly only been on PC on their console of choice. While titles like EverQuest Online Adventures (PlayStation 2) and the popular DC Universe Online (PS3/PS4) have seen success, much of SOE’s lineup has been released on PC. Thankfully, the PlayStation 4 essentially has the architecture of a gaming rig (granted, if one wants to build a far more powerful PC, it’s entirely easy and possible to do), so SOE can concentrate on making the PlayStation 4 the go-to space for its future titles. While Landmark, arguably Sony Online Entertainment’s most interesting title, is currently only running in closed beta on PC, PlayStation 4 owners have some exciting online titles coming their way. Both H1Z1 and PlanetSide 2 should provide PS4 owners with experiences that they can lose themselves in for days, or simply pop into here and there for fun.
Though H1Z1‘s original announcement was met without much fanfare, it might just wind up being the most intriguing MMO on the PlayStation 4. Sony Online Entertainment has put an ungodly amount of work into creating a living, breathing world in every sense of the term. Every inch of H1Z1‘s massive sandbox is able to be explored, and the development team wants to make every item in the environment fully contextualized. What’s the point of having a drawer if one isn’t able to open it? Why should an axe be stuck in a tree if players aren’t able to pick it up? Who cares about the placement of a refrigerator if a player can’t search through it for food? It truly feels as though the player is merely a participant in a legitimate world when he or she plays H1Z1. It can be just as fun to simply exist as it can be to kill countless bears and undead foes.
H1Z1‘s extreme levels of context and depth don’t simply end with its numerous drawers; players will experience a number of truly staggering features. Players can take the role of a hero, villain, or apathetic bystander; there are zero rules here. H1Z1 has some truly brilliant design aspects, from seasons of realistic length (with accurate temperature-based precipitation) to an incredible expansion of the persistence features seen in titles like Ubisoft‘s ZombiU. The latter feature is arguably H1Z1‘s coolest aspect, as players will be able to find the bodies of their former selves in the wild. Here’s the thing, though: because the environment is so massive, it may take days to find one’s lost equipment, if at all. There’s a chance that one’s zombified corpse will simply get lost among the trees, meaning that each time a player stumbles upon his or her corpse will be special.
While its not as exciting as the living, breathing world of H1Z1, PlanetSide 2 has the potential to be the PS4’s next Warframe. The free-to-play first person shooter has shades of Halo in its environments and aspects of Call of Duty in its chance to create outright player addition. PlanetSide 2’s shooting feels spot on, and the map knowledge required to master its massive levels should hook players in for a fair amount of time. Because this is a free-to-play title, players have the opportunity to hop in at no charge and see if they like the general gameplay. Weapons will be available for purchase using real-world currency, but Sony Online Entertainment has made it balance a priority. This is not the type of game where one can spend a great deal of money and buy the best weapon in the game outright. There isn’t going to be a way to pay for domination (sadly for those who wish this was an option in every shooter). If one wants to buy an assault rifle with a higher fire-rate, that’ll be an option. There’s a chance to buy a rifle that shoots slower but does more damage, as well. Microtransactions will be catered to suit a player’s individual play-style, showing that Sony Online Entertainment is committed to designing the type of game where people pay for exactly what they want.
As exciting as PlanetSide 2 is conceptually, it’s clear that a bit more time is needed to shore up some of the rough spots in the PlayStation 4 version. A great deal of the textures are fairly muddy, which is a shame as this detracts from the overall sense of immersion. If one is attempting to harness all of the power of a new piece of hardware, the proper steps should be taken to ensure that the final product is as polished as can be. To be fair, the PlayStation 4 version of PlanetSide 2 is still very much a game in the midst of development; the hope is that we see this title later rather than sooner, ensuring that the community gets the exact game it hopes for.
It’s an exciting time to be a fan of Sony Online Entertainment. Now that a new console generation is upon us, we have the opportunity to engage in experiences that would never have graced previous console. H1Z1‘s vast world and excellent contextualization would have likely melted PlayStation 3s innards, but PS4 owners now have the opportunity to pop into this world and be whoever they please. PlanetSide 2 will give first-person shooter fans the opportunity to experience their genre of choice on a truly massive scale, as well as show the world that microtransactions aren’t necessarily a bad thing. The PlayStation 4 has a fantastic indie library and is quickly establishing itself as the definitive console for AAA titles this generation, but don’t discount the exciting online titles coming to Sony’s flagship piece of hardware.