Having just celebrated a year of existence, the PS4 has a lot to be happy about right now. Sony has been shifting consoles by the truckload and sales promise to keep rocketing through the Christmas period.
The PS4 certainly has some top titles but it's fair to say it's a bit weak in the AAA exclusives department, somewhere the Xbox One and Wii U are leading the charge. Hopefully, that's set to change in 2015 with a lineup of huge platform-showcasing titles on the horizon, and no doubt plenty more games we still don't know about.
We were fortunate to recently get our hands on four of the games coming from Sony's in-house development teams: Tearaway: Unfolded, Until Dawn, Bloodborne and The Order: 1886.
Here's what you need to know about four potential system sellers for next year.
When Media Molecule took the stage at Gamescom 2014 to announce Tearaway Unfolded we were pretty excited, but we also had a concern: would this end up as a half-arsed port or would it truly be rebuilt with the PS4 in mind? Luckily, it's looking more like the latter.
Unfolded loses none of the original's charm. The fundamentals are the same: you control a tiny character in a world made of paper, with the mission of delivering a unique message. But now you do so in an expanded version of Media Molecule's gorgeous, pulpy world.
Yes it exists at 1080p, 60fps, but who cares? We already know it looks great, it's how the game's central ideas unfurl on the more powerful platform that we're interested in.
The original Tearaway played on the idea that its quirky world took place physically inside the Vita, and Media Molecule has transitioned that same idea to the PS4 version, the events now transpiring inside your TV. For example, you can now chuck objects from the television "into" the DualShock 4 to then fire back into the screen, made more convincing thanks to the pad's inbuilt speakers and vibrations.
In the same way that the first game was a showcase for the myriad of ways developers and gamers could interact with the Vita, Unfolded demonstrates the many possibilities of the PS4 hardware, particularly the controller.
Our short demo took place inside a giant paper barn where we were searching for a mysterious pumpkin. Scattered about the level were 'bounce' pads that could be activated by pressing the touchpad - useful for jumping to higher platforms or, as it later transpired, diverting an avalanche of cauliflowers.
Without the touchscreen, certain interactions are limited. One guy needed a new moustache - we used the analogue sticks to carefully (but in the end, clumsily) cut out something that looked awful, but he loved it anyway. In the world of Tearaway, everyone's a winner.
There are other ways Media Molecule rips apart the fourth wall. Swiping a finger across the touchpad will create a gust of wind, while using the PlayStation Eye will let you customise the world with photos. In one part of the demo we shone a virtual light into the screen by holding L2 and R2 and then moving the DualShock around to scare our foes into a nasty trap.
It's cutesy and twee as hell, but you can't help falling in love. Unfolded clearly serves its purpose of showcasing the possible ways to play the PS4, but beyond that it's promising to be a great game in its own right.
Release date: TBC
How it'll define the PS4: by showing developers and players how much they can do with the PS4.
The home invasion horror has given birth to some real gems in recent years, but is it a genre that can translate to gaming? Supermassive Games hopes to do it with Until Dawn, its choose-your-own-fate survival thriller.
Once intended for the PS3, Until Dawn follows a group of eight teenagers pursued by a serial killer in a remote mountain retreat. Within the game you'll be faced with a multitude of multiple-choice scenarios and zero checkpoints. Once a character dies they're gone for good, and you then take control of another of the eight victims.
We started out playing as Sam, a girl with a surprising talent for getting through action-heavy sequences wearing nothing but a towel. Meanwhile the game's masked invader weds the looks of Stephen King's It with the voice of Saw. In fact, the developers are pretty candid about the influences on Until Dawn: an early scene takes place in a home theatre in which the walls are decorated with posters for House of the Devil, Bitter Feast and other slasher favs.
The game takes full advantage of the PS4 hardware. Along the way you'll use the DualShock as a flashlight among other things; at one point in the demo we had to slide the controller right to lock a door, and later push it towards the screen to knock another door open. Then there are moments where you need to keep it perfectly still so as to not give away your position.
ou don't just choose your outcomes in Until Dawn, you also choose your own fear. At the very start the game asks a number of questions about your personal dispositions. 'I hate creepy crawlies' or 'I hate blood and gore'; 'I hate needles' or 'suffocation scares me'. Only the second of those had any bearing on our short time with the game, with our foe branding a rather nasty-looking syringe when we picked the former option. When we chose suffocation he was lugging around a gas canister that would make No Country of Old Men's Anton Chigurh proud.
Beyond the enemy's pick of accessory, those choices had no further effect during our time with the game. But as the developers have hinted, these small early decisions branch out into a much bigger web of outcomes, so we're crossing our fingers that there's a lot of variation to come in the finished game. We want Until Dawn to be the game that really offers a different experience every time, not another Mass Effect 3.
Release date: Q2, 2015
How it'll define the PS4: by (we hope) delivering a journey in the vein of Heavy Rain, where the consequences of our decisions are more than skin-deep.
Bloodborne and The Order: 1886
Look, we really don't want to start this by saying Bloodborne is difficult because you already know it's difficult, and everyone else is going to say the same thing. But it is difficult. Damn difficult. This is for the "hardcore" players. This is one for the no-mercy, no-hand-holding, no-checkpoints-allowed gamers.
Or maybe we're just a bit crap.
But however challenging Bloodborne may be, this is one extremely gruesome, and damn pretty, gothic nightmare. Those good looks don't stop at the resolution and framerate either; in everything from the weather effects to the finely-crafted designs of your cockney enemies, Bloodborne feels like a proper next-gen game.
But from what we've played and seen so far, Bloodborne's Victorian world seems a lot more interesting than Dark Souls' rather dreary environs. It's still bleak as hell, mind, just more varied. And you have a gun this time.
The combat mechanics are slightly different this time too, with more of a focus on offense. It's not as simple as charging your enemies Dynasty Warrior-style, attacking takes thought and attention to timing, especially when you're facing off with a crowd.
Those points aside, Bloodborne looks and feels just like Dark Souls, from the on-screen status bars down to the fact you're inevitably going to spend a lot of your time dead. It's pretty much the antithesis of Tearaway.
But Bloodborne feels like the most accessible game of the franchise so far. This is a Dark Souls game as we know it, but faster, better-looking, and, so far, promising to be a tad more forgiving to those who didn't have the patience for the last two. Just a tad.
Release date: March 24, 2015 (US), March 27 (UK)
How it'll define the PS4: by being the first truly hardcore game to grace the platform.
The Order: 1886
Bloodborne may be beautiful, but it's The Order: 1886 that walks away with the award for best looking PS4 game right now. And we're glad, because when Ready at Dawn first revealed The Order we worried we had been fooled by the smoke and mirrors of yet another over-promising demo, not to mention how concerned we became when the game was delayed.
The reason for that delay is still unclear, but with next-gen mustaches that look this good we doubt it could have anything to do with the graphics, so could it have been a matter of gameplay? Early criticism from gamers was targeted at The Order's heavy cinematic elements, but we felt there was a good balance in the section we played.
The demo took place on a zeppelin - an aircraft that didn't actually take flight until 1900, but then the game is also filled with monsters, so we'll cut it some slack - from which our protagonist Galahad hopes to smoke out some nefarious rebels. Of course it's not long before things go haywire, bullets start flying, smoke grenades begin exploding, and people start yelling "bloody" a lot.
The demo started with a lot of stealth, with us sneaking around enemies who have a habit of announcing exactly what they plan to do, but these moments soon opened up into full-scale shootouts with a cover-based action system that felt fairly conventional.
In fact, the game encourages you to use the cover system quite a lot. As we discovered, running into a battle guns blazing ends up getting you killed most of the time. While these action scenes played out like any other, what was more noticeable was how well the frame rate held during moments of intense combat. Even at 30fps (which has, naturally, attracted a lot of criticism from the gaming community) there was no obvious drop in quality.
There were more than a couple of moments where the transition from cutscene to gameplay was so seamless that it took us a few seconds to realise we were in control again. Where the developers probably have more of a challenge is in balancing the cinematic moments with gameplay throughout the rest of The Order. Games like Resident Evil 4 and Uncharted (one of Ready at Dawn's big inspirations) have proven it can be done, but with so many massive set pieces in The Order we just hope that we're given enough freedom. Our demo was very linear, but then it did all take place on a zeppelin, so it's hard to predict how much this reflects the rest of the rest of the game.
What we do know for sure right now is that The Order: 1886 looks wonderful, basking in its gothic Victorian loveliness. GTA 5 for next-gen might have had jaws dropping, but The Order was built from the ground up on the PS4 and it shows. The lighting and materials, the performance-capture character animations, the effects of elements like smoke... if nothing else, this is the game you'll buy to show off just how good the PS4 can look.
Release date: February 20, 2015
How it'll define the PS4: by being one of, if not the, best-looking game on the platform. If games can look this good at this point in the PS4's lifecycle, imagine how things will be in five years time.