This coming Tuesday will feature one of the best game offerings of the year for PlayStation Plus subscribers. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 & 2, along with Yakuza: Like a Dragon and Little Nightmares are slated to be the August giveaways for the subscription service. And what a lineup it is. All of these games are some of the best you can play on your PlayStation system. While Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater and the popular Yakuza title will be available on both PlayStation 4 & 5, keep in mind that the Little Nightmares download is the PS4 version. But what an amazing time to be a PS Plus subscriber.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 & 2 are remastered editions of the original games. The first Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater came out in 1999 and was a big hit even for people who weren’t into skating. As a junior in college at the time, it was one of the most memorable games I played on the original PlayStation. There was much to love whether you were a skating fan or not. There was a bit of a learning curve when it came to pulling off the moves, but they felt like second nature once you adapted to the control scheme. Neversoft did an incredible job in capturing skating culture and making this game one that was incredibly fun to play.
I will admit that I was never a big fan of the Yakuza games, even though I’ve played and own a few of them. Being the spiritual successors to the Shenmue series (which I enjoyed during my SEGA Dreamcast days), the games are more than solid. But Yakuza: Like a Dragon is on a whole another level. You play as a young man that takes the fall for his Yakuza boss, ending up in prison for a number of years and eventually being left for dead. After his life is saved by a homeless man, this begins a heartfelt and wacky adventure that brings together a team of underdog characters that you will care about. Along with the characters, Like a Dragon separates itself from the rest of the pack in the Yakuza series with its approach to turn-based Japanese RPG gameplay. It is a blast to play and was an outstanding choice by the developers to implement as the main battle mechanic for the game. Yakuza: Like a Dragon surprised me and it is the best game I’ve played in the series.
Unfortunately, I don’t have any thoughts on Little Nightmares because I’ve never played it. But video reviews that I’ve seen on YouTube seem to hold the game in high regard. Critic and user reviews for the strange-looking horror game have been favorable so it is worth checking out.
Since its expansion into a multiple-tier subscription program, PS Plus has emerged as something I believe every PS4/PS5 owner should be subscribed to. “Essential” represents the lowest tier, which has been offered by the service since its inception. Both the new “Extra” and “Premium” tiers provide an expanded choice of games that subscribers are able to download and play at any time. Premium ($119.99 per year) gives you access to a library of classic PlayStation games that also include the original PlayStation and PlayStation 2. This expansion indicates to me that PlayStation is fully ready to take on Microsoft’s Game Pass service. When comparing the two, PS Plus holds the advantage when it comes to the number of games available and the ability to play PlayStation exclusives. But Game Pass still wins out for me due to its commitment to Day One releases along with its included Bethesda and EA libraries. Game Pass also has a stronger indie game and live service selection of games.
In no way does my preference for Game Pass take away from what is a strong package put forward by PlayStation. With its “Premium” service, you are getting access to the biggest library of games you will find in any subscription service. PlayStation has also partnered with Ubisoft to make the Assassin’s Creed, Far Cry, The Division, and many other of the publisher’s biggest franchises available to subscribers. There is much to like for anyone looking for a subscription-based service where you wouldn’t run out of games to play for quite some time.
Since it is the competitor to PlayStation Plus’ monthly free game offerings, I would like to bring some attention to the Xbox Games with Gold program. Like PS Plus, there are three to four games released each month for free to Xbox Live Gold and Game Pass Ultimate subscribers. Yet when compared to what PlayStation provides its Plus subscribers, I’ve found Games with Gold to be lackluster. This wasn’t the case several years ago when I was an Xbox One owner. While I look forward to what PS Plus offers each month, I have not downloaded a single “Games with Gold” offering in several months. In my opinion, Games with Gold became less of a priority for Microsoft at some point over the years. I believe this is a missed opportunity to not only attract more gamers to Games with Gold, but also to Game Pass Ultimate.
One of the biggest problems Microsoft has faced in the ever-present battle between Xbox and PlayStation is that PlayStation’s exclusives fare significantly better than those of Xbox. While Xbox still makes a ton of money for Microsoft, the fact that its exclusives do not garner the same amount of notoriety as the competition hurts the company when compared to Nintendo and PlayStation. Exclusives on PlayStation include awesome franchises such as Ratchet & Clank, Spider-Man, The Last of Us, Uncharted, Ghost of Tsushima, God of War, and Horizon. Some of these franchises have made their way to PC, but there are no plans for releases on any Xbox console. Unfortunately, Halo, Gears of War, Ori, State of Decay, Age of Empires, and Forza (all Xbox exclusives) do not produce what PlayStation exclusives do. They are great franchises that contain great games, but not as many people are playing them. In my opinion, Microsoft exclusives should have been more prominently featured in the Games with Gold service (even as repeat giveaways if necessary) just to give them more exposure to a bigger audience. There are fantastic gems such as Sunset Overdrive, Crackdown, and Super Lucky’s Tale that many gamers have unfortunately never heard of before.
At the end of the day, I’m just glad that PlayStation Plus’ expansion serves to give gamers another option to enjoy video games. I do understand that services like these are not of interest to those who advocate for game ownership. But not every gamer is interested in or driven by ownership. The main thing for some gamers is to just play and have a wide library of games to choose from at any time. Services like PS Plus and Game Pass offer that for a very reasonable fee. My father paid more than $120 in a year just from the number of times I rented games from Blockbuster Video as a child. I’m thrilled that gamers have so many ways to play nowadays. And I’m glad to see PlayStation Plus continue delivering big time on its monthly game offerings.