Holiday Gift Guide 2020: A World Of Games For Your PlayStation 5

It’s been a pretty incredible year for gamers, thanks to the arrival of both the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X (you can read about which might be right for you courtesy of Gabriel Marcoccia). I’ve always been a PlayStation person, starting all the way back in 1997 with my original system. I was super lucky (like, I mean, really lucky) to score the PS5 during its original preorder window and I’ve loved everything about it so far, from the great new controller to being able to play my PS4 titles on it to all the great PS5 titles I had the chance to dive into. On that note, I wanted to run down some of my favourite games that you might want to consider getting for someone who you know either has or will be getting a PlayStation 5 for the holidays.

WWE 2K Battlegrounds (2K)

First up is the only title I’m recommending that comes from the PS4 but can be played on the PS5 (you’ve got to love that backwards compatibility feature). As many wrestling gamers know, 2K’s most recent sim, WWE 2K20 just didn’t hit the mark that wrestling fans wanted from the title. Credit to them, rather than rushing out the next instalment, the company has taken a pause and are looking to revamp that game for 2022. But that didn’t leave us empty-handed. 2K gave us WWE 2K Battlegrounds, a Mortal Kombat-esque game the gave us exaggerated, cartoonish WWE superstars doing battle in various locales. The game feature:

  • It’s your Battleground. Make WWE 2K Games games BATTLEGROUNDS your own with tons of customizable parts as you create, customize, and edit your own original created characters and BATTLEGROUNDS
  • Loads of match types wage war in a wide variety of your favorite match types with fun, new twists, including steel Cage, royal rumble, Fatal four way and the all-new BATTLEGROUNDS challenge
  • Local and online battles. Compete in online tournaments or stake your claim as King of the Battleground and survive the online melee against players from around the world. Plus, battle it out in local multiplayer and dominate your friends

There’s a lot more button mashing in WWE 2K Battlegrounds, rather than anything strategic, and every finishing move is over the top and actually really entertaining. This is not the sort of game I’m usually get into when looking for a wrestling fix (I liked my sports entertainment real) but the roster is deep and is constantly being updated, the storymode entertaining, and it’s easy to pick up and play. While wrestling fans like me are no doubt itching for WWE 2K22, I’d definitely recommend WWE 2K Battlegrounds as the fun stopgap that it is.

Mortal Kombat II Ultimate (Warner Brothers Games)

Speaking of Mortal Kombat, this most recent title has made its way onto the PlayStation 5 and it looks absolutely incredible. The cut scenes for story mode are as good as any computer-generated movie you might watch, and the storyline itself is compelling and engaging, with excellent voicework. The Ultimate edition of the game is absolutely loaded, as well:

• Experience 2 robust, critically acclaimed Story Campaigns from MK11 & MK11: Aftermath
• Play as the komplete 37-character roster including newly added fighters Mileena, Rain & Rambo
• Thousands of skins, weapons & gear for an unprecedented level of fighter customization
• Includes all previous guest fighters: Terminator, Joker, Spawn & RoboCop
• Every mode including Towers of Time, Krypt, Tutorial, Online, Klassic Towers & more
• All Stages, Stage Fatalities, Brutalities, Iconic Fatalities & Friendships

It has been years since I delved into a Mortal Kombat game, and while I didn’t know much about the current mythos, it wasn’t hard to figure it all out. Of course, many gamers just want to delve into various head on head battles, and those are just spectacular. The fatalities in this game are just gorgeous in their goriness, and I always get a sense of accomplishment when I nail some killer moves. Of course, there’s no way you want to be playing Mortal Kombat II with the kids around because this is an absolutely violent video game, but one that really highlights how great games look on the PS5.

Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla (Ubisoft)

This is another title that is tailor made for a next-gen experience. In Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, you play as the Viking Eivor, who loses their parents at a young age and grows into a massive warrior that’s drawn into a conflict between two factions familiar to fans of the franchise. The Gold edition of the game includes:

– Lead epic Viking raids against Saxon troops and fortresses.
– Dual-wield powerful weapons and relive the visceral fighting style of the Vikings.
– Challenge yourself with the most varied collection of enemies ever in Assassin’s Creed.
– Shape the growth of your character with every choice and carve a path to glory.
– Explore a Dark Age open world, from the shores of Norway to the kingdoms of England.
– Personalize your experience by growing your settlement.
– Season Pass
– The Legend of Beowolf

Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla is an open-world game that doesn’t entirely hold your hand as you traverse you environments. I didn’t have a problem with that at all, mainly because the visuals are so glorious to look at. There are multiple side-quests to go along with the main storyline, which allows you to proceed playing at your own particular pace. Like Mortal Kombat, I haven’t immersed myself in the world of Assassin’s Creed (the most recent title I played and enjoyed is Syndicate), but I believe that’s good thing. Players shouldn’t have to be reliant on a ton of backstory or familiarity to enjoy a game in my mind, and with the PlayStation 5 getting strong reviews, it’s important that newcomers are able to pick up a title that looks good to them and be able to get started with a minimum of fuss. That’s been my absolutely experience with Valhalla, and it’s allowed me to become not only engaged in the storytelling, but to also really enjoy the world I’m playing in.

Whether the gamer in your life has played every previous Assassin’s Creed game, or if their new to the concept and the world, Valhalla is an excellent experience on the PS5.

Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War (Activision)

This game is killer. I know, that’s an easy line, but damnit, it’s 100% true. From the moment it kicked off, I absolutely loved Black Ops. The Cross-Gen Bundle includes:

– Both PS5™ version of game and PS4™ version
– Land, Sea and Air Pack
– 3 Operator Skins
– 3 Vehicle Skins
– 3 Weapon Blueprints
– Battle Pass Bundle (1 Season Battle Pass + 20 Tier Skips)*
– Confrontation Weapons Pack – includes 2 weapon blueprints

The main story campaign, in which its the early 1980s and you playing as part of a Black Ops team trying to capture a Soviet spy called Perseus instantly hooked me. I felt like I was part of a Mission: Impossible movie or a member of an elite strike force that may be called G.I. Joe. One of the first missions is a flashback to Vietnam, complete with helicopter shootouts and I was waiting for “Flight of the Valkyrie” to kick in.

As someone who tends to not love first person shooters, Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War worked from me from the word go. I understood the control mechanisms, they made sense to me, and that allowed me to not have to think much about about what I had to do or how to do it. If you know someone looking for first person shooter, either on the PS5 or PS4, this game is a no brainer for its single person campaign alone. Very recommended.

Observer: System Redux (Bloober Team)

Here’s another first person game that I’ve actually really been enjoying. I say actually because when I first spent some time with this Blade Runner-esque, cyber-noir story starring the late, great Rutger Hauer as a detective (observer) trying to track down his estranged son, on the PS4 I just couldn’t get into it. Maybe it was bad timing, maybe because I couldn’t instantly figure everything out, but I must admit I just didn’t give Observer a fair shake.

However, with this new PS5 version, which has been expanded and enhanced, I allowed the title to unfold without stressing out when I couldn’t instantly figure everything. By doing so, I really got into playing the game. Lockdowned in an apartment complex (lockdown sure is familiar right now), so much of Observer: System Redux involves listening (when you interview people) and actually observing (rooms and bodies), I found myself getting increasingly involved and observant (that word again).

Observer: System Redux includes:

Enjoy massively reduced loading times thanks to the SSD and experience an augmented level of immersion with the Dual Sense controller. Feel object resistance, surface texture, damage feedback, heartbeat simulation and more thanks to the adaptive triggers and haptic feedback.

Veteran Observers can dive deeper into this dystopian reality thanks to three brand-new side cases to solve. “Errant Signal”, “Her Fearful Symmetry” and “It Runs in the Family” add another layer of depth to the game’s story while exploring thought-provoking themes of a future that soon might become our present. On top of that, System Redux offers expanded gameplay, which includes new game mechanics, new secrets to find, redesigned stealth, additional neural interrogations, and quality-of-life improvements made with the help of the Observer community.

Of all the games on this list so far, Observer: System Redux is by far the slowest burn, but at a reasonable price, I think it’s well-worth it for the William Gibson/Phillip K. Dick fan in your life.

NBA 2K21 (2K)

And now we come back the company we kicked things off with, 2K, and their venerable NBA 2K franchise that makes its debut on next-gen consoles. This title is pretty much a no-brainer for any NBA fan who either has or is getting a PlayStation 5 for the holidays. The game looks as true to life as your could hope for, and there are times that I definitely shook my head while playing, wondering if this was indeed a video game or the real deal.

NBA 2K21 includes:

  • NEXT-LEVEL VISUALS & IMMERSION: The next generation of basketball has arrived. Featuring breathtaking graphics, NBA 2K basketball looks and feels like a completely new and lifelike experience.
  • WELCOME TO THE CITY: Explore a vast City comprised of multiple distinct Neighborhoods in this completely reimagined basketball role-playing experience.
  • A SMOOTHER, TOUGHER GAME: NBA 2K has never moved so well and felt this good.
  • MyCAREER: Embark on your journey through a new cinematic basketball storyline entitled The Long Shadow.

One aspect of NBA 2K21 I want to call out is the absolutely outstanding commentary that comes with every game. It’s fluid and adds so much to the experience to make you feel like you’re in the game. As someone whose 2K sporting game experience is mainly with the WWE franchise, where the commentary is often an aspect that is lacking, the NBA 2K21 announcing is refreshing and something worth complimenting.

While longtime gamers likely will have no trouble picking up and playing NBA 2K21, I will say that newbies will likely need to have a bit of patience as they figure out the mechanics of the game, the passing and shooting and how to nail those slam dunks. The payoff for that patience is well worth it, though, as NBA 2K21 is an exemplary demonstration of sports games in a next-gen world.

And there you have, my look at many of the games I’ve been playing on the PlayStation 5. There are others, too, but I’m still making my way through Miles Morales (and yes, it’s as good as you’ve heard – it’s a definite must-have for Marvel fans), and Astro’s Playroom comes with the system itself (the Princess LOVES this one). Hopefully someone you know and love has a PS5 already or is getting one soon enough. They won’t go wrong with any of the games on the list.

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