Is free-to-play the future of fighting games?

When it comes to video game genres, fighting games tend to be a step behind the curve. The fact that it took an entire pandemic for developers to finally look into better netcode for fighters speaks volumes.

At an even more basic level, the way fighting games operate has been called “archaic” by players who feel that the genre is in need of a switch-up to make them more accessible to modern, mainstream audiences. One of the fighting game community’s main talking points at the moment is free-to-play (FTP), a popular business model that fighting games have largely shied away from, even as games like shooters find success with the practice. If the genre wants to remain competitive in today’s modern landscape, it may need to make that pivot soon — but it’s not as simple as it sounds.

The barriers of the genre

A part of the perceived “need” for the change comes from the sheer number of fighting games out there right now and on the horizon. Maximilian “Dood” Christiansen, a high-profile fighting game content creator, has studied and enjoyed the genre for decades and follows this mindset.

Christiansen has previously noted that older fighting games were able to stay relevant due to a lack of options in the past, which meant one game could hold a player’s attention more easily. Today, there’s a larger variety of quality titles to choose from. However, each brings its own extra costs, from the price of the game itself to DLC to subscriptions that allow players to fight online. Fighting games are expensive enough as is, so your average player isn’t likely to invest in several games simply out of curiosity.

“Most fighting games are gonna result in the same problem until there’s big sales, expansions, or a reason to check out an old thing, because a new thing is really cool,” Christiansen states in a video titled “Please make fighting games free to play“. “But there’s always the barrier, right? You have to pull out your wallet and spend money. If you didn’t have to do that and shit was just free and you can just fire it up and try it, then of course you’re going to find people. That game will always have people playing.”

That paralysis of choice leads to another major problem that Max also brings up: Massive skill gaps. If you’ve ever gone online with older fighting games as a new player, there’s a 90% chance you’ll run into a veteran who can destroy you as they make a sandwich, brush their teeth, and update their LinkedIn account at the same time. For many, it can make games feel “unfair” for new players, creating a barrier to entry.

That’s not to say this issue wouldn’t be a thing with free-to-play fighters as well. However, the nature of this “try before you buy” model would lead to a greatly diverse and potentially ever-growing pool of players at different skill levels. This means more beginners can match up with other beginners instead of being pitted against veterans of the game.

The future of fighters?

A free-to-play model is a proposed solution to those hurdles. Players like Christiansen see going free-to-play as a way to not only keep the initial investing audience around, but to welcome in new players too. That could theoretically reduce the dramatic difference in skill level that new players experience.

Fighting games are expensive compared to a lot of modern multiplayer games (many of which are free-to-play in some way). There’s a chance a new player won’t enjoy the game, but not find out until spending hours learning. One might have the only character they enjoy locked behind DLC, meaning not just paying for the game, but additional content as well. All these barriers are pushed to the sidelines with the FTP model.

While not the most popular with the fighting game community, there are titles that have gone this route. Killer Instinct and the Smash Bros-esque platform fighter Brawlhalla embraced a FTP model. I personally have invested tons of hours into Killer Instinct and found that I love how it handles its model.

When I booted up Killer Instinct for the first time in years, I knew there were only a few characters I was interested in. After researching them, I bought those characters and quickly found my main at a much lower price than purchasing a full fighting game and its DLC. Killer Instinct even allows players to access non-purchased characters as training dummies, which is an ingenious move and something I wish all fighting games would do. It means I don’t have to waste money buying characters I don’t want to use, but need to practice against if I want to stand a chance online.

While it seems similar to the standard fighting game DLC practices, it stands out in an honest manner by allowing curious players to test out two characters for free to learn and find out if they like the game’s engine and mechanics. There’s also a third free-to-use character that rotates throughout the roster on a weekly basis. Implementation such as this gives players the ability to try before they buy. Instead of purchasing an entire package, they can buy the pieces they want. It’s a smart formula for a genre where many only want to play as three or four different characters.

Good implementation of FTP in fighting games can be seen in Brawlhalla, which still boasts 10,000 players online daily, according to Steamcharts. With the upcoming Warner Bros. crossover fighter Multiversus being an FTP fighter with mainstream characters, it may even break those numbers and more records of the genre.

Free-to-play, but not flawless

It all sounds like a slam dunk in theory, but the reality isn’t so simple. Traditional fighting games like Killer InstinctFantasy Strike, and Dead or Alive 6 that have gone FTP still haven’t been able to hold on to a consistent player base despite the model. Brawlhalla has found more success, but it features a more casual playstyle akin to Super Smash Bros. rather than something “hardcore” like Street Fighter.

Free-to-play could introduce new issues for the genre too. Professional fighting game analyst, commentator, and once competitor Sajam talks about how games like Fortnite seemingly drop a never-ending well of skins, wraps, effects, emotes, and more to keep players in their wallets and spending in the item shop. While not the case for every fighter, certain fighting game studios just don’t generate the revenue needed to keep up with such a model. The FTP model has also been poisoned by games that tried, and failed, to make the model work.

Wasn’t Tekken Revolution Free to Play In a screwed up way? We had stats that we can improve which changed the gameplay. We also had randomly occurring critical hits that we had no control over

— Rauschka (@Rauschka_tk) April 5, 2022

Games like Tekken Revolution and Dead or Alive 6: Core Fighters left sour tastes in the mouths of community members when they exposed how scummy the model can feel. Tekken Revolution featured pay-to-win stat boosts and only allowed players to fight in five matches at a time unless they bought a ticket to continue. A general lack of content and support for DoA:6 led to its quick death.

There’s also the fact that fighting games tend to be harder than the other competitive games out there. They aren’t made to be easily digestible to a casual audience like Smash Bros. and its clones like Brawlhalla and Multiversus. Just because you make it free to pick up and learn how to do a quarter-circle forward to half-circle back motion, doesn’t mean many will still want to do so. The genre just isn’t as approachable as, say, a shooter — and that’s another hurdle that many fans used to write off FTP.

While there are issues that can come with going free-to-play, it’s still an approach worth exploring. The positives outweigh the negatives and many community members are on board for a game like Street Fighter 6 taking a Fortnite-like approach. Will developers be willing to upend a classic genre so easily? If the long-archaic past and present of fighting games is anything to go by, probably not. But if a major release ever did, it’s possible that others could follow suit.

Many are looking to Riot’s upcoming fighting game, Project L, as the litmus test of the model in the genre thanks to the company’s past with FTP. With its reach, knowledge, and possible support from the fighting game community, it could easily be the game to revolutionize fighters going forward. However, there are a lot of “ifs” in that argument, so we’ll have to see if it can win over the skeptics.

Editors’ Choice

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The 15 Best Apple Arcade Games of 2021

Apple Arcade, arguably the best thing to ever happen to mobile gaming, offers a huge library of ad-free, high-quality games for the iPod touch, iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Apple TV. This past year brought dozens of new games to the platform, including remastered versions of classic mobile titles and entirely new hits with excellent graphics.


Quick Apple Arcade Primer

Not familiar with Apple Arcade? The service is a subscription-based platform that gives Apple device owners access to a growing library of mobile games. The titles offered to subscribers are ad-free and can be accessed across Apple’s device ecosystem, including on Apple TV devices.

Customers have two different Apple Arcade plan options: the standalone game platform for $4.99/month or Apple One, a bundle with half a dozen Apple services like TV+ and Music, for $14.95/month. Once you sign up, you’ll have access to more than 200 games, including the 15 exciting titles below.


Oddmar is an action-adventure platformer game that revolves around a Viking warrior named Oddmar. The title revolves around Norse and Viking mythology, magic included, offering 24 total levels packed with magical weapons, enemies, bosses, puzzles, and other challenges.

Players are tasked with taking Oddmar through a variety of landscapes, including everything from the top of snowy mountains to the mines under the fantasy world. Complete the quest and you’ll distinguish yourself as a formidable warrior, earning a place in Valhalla.

The game was released for Apple Arcade with the title Oddmar+ on December 3, 2021.

LEGO Star Wars: Castaways

LEGO Star Wars: Castaways is the latest installment in the LEGO Star Wars universe, one created specifically for the Apple Arcade platform. This title offers a social action-adventure experience set on an abandoned secret planet filled with technology from an ancient civilization. Players can create their own characters, explore an island, participate in battle arenas, relive “key Star Wars moments” in the LEGO versions of iconic locations, and more.

The game, which is rated as suitable for players ages 9 and older, was released on Apple Arcade on November 19, 2021.

NBA 2K22 Arcade Edition

2K brought an exclusive version of 2K22 to the Apple Arcade platform in October, giving basketball fans another way to enjoy the game on their iPad or other Apple device. The game allows players to put in the work for All-Star status or, with “The Association,” climb the ladder to become a Head Coach or GM for an NBA franchise. Top NBA athletes are included in Arcade Edition, including Jayson Tatum and Damian Lillard, among others.

2K22 Arcade Edition is suitable for players ages 4 and older; it includes multiplayer support for two people, as well as controllers.

Crossy Road

Crossy Road+ is the Apple Arcade version of the popular Frogger-like title already available on mobile devices and other platforms like Fire TV. The game, which is rated for ages 9 and older, presents a blocky world full of cars and other obstacles players must avoid while getting to the other side of the road(s). In addition to controller support, Crossy Road is great for devices with limited storage at only 273MB.

Thumper: Pocket Edition

Thumper: Pocket Edition brings a colorful space beetle to Apple Arcade, tasking players with navigating nine colorful, intense levels packed full of psychedelic visuals and boss battles. The game is unique, ridiculously fun, and suitable for players ages 9 and older. Even better, Thumper: Pocket Edition includes 120fps gameplay on devices that support it. Keep in mind that for the best experience, developer Drool says players should use wired, not wireless, headphones during gameplay.

LEGO Star Wars Battles

LEGO Star Wars Battles is another title from the Star Wars universe that hit Apple Arcade this year. Unlike Castaways, however, Battles is a real-time strategy game with player-versus-player battles set in a variety of arenas. The game is suitable for players ages 9 and older, plus it doesn’t require a controller (though one can be used if desired).

Castlevania: Grimoire of Souls

Castlevania: Grimoire of Souls arrived on the Apple Arcade platform on September 17, giving fans of the beloved franchise an entirely new title to enjoy. Konami’s Grimoire of Souls is rated for ages 9 and older; it includes controller support and is designed with an old-school side-scrolling action game format.

Asphalt 8: Airborne

Popular racing game Asphalt 8: Airborne hit Apple Arcade in late August, offering up to eight players the opportunity to race each other in a variety of stunning landscapes.

The game includes cars from some of the world’s most notable makers, including Audi, Mercedes, Ducati, and Ferrari, as well as an extensive career mode with more than 400 career events. The game is rated for players ages 12 and older, but keep in mind the title’s 2.7GB size — you may need to uninstall a few apps to make room for the game.

Detonation Racing

If you’re burned out on Asphalt 8 and looking for a different racing game, check out Detonation Racing added back in July. Developer Electric Square calls its title the “least sensible racing series ever devised.” What makes it so chaotic?

Detonation Racing is full of hazards and amusing gameplay, including the ability to drop submarines on the track to knock out opponents, explosions, and even taking different routes (mostly caused by explosions) to win. The game is suitable for players ages 9 and older; it includes multiplayer support for up to four racers, plus controller support.

Alto’s Odyssey: The Lost City

The endless runner game Alto’s Odyssey took off in mobile gaming circles a few years ago when it launched. Fast-forward to this past summer and Apple Arcade subscribers now have access to Alto’s Odyssey: The Lost City, a similar title that offers new landscapes across four different biomes.

Players are tasked with finding The Lost City and uncovering its secrets. The title is rated for players ages 4 and older, plus there’s controller support. Even better, the game requires very little device storage space at only 183MB.

Leo’s Fortune

Leo’s Fortune, a mobile platformer that revolves around getting back stolen gold, presents some of the best graphics you’ll find on Apple Arcade. Each of the game’s 24 levels features beautiful atmospheric designs that look particularly stunning on Apple’s 4K devices, while the overall gameplay reminds me of older PlayStation 3 platformer titles.

1337 & Senri’s mobile platformer is rated for players ages 9 and older.

Star Trek: Legends

Star Trek: Legends was one of many titles dropped on Apple Arcade back in April. The mobile game allows Trekkers to play as their favorite characters from every generation of the TV shows. Legends is an RPG with battles, turn-based combat, and exploration.

The game includes excellent 3D graphics for a mobile game, as well as the ability to download updates in the background while continuing to play. The single-player game is rated for players ages 9 and older.

The Oregon Trail

Gameloft’s The Oregon Trail arrived on Apple Arcade back in April, giving a new generation of players the opportunity to experience a reimagined version of the hit 1971 game by the same name. The Oregon Trail features a mixture of retro-like pixel art and more modern graphics, as well as a storyline that mixes “the totally extreme” in with historically accurate elements.

The game’s developer rates The Oregon Trail as suitable for kids ages 12 and older; it supports controllers, but requires a somewhat hefty 2GB of storage space.

The Room Two

The Room Two, which arrived on Apple Arcade around the beginning of 2021, boasts nearly perfect ratings in the App Store at 4.9 out of 5 stars. The puzzle game tasks players with following a scientist’s letters as they explore a unique environment and try to solve a mystery.

The game is suitable for players ages 9 and older, plus it only requires 419MB of storage space.

Angry Birds Reloaded

There’s a reason new Angry Birds games are still being made more than a decade after the initial game’s launch. The incredibly popular series returned earlier this year with the release of Angry Birds Reloaded on Apple Arcade, giving fans access to a variety of new birds, pigs, and puzzles to solve by launching birds at pigs.

Players can expect a total of 45 new levels in the Apple Arcade release of this Angry Birds game, a new Eagles game mode, and the same slingshot-based gameplay first experienced back in 2009. The game is rated for kids ages 4 and older, plus there’s controller support and only a 460MB installation size.

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Godfall leads the final batch of PlayStation Plus games for 2021

With the beginning of December comes a new batch of PlayStation Plus games. 2021 has seen some solid months for PlayStation Plus and others that may have fallen short of expectations, but it seems that the service will end the year on a high note. As usual, there will be three games up for grabs in December, but they’re joining some bonus PlayStation VR games that are carrying over from the previous month.

PlayStation Plus games for December 2021

Undoubtedly, the headliner of December is Godfall: Challenger Edition. Godfall was a launch title for the PlayStation 5, and though it was met with middling reviews (the PS5 version has a 61 on Metacritic), it’s hard to deny that the game has some pretty visuals. If you’re a PS5 owner who saw Godfall at launch and decided to wait for a discount, it looks like now is the time to strike.

Godfall: Challenger Edition comes with three new modes: Lightbringer, Dreamstones, and the Ascended Tower of Trials. Though Sony notes in its announcement today that all of these modes are intended for endgame players, it seems that they do all serve as expansions to the base game. Godfall: Challenger Edition will be available for both PS5 and PS4 through PlayStation Plus in December.

Even though Godfall might be the headliner, it isn’t as if the other two games are slouches. Lego DC Super-Villians and Mortal Shell will be the other two games on offer for the month, and while they’re both PS4 games, they’ll also be playable on PS5. Lego DC Super-Villians needs little introduction given the long-running Lego DC series, but Mortal Shell could be worth the bandwidth for those who are looking for an action RPG with similarities to the Dark Souls series.

PlayStation VR freebies still up for grabs

Alongside these PS5 and PS4 titles, it’s worth remembering that there are still some PlayStation VR freebies available. The games up for grabs include The Persistence, The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners, and Until You Fall. These were added to the PlayStation Plus lineup last month in celebration of the PSVR’s fifth anniversary, and they’ll be available through January 3rd.

Of course, you’ll need a PSVR headset to be able to play these games, but if you’re planning to get one in the future, nothing is stopping you from claiming them now and letting them sit in your library until a headset is in your possession. Keep in mind that the existing PSVR headset is compatible with PS5 too, though Sony has already announced that it’s working on a next-generation PSVR.

Godfall: Challenger Edition, Lego DC Super-Villains, and Mortal Shell will all be free to download via PlayStation Plus beginning on December 7th and will be available until January 3rd. If you haven’t already, you still have a few days to claim November’s PS Plus games – Knockout City, First Class Trouble, and Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning – as those will be available until December 6th.

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Game Boy Advance ‘hacked’ to run PlayStation games using a Raspberry Pi

The Game Boy Advance is useful in the modern era for more than watching Christopher Nolan blockbusters. Gizmodo notes that tinkerer Rodrigo Alfonso has Nintendo’s 20-year-old handheld running PlayStation (and Genesis, and SNES) games without special modifications. The trick, as you might imagine revolves around a custom cartridge — you’re technically running the game on a separate system.

The cartridge houses a Raspberry Pi 3 mini-computer running the RetroPie emulator and streaming both video and input through the GBA’s multiplayer-oriented Link Port. Yes, that’s constraining as you think it is — you can’t transfer more than 1.6Mbps bi-directionally, and the Pi has to routinely give the “poor” GBA’s processor a break for a few microseconds. Alfonso suggests lowering the stream resolution from the console’s native 240 x 160 if a high frame rate is important.

Still, the results are mostly impressive. The special cart can handle classics like the Crash Bandicoot series and Spyro the Dragon at smooth frame rates, albeit with some video artifacts that reflect the limited bandwidth. You can overclock the GBA’s processor to improve the frame rate and quality.

You’ll have to build the cartridge and load code yourself, although Alfonso has helpfully provided both on GitHub. This probably won’t replace a PSP if you want the most authentic PlayStation handheld experience you can get. It might, however, give you a reason to dig your GBA out of the closet.

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Epic Games buys Harmonix to create ‘musical journeys’ in ‘Fortnite’

Epic Games has , the studio behind titles like Guitar Hero, Rock Band, Dance Central and more recently . Financial terms have not been disclosed. Epic’s vision for Harmonix involves the . In the immediate future, the two plan to create “musical journeys and gameplay for Fortnite.”

Viewed through that lens, Epic’s interest in the studio makes a lot of sense. Outside of frequent , Fortnite is at this point best known for its virtual concerts. In the last two years, a handful of major artists like and have drawn a lot of interest to the game. In the latter case, for example, more than .

In the meantime, Harmonix says it will continue to support its existing slate of games. That means Rock Band players can continue to look forward to new DLC and Fuser players can expect the studio to continue hosting events. Additionally, any game that’s currently available through Steam will continue to be sold through Valve’s storefront.

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Epic Games just bought Rock Band developer Harmonix

Epic is expanding its portfolio once more, announcing today that it has purchased Harmonix. While Harmonix has been a little quiet in recent years, the company was a household name not too long ago, developing some of the early Guitar Hero titles before eventually moving on and creating the Rock Band and Dance Central franchises. Now it will be joining Epic Games, and while it’ll still be working with music, it sounds like a Rock Band revival isn’t in the cards at the moment.

Epic buys Harmonix in a play for the Metaverse

While Harmonix and Epic are keeping some details close to the chest for now, there were some important details revealed today. In a blog post on its website, Harmonix says that it will be “working with Epic to once again challenge expectations as we bring our unique brand of musical gaming experiences to the Metaverse, and we couldn’t be more excited.”

That’s slightly vague, but Harmonix gets a bit clearer later in a brief FAQ about the acquisition. The company says that it will be working to “create musical journeys and gameplay for Fortnite.” That, again, doesn’t give a whole lot away, but it sounds like we can look forward to Harmonix’s musical touch in Fortnite at some point in the future.

It does seem like buying an entire development studio just to have it contribute to Fortnite is an exercise in excess, so Epic may have more extensive plans for Harmonix later on down the road. For now, however, it seems like the company will be tasked with making Fortnite a little more musical, and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing given Harmonix’s history.

What this means for Steam, Rock Band, and Fuser

An Epic acquisition like this always comes with a bunch of questions given Epic’s ongoing battle for market share against Steam, and thankfully, we have some answers on that front. In that same FAQ, Harmonix says that it will continue with its existing plans for Rock Band DLC, Rock Band Rivals seasons, and Fuser events, so nothing is changing in regards to those.

The studio also says that its games will remain on Steam following the acquisition, which is good news indeed. Epic isn’t above acquiring studios and removing their games from Steam in a play to grow the Epic Games Store’s userbase – in fact, it did just that when it acquired Rocket League developer Psyonix. Once that acquisition was complete, Rocket League disappeared from Steam and was listed on the Epic Games Store as a free-to-play title, though everyone who already owned the game through Steam could continue playing through that platform.

If you were hoping that the financial backing of Epic could potentially mean that Harmonix would send Rock Band instruments back into production, unfortunately, it seems that won’t be the case. Harmonix says there’s no current plan to make more Rock Band instruments, which have shot up in price in recent months. If you’re looking to pick up Rock Band again, it sounds like you’ll just have to keep an eye out for a deal on second-hand instruments or shell out for the expensive ones listed on eBay.

So, for now, we don’t know what Epic has in mind for Harmonix, but hopefully, more specifics will be coming around the bend shortly. We’ll let you know when the two companies share more about this acquisition, so stay tuned.

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Epic Games Store Black Friday sale live: The best deals on games to seek

Black Friday is just a couple of days away, so of course, we’re seeing many digital storefronts kick off their Black Friday sales this week. One such store is the Epic Games Store, which launched its Black Friday sale just a short time ago. Epic is getting the jump on Steam here, launching its Black Friday sale just a few hours before Valve is expected to kick off the Steam Autumn Sale later today.

Big games on sale, but not for long

These Black Friday sales can be seen as something of a precursor to the more extensive winter sales we’re bound to see toward the end of December. For instance, Epic’s Black Friday sale only lasts from today until November 30th, meaning it’ll be live for less than a week. By comparison, the winter sale will probably last a couple of weeks at a minimum to close out 2021 and usher in 2022.

We can probably expect the same from Steam, so these Black Friday sales are really just a primer for sales to come. With that said, if you see a good deal on a game you want during this Black Friday sale, it’s probably a good idea to jump on it now instead of waiting for the larger winter sale to roll around next month. After all, there’s no guarantee that the game will get a similar discount during the next sale, likely though it may seem.

Recommended deals to check out

There are a surprising number of recently released, big-name titles getting discounts in Epic’s Black Friday sale. Some of the highlights include Far Cry 6 for $49.79 (17% off), Back 4 Blood for $41.99 (30% off), and the Crysis Remastered Trilogy for $39.99 (20% off). Epic says this is the first time any of those games have been discounted, and given that they can still be considered new to some extent, we believe it.

Other discounts that stick out to us include Sega’s 4x strategy game Humankind for $39.99 (20% off) and Darkest Dungeon II – a game that only recently launched in early access – with a 10% discount that knocks its price down to $26.99. In addition, Borderlands 3 and Grand Theft Auto V Premium Edition are both down to $14.99, while Horizon Zero Dawn: Complete Edition is half off at $24.99.

The list containing all of the deals stretches on for 12 pages, so there are a ton of deals to sift through. The Epic Games Black Friday sale runs until November 30th, so check out the deals for yourself and see if anything strikes your fancy.

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GameStop’s Black Friday deals include all-time low prices on some Switch games

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GameStop’s Black Friday sale is underway, and it includes some killer deals on games. Several have dropped from $60 to $27, which is the lowest price we’ve seen for them to date. The most notable title here is probably , which is widely considered one of the best games ever. If you haven’t yet checked out the open-world adventure, now’s a great time to do so ahead of the sequel’s .

Several other Switch games have dropped to an all-time low of $27 at GameStop: , , and . As spotted by Nintendo Life, , and are also available at that price, which matches their respective previous lows.

The physical and digital editions of each game are on sale. If you’re buying one as a gift, a physical copy might be the nicer option, but it’s worth noting that GameStop’s free shipping doesn’t kick in until you spend at least $35. So, you might want to treat yourself too.

You can also find deals on . Among them are a third off a year of PlayStation Plus and savings on games including Deathloop, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, Far Cry 6 and FIFA 22.

Get the latest Black Friday and Cyber Monday offers by visiting our deals homepage and following @EngadgetDeals on Twitter.

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The Best Racing Games for PS5

Start your engines and set your shifting to automatic! Video game fans have been infatuated with the need for speed since the ’80s arcade bar. With the power of modern-generation consoles, racing games have taken on a visually stunning persona to match their high-octane gameplay. So what are the best racing games for PlayStation 5? We’ll break each game down by its single-player campaign, multiplayer, and overall performance.

Hot Wheels Unleashed

Hot Wheels Unleashed takes childhood bliss and injects it into a visually stunning current-gen video game. Unlike other Hot Wheels games that went the realism route, Hot Wheels Unleashed shrinks down to the miniature cars and orange tracks you know and love. Hot Wheels‘ attention to detail helps parents appreciate the reimagined toys they grew up with, and its easy-to-master controls make the game accessible to everyone in the house.

The Hot Wheels Unleashed campaign keeps things simple, which may turn off players looking for a more immersive experience. In City Rumble Mode, you’ll either race against the A.I., doing your best to finish third or better, or race against the clock in a series of time trials. A competent gamer should have no problem speedrunning the campaign to unlock as many cars as possible. You won’t be barred by must-have wins and can rest on your bronze-medal laurels to get through the entire game.

Hot Wheels Unleased‘s multiplayer supports up to 12 racers online and two-player split-screen. The game features cross-gen support; however, it does not feature cross-platform support. So, PS4 and PS5 players can join the same lobby, but PlayStation and Xbox players will remain separated. With 66 unlockable cars to choose from, you’ll have plenty of variety in both single and multiplayer. You can drive real-world cars, iconic Hot Wheels classics, and famous rides like the Delorian from Back to the Future. So how do you unlock new cars in Hot Wheels Unleashed?

Hot Wheels Unleashed features two ways to unlock new cars, and neither is linked to spending real-world money through microtransactions. Players can spend their in-game coins on Blind Boxes, rewarding them with a random car. They can also choose from a rotation of vehicles that changes every four hours. Both options often give you cars you’ve already unlocked. Thankfully, you can dismantle duplicate cars for gears, another important in-game currency.

Finally, Hot Wheels Unleashed features an immersive custom track mode allowing you to build the Hot Wheels track of your childhood dreams. While the UI may take a few hours to master, you’ll eventually understand the nuances of bending tracks and placing jumps.


Cars smashing into each other in Wreckfest.

If you’ve ever wanted to throw yourself into the world of derby racing, Wreckfest is the game for you. As one of the best racing games on PS5, Wrefest puts a smile on your face at every turn. It’s a professional racing game that doesn’t take itself too seriously. However, the controls and physics will take some time to master, especially when driving the sofa car — that’s right, we said sofa car. Multiplayer adds a fun layer to the game that’s more than just placing first. With a wide variety of events to choose from, players won’t feel an overly-competitive cloud looming over the multiplayer lobby.

Wreckfest‘s single-player campaign features five tiers with a dozen or more events in each. You’ll work your way up from Regional Juniors to World Masters as you complete events and earn enough points to progress. Thankfully, Wreckfest doesn’t force you to complete every event in a given tier. So, if demolition derby is more your thing, you can focus on all of those events while only having to complete a few races. Each event will earn you points based on your placement. Once you hit the minimum number of points for a given tier, you can move on to the next, even if you have events left over.

Before each race, you’ll have the chance to tune your car based on the given event. Each race features a different driving surface like gravel, dirt, or tarmac. How you tune your car depends on said surface. For example, tuning your suspension to the soft side will keep your tires on the ground when driving on rough surfaces like dirt and gravel, while a stiff suspension is better for tarmac. The difficult choice comes when the tracks are more evenly split, perhaps 50/50 gravel to tarmac. You’ll have to decide where to focus on taking the lead. Maybe the tarmac portion of the race has more straightaways; therefore, you’ll want to accelerate and reach your top speed.

Wreckfest integrates complex driving mechanics with the excitement of derby car racing. Your cars will suffer structural damage as you crash into opponents. Be careful; too much damage may throw off your handling. However, most races come with damage-based bonus objectives like “cause 1,000 points of damage to other racers.”

Aside from standard multiplayer, Wreckfest features a season-based semi-online tournament mode where players earn Fame to purchase seasonal cars and accessories. We call it semi-online because you’ll still be competing against the A.I. in races and demo-derbies. However, the weekly and seasonal events have you trying your best to place on the leaderboard to earn the most Fame.

DiRT 5

Car jumping through fire in DiRT 5.

DiRT 5 ditched the heavy-sim approach of its predecessors and opted for a more arcade-like racing experience. The controls are more manageable, the visuals are stunning, and the campaign is straightforward. DiRT 5 is a game that you can hop in and enjoy at a moment’s notice. However, there isn’t much more under the surface. DiRT 5 offers several different event types and tracks to keep each race feeling fresh in the beginning. However, some of the events start to feel pretty similar as the campaign progresses.

In DiRT 5’s campaign, you’re an up-and-coming off-road racer looking to make a name for themselves in the world of rally car racing. You catch the eye of DiRT superstar Alex Janiček, better known as AJ, who’ll introduce you to the big leagues. The campaign stretches over five long chapters with 130 available events. Like WreckFest, you don’t have to complete every event to pass a chapter, effectively paving your path in the events you feel most comfortable playing.

You’ll earn Stamps based on your performance, which accumulate to unlock the main event of each chapter. The better you place, the quicker you unlock the main event or “boss battle race,” if you will. You’ll also have a handful of side objectives akin to this style of game. While they’re nothing unique, these objectives include “drift for x-seconds” or “trade paint with a rival racer,” things like that. However, you’re compelled to complete these objectives as they’ll unlock secret Throwdown races, which are 1v1s against another racer.

DiRT 5‘s multiplayer centers around party mode, offering alternative ways to play other than your standard races. For example, Vampire Mode, a fan-favorite from DiRT 3, makes its return in DiRT 5. One player starts as the vampire car and must tag other cars to turn them into vampires. Everyone else must avoid the vampire car and maintain their distance until the sun rises. Other party games include King, where players fight to hold the crown for as long as possible, and Transporter, where players fight to deliver a designated item to its destination while fending off other racers.

Finally, DiRT 5 becomes an entirely new game in Playgrounds. Playgrounds is a sandbox mode that allows for the ultimate custom-track building experience within the DiRT world. The controls and physics are easy to pick up, but you’ll still have to spend some time working through the trial and error of any creative sandbox. Thankfully, DiRT 5 has a massive database of user-created maps for inspiration. That, or you can enjoy setting new time-trial records on community maps.

WRC 10

WRC 10 Rally Car on snowy road.

WRC 10 celebrates the 50th anniversary of World Rally Championship racing with the latest game in the official series. If you’re looking for a racing game that emphasizes skill while hyper-focusing on realism, WRC 10 is the game for you. You’ll compete in a litany of races from all over the world across five decades of WRC racing. You’ll compete in historical events stretching back to the 1970s as you look to beat the authentic times set by those drivers. WRC 10 centers on time trials. The only person you’ll ever share the race track with is your co-driver.

WRC 10 features several single-player routes you can take. The main campaign is a highly immersive mode where you’ll control every aspect of your rally car team. Returning fans wish they didn’t have to start from the bottom again, but new players will appreciate the ease-in to the world of Rally Car Racing. Unlike DiRT 5, WRC 10 offers a hyper-realistic driving experience. It’s not an arcade racer you can pick up and play. You’ll tune your car for each track and mix and match tires to find the best handling and speed-friendly combos.

WRC 10 features 19 countries with a variety of tracks to choose from. In total, you’ll have 120 different races to master between campaign and anniversary mode. Anniversary mode features more than 20 challenges spanning 50 years of WRC racing. Races will come with short snippets about the historical event and why it’s considered one of WRC’s most meaningful moments.

Even though WRC 10 is based purely on time trials, players looking for a challenging multiplayer experience are in luck. Players will join lobbies and compete simultaneously to set the best time. You’ll see how well your rivals are doing, but they won’t be present on the track. Dedicated racing gamers understand the dreaded early-race scrum pile. You know, the one where everyone is bumping and crashing into each other on “go!” Thankfully, you won’t experience any of that in WRC 10.

F1 2021

F1 2021 racers on track.

F1 games are the closest to real-life Forumla-1 action you’re going to get. They’re also some of the best racing games on PS5. Of all the games on this list, F1 2021 is the bonafide racing simulator. F1 edges out WRC 10 because you’ll be racing other cars controlled by the A.I. or other players online. The damage system is in-depth, and Breaking Point, the single-player career mode, offers a well-told story of redemption, rivalry, and the road to glory.

In Breaking Point, you’ll control a pair of teammates, Aiden and Dutch. Aiden is a young rookie who’s just been promoted from F2 to F1. Dutch is a seasoned veteran with the gray to show for it. He wants nothing to do with the reckless rookie, especially after a disastrous first race together. The CG and acting are top-notch, and while the story doesn’t move any narrative mountains, it’s a fantastic new edition to the otherwise flat F1 campaign mode.

Outside of Breaking Point, you can play My Team mode, which puts you in control of your own F1 team. You’ll play through seasons, recruit drivers, and upgrade your facilities to become the most dominant force on the F1 track since Red Bull. F1 2021 has simplified R&D (research and development), and you can even let the A.I. take charge while you focus on the facility and team members.

Online, you can choose to partner with or challenge a friend in multiplayer career mode. Other than online careers, Social Play lets you hop in and out of races without worrying about any long-term ranking. Think of Social Play like a casual unranked mode for players new to the world of F1 racing. Collisions are turned off, and you’re free to race at your own pace. You can always take your skills to the ranked leaderboards in multi-lap races and time trials.

MotoGP 21

MotoGP 2021 racers leaning into a turn.

Perhaps cars aren’t your thing. If that’s the case, MotoGP 2021 will satisfy your PlayStation 5 racing needs on the back of a 200 mph motorcycle. MotoGP isn’t a game any casual racing gamer can pick up and play. The fundamentals of racing a motorcycle are inherently different from driving a car. Thankfully, MotoGP offers an in-depth tutorial on how to do everything related to your high-speed bike.

The single-player career works as you’d expect. You’ll control an up-and-coming racer who’s graduated through the ranks of professional racing and has finally reached the big leagues. You’ll have RPG-like control over your team as you earn points by completing objectives in practice and on race day.

Although most reviews harp on the high degree of difficulty, MotoGP 21 does provide you with an unlimited number of rewinds to correct even the tiniest mistakes. The learning curve is pretty steep. Learning how to transfer weight and applying the proper brake pressure are two crucial factors that only scratch the surface of MotoGP‘s physics engine. Furthermore, if you come flying off your bike (a fall that would kill the average human), you’ll have to manually retrieve and pick up your bike to get back in the race. Of course, falling off your motorcycle even once is enough cause to restart the race. It’s at least enough to merit a rewind.

You can compete against other racers in multiplayer, but MotoGPs charm comes from the single-player races. The degree of difficulty is already hard enough. Adding other human players into the mix feels like overkill, especially as bikes fly in every direction.

Riders Republic

Riders Republic's key art.

Finally, if cars and motorcycles aren’t your things, then Riders Republic is the extreme sports racing game for you. Developers at Ubisoft Annecy, the team behind 2016’s Steep, return for its spiritual successor, describing Riders Republic as a “massive multiplayer sports game.” Riders Republic features 6v6 PvP matches along with 50-person downhill races. America’s national parks have been mushed together to form an adrenaline junky’s ultimate paradise. They can ski, snowboard, mountain bike, wingsuit, and jet-wingsuit (yes, we said jet wingsuit) from top to bottom for as long as your heart desires. With stunning visuals to back up entertaining gameplay, Rider’s Republic might be the blend of extreme sport and racing games you’ve been looking for.

You’ll have five different careers to choose from that vary between racing and freestyle. They are snow races, snow tricks, bike races, bike tricks, and air sports. As you level up each career path, you’ll unlock new cosmetic gear to show off as you scream down the mountain. You’ll also earn stars for everything you do in the game. Stars are the in-game currency used to unlock new careers and sponsors.

If you’re looking for a casual online experience, Riders Republic is not a challenging game to pick up. The control schemes are straightforward, and the physics engine is very forgiving. You can ride a mountain bike down any hill and will only crash if you plow headfirst into a tree.

While you can play Rider’s Republic offline, online interactions and leveling are the game’s core. If you’re looking to explore the world without interference, you can enter into Zen Mode. Zen Mode lets you fast-travel anywhere on the map to practice specific runs and tricks. However, to get the full scope of the game, you’ll have to play online.

Online does deliver plenty of events and races. 6v6 trick battles pit two teams against each other to see who can control the most zones on the map. You’ll gain control of zones by performing high-point combos, thus changing the color in your team’s favor. You can always opt for adrenaline-pumping races via mountain bike, winter sport, or wingsuit (with or without jets).

Editors’ Choice

Repost: Original Source and Author Link


Charging Players For Early Access to Games is a Dirty Tactic

Gamers and the gaming industry are in a perpetual battle. The industry wants to make as much money off of players as it can, and players want as much high-quality content for as little money as possible. Every now and then, a publisher will test out some new way to make money, perhaps with DLC, paid cosmetics, or dreaded loot boxes. Generally, those moves are met with outrage — but not always.

One monetization attempt that we have been quick to slap down is anything that is seen as “pay-to-win.” Players can deal with paid cosmetics and DLC content, but the second there’s a whiff in the air that a game is selling some sort of advantage — it’s blood in the water. That’s why I find it so strange that a trend is coming back and, for whatever reason, it isn’t being lambasted as it was in the past. That would be requiring players to pay for early access to games.

Lame marketing ploy

Paying to get a game early is not a new trick for the gaming industry. I clearly remember the lead-up to Deus Ex: Human Revolution and the entire debacle surrounding its pre-order structure. This scheme, called “Augment your pre-order,” had multiple tiers of rewards that unlocked as more people pre-ordered the game, with the final level being the game releasing four days early.

After a major outcry from, well, everyone, the stunt was shut down after just about a month. Aside from the “I never asked for this” memes, the biggest complaint was the early access being restricted to only those who pre-ordered — and only if enough people pre-ordered at that. Whether other companies took note of this massive marketing failure, or I’m giving the community too much credit, we haven’t had to deal with this marketing ploy for the last few years.

Same story, different ending

Forza Horizon 5 cars racing on dirt road.

Two massive games just hit with an arguably worse form of this early access tactic: Forza Horizon 5 and Battlefield 2042. Let’s start with Forza. This is a Microsoft first-party game, meaning it would be free on Game Pass the day it comes out. However, there were also two ways to get the game four days early (sound familiar?). The first is to pre-order the Premium Edition, which costs $100, and the second is to pre-order the $50 Premium Add-Ons Bundle DLC. Hardly anyone batted an eye at these offerings. Perhaps it was because the game was also “free” with Game Pass, or because the game itself turned out great, but the public reaction was much more positive than what we saw with Deus Ex.

Now that the game is actually out, Microsoft is celebrating how many players the game has attracted. According to in-game metrics, around 800,000 people played the game in its early access period, meaning they spent either $50 or $100 for the privilege. That rubs me the wrong way. Forza Horizon 5 has a big multiplayer component, so isn’t it unfair to anyone not willing to shell out that extra cash to have to compete on “day one” against someone who already spent 20 hours learning the game?

Battlefield 2042 offers a much more obvious example. The game officially launched on November 19, but those with an EA Play Membership or Game Pass got a 10-hour trial as early as the 12th. Anyone with EA Play Pro or those who pre-ordered either the Gold or Ultimate Edition flat-out got the game on the 12thg. That’s a full week early for a multiplayer shooter! That means that some players got an entire week to not only learn the game, but level up and unlock new weapons and tools.

If that wasn’t shady enough, there’s also the fact that Battlefield 2042‘s other beta period didn’t exactly instill much confidence in anyone who tried it out. The game was criticized for how many bugs and technical issues it still had to work out. The incentive to pre-order an expensive special edition to play the game early feels like an attempt to lock down people’s money before they find out whether or not the game is good. You can bet plenty of people who gave EA their money to get the game early would have thought twice and waited for the game to get fixed if they had been able to see reviews and impressions.

A character in Starfield.

This strategy of paid early access is most egregious for multiplayer games, but single-player games aren’t safe either. In fact, we have already seen it happen with the likes of Persona 5 Strikers. While it’s technically a spinoff, it’s a sequel to Persona 5, which is a very story-focused game. If you were worried about spoilers leaking, you were kind of forced to pay for early access, which doesn’t benefit anyone but the publisher. You can pay and risk spending a lot of money for a game sight unseen that may not be so great, or wait and either be at a competitive disadvantage, risk the game getting spoiled, or both.

Is this something we’re just OK with? Because now’s the time to speak out if that’s not the case. If this becomes normal now, there’s no going back.

Editors’ Choice

Repost: Original Source and Author Link