Free-to-play games have become increasingly popular in recent years, but before now you would only normally expect to see them appearing on PC or mobile. Recently, though, we have been seeing more and more F2P games appear on consoles, some of which are well worth your time. Here, in no particular order, are the best free-to-play games available on the Xbox One and PS4.
DC Universe Online - Daybreak Game Company
This popular MMORPG based on the DC comic universe was initially released in 2011, and is available on PS3 and PS4, with an Xbox One edition to arrive some time very soon. In the game you can create a hero or villain and go to war against the other side, meeting DC comic legends like Batman, Superman, Lex Luthor, and The Joker. You can play this game for quite some time without paying a penny, should you wish; the problem is that eventually you'll hit a wall, and will end up needing to pay for more story segments or player features. If you were to play without paying, the game still offers plenty to do, and you could probably end up getting a few months out of it. The main paywalls for the game revolve around trade limits and other similar restrictions if you aren't a premium member, which might be frustrating, but is totally workable. Then again, if you've played a game for that long and got plenty of value out of the experience, there's no harm in paying a little.
Warframe - Digital Extremes
Available on both Xbox One and PS4, Warframe is a unique third-person shooter allowing you to change into multiple sets of armour, called 'Warframes,' that offer you different bonuses. It's probably one of the best titles to adopt the free-to-play model. As with most free-to-play games, there is a premium currency, platinum, which allows you to buy items faster than you can with the standard currency. Of course, there are cosmetic items that can only be bought with platinum, but it doesn't have any effect on the game balance. The one thing that is truly locked and must be bought with platinum is the weapon and Warframe slots. Even then, platinum can be traded between players, so if you have a particularly strong set of armour or a nice weapon, someone may be willing to offer up some platinum which in turn might allow you to buy some additional slots. Sure, the game is quite grindy if you aren't willing to pay any money, but it offers great replayability and you can play single-player, co-op, or PvP, so you surely won't run out of things to do.
War Thunder - Gaijin Entertainment
Gaijin Entertainment's wildly popular plane and tank sim was of course going to make this list. Often a game will be free-to-play, but you find that to enjoy it to the fullest extent you need to pay something extra to unlock an item or character. The great thing about War Thunder's F2P model is that this isn't the case. As we've been seeing in more and more free-to-play games, there are two currencies available - here they're called Silver Lions and Golden Eagles - and almost every plane can be purchased using both. Golden Eagles are acquired through real money, while Silver Lions are earned through playing. This ensures that buying a new plane or tank won't get you an advantage over someone who grinds their way through the vehicle tree, and paying for vehicles just gives you a shortcut to higher tiers. To avoid an unbalance in matchmaking, you only come up against people of the same tier vehicle as you, so someone who pays for a high-tier (and thus more powerful) plane or tank won't come up against you piloting your bucket of bolts. Plus, even if you're simply using the lowest grade of plane, you can still have a blast on one of the game's many modes. War Thunder is available on both the PlayStation 4 and PC.
World of Tanks - Wargaming
Part of Wargaming's "World of" series, Tanks sits alongside Warplanes which, as you'd guess, has a focus on planes, and Warships. World of Tanks, however, is the only entry in the series that is available on console. It has recently launched on PS4, joining the existing Xbox One and Xbox 360 version, and features tanks and armoured vehicles from the mid to early 1900s. Like many games that employ the free-to-play model, there is a premium currency which is bought with real money, allowing players to buy vehicles and upgrades faster than those who do so with standard currency, along with a few premium tanks only available with gold. The game offers realistic tank combat, albeit with an arcade-like edge. A true giant in the free-to-play space, WoT has a huge community of players, and thanks to regular content updates, it's still feeling fresh after many years.
Loadout - Edge of Reality
Another shooter makes this list, but this one is considerably more arcade-focused than the others. This third-person shooter is comparable in visuals to something like Team Fortress 2, Valve's action-packed hat collector on PC. The one is a fun little shooter, and the weapon customisation is impressive, with lots of interchangeable parts on the gun resulting in a considerable change in how it works or its firepower. Most of the gun parts are unlockable through normal play, but you have the option to buy the parts you want without grinding through the unlockables. This is fine, but puts forward the question of balance when a player who is trying to work his way up to his desired part gets blown away by someone who just bought it and is therefore more powerful.
Killer Instinct - Double Helix / Iron Galaxy
The only fighting game to make the list, the Killer Instinct reboot is available on Xbox One (and now PC) and is considered by many to be a very good competitive fighting game, appearing at the biggest tournaments like Evo and Final Round. And you can play the game completely free, albeit you'll be playing a limited version of the game. The free-to-play aspect is unique to a fighting game in that you can play as one fighter on a weekly rotation, meaning you will eventually be able to play as each one. With the free edition you can play in all game modes, including online, allowing you to get a good experience. Should you wish to play other characters, you can buy them individually or in packs. This is a nice free-to-play model that we see in popular MOBAs and a few PC titles, and the system translates well into the fighting genre.
Blacklight Retribution - Zombie Studios
Available on PS4, this enjoyable shooter is easy to get into and can be loads of fun when played in short bursts. Set in a heavily industrialised city, you can expect to be drawn into the gritty atmosphere and dark undertones that are contained in the game's aesthetic. The gunplay is solid, and the game also allows you to pilot lumbering mechs to give you the edge over the competition. The game's free-to-play model is reminiscent of most games in this list; with a standard currency earned through normal play, and a premium currency only obtainable via shelling out cash. Everything in the game is purchasable with both, with the exception of a few cosmetics. You can have a hell of a lot of fun in this game without paying a penny, as the guns are all similarly powered, meaning you will always be on an equal footing with the competition.
Planetside 2 - Daybreak Game Company
Possibly the most ambitious game on this list, this massively multiplayer first-person shooter sees you playing as one of three different factions, battling against one another in a competition for supremacy over huge persistent maps. The battle doesn't end when you stop playing, instead the war rages on, and control over territory consistently shifts between the factions. There are a great many vehicles, ranging from light cars to massive carrier aircraft, and buckets of fun can be had even as a completely free player. The feeling you get when charging over a ridge to attack a base with countless other players is something not easily replicated in many other games. Planetside 2 makes its money via an in-game cash shop which allows players to purchase in-game 'convenience items' and cosmetics with real money. There is also a subscription service that lets you level up faster and gain more resources, which is used to buy grenades and med kits. In a game that you play with a great many players at once, the difference between a player who pays and someone who doesn't is minuscule, and you likely won't notice.
Smite - Hi-Rez Studios
Probably the most popular game here, this third-person MOBA began on PC and has recently been made available on both consoles, with Xbox players getting the game a little earlier. Smite is a highly competitive arena battler, which is similar to the PC's most profitable free-to-play games, League of Legends and DotA2. There are a number of different playable characters, called Gods. You can use these Gods to battle your way across a number of different arenas and modes, from a standard lane format to an all-out arena brawl. Each week, a number of Gods are on rotation, meaning they are playable for free. Over time, you will build up a free currency which you can use to permanently unlock any of the Gods at varying prices. You can also buy the premium currency, which you can use to buy the Gods and skins, making the characters you play with feel more unique. The game follows an almost identical free-to-play formula to League of Legends, which has proven to be highly successful in the past. It's one of those titles that, provided you get into it enough, you'll probably end up spending a little money on it, but given the quality of the game, that shouldn't be an issue.
More and more games are adopting the F2P model, and so you can expect us to update this article with additional titles as and when they make an appearance on console.