Sony has a long history of ups and downs during their E3 press conferences. In 2012, for instance, Sony debuted Beyond: Two Souls, Watch_Dogs, PlayStation All-Stars, and hugely, earning many “E3 Awards”, The Last of Us. However, even with such a strong line-up, they notoriously managed to spend far too much time talking about “Wonderbook.” Among the 2006 showing, in which the painfully high price of the PlayStation 3 was announced, both Resistance: Fall of Man and Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune were shown, in very early stages. The extreme expense of the PS3 left the most impact post-show, but the Resistance series would go on to become a flagship franchise for PlayStation 3 while Uncharted continues to be one of the largest video game properties even today.
History had taught us that they would always have would always have ups and downs, or until last year’s showing, that is. Announcing the PS4’s launch price, as well as showing Destiny, The Order: 1886, inFamous Second Son, and several other games pushing the system; the fan response was almost overwhelming positive. Needless to say, there was a lot to live up to this year. So how did they do? Well, the conference was actually presented very well. Each of the main speakers; being Andrew House, Adam Boyes, Shawn Layden, and the ever lovable Shuhei Yoshida (who received a bigger applause than any of the games) did a great job. I was entertained throughout, and more than anything, I found it to be a lot funnier than any E3 presser I’ve seen in the past. Outside of the comedic trailers, there were plenty of little jokes made by the presenters, and one most notably with Tim Schafer.
Rather than the exciting “sizzle reel” that we’ve all come to expect from PlayStation, the conference instead started with the first of several sizable third party offerings, and yet another trailer for Destiny. Bungie’s departure from Halo still looks like, well, Halo, in my opinion. The combat and vehicle gameplay continues to look and feel very familiar, but in saying that, the fantasy setting, community focus, and especially the magic abilities, make this a lot more interesting than Halo, or to me at least. Additionally, PlayStation players will have the earliest access to the beta and alpha of the game, as well as a Destiny bundle, with a white PS4 console, will be available on launch.
Moving forward, Far Cry 4′s co-op option was announced during a gameplay demo, and admirably, a second player can join a friend in-game even without a copy of it themselves: much like Nintendo’s Download Play functionality. The beautiful mountains are great and all, but who could resist some elephant carnage? Not me. Mortal Kombat X gameplay was also shown for the first time, and introduced two new characters; a bug lady of sorts, and a big guy with a smaller guy on his back. Classics. Battlefield Hardline was shown too, with the typical fast-gun-shooty-zipline-cool-extreme-action-trailer, and a similar Metal Gear Solid V video was played as well; I have no idea what happened in it given the choppy, segmented presentation, but the music was still pretty good.
More exciting, in my opinion, was the debut gameplay for Batman Arkham Knight. This time around, Batman can glide like crazy, and if he does somehow manage to touch the ground, he can call for the Batmobile at any time. Oh, and if driving it around wasn’t exciting enough for you, it also transforms into an all-purpose tank, strafing and shooting at whatever your bat-self wishes. The gameplay demo was interrupted by Bruce Wayne’s old friend Scarecrow, though – fitting with the inclusion of several Scarecrow Nightmare missions exclusive to PlayStation.
Among the announcements for third party games were Bloodborne, Dead Island 2, Let it Die, and a Grim Fandango remake/remaster of some sort. Bloodborne is being developed by From Software, the studio behind Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls games, and it certainly seems in line with what they’ve become known for; it’s also exclusive to the PlayStation 4. Dead Island 2 came out with an awesome trailer, just as the original Dead Island did. Rather than going for the emotionally devastating effect of the first game’s debut, however, this one was more of a ‘pretty funny’ kind of affair. Let it Die is a new Suda 51 game, so all the normal slicy, hacky, slashy stuff looks like it’s back, but I got the impression that it would have some kind of multiplayer component: interesting. Grim Fandango really wasn’t mentioned beyond its announcement, but I know that’ll certainly be a crowd pleaser.
Of course, a bunch of indies were shown, as is common with PlayStation these days, and a heap of them look really cool! Entwined is a dual-stick action-game announced during the conference, and actually released during it too. It’s definitely a cool move to announce something and tell you that you’re able to buy it right away. A great Magicka 2 announcement trailer was shown, as well as an amazing trailer for No Man’s Sky – a procedurally generated game that seems to revolve around space travel and planet exploration. Giant Squid (a developer notable for featuring the art-director and score composer of Journey) announced ABZU. It’s hard to say what the game is at all, based on the debut trailer, but it’s gorgeously vibrant, and it seems it will have you playing as a diver with a big cube torch-thing for a head. Awesome. A bunch of games from Devolver Digital are coming too, most notably Hotline Miami 2 and a first-person-puzzler game called The TALOS Principle; looks awesome to me!
Before getting to Sony’s first party and flagship representation, I’d like to interject first as Sony always does, with some slightly less relevant information. Shawn Layden (Jack Tretton’s replacement as President and CEO of SCEA) shared some interesting PSN statistics. 95% of PS4s are connected to the internet, over 1.25 billion hours have been spent gaming online, over a billion multiplayer sessions have been played, and 220 million captures have been shared since the advent of the PlayStation 4. Those are some pretty cool numbers. What’s cooler, though, is that your PlayStation 4 captures can finally be uploaded straight to YouTube, just as everyone had always wanted.
Another big announcement delivered by Shawn Layden was that “PlayStation Now” is coming soon; allowing streaming of over 100 PS3 games on the PS4, but also on the PS3, the PS Vita, and even some Sony televisions, in time. This is especially useful for players with smaller budgets, given that the PlayStation TV console will be released in the West, as well as Japan. The PlayStation TV hardware allows players to play their PlayStation 4 on multiple televisions in their house, as well as play Vita games and classics downloaded from PSN. Speaking of Vita, over 100 games are in development for it at current time. That’s really all that was mentioned of the system, sadly.
The typical “unwanted segment” was devoted to “POWERS”; an exclusive series based on a comic book series of the same name. The first episode will be free to everyone, and the entire series will be free to PlayStation Plus subscribers. I’m interested in whether this model will be used in future releases, or if it’s a one time incentive to get players involved, but clarification wasn’t given. On the topic of non-gaming entertainment products though, a new trailer for the upcoming Ratchet & Clank movie was shown. As someone who has loved the series for a big part of my life, and someone who typically finds the idea of video game based films to be redundant and patronizing, I actually think it’s looking pretty good. A new Ratchet game retelling the origin according to the narrative of the film will be released alongside it too, surprise, surprise. Both of these will be released early 2015.
The Last of Us on PS4 was given a date, being July 29. What was strange, though, was that the trailer shown for it was preluded with a spoiler warning, before giving away some of the most pivotal parts in the game. It did give a warning, so who can complain, but are they marketing only to people who’ve already played the game on PS3? The Last of Us isn’t the only PS3 game coming to PS4, however. Grand Theft Auto V will be released on the PlayStation 4. Who could have seen that one coming, right? What is interesting about this reveal, though, is that your GTA Online save from PS3, or even Xbox 360, can be carried over to the PS4 version. Cross-generation save transferring is one thing, but I’m fairly sure taking an Xbox save file to a PlayStation console is unprecedented. Oh, and Diablo 3 is still coming to PS4, and will feature certain enemies from The Last of Us – that was a little weird.
With inFamous Second Son being released so recently, I didn’t expect anything new from Sucker Punch this year. But lo and behold, a stand alone inFamous DLC was announced; First Light. The game stars Second Sons, Fetch, and the original game won’t be required to play First Light, just as inFamous 2 wasn’t required to play Festival of Blood on PS3. The Order: 1886 was presented, of course, and with a full gameplay demo this time. Although, I’d like to note this tiny little piece of gameplay seemed quite different to what has been shown before. Where it has always looked comparable to games like Gears of War or even Uncharted, in regards to gameplay, this demo was much more akin to The Last of Us or Dead Space. It was dark, slow, and atmospheric. Even the action brief action segments seemed more about the scene and mood than the gameplay itself. Regardless, the visuals in The Order are astounding; the realism of environments and fluidity of movements is easily comparable to the best of them.
Another game announcement which was received with great applause was LittleBigPlanet 3. Since series creators Media Molecule have wanted to move on, other developers have been handling Sackboy and his little paper houses, cardboard backpacks, sponge trains and such. This one’s being developed by Sumo Digital. LittleBigPlanet 3 introduces 3 new character types in addition to Sackboy. Oddsock is a swift little creature that has the ability to wall-jump, Toggle is stronger than the others, but can shrink to fit in small places or to use weight strategically, and Swoop can fly. Using cooperative gameplay to complete levels is an interesting way to mix up the formula, but I’m not sold on it just yet. A LittleBigPlanet 3 demo was played, in which the developers had a terrible time getting through the level, but the failure was good evidence that it was, in fact, live; at the least.
The big game of the conference, however, was undoubtedly Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. Though so little was actually shown, we learned a lot. Firstly, it is a numbered Uncharted game, where many had assumed the naming convention would be dropped as it was by Killzone and inFamous. Secondly, “A Thief’s End”. Will this be the last of Drake’s adventures? Some story was alluded to in the teaser, for example, Nate’s been ‘out of the game’ for a while and enlisted Sully’s help for ‘one last job’. Thirdly, and admittedly presumably, it looks amazing. Drake’s face is almost unbelievably realistic, and his clothing and surroundings are sure to be the best the PS4 has to offer for now, I think. I didn’t think I wanted another Uncharted game after the fun I had with the PS3 trilogy, but now I do.
As far as E3 conferences go, it was certainly a safe approach; filled mostly with sequels and predictable PlayStation tidbits. However, with that being said, it still had its share of interesting reveals, though, it could have been trimmed down a little. Even then, I still thought it was presented in a much more entertaining way than most, so it had that going for it. I just have to ask, Sony: Still nothing on The Last Guardian!? Either way, Sony presented a good, solid conference which lays an exciting path ahead of the PS4, particularly in 2015. Grade: B+.