Sony has set the gold standard for press conferences for a couple of years now, so their 2017 showing had some mighty large boots to fill. It seems though that PlayStation chose to stand on the shoulders of their past successes more than they tried to match them, continuing their no-nonsense, game focussed approach without quite the weight of revealing so many long-awaited dream games. More focus this year was given to fleshing out some of the games we learned about last year, without teasing projects we won’t be playing for a few years. It makes for a less exciting show, but after being criticised so much for announcing things so early, you can’t say they didn’t give the people what they asked for.
Sony opened again with a live music performance. Trading the orchestra for a smaller band playing a cinematic yet distinctly Indian arrangement made for a great reflection of last year’s presentation with a cool new flavour, while a waterfall being manipulated into patterns behind the musicians added a nice visual layer. All this to build excitement for the first game to be shown; Uncharted: The Lost Legacy.
A new Uncharted trailer introduced a villain and some story elements in a pretty familiar way. The tone here wasn’t nearly as heavy as when we last saw Lost Legacy – more like the playful series we know than the sombre initial showing. It looks like the drivable jeep may be back in some nice open environments – one of the highlights of A Thief’s End, but there was no surprise or real notable iteration here. It’s Uncharted; it’ll be good, what more could they have shown?
Next up was a DLC reveal for Horizon Zero Dawn. The Frozen Wilds will launch later this year, taking Aloy to a new snowy region. I love Horizon, and I’m stoked to get more, but there was no real hook here, either. I spent plenty of time in the snow in Zero Dawn proper, so I’m not sure why the environmental change is meant to be enticing. Still, Aloy’s armour indicates that this is post-game story stuff, and introduces a threat that may or may not be a pertinent consequence of the core story. If it is – excellent. If not, it’ll still be super fun.
Days Gone was next with a pretty cohesive gameplay demo. Riding the bike around the world looks pretty fun, and it seems like the dangers of the world are ever-present and fairly dynamic. If traps are so common as to necessitate constant carefulness as this demo indicates, they may go down as the noteworthy aspect of Days Gone. Using the “not-zombies” as an environmental tool and inciting conflict with opposing groups could facilitate some clever approaches, too. Still, I’m yet to get a feel for any distinct personality the game might have beyond being a pretty Naughty Dog-esque game. It’s very impressive visually, but if there’s any interesting character to the world, I’m not yet convinced.
Three games deep and Shawn Layden steps on stage for the first time. He kept things brief, reinforcing PlayStation’s focus on games, but how good he’s gotten at these presentations shouldn’t be overlooked. Especially after seeing Phil Spencer awkwardly cut off applause and unnaturally stare at lines through his lengthy talks at the Xbox presentation, I was super impressed with Layden. The guy feels natural and friendly, comfortably making his case and responding to crowd reactions. It’s not something he was great at back when we first saw him on stage a couple of years back, and I think the work he’s put into becoming a confident presenter is pretty cool.
From here, we’re back into the games with a bunch of back-to-back showings. First in line is the reveal of Monster Hunter Worlds. We see a beast be tracked, found and attacked with the use of some self-made camouflage gear. Latching onto enemies and the environment with a grappling hook looks really fun and leading the monster through tunnelling caves felt engagingly dynamic. If scenarios like this, in which I can grapple the ceiling of a cave down onto a monsters head, are naturally occurring, this could be a pretty swell video game.
The surprise reveal of the show was something I would never have expected; Shadow of the Colossus. Bluepoint, responsible for SotC HD on PS3 and a load of other great ports, are remaking the PS2 game for PS4. Everything looks stunning, while the eerily empty atmosphere resonates even more against the densely detailed architecture and colossi. I know we’re led to not believe a release date for a Team Ico game, but Bluepoint say 2018, and I’m sure they’ll get it done.
Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite offered a new trailer, showing off some new characters in Story Mode. The narrative seems to run deeper than I expected, with some Injustice level cutscenes and character interactions. I must say I’m unimpressed by the art style, though. Characters look a little rough to me. As an extra little gift, a free story mode demo goes up on PSN to download today.
Call of Duty WWII revealed some multiplayer gameplay, and frankly, it looks pretty cool. Everything’s a lot more dramatic and dreary than we’re used to from CoD, but it looks like the constant killing and dying is about the same – if without the mech suits and robot dogs.
I was stoked to see that PlayStation VR had its very own segment of the show. Still supported so far! Star Child looks like a sci-fi sidescroller in VR, Bravo Team is a bland looking FPS that might make up for it with cool VR control, and Monster of The Deep is a Final Fantasy XV fishing game. We got a few more promising and substantial announcements, too.
Skyrim VR features the entirety of The Elder Scrolls V plus DLC in virtual reality. It looks a little sloppy, and I’m not sure how they’ll handle movement if we’re holding two Move controllers, but I’ll admit having a swordfight with a frost troll looks fun. For much less boisterous vibes, The Inpatient is an Until Dawn prequel set in an insane asylum. There’s not loads to go on from the trailer, but Supermassive’s horror and VR pedigree is probably worth being excited about. Much more exciting than either of these is the announcement of Moss. Here’s a game where you play as a sweet little mouse swordsman. Explore Zelda-like dungeons solving puzzles and slashing baddies with a great mouse hero in virtual reality? Sold.
Switching back from the VR zone, it was time to see more God of War. A new trailer splurged some story stuff, hinting that Kratos’ Greek past will play an important part in life in his new home. The father-son conflict between Kratos and his boy is made a little less one-sided here, and a new character seems to indicate that this fresh start won’t be as vacant of humour as the previous six games. Combat seems to flow smoothly, living up to the GoW legacy with some cool axe spins and throws. Some of the environments shown are beautiful; a glistening river and a precarious mountain-top trail, while the reveal of the World Serpent shows that the classic scale of God of War isn’t lost here. We’re told we’ll be playing in early 2018.
Detroit: Become Human continues its character-focused trailers, this time introducing Marcus, a leader of the android uprising. Decisions here seem to be super heavy, determining whether the androids rebel with violence or remain pacifists for their cause. We haven’t seen any choices so severe in Detroit up until now, and it’s looking more and more like things might unfold radically different on a very large scale based on player input. Having the huge responsibility of making these choices alongside the lower stakes decisions of the other revealed characters could make for an extremely interesting balance of consequences.
Before Layden makes his return, Destiny 2 looks like the sequel to Destiny, and PS4 is getting an exclusive Strike, PVP map, and some gear. Great incentive for multiplatform Destiny fans, but nothing exciting. I get the feeling they weren’t sure where to squeeze this in to make good on their marketing deals, but I’m not sure there would have been any better time.
Finally, we’re treated to the gameplay reveal of Insomniac’s Spider-Man. Spidey takes out some guards stealthily from above, extremely reminiscent of the Arkham games, but not without some neat web tricks and a trap. Combat is kinetic and swift – again like Batman – but the way the environment can be interacted with to take out foes is very cool. Spinning a hanging steel beam around to knock over some goons or knocking a guy into the air and webbing him to the wall is the kind of stuff that could make this game special. Not to mention tying web around an enemies fists and puppeteering him into punching his own face. Everything transitions really smoothly between gameplay and greatly directed cinematic moments, but the frequency of quick time events is slightly concerning to me. Swinging through the city and running along walls looks like a joy, which might be the most important aspect of a game like this, but the Batman similarities and QTEs kept the demo from reaching my high expectations for Insomniac just yet. Spider-Man will be out in 2018.
Despite the lack of shock announcements or huge fan anticipation, I think Sony nailed it. We got great showings of Spider-Man, God of War, and Detroit. We got some awesome PSVR announcements. We got an Uncharted trailer, Days Gone demo and Horizon DLC. And we got A Shadow of the Colossus remake and Monster Hunter on PS4. No segments dragged on, Sony didn’t feel a need to have someone come out and explain a game to us even though we’re going to see it anyway, and there was no harping on services or sales. I’m bummed as I have been for years to have not seen what Sucker Punch is working on, but when they show it, I’m sure it’ll be nice and cooked. They didn’t bring too much new stuff out, but they very solidly backed up the things we were already waiting for. Grade: B+