Sony came into this year’s E3 in a position of strength and that’s sometimes a dangerous place to be.
In the run up to expo there were murmurs that the PlayStation slate wasn’t quite as robust as in recent years.
In the event these fears were… well… they started with The Last Guardian.
And that about sums it up.
It was a hell of a way to begin a press conference. Sony could have called it quits there and a lot of people would have gone home happy.
Ueada’s long awaited follow up to Shadow of the Colossus and Ico looks the part but it displayed its next-gen credentials in the form of physics, rather than graphical showcasing. There was a pleasing fluidity to its action, with objects reacting to each other in a manner that suggests variety and elements of chance in its game design.
Although this trailer lacked the heart in your mouth moment of surprise that greeted the game’s 2009 debut, it was enough to know that The Last Guardian still exists and is coming in 2016.
This was followed by a new franchise from Guerilla, the stupendously good looking Horizon: Zero Dawn. The level of artistry on display was startling, showing that this generation is finally putting the new consoles to work.
The only downside is that by having size and spectacle within such easy reach, the art of subtlety appears in short supply for some developers. Nonetheless, this year’s crop of games, on both platforms, will be a feast for the senses even if the gameplay experiences remain rote.
Talking of beautiful worlds, No Man’s Sky returned once more to Sony’s E3 stage. Unfortunately the game didn’t feel quite as overwhelming this time around. Its galaxy-spanning size is still something to behold, as is the technology that generates the worlds within it. And yet, it’s still not apparent if the moment to moment gameplay is all that exciting. That said, I’m all up for being a space tourist, so bring it on.
Media Molecule then revealed their follow up to Little Big Planet and Tearaway. Entitled Dreams it had a curious demo that posed more questions than it answered. It’s a game that looks to require some explanation to fully understand. That said, it was a stirring presentation and provided further demonstration of the studio’s idiosyncratic approach to making games.
And then there was the funny megaton moment where everyone was disappointed that World of Final Fantasy wasn’t Final Fantasy VII, only to have those prayers answered seconds later.
The long-awaited Final Fantasy VII Remake will be heading to PS4 first and from its trailer looks to be a significant update.
Somewhat surprisingly, Sony’s indie credentials didn’t receive a huge amount of attention. A quartet of games published by Devolver Digital being the only nod.
Nor did Project Morpheus get the big coming-out party we hoped for. On the hardware front it was all about services as Andrew House instead presented a brief diversion on PlayStation Vue. It was the type of segment that used to be a hallmark of Microsoft’s E3 presentations in years gone by. How times have changed.
So far so good.
And then they announced support for Shenmue III.
The Kickstarter for the game has already got off to a flying start and it will no doubt meet and exceed its goal by morning. The rapturous reception for Yu Suzuki was a lovely moment.
The conference was littered throughout with announcements for exclusive PS4 content including Hitman Beta access and DLC, Destiny content and exclusive missions for Assassin’s Creed Syndicate and Batman: Arkham Knight. And in a cheeky riposte to Microsoft, PlayStation 4 will get all Call of Duty: Black Ops III map packs first.
Uncharted: A Thief’s End brought the show to close with considerable panache. Here is a game that does spectacle the right way, built on inventiveness, humour, human interaction and high stakes. Drake and Sully’s ‘downhill drive’ was a monumental piece of action that provided a perfect end to a near perfect press conference. Even a false start with the demo couldn’t ruin things.
With our fears unfounded there will be few people disappointed with Sony’s showing at E3 this year.
Yes, the big ticket items all traded on past glories, but with The Last Guardian, Final Fantasy VII Remake and Shenmue III all revealed within the space of 90 minutes, it’s hard to be too cynical.
Days like this don’t come along very often.