Online Editor and Playstation fanatic, Harry Shepherd, gives us his rundown of Sony’s showing at this year’s E3 convention from Los Angeles.
After the typically loud, brash gaming montage we’ve come to expect from E3 press conferences, things got off to an awkward start at Sony’s E3 2015 Experience as Shawn Layden, President and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment America, had to remind his audience, “that’s an applause line”. Ouch. However, early jitters were soon forgotten as we were surprised with a game many thought was all but deceased after years of development hell.
In 2009, The Last Guardian was revealed at E3. Since then, it’s been six years of whispers, delays and developer issues, but at Sony’s 2015 conference, we got that elusive re-reveal. In the trailer shown off, a young boy escorts a dog-bird-dragon thingy (that despite that terrible description still manages to be unbelievably cute) through the ruins of an ancient city. Issues from the development of the game spanning console generations are evident — the design of the boy and his environs lack detail and he appears to control rather clumsily — but all this is forgotten when the mutual friendship between boy and beast is focused on. The game is slated for 2016, and was an excellent, almost unbelievable way of kicking off Sony’s show.
Shuhei Yoshida, President of Sony’s Worldwide Studios, was up next, beaming at the news from Team Ico and SCE Japan. He built on the early momentum by introducing Hermen Hulst, Managing Director and Co-Founder of Guerrilla Games, to show off what’s next from them. Hulst announced a brand new IP exclusive to Playstation named Horizon: Zero Dawn, a dreadful name, but thankfully that was the worst part of what was a thrilling gameplay trailer. The story is mysterious, but intriguing as new life is beginning to flourish over the remains of a dead civilisation. What this essentially boils down to is tribal warriors beating up advanced sci-fi robot dinosaurs led by a Nathan Drake-esque female protagonist. It’s a thumbs up from me.
Next we sneaked a glimpse at a rebooted Hitman for current-gen consoles, with a PS4 exclusive beta with every pre-order and six contracts only on Playstation. More exclusive content was incoming in the shape of much-anticipated brawler Street Fighter 5, also with a PS4 exclusive beta starting July 23rd. The theme of exclusive platform content with multi-platform games appeared extensively throughout the show, as exclusive PS4 content has been confirmed for Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate, Destiny: The Taken King, Call of Duty: Black Ops 3, and Batman: Arkham Knight releasing early next week.
In the Call of Duty segment, Andrew House, President and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment, gleefully announced a new partnership with Activision in which Playstation gamers could grab the latest COD map packs a month early. Sound familiar?
Back to far less yawn-inducing news, Sean Murray from Hello Games treated us to a gameplay peek at indie gem No Man’s Sky. The scale and innovation of the project — astoundingly from a development team of a mere four — cannot be disputed, but details on gameplay and how we occupy ourselves when exploring the eight quintillion procedurally-generated planets has been thin on the ground thus far.
Your aim is to venture to the centre of the massive galaxy, and, after successfully avoiding a spacey skirmish between two warring factions, Murray took the opportunity to explore a since unexplored planet. Strolling through bristling, bright yellow grass and taking in the vibrant pink leaves, Murray showed off beacons, structured where you record your discoveries of a planet’s flora and fauna, as well as sentinels, those instructed with protecting a planet from dastardly folk like you.
To rapturous applause came the latest jewel in Playstation’s crown, as Alex Evans took us through Media Molecule’s latest work Dreams. This is the next project in MM’s ‘play, create, share’ structure, but Evans and his team feels that the tools for what they wanted to achieve with Dreams simply don’t exist. The aim is to try and replicate the sensation of lucid dreaming; Evans created a surreal scenario with a seated old man and animated him with a click of a button. Set to music, Evans initiated a montage of different creations, which felt like nothing I have ever seen before. I’m not sure what the guys over at MM have been smoking, but I want to try it.
Sony still had some surprises in store for us. A Final Fantasy CG trailer heralded the announcement of a remake of the beloved Final Fantasy 7, and a Kickstarter portion of the show confirmed the existence of Shenmue 3. These announcements came completely out of the blue and proved immensely popular among the room’s excitable contingent.
Predictably, and yet brilliantly, Sony closed the show with the ace up their sleeve, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End from Naughty Dog. In a similar style to his gameplay of smash-hit The Last of Us at E3 2012, Bruce Straley strode wordlessly on and offstage to showcase their latest work.
Nate and a suspiciously sprightly looking Sully find themselves escaping a bustling city centre from assailants, and we were privileged to see beautifully smooth and fluid gunplay. A key gripe with the series many have is the linearity of the game, and Straley, Druckmann and co have clearly faced this issue head on.
Nate appeared to have the opportunity to take a number of routes in his escape, and this sense of choice continued into a fast-paced, breathless car chase. Numerous different directions were available to our handsome protagonist, especially when the road ahead looked too dangerous. Depth and choice will play an important part in building on what is already a stunning Sony series, and Naughty Dog once again showed that no dev understands closing a press conference quite like them.
Playstation gamers might not have the quantity of exclusives they might expect on the horizon, Playstation Vita might have barely been mentioned and Microsoft have probably closed the gap between the two companies in the console war, but Sony’s E3 2015 Experience still delivered a solid show. The range of exclusive games Sony have in the works is what is particularly striking; from the big hitters like Uncharted 4 and The Last Guardian to the little innovators producing the wondrous No Man’s Sky and Dreams, Playstation 4 will deliver again on what it always set out to do: satisfying the hardcore gamer with a vast variety of innovative and entertaining games.
Rewatch Sony’s E3 conference here.
Harry Shepherd, Online Editor