This year’s E3 has certainly been kicked off with some surprises, as well as pleasantly familiar franchise reentries. There has already been so much excitement and anticipation for what been shown so far, and the titles that Sony has presented at their press conference is no exception. The conference began with the obligatory introductory video showing clips from various titles including some not formally presented. The following is a breakdown and analysis of the Sony media briefing and everything presented therein.
Starting things off with a BANG
Shawn Layden, President and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment America.
Following the introduction reel, Shawn Layden came out on stage as the main presenter and most certainly started the show with a show stopper. After some talk of how developers are crafting titles that push the envelope, he stuns the audience with an in-game look at The Last Guardian. This title, developed by Ico/Shadow of the Colossus directer Fumito Ueda at Studio Japan, has been in development for years and many had thought for a time that this entry would never see the light of day. However, this suspicion has been finally laid to rest after a vertical slice of game play was shown.
Exactly like the trailers for the title, the preview demo of The Last Guardian features a young boy and large creature that appears to be a cross between a large bird and K9. The environment is an old stone structure that looks to be abandoned, with pant life beginning to overtake this creation of man. The boy and the creature seem to have a very close relationship and this is conveyed through the game play, as the boy is seen calling out commands to said creature that yields interesting responses. The animal has a large roll in providing platforming avenues for the boy to progress through the environment. There is a mechanical emphasis placed on grabbing hold of the creature’s feathers and maintaining one’s grip like in Shadow of the colossus on top of maintaining balance when traversing thin beam-like platforms alla Ico.
The creature desperately climbs a flimsy scaffold as the boy pushes a log forward in order to help it.
In terms of the visuals, The Last Guardian looks gorgeous. There appears to be the use of key frame animation for the sake of fluidity and can be seen at various moments during this build. Physics abound in a way that translate to complementing the look and feel of the game. This is mostly seen with the creature itself, as the dynamic wind makes its feathers sway back and forth. The game play is a small cluster of bare bones mechanics, much like those of both Ico and Shadow of the Colossus. The soundtrack, from what was played in the game, is very much in line with Ueda’s second game in the series. The Last guardian looks very interesting. Quite a bold move on Sony’s part to start the press conference in such a way, this was a bold tone to set for the rest of the show. The Last Guardian will launch in 2016.
New intellectual properties from storied developers
Herman Hulst of Guerrilla Games, creator of the Killzone series, then announced and showed off an in-game glimpse of their brand new IP known as Horizon: Zero Dawn. The world of Horizon presents a post apocalyptic world where humans have reverted back to the tribal and/or nomadic ways of the past when hunting and gathering was a matter of necessity. The main protagonist speaks of a time long past when humans where at the apex of their potential, only to have it snuffed out by the machines. The world is in a state of decay or a state of rebirth.
The main protagonist, a huntress and fighter, battles a large bipedal machine.
Horizon’s game play demo began after that cinematic introduction and then dove into a scenario where the main character is hunting a herd of machines that take the appearance of wild beasts like bipedal dinosaurs. This title has third person action/shooter mechanical trappings, with the freely rotating camera just behind the character’s back. There are some elements of stealth action as well, with the character seen crouching while maneuvering through a growth of fern like plants. She even uses this to engage in a stealth kill, which incapacitates one of the lesser smaller machines. This title is a fascinating one, but it is not without its problems. Something that is noticeable is some polygonal collision gaffes that occur when the protagonist is sneaking through shrubbery. Some of the growth will get caught on the model and then snap back like a rubber band. This may be intentional, as getting caught on certain types of foliage happens in reality, but the snap back to its original position in-game is too elastic. Also, There is a tonal inconsistency across the whole demonstration and this is mostly because of the voiced dialogue from the main heroin. The introduction is spoken in such a forlorn fashion that, when coupled with the music, forges a somber tone. It is a shame that this tone is almost completely undone by the dialogue in the playable demo, which features a myriad of tongue-in-cheek outbursts clash that with said established tone. This is very suspect because the in-game voicing is not attached to the character, as her lips never move when the dialogue ensues. Perhaps this was a late inclusion, but it may have been a poorly conceived one. For what it does to destroy the initial tone of Horizon, it does seem to serve as a form of player aid, telling him or her through the voice of the leading lady what to do, where to go, or where an enemy’s weak spots are. There was no official release date given for Horizon: Zero Dawn.
Sean Murray from Hello Games also came on stage to present No Man’s Sky. This game is a space flight combat simulator that focuses on exploration and pure discovery. This marks the first time at the E3 show where a live game play demo of this experimental science fiction title has been shown. This is also the first time that Murray has shown in real time just how large the universe truly is.
A still from the E3 demonstration showing how the player can travel from one distant planet to the next.
The scope of this title is absolutely staggering. Hundreds upon hundreds of stars means there are quintillions upon quintillions of planets to explore. With all honesty, the demonstration was a bit dry, but the things that were shown answered quite a few important questions of how the game will play in practice. It will feature trading, exploring, fighting and survival according to Murray. He stressed that there will be a more concrete release date given, but not at this time. All that is known is that No Man’s Sky will launch at some point in 2015.
Alex Evans from Media Molecule unveiled their latest work known as Dreams. Dreams is a game creation suite that affords the user with many tools to create games, machinima and anything else the user desires. These experiences, interactive or not, will be interconnected with other ‘dream’ creations. This possibly could lend itself to online connectivity features that augment the offline experience in a dynamic and meaningful way. This is the next logical leap in progression for the creators of the Little Big Planet. There is no confirmed release for Media Molecule’s latest Dreams at this time.
Just one of the many set pieces possible with Media Molecule’s Dreams.
Teaser trailers and big reveals also abound
Agent 47 is back.
Asad Qizilbash took the stage and presented a few teasers to some franchise familiars and a new intellectual property. His first reveal was the Hitman remake/reboot by IO Interactive, which will feature exotic new locations and boasts a live and ever expanding world. It will see release on PS4 and PC and is going to be punctuated by a digital release. Gamers will have an exclusive beta on PS4 upon preordering the game. On top of this, Hitman will also have 6 extra missions exclusive to the PS4 version, which will roll out as DLC.
Asad Qizilbash, Sony Computer Entertainment.
Birdie is seen here posing with a pepper… Why??
Street Fighter 5 was also announced with a trailer showing veteran characters like M. Bison, Chun Li Cammy, Charlie and Ryu. There is a brand new character called Birdie who looks like the member of a biker gang, wearing a black leather jacket and rocking a blonde Mohawk. He uses long chain as a weapon. A playable beta will be available for those who preorder and it will launch on July 23. No exact release date has been given at this time.
Adam Boyes Hamming it up on stage!
Adam Boyes, previously of Capcom and currently of Sony Computer Entertainment of America, was handed the torch and tasked with dropping some more heavy hitting game announcements. One of them in particular was quite the bombshell. Firstly, Boyes announced what was and still is a forgone conclusion. Destiny will continue on with a brand new expansion. This upcoming addition is known as The Taken King.
This new package comes with an all new mission campaign taking place interesting new locales. A feature seen in the trailer shows the new ability to bind weapons like what has been seen in some of the Elder Scrolls games. Also, infantry characters will now be able to fight airborne by using jet packs as seen in the later Halo: Reach. Destiny: The Taken king will launch for the PS4 on September 15, 2015. According to Boyes, it will have brand new gear, a multiplayer map and a “bad ass co-op strike.”
Firewatch looks to be a very intriguing game.
There was surprise teaser trailer for an interesting game called Firewatch by Campo Santo. It is a first person title that features some odd pseudo cel shaded graphics with a heavily saturated color palette, giving an aesthetic akin to Far Cry 3 or Team Fortress 2. There are not many details on what the game’s story is, but it appears as though the player assumes the role of a park ranger of sorts. Also, the game seems to have some mystery and adventure elements. It features a strange yet interesting relationship between the lady on the radio and the main protagonist. Firewatch and will debut on PS4 first, but does not currently have a release date, though on the FAQ page for the official website the Campo Santo team would like for it to come out this year.
You can play as both siblings in this upcoming Assassin’s Creed.
Also announced was Assassins Creed Syndicate, which features two playable characters from the outset, both being brother and sister. This new outing takes place in 19th century London. The trailer shows Evie taking on a group of men in what appears to be a warehouse or factory. The game places an emphasis on solving murder mysteries based on the writings of the great detective stories of the 1800s. The ps4 version will have an exclusive DLC package with added missions dubbed The Dreadful Crimes.
On the Square Enix front, there are two new projects being developed in Final Fantasy franchise. The first is called World of Final Fantasy. This is a cute and charming nostalgia trip of a Final Fantasy game that takes all of the characters, monsters and locations of games past and throws them into a blender, with adorable chibi super deformed depictions of all of the above for good measure. World of Final Fantasy will launch for PS4 and PS Vita at some point in 2016.
Square Enix is finally remaking Final Fantasy VII!
The other Final Fantasy title announced was a bombshell of a reveal. It has been one biggest things that fans of the franchise new and old have begged for, but have never received. That is going to change, as Adam Boyes presented the trailer that had a familiar tune and logo. After some narration, some shots of a new Midgar, the reveal of Barret’s Gatling gun arm and Cloud’s Buster sword it became clear. Final Fantasy VII is officially being remade for the PS4. This is only a trailer with no game play, but it looks stunning from all vantage points. Considering what Square Enix has been achieving with Final Fantasy XV, the prospect of FFVII looks very promising. As the trailer stated, the promise has been made. Final Fantasy VII the remake will be available first on PS4, which may mean that it could be a timed exclusive. No release date for this title has been specified.
This game looks like Hotline Miami in beat ’em up form!!
Changing gears, Boyes showed off some teasers of indie titles being developed through Devolver Digital. These titles include Ronin, which is a pulp style side scrolling action game. Another title known as Eitr is a pixel art rendered action RPG experience that looks as if it has the same mechanical trappings of the original Diablo. Mother Russia Bleeds is an over-the-top jingoistic beat ’em up that does not pull punches when it comes to its display of graphic violence. Crossing Souls is an action arcade style beat ’em up the appears to have a late 80s or early 90s aesthetic with its inclusion of intentionally poorly pigmented cartoon animated cutscenes. No release dates for these Devolver Digital titles have been specified as of yet.
Yes, everyone… Shenmue 3 is coming.
This Devolver announcement, though interesting, served mostly as a breather between the heavyweight reveals. What was announced next was an even bigger surprise than the Final Fantasy VII remake. That much is not said lightly. When a video began to play with the song called Sedge Tree, every true fan of the franchise it belongs to most certainly cried. For years, gamers from all over have waited to finish Ryo Hazuki’s quest to avenge the death of his father. Perhaps we all will have that chance. Yu Suzuki went on stage to announce that he intends to make Shenmue 3 and finish the sixteen chapter story of Ryo. He has started a Kickstarter campaign in order to raise the funds he needs in order to make this vision a reality. Only a day and a half has passed and the Kickstarter has already reached its funding goal. Shenmue 3 is coming, but there is no release date announced.
Project Morpheus and software support
Andrew House, President and Global CEO, Sony Computer Entertainment Inc.
Adam Boyes took his leave and handed the torch over to Andrew House (President and Global CEO, Sony Computer Entertainment Inc.), Who immediately got onto Project Morpheus. While talking about the developer support for this new device, a myriad of video clips were displayed to show how much support Sony has in store for Morpheus. House also announced a new IP called RIGS: Mechanized Combat League made by Guerrilla Cambridge. This is a shooter title with high stakes competitive play, supposedly taking full advantage of what Project Morpheus has to offer. Sony is poised to make this a legitimate MLG title, as seen with the overall presentation of the game thus far.
RIGS: Mechanized Combat League showing off some slick visuals that will hopefully use the feature set of the Project Morpheus.
House also announced a new partnership with the one of the largest music distribution services, Spotify. Also Playstation Vue, The PS4’s streaming video and television service, is launching in San Francisco and Los Angeles as well.
Call of Duty: Black Ops III was also announced for the Playstation 4 and presents a revamped offline single player campaign that can be tackled by one’s lonesome or with up to three other friends through Playstation Network. This next COD installment also allows the player to customize his or her weapon load out before the next mission ensues, allowing for the player choose a preferable play style.
Surprisingly enough, Activision is putting out another Call of Duty.
In terms of graphical style, this title is going to take place in the near future and is lending itself similarly to Advanced Warfare, as where troops will have to utilize fictional high powered weapons and will have to face off against large mechs in an urban combat theater. On top of this futuristic aesthetic, the game play allows for limited platforming mechanics that resemble those of Brink for the Xbox 360 with its SMARTS system.
An interesting way to debut the new mission pack for Batman: Arkham Knight.
Other mentions include the Batman: Arkham Knight Scarecrow Nightmare Missions, which launch next week exclusively for the PS4 on June 23. The Star Wars brand will be joining the Disney Infinity subplatform with a new slew of missions along with new Infinity figures based off the Star Wars franchise of characters. Boba Fett will be available only through the special limited edition PS4 Star Wars Disney Infinity Edition 3.0 starter pack when it launches.
Battlefront looks great and smooth.
After the Disney Infinity announcement, Patrick Bach of DICE took the floor and went on to introduce a quick look at the upcoming Star Wars Battlefront. The vertical slice demonstration shown this E3 looks very impressive graphically. The game play looks airtight and fluent as well. However, the battle did not feel quite as chaotic as what one would experience playing Battlefront 2. However, this is simply a display of the game in action. Also, it looks like the team at DICE a taking few liberties by equipping the rebels with jet packs, but if it elevates the play style possibilities then it will be a moot complaint. The music and sound design is more than appropriate for a Star Wars licensed title and you can tell that the Frostbite 3 engine is being muscled for all its worth.
For the graphical splendor of Uncharted 4, no one can forget this technical snafu.
The last real demonstration show at this year’s E3 Sony press conference was Naughty Dog’s Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. It is unfortunate that it began with a false start. Nobody knows what happened, but after the introduction passed and control was given to the performer Nathan stood idle for two minutes before the demo restarted abruptly. It was an odd technical gaffe and it is assumed that the controller being used ran out of power, or something to that effect. Regardless, the issue was resolved and the demo started once again and it was rife with action joyride set pieces. Not only does this title look absolutely gorgeous, but there is also a heavy emphasis on the use of physics, which just adds to the believability of this game. As Nathan gets shot at and traverses the environment filled with all sorts of props and relevant objects, they fly, collide and fall with the utmost realism. There is a driving section that exposes the lack of realistic car specific physics, but also shows the presence of multiple paths that do not necessarily funnel to the same end goal. It is quite impressive and the way that the non-playable character Sully banters with Drake is delightfully organic. Despite the rocky start, this Uncharted 4 demonstration impressed in the end.
Final thoughts and impressions
The sheer amount of content in the various areas of live demos, trailers and large reveals shown at this media briefing was simply staggering. Professionally and personally speaking, expectations were not particularly high for this press conference simply because Sony had stated that the lineup for this year was going to be sparse. While this much can be debated, Sony clearly conserved its ammunition to blow members of the press and retail away Resident Evil style. It was solid enough to see more of the titles made by the smaller development studios like Hello Games, Media Molecule and Campo Santo. However, the fact that Guerrilla is taking risks with Horizon: Zero Dawn is quite intriguing and the same goes for RIGS: Mechanized Combat League.
No Man’s Sky Still impresses with its massive scope and is still quite awe inspiring to see in action. However, seeing The Last Guardian, the Final Fantasy VII remake and Shenmue 3 blew me away. Starting with Fumito Ueda’s title was incredibly bold and shows just how intent Sony is on attaining and maintaining their foothold in the industry. It is good to see the company trying to keep the PS4’s software identity as interesting as possible. Just looking at how this media briefing panned out, 2015 and 2016 are looking great for Sony. This year could possibly be a solid retort to the amazing year in gaming that was 1998.