E3 2009. Jack Tretton takes the stage to introduce visionary, Fumito Ueda’s, third game. The crowd is dazzled by an emotional trailer involving a boy and his giant flying creature. The scale is massive; the score, captivating. The words “The Last Guardian” flash across the screen. And then…nothing.
Since its debut in 2009, there has been no information on the mysterious game. No images. No videos. Hell, not even an update on the development progress. Ueda basically went into hiding, leaving his fans scratching their heads and wondering what the deal with TLG was. To say that this game–in development since 2007–has been eagerly anticipated would be the understatement of the century.
Many had simply given up on the game, and who could blame them? If Ueda and the folks over at Team Ico refused to give the people a simple answer as to what was going on, why should they have waited? However, a faithful few still believed the game to exist. Conferences came and went as they watched with bated breath. Much to their disappointment, The Last Guardian never made another appearance. Until now.
E3 2015. Newly appointed President and CEO of SCEA, Shawn Layden, walked onto the stage and showed gamers what they have been dying to see for the last six years. The trailer did not underwhelm, which, given the amount of hype the game has accumulated after all these years, is impressive. Unlike its reveal at 2009’s E3, we were treated to actual gameplay this time around. We saw a little boy traversing ancient ruins, making his way through crumbling structures with the aid of his giant friend. There were some basic puzzles and tense platforming. The graphics didn’t really push the limits of the PS4, which was unfortunate. But it was the marriage of art style, scale, and score that made this stand out.
Though it wasn’t the easiest act to follow, Guerrilla Games was up to the task. They debuted their exclusive game, Horizon: Zero Dawn. This was an exciting and ambitious new IP. The game set itself up like it was going to be an open-world fantasy game filled with giant trolls, warlocks, and dragons. However, Guerrilla Games introduced us to something fresh: robotic dinosaurs. The visuals were gorgeous. A lush, colorful world with greenery sprouting everywhere and in the distance, snow-covered mountains. Hiding in the shrubs and avoiding the penetrating gaze of the robotic enemies echoed the stealth sections of Killzone. Even their red eyes were reminiscent of the Helghast. Horizon: Zero Dawn is screaming with the potential of being something really special. This is definitely one to keep an eye on.
Next up, Sony took some time to show off the new Hitman game. The CG trailer was total eye-candy. It was also announced that the game would have a console exclusive beta (with preorder) as well as six exclusive contract missions. This new trend of multi-platform games offering exclusive content to certain consoles is getting old real quick. It makes video games feel less like a fun hobby and more like a business. It’s publishers getting into bed with companies at the expense of gamers. Let the exclusives sway consumers towards one console over the other–that’s fine. But for multi-platform games, there’s no reason why every consumer shouldn’t have the same experience and get the same value out of a game. Not everyone can afford both systems. It seems unfair that a game like, say Destiny for example, would offer a PS4 owner way more content than someone who–spent the same amount of money, mind you–is playing on an Xbox One.
After showcasing Street Fighter V’s latest characters, Birdie and Cammy, Sean Murray took the stage to give players a glimpse at both the enormous scale and gameplay of his title, No Man’s Sky. This is a game that has been hyped since it was first shown. However, little was known about what players would actually be doing, aside from flying around the deep reaches of space. No Man’s Sky is all about exploration, visiting strange planets that nobody has seen before. Once on these planets, players will discover new plant and animal life, mine fossils, and battle the guardians protecting the land. We still didn’t get a release date, but Murray assured us we’d be given one soon. I love this concept of flying around to randomly generated planets and filling out my field guide with new discoveries. There’s something magical to this, like being a kid and playing a game for the first time, uncovering all of its secrets and mysteries.
Next was creative team, Media Molecule, to show us their latest project: Dreams. Media Molecule is all about challenging players to create their own worlds. Dreams, like their other franchise, LittleBigPlanet, will have gamers crafting their own worlds. The art style is quite different from the brightly colored worlds we are used to from Media Molecule. The game is meant to look like an oil painting, so it’s a heavier and darker color palette this time around. Unfortunately, little was explained in terms of what we can expect from how it’ll play. Unlike LittleBigPlanet, Dreams seems to rely entirely upon user-generated content. I’m cautiously optimistic about this title. I’m not big on creating my own content; I’d much rather play something that has already been made. So I’m hoping that there will be some sort of main story line to go along with the create-a-level content.
Another big announcement from Sony’s conference was the reveal of a true Final Fantasy VII remake. This is something fans have been pining for for years. After several ports of the original, we will finally be getting an actual remake of the classic game. And it’ll be coming first to Playstation 4. Sony continued to win fans over with this big announcement.
One thing I commend Nintendo for is their developer diary style approach in their Nintendo Directs. Although some of them go on a little too long, I appreciate the developers telling us the behind the scenes stuff, the inspiration behind the choices they made. Often times, I feel as though developers are just trying to sell me their product–which, technically, is what they’re doing. But with the developer diaries, it’s like they are talking to me instead of at me. You hardly see any of these during Sony and Microsoft conferences. However, Sony dipped their foot in the water with that approach this year when they let Yu Suzuki talk about the upcoming entry in his beloved series, Shenmue. He announced that he would launch the project via Kickstarter with the goal of $2 million. That goal was reached in less than twelve hours.
Easily the most disappointing thing out of Sony’s conference was the lack of stage time for their VR project, Morpheus. It started out promising when Andrew House took the stage to introduce it. However, before the audience could even get excited about it, Morpheus’ segment was already over–a measly two minutes. This is a little concerning. To me, it showed a lack of confidence in the product. If VR truly is the next step in gaming, why not talk about Morpheus more? I get that it’s hard to convey what the product is capable of by just showing a video; it really is about trying it in person. But it would’ve been nice to hear more about the tech behind it, and also hear from some of the developers who are creating content for it. Maybe I’m reading too much into that one, but Andrew House just seemed a bit too eager to move onto the next thing.
In a not-so-shocking twist, Call of Duty got some stage time at Sony’s conference. Once Microsoft’s conference had ended without a trace of CoD, it seemed obvious that it would show up later on during Sony’s. Much like Activision’s past deals with Microsoft, Playstation owners will get first crack at all downloadable content, as well as beta access with a pre-order. This is a huge get for Sony, as CoD is one of the highest grossing entertainment franchises of all time. However, is this deal a little too late? There has been a significant drop-off in CoD sales over the last few years. They’re still selling like crazy, but it seems this series may have already peaked. Only time will tell.
Sony ended with a bang by showing the latest from Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. The live gameplay footage we saw showed Nathan Drake and best friend Sully in an exhilarating car chase sequence through crowded market streets. And yes, the jeep was drivable, a first for Uncharted. Much like the footage we saw at Sony’s Playstation Experience event back in December, the gameplay path looked non-linear, offering multiple pathways to escape the massive armored truck barreling down on you. The gameplay was long and left me wanting more. It was a relief to see that the pulp action we’ve come to expect from this series was still intact. I was worried that, coming off of the somber Last of Us, we’d see a darker tone to A Thief’s End. As great as The Last of Us was, I don’t want to see that seriousness in Uncharted; that’s just not the kind of game it is. Hearing Nate and Sully’s witty banter reassured me otherwise.
This was a very strong performance from Sony. It was great that they were able to restore people’s faith in the The Last Guardian. They showed a nice variety of both AAA titles–some of which are exclusive to Playstation–and indie games. I’m shocked we only got a couple of minutes of Morpheus, the supposed next step forward in gaming. Their non-existant holiday 2015 lineup is concerning, but the amount of titles in 2016 are shining a bright enough light to keep fans driving forward.
Below is the Sony E3 press conference in its entirety.