We’re continuing our look at the E3 2018 press conferences this week with Sony. If you missed it, earlier this week I took a combined look at EA and Bethesda.
Coming into E3 this year, Sony continues to reign on top with its PlayStation 4. The system just experienced another strong first half of 2018 headlined with the unbelievably great single player experience, God of War. Still, the company has plenty more planned for fans and with a lot of leaks and rumors popping up prior to the event, expectations were understandably high.
So how did Sony do this year? Did they coast knowing that they still have a large advantage over their competitors or did they put the pedal to the metal to continue that momentum?
Prior to E3, Sony confirmed that it planned to detail only four of its major games, which I think surprised a lot of people. It’s not that people weren’t excited for these games, it was more of the fact that Sony basically telegraphed what they were planning, worrying fans that they wouldn’t have too many surprises in store. In actuality, that’s basically what happened.
In a move that I don’t think ultimately paid off, Sony opened their show by cramming its audiences in a small church, made to look like a scene from its E3 demo for The Last of Us Part II. A cool idea on paper, the church was largely standing room only and was incredibly hot and uncomfortable for everyone in there. I know all this based on details I got back from my Editor-In-Chief on the other site I work for who was in the crowd that night.
After a small performance from musician Gustavo Santaolalla, the demo started showing a now older Ellie at a local dance. What I found interesting with this demo is how it was structured. The start of it was basically a happy scene, with Ellie dancing with another girl, eventually leading to them kissing. As the camera panned around, it got into gameplay where Ellie stumbled into a violent group of people hunting her. The violence was brutal and unsettling, showing an NPC getting essentially gutted, characters getting shot, stabbed, and smashed with melee weapons. The violence definitely appears to be amplified from the first game, so expect plenty of squeamish moments and a lot of stressful situations.
After essentially beheading a large dude, the camera transitions back to the dance and Ellie, giving way to more happy and slower moments meant to release the stress caused by the last section. Unfortunately, the game wasn’t given a release date or window, which to me was pretty surprising.
At this point, the conference took a half an hour break as the press and attendees were shuttled over to the actual location for the rest of it. For viewers, this was a huge down moment as not only did it completely kill the momentum of the show, it also was completely avoidable. I feel like the people there weren’t thrilled by the church stunt, but as an internet viewer, the church element didn’t even factor in at all. Not only could Sony have saved time, but they could have easily kept the goodwill and momentum going if they had just kept everything at the same place.
Once the conference resumed, fans were treated to a guy dressed in traditional Japanese garb, playing a flute. Clearly, this was to prepare the crowds for Ghost of Tsushima, a game that I could not wait to see. In my opinion, Sucker Punch didn’t disappoint. The game itself was unbelievably gorgeous, so much so that I feel like my base PS4 model isn’t going to do it justice. I loved the color palette used and I’m intrigued by the combat, something that definitely doesn’t fit the mold that was used in the studio’s previous games like inFAMOUS or Sly Cooper. Unfortunately, this was another game that didn’t get a release date or window.
Between each of the lengthy gameplay demos, Sony did reveal a couple of new games like Nioh 2, Resident Evil 2 Remake, and another Kingdom Hearts 3 trailer that once again dropped its sound effects about halfway through. While these were cool reveals for sure, the pomp and circumstance behind them felt missing, almost like they were thrown into the show as afterthoughts. Compare this with what Microsoft did and you’ll see my point.
The next demo went to Hideo Kojima and Death Stranding, though unlike years past, the legendary developer didn’t come out on stage to reveal it like normal. IN fact, outside of Shawn Layden opening the show, there was no personality at all. Some of you may like that and others may not. I’m conflicted because on one hand, it’s nice to get some perspective or see how excited someone is about what they’re showing, but on the other hand, it certainly cuts down on the fluff just to chain everything together.
In any case, Death Stranding finally showed off gameplay and frankly, I really can’t say what it is that I saw. So that’s a typical Kojima game, right? The main character played by Norman Reedus looked like some sort of intergalactic delivery man as shots cut to him trekking across lots of different terrains with packages all different shapes and sizes. At one point, an invisible creature appears near him and a woman appears to help him avoid detection. Later on, he uses a bubble baby to power his equipment to try and escape these invisible creatures. Frankly, I still have no clue what’s going on or how this game will play. I’m not sure the trailer helped at all, but I guess I’m still curious to figure it out. Continuing the disturbing trend, Death Stranding was another game without a release window.
Spider-Man ended the show and frankly, it left a fantastic impression. The demo showed Spider-Man basically having a terrible day as a newly freed Electro was able to free every criminal on The Raft, including most of SPider-Man’s worst villains. As he struggled to restore order, fans got a good look at Scorpion, Rhino, Vulture, Mr. Negative, and a tease at the mastermind pulling all the strings. The demo was pretty much all gameplay including fluid animation system on top of solid Batman Arkham style combat. The web swinging also looks like a highlight and I can’t wait to get my hands on the finished product.
Interestingly enough, Media Molecule’s game Dreams was used to provide little snippets before each demo. Frankly, I forgot it was even a game at all, and I don’t think Sony advertised that these clips were from Dreams, so that’s another missed opportunity. To be honest, is anyone even still excited for Dreams? Outside of a couple of announcements long ago, it seems like a project that no one really knows what it is, or if it’s even going to be a game at all.
That leads me to my overall feelings about the show which is that Sony had an entertaining show, but one that was really devoid of those special ‘wow’ moments they had become known for. Remember that one year when they absolutely roasted Microsoft by announcing things that fans wanted left and right? Yeah, this year, it seems like the two companies switched. Microsoft, IMO, easily had the more exciting show even if most of their announcements were for games that are ultimately going to be multiplatform.
Again, Sony showed off a lot of great games, but the lack of excitement and surprise brought the whole thing down. The way I see it, there are really two reasons for this. The first is that Sony has become complacent considering how well they’ve done this generation with the PS4. It makes sense and is a common thing for most companies in their position.
The second one is a little more intriguing and fits in with rumors that started appearing prior to E3. It’s entirely possible that Sony has emptied the cartridge and has started pushing their studios to work on PS5 games for a speculated 2020 launch. If that’s the case, then the company likely doesn’t have much to say at this point. What we’re seeing now could very well be the last hurrah for the PS4 with most of those game showcased coming at various points in 2019, the rumored last year before the PS5.
That said, I’m still excited by Sony’s offerings, I just wish the company did more with what it had. As I mentioned, it lacked the typical Sony excitement and hype from years past, which was pretty surprising.
And that’s why I had for Sony, but I’m curious dear reader: what did you think? Were you satisfied or were you hoping for a bigger spectacle? Let me know in the comments and make sure to stay tuned for plenty more E3 content over the next couple of weeks.