After Microsoft’s competent but predictable showing, denizens of the gaming sphere were waiting with baited breath to see how Sony would respond. Did their slate of explosive blockbusters manage to counter Microsoft’s stable of sequels? Not quite. Here’s what went down at Sony’s E3 press conference.
- To the surprise of almost no one in attendance, Bungie’s hotly-anticipated new IP Destiny started off Sony’s show with a sweep of orchestral bombast. The game certainly looks visually impressive, but its lore-focused voiceover seems out of place for such a large event. Some of the exclusive features that Sony managed to nab for the platform sound better than the usual throwaway missions, including an upcoming preview and a pack-in bundle. At this point, thanks to the its years of promotion by both the press and the console manufacturers, most gamers know what to expect from Destiny; the only question that matters now is whether or not it lives up to expectations.
- Following Destiny was The Order: 1886, an exclusive third-person shooter from Ready at Dawn. The game’s graphical quality is virtually unparalleled in its genre, but its base gameplay looks fairly rote: think Gears of War with crossbows and werewolves instead of assault rifles and Locust. The vertical slice of gameplay showcases the horror aspect of the game more than previous trailers have, but it plays a little too trite to be genuinely scary. The settings and weapons seem interesting, but I wouldn’t count on it being a system-seller.
- Next, LittleBigPlanet 3 was showcased in a live demo that lasted a few minutes too long. Honestly, there’s not much to say: if you liked the first two, you’ll probably like this one. The platforming seems as wonky as always, but the addition of new characters varies things up significantly. Though it’s not being made by Media Molecule, Sumo Digital have proved themselves to be capable developers in the past, so we wouldn’t worry too much about it.
- The Miyazaki-fronted IP known as Project Beast was revealed to be the aptly-titled Bloodborne. Based on the trailer, it looks like one of his famously dilapidated realms set in a more industrial environment. It contains all the grimness and gore you expect from the director of the Souls series, but the addition of firearms makes us mildly wary. Everything else about it looks like more of the same, but I can’t see anyone complaining about that.
- Far Cry 4 was up next, and it looks like the logical next step for the series: that is, an elephant charging at an exploding jeep. The addition of a wingsuit and grapple hook seems to suit the verticality of the Himalayan environment well, and the whole production adopts the no-holds-barred ridiculousness of Far Cry 3 at its best, which is undoubtedly the right direction for the series. If they manage to sync the plot with this brand of gameplay, we might have a classic on our hands.
- Much like its previous incarnation, Dead Island 2 debuted with a splashy teaser trailer. This one shows more of a “tongue-in-cheek” tone than the previous game, which I suppose is the only way you can play the zombie trope in this day and age. It’s being developed by Yager, the team behind Spec Ops: The Line, but, barring the game turning into a Spec Ops-style deconstruction, I wouldn’t say I’m too excited.
- A barrage of titles followed. Battlefield Hardline looks as boring as its premise implies, but I’m sure that there are fans itching for a fresh take on the cops-and-robbers formula. Magicka 2 was announced with a legitimately funny trailer: if you can find three other people who are interested, it looks like a great time. And, after more than a decade of being unavailable for legal purchase, Tim Schafer’s critically-acclaimed Grim Fandango is finally coming out in a form that modern machines can actually play. Though this is long overdue, we’re excited to experience Manny’s bizarre adventure all over again.
- Next up was a showreel of handful of indie games that will probably end up being brilliant, including Hotline Miami 2 and Broforce. Devolver Digital is one of my favorite publishers, and I’m glad that games like this are able to get a console release; we’ve certainly come a long way from last generation in that respect. A new Suda51 game that no one seemed to expect came next with a disturbing trailer that hints at some kind of persistent online component. Named Let it Die, it looks intriguing, but, after the debacle known as Killer is Dead, more needs to be seen before it’s a launch-day buy.
- Ever fancied seeing Journey, but underwater? Abzu might be the game for you. Headed by the creative director of Journey, it looks to have all the quality and wonder that such a comparison implies. Though it’s little more than a brief look, anyone who enjoyed thatgamecompany’s previous work would be remiss not to look for more on Abzu in the future. The fact that Journey’s composer is handling the soundtrack is just the icing on the cake.
- Next up was No Man’s Sky, the jaw-dropping indie game that’s got everyone talking. Everything about it seems way too good to be true: procedurally-generated world, infinite space exploration, and asymmetric multiplayer, with a unique art style to boot. It’s hard to believe that a studio of Hello Games’ size could handle a game with such colossal ambition, but so far it appears to be something truly special.
- Following that amazing spectacle was a bunch of accessories and miscellaneous additions. They talked about Project Morpheus in vague terms, the Camera more concretely. PS Now is rolling out soon, and they continued to try to sell you a Vita. Finally, they revealed Playstation TV for North American, which lets you stream PlayStation games of all makes and models to a different TV in the same household. Sounds nifty, but not my cup of tea.
- Mortal Kombat X is a dumb name, but the game looks great. They’ve added Injustice-style environmental attacks, as well as some new characters that seem potentially interesting. The Fatalities were even more ridiculous than expected; all in all, I think it’s a winner. The Ratchet and Clank film is apparently happening, and it looks better than I expected. And even though it was announced a while back, Sony saw fit to remind us that the best game of last year, The Last of Us, is being “remastered” for the PS4, and is being released later this summer. The graphical differences are minute, but if there’s any game that deserves to be bought twice, it’s this one.
- After this came the big gunners. Metal Gear Solid 5 had a protracted trailer showing off story beats and gameplay innovations. It looks promising, but I’m not sure I can handle another twenty to forty hours of Kojima craziness. Then came Arkham Knight, which has an amazing level of visual detail but seems to lack a lot of gameplay additions besides the Batmobile. Still, if it’s nearly as good as Arkham City it will be more than fine. And, finally, the last trailer: a teaser for Uncharted 4. Subtitled A Thief’s End, it appears to be going in a much darker direction than previous iterations. Though I fear that this may come off as hokey, if anyone can do it, it’s Naughty Dog.
So, how did Sony do overall? Their conference had more standout moments than Microsoft’s, but they were both so well-planned and executed that it ultimately comes down to personal preference. Sony’s embrace of titles both big and small is going to allow them to continue leading this console race for at least the next few years, although that gap is closing fast. With fewer exclusives than ever, the competition has come down to the best “exclusive content” for multiplatformers: and Microsoft are winning on that front thanks to their deals with Call of Duty. Although Sony are most certainly in the lead at the moment, by not blowing us away at E3 that lead is starting to shrink. Once thing is certain: the next-gen console wars just got a whole lot closer.