E3 2015: Sony Conference
Not to be outdone by sneak-peek gameplay of hotly-anticipated titles like Fallout 4, Doom, Rise of The Tomb Raider, Dishonored 2 and many more, Sony pulled no punches during its E3 press conference on June 15.
Through a combination of teasers, in-game footage, trailers and other announcements, Sony and its developer partners drove the crowd wild for an exciting slew of new games coming in 2015 and 2016. Although Sony Computer Entertainment officials conspicuously left out any mention of bringing backwards compatibility to PlayStation 4, as many predicted they might, the many games and other new developments on display made for a very strong conference.
Starting on a high note, Sony’s conference opened with a presentation of a game on nearly everyone’s minds since it was first teased in the late 2000’s: The Last Guardian. The spiritual successor to the artistic cult classic Shadow of the Colossus has been stuck in development hell for nigh on a decade, but Sony’s conference reignited hopes that the ambitious adventure from famed developer Fumito Ueda will finally come to Playstation soon and is more than long-awaited vaporware.
“You don’t know how long I have waited for this moment, to introduce The Last Guardian,” said Sony Worldwide Studios President Shuhei Yoshida shortly after gameplay of The Last Guardian was shown, to the enthusiastic approval of conference attendants.
We understood from early concept art and rumors of The Last Guardian that the game would revolve around a symbiotic partnership between a young boy and a strange dog/goat/bird hybrid creature as they explore a ruined landscape. The gameplay showcased the teamwork central to the game; the unknown young protagonist gives instructions to the gentle giant as it leaps across chasms, creates pathways and snatches the boy from perilous falls.
The stunning footage of The Last Guardian was followed by an equally groundbreaking offering from long-term Sony compatriot Guerrilla Games. Studio representative Hermen Hulst presented a completely original intellectual property from the creators of Killzone.
Guerilla’s gameplay trailer for the upcoming game, called Horizon: Zero Dawn, opened on a wild landscape as a narrator explains that modern humans – us in the far future – disappeared long before her tribe emerged. In her time, small groups of hunter-gatherers scrape by a living on a planet completely retaken by nature and roving animalistic machines. Combat ensues in a third person stealth/ranged/melee system reliant on quick reactions and exploiting weaknesses.
Asad Qizilbash, head of software marketing for Sony, introduced a trailer for the next installment in the storied Hitman franchise. Though the next adventure of iconic contract killer Agent 47 will launch on multiple platforms, Sony will take some ownership by offering exclusive missions and an open beta version only on Playstation.
“It’s good to have you back,” whispers Diana, Agent 47’s trusty handler, at the trailer’s closing. And the crowd agrees.
No Man’s Sky has been a hot topic for more than a year now, with eager players devouring every detail of the groundbreaking new space exploration experience. This year, developer Sean Murray of Hello Games took the stage to present brand new gameplay footage to sate the appetites of aspiring star pilots the world ’round, describing No Man’s Sky as a “universe-sized sandbox, full of choices.”
Although a release date eluded us at this conference, Murray’s display of the game’s space combat and planetary exploration mechanics was a worthy showing from his small studio.
Following Murray on the Sony stage was Alex Evans of Media Molecule, the developer behind indie PS Vita hit Tearaway. Media Molecule proudly unveiled their newest effort: a creative, collaborative art game called Dreams. In Dreams, players create their own unique dreamscapes with brush tools, pre-built objects, custom animations, music and a multitude of other tools. The dreams can be shared and woven together with those of other players to create an imaginative community dream tapestry. Surely an ambitious and intriguing Playstation title to watch for in the future.
Fresh off the release of the House of Wolves expansion for the wildly popular MMO roleplaying shooter, Adam Boyes, vice president of publisher & developer relations for Sony, announced the “next great adventure” for Destiny. The new expansion, called “The Taken King,” will center around Oryx, a name most players will know as the father of previous Big Bad, Crota. From the looks of the trailer, players can expect new subclasses – and their associated super moves – along with new cooperative missions, gear and story activities.
Final Fantasy fans got what they came for and more when the cutesy, stylized storybook adventure World of Final Fantasy was announced, with a true game changer coming soon after. A gorgeously rendered teaser trailer hinted at a possible return to a beloved Final Fantasy setting and the crowd went wild when a Final Fantasy VII remake for PS4 was confirmed.
Another beloved JRPG franchise had its day in the sun during the Sony conference when Shenmue creator Yu Suzuki personally launched an official Kickstarter campaign for Shenmue 3, a highly anticipated sequel.
“The fate of Shenmue is in your hands now,” Suzuki said.
And what capable hands they are. As of the morning after the conference, the Shenmue 3 Kickstarter had raised more than $2.1 million, breaking its initial $2 million goal without a sweat.
Sony Computer Entertainment’s Andrew House also discussed future uses for Project Morpheus, Sony’s proprietary virtual reality platform currently in development. House teased the potential of multiplayer in the VR landscape while giving glimpses of upcoming games such as RIGS, an e-sport robot battle arena title that seems purpose-built for delivering competitive VR action.
House also plugged Playstation Music, a streaming service made possible by a partnership with Spotify, and Playstation Vue, a television streaming service currently available in select test markets throughout the country. Unlike other services, Vue will allow for ala-carte channel subscriptions for a fresh sense of customization.
In another bid to plant a flag in a traditionally multiplatform franchise, Sony announced exclusive map packs, mission offerings and early multiplayer beta access for the upcoming Call of Duty: Black Ops 3. The world’s first glimpse of BO3’s gameplay was also given, suggesting a fast-paced, bio-tech driven shooter experience that Treyarch’s Mark Lamia described as “fast, fluid and visceral.”
The multiplayer seemed loyal to the tried-and-true Call of Duty formula but did include a welcome addition of greater freedom of movement and variety of weaponry, as characters were seen darting along walls, sliding around corners and using their body augmentations to deadly effect. Black Ops 3’s Playstation-exclusive multiplayer beta opens in August.
“Playstation is the new home of Call of Duty,” House added.
As the Sony conference came to an end, executives tossed gamers one last delicious morsel before departing: a never-before-seen gameplay trailer for Uncharted: A Thief’s End. The next chapter in one of Sony’s strongest flagship franchises looks to feature an unprecedented level of detail in animations and interactions, as well as a new sense of verticality, flexibility in combat and seamless transitions between gunfights and car chases, all while maintaining the trademark Uncharted formula.
Several of the more brief or minor presentations were nevertheless exciting contributions to the Sony conference. These included a new teaser for Street Fighter 5; a new cooperation between Star Wars, Disney Infinity 3.0 and Playstation; a quartet of stylish, quirky upcoming games by Devolver Digital; thrilling new footage of Star Wars Battlefront’s survival missions and a new trailer for Assassin’s Creed Syndicate.
Few bases were left untouched for Sony, with even the new movie-based Ratchet and Clank remake getting at least a few seconds of screen time in a video montage. After this conference, many Playstation gamers have some serious calendar-marking to do, while taking with a grain of salt the ambiguous nature of E3 announcements: smart players know to expect delays, downgrades or even outright cancellations.
At any rate, Sony came out swinging at E3 2015, clearly delivering on several fan expectations while handing out some unexpected crumbs. Time will tell how well they deliver on the hype they built.