How did I get so lucky as to cover the two best conferences of E3? First Bethesda wowed us with an impressive showing, and now Sony comes in with guns blazing withone amazing looking title after another. There were even some surprises despite the amount of leaks that hve gotten out ahead of time.
The conference starts out in grand fashion with an orchestra playing a riveting piece that leads into a mysterious trailer. A young boy is shown playing with toys before being called in by his father whom, once revealed, is seen with the same ash white skin with red marks as Kratos from the God of War series. Clearly this is the much rumored God of War based on Norse mythology, but there’s something else that’s quite different – the gameplay. The interaction between father and son and the tight, third person camera instantly brought back memories of playing The Last of Us. Even the setting being a snowy landscape as a young child hunts a deer with a bow and arrow greatly echoes one of the most iconic levels in Naughty Dog’s masterpiece.
A major highlight of this gameplay display was when you fight the giant troll. First off, this guy is terrifying with his molten lava foot stomps and giant stone pillar for a weapon. Luckily, this new Kratos (if that is his name) is every bit the badass that we all remember him being, taking down the troll in brutal fashion. Your son tries to help, but clearly has a lot to learn.
The father and son relationship on display is conveyed especially well, especially when the boy finally catches up to and shoots the deer. It’s a little heartwrenching watching this boy lose a chunk of his innocence for the sake of the hunt. Kratos is strong and stern towards the boy, but almost shows a bit of compassion as you see his hand hover over his son’s slumped shoulders before deciding instead to pull out the knife from the animal corpse instead. Like I said, shades of The Last of Us are all over this one. It’s not quite the God of War we remember, but it’s a reboot that looks like extremely promising.
Oh, and there are apparently dragons. That’s some grade A hype right there.
After a classy move giving condolences to those affected by the Orlando massacre, the show continues with a studio we’ve been waiting a long time to hear from – Bend Studio. The developer that was previously behind the Syphon Filter franchise finally unveiled their new IP called Days Gone. And to think they were one word shy of referencing that awesome Dirty Vegas song.
In Days Gone, you play as former biker turned drifter and mercenary Deacon St. John who is simply trying to survive in a post apoclyptic world overrun by Gollum-like creatures named Freakers. The trailer shown has Deacon narrate how he remembers when the world he knew went down in flames, but most all a long lost love from his previous life. There was an immediate “The Walking Dead with a splash of Sons of Anarchy vibe” that I got from it. More would be shown at the end of the conference.
It’s just one major surprise after another as the next game shown immediately afterwards is none other than The Last Guardian. The art style immediately felt a lot more polished, and there appears to be an evil version of Trico (bird dog pet creature) to contend with. A madeup language is also in use much like predecessors Ico and Shadow of the Colossus. The kicker, however, is that we finally got a release date. The audience very audibly gasped as “October 25th, 2016” appeared on the giant screen. Will it be worth the long wait? It certainly looks like it might.
The haymakers don’t stop as we next get to see new gameplay footage of Respawn Studio’s Horizon Zero Dawn. There was already a trailer released when the delay was announced, and now this new video just makes the wait that much more painful.
There was a lot to ingest from here, so let’s dig right into it. First up, we see a focus scan ability come into play so as to figure out an enemy’s weak points. This goes to show just how much reconaissance work comes into play in the overall combat. Along with the trusty bow and arrow, a slingshot was also used to lob projectiles with some splash damage. This proved effective in keeping your targets on the defensive. There was even some resource mnagement on display as weapons and items and can be crafted if you have the necessary ingredients. Looks like The Last of Us has had a wider net of influence than I thought!
Thanks to some well-timed and informative dialogue (which would become a theme throughout this demonstration), we also learn that there are corrupted machines who can be especially dangerous. These Corruptors as they are called are looking to infect otherwise harmless creatures. After first taking one down, a conversation is engaged with a troubled man spouting what seems like nonsense about demons. And guess what? We have dialogue options a la Mass Effect! Whether or not this dialogue wheel mechanic actually has any effect on story or is purely there for some player involvement without consequence (Uncharted 4) remains to be seen.
A mechanical steed can also be reprogrammed and used to help you move around the map more easily. Not only that, you can perform some hit and run by shooting arrows while riding. Just try not to feel too bad when your robo horse friend gets blown to bits. Need to keep pesky enemies from leaping on you? The rope gun used will hold them down. It has come to a point where there doesn’t need to be any more shown. Just finish the game and get it in our hands as soon as possible, because it looks incredible.
Next game that’s shown is the latest David Cage project Detroit: Become Human. This rather impressive trailer showcases an android named Connor working to resolve a hostage situation where another android has a little girl on a rooftop. David Cage is notorious for making his games look like movies or with a strong cinematic feel coupled with player choice that yields a variety of outcomes and endings, and Detroit seems no different in this regard. In a couple of instances, Connor sacrifices his own life in the line of duty.This leads me to believe that we will indeed have a few protagonists in play as the story unfolds. Hopefully it turns out better than the disappointing Beyond: Two Souls.
Expectedly taking up a chunk of the show is PlayStation VR. As the cheaper alternative to most every other virtual reality option, Sony was really pushing the value gamers can expect to get out of the fancy headset. Some hard facts were mentioned, such as the $399 price tag, October 13th release date, and how over 50 games are planned for release by the end of the year.
This then gets followed by a relatively quick rundown of PSVR games in the works. There were the “okay” (Farpoint, Battlefront VR Mission), the surprises (Batman Arkham VR, Final Fantasy XV FPS mode), and the downright impressive with Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. I honestly didn’t even realize that was Call of Duty when first viewing the trailer. The high octane space battles followed by gravity centric, hookshot using FPS gameplay was downright impressive and something I believe could be a “killer app” for PSVR if done well. SO far, color me impressed.
A quick (like a split second) mention was made in that the first three Crash Bandicoot games will be making a return to PS4. No mention on which studio is working on it or whether they will be remasters, but at least it will keep the Crash fans happy for now.
Suddenly we’re then treated to a showing of LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens. This looks like it will be as faithful to the movies as one can get with the brick building toys. Scenes from the movie are recreated and also injected with a bit of fun. If you’re a Star Wars fan, then you won’t have to wait much longer since the demo is available now and the full game will be out in two weeks. That’s how you announce a game!
In what has to be one of the most epic E3 introductions, Hideo Kojima marches down stage as tiles light up beneath his feet. The crowd was already going crazy, but really blew the lid off the place when he exclaimed “I’m back!” Indeed he is as his studio Kojima Productions had a trailer already made to show us.
A naked man and baby are found washed up on a beach with oil surrounding them. We get a good look at the man’s face and immediately are greeted by Boondock Saints and The Walking Dead star Norman Reedus. As you may know, Reedus teamed up with Kojima and direct Guillermo del Toro to create P.T. which was supposed to lead into the Silent Hills game that would never be.
The black oil seems to be a major theme as the baby is in the man’s arms one moment then disappears leaving behind a slog of the stuff. It’s an intriguing trailer and fits Kojima’s artsy take on video games for sure. It will just take some considerable time before we see what this game – titled Death Stranding – is truly all about.
The only surprise that could even match that was the new Spider-Man game shown by Insomniac. The Ratchet & Clank developer is working alongside Marvel to create what looks like the most fluid and action-packed entry in the wall-crawler’s video game history. In fact, the way this Spider-Man moves and looks (from the neck up anyway) looks very similar to the Spider-Man in Captain America: Civil War. I don’t know what the deal is with the white spider icon or what the final name will be, but this is an exclusive which could pay dividends for Sony.
The conference then closes by returning to the Bend game Days Gone, this time with a gameplay video. If there’s one thing Sony has locked down, it’s character driven stories in games. Like most of the other titles shown, Days Gone has some great voice acting and set pieces. Not only that, we also get a better idea of specific mechanics in the game as well as how terrifying the enemies can be.
The demo starts off with Deacon riding on his motorcycle before reaching a fenced area. We then get to see some scavenging come into play, such as finding a car part that was used as a homemade silencer for the pistol. It wouldn’t surprise me if (once again) The Last of Us has some influence in this regard. It’s later when the first enemy shows up. Called a Freaker, these Gollum-like creatures essentially act as the de facto zombies of Days Gone, but more 28 Days Later style. They will run and jump and claw you down if not careful. If you think that’s terrifyng, there’s a point when what looks like at least 20 of the monsters are chasing Deacon up on the roof and over a bridge. This is where the true dread in the game I think really shines through as these Freakers are relentless, even spilling out of windows to get a piece of you. If the framerate holds up during these more intense scenes, then Bend may just have a winner here.
Once again, Sony knocks it out of the park with one hit after another. It’s really quite amazing how focused they have become towards games and how well it has worked for them. While no one asides from arguably EA had a “bad” conference, Sony just goes to show that their fingers are on the pulse of the PlayStation community and aren’t willing to hit the brakes any time soon.Related: Bend Studio, Call of Duty, Day Gone, E3, E3 2016, God of War, Hideo Kojima, Last Guardian, LEGO, PlayStation, PS4, Resident Evil, Sony, Spider-Man, VR