Going into the Sony Conference this year, I didn't know what to expect. Bethesda had already brought the house down last night with the release date of one of the biggest games this year just last night, and Microsoft had surprised everyone with the announcement of backwards compatibility with the Xbox One. So, Sony had an uphill battle. However, with what I saw, Sony might've easily won E3 this year.
Right out of the starting gate, they bring out the big guns. For the first announcement of their ninety minutes, they chose The Last Guardian. A game that's been in development limbo for close to a decade, and the projected release date is...sometime in 2016! This was simply a massive bombshell. Everyone was hoping for information on this game from the makers of Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, two critically acclaimed games from Team Ico, but I think many people expect it to be one of the final announcements, given how long it's been since the last bit of information was gleaned about it. The trailer didn't show much, but it showcases the interaction between the main character and his companion. All in all, it looked stunning, and I simply cannot wait until this game is released.
Following on the heels of that is a huge endeavour, but Sony chose Guerrilla Games to appear next. Best known for their work with the Killzone series, Guerrilla Games announces a brand-new IP called Horizon Zero Dawn. Not much was said about this game, but what little information we have seems to suggest that it takes place centuries after present-day civilizations have died out. Again, the trailer doesn't explain much, but it does show off some amazing combat against..mechanical dinosaurs. Yes, there is little explanation, but from what they've shown, the game looks spectacular and it's certainly on my list of games to watch out for. It looked very polished, so I expect to hear much more about this one at Gamescom.
With the huge games out of the way, Sony announces a new entry in the Hitman saga. In yet another showcase, Sony shows nothing of the story - probably for good reason, since Hitman doesn't really need story - and instead opts for showing a myriad of locales and characters, some of which will probably be targets within the game. I'm curious to see where they go after the ending of the previous game - which appears to be chronologically before this new entry, since a character says "Good to have you back" while focused on 47's face. For PS4 users only, a preorder nets beta access, which suggests there will be a multiplayer component, which I'm unsure about.
Sony then went on to show some Street Fighter 5 footage. After a quick set of sequences showcasing Birdie and Cammy, they mentioned that the public beta for the game will be come to the PS4 exclusively on July 23rd..
After that brief calm, they called Sean Murray to the stage, who proceeded to blow our socks off - after we had just managed to put the back on after Last Guardian! - with some new No Man's Sky footage. After starting in a real space battle, followed by a small glimpse at the sheer size of the game universe, he jumped to a random planet closer to the galaxy center and landed. He then announced that every planet was fully destructible. Still, with no release date in sight, this game continues to astound. However, he did mention that the planet he jumped to will be able to be found by players once they get the game, suggesting that he was actually playing a final build of the game, which further suggests the release date could be sooner than we all think.
Media Molecule, best known for their work on Tearaway and Little Big Planet, then announced Dreams, a pretty ambitious evolution of their previous works, in which players will be able to construct seamless 'Dreams' that can be explored endlessly. Unfortunately, I sorta glossed out at this, since it seems directed at highly creative individuals, which I am unfortunately not. Afterward, they announced Firewatch would be making its console debut on PS4. It feels very survival horror, without that overt horror feel that typically comes with that territory. I'm very curious for this one, and will probably add it to my list to buy when it comes out.
Next up, Sony trotted out their seeming partnership with Bungie with footage of the new Destiny expansion coming Septmber 15, The Taken King. As well as adding new subclasses for the existing classes - a Void Bow Hunter, Arc Lightning Warlock, and Solar Hammer Titan - it will also pit guardians against Oryx, father of Crota, who has come inward from the outer solar system to get revenge for his son's murder. It looks spectacular, and seems to suggest many new areas - Saturn was among what I saw, as well as possibly more Mercury. Further, Playstation users will get more exclusive content, including a day one strike and multiplayer maps. Given the time I've spent with this game as it is, I'll definitely be playing this one, though it has some huge expectations to fill if it intends to hold players after Fallout 4 is released.
Switching gears somewhat, we get some new footage for Assassin's Creed Syndicate, the yearly release for the franchise with so many mixed feelings about it. We are introduced to Evie Frye, sister to Jacob Frye and the second female protagonist available in an Assassin's Creed game - the first being Aveline de Grandpr from Liberation - and the first since Ubisoft's ill-choice of words last year about it being hard to have a female protagonist. We are shown the Cane Sword, which seems quite intuitive in use, as well as throwing knives which appear to be somewhat useful. PS4 is also going to be getting a set of exclusive missions titled the Dreadful Crimes. I expected this to be connected to Jack the Ripper, but apparently they're focused on Victorian-era mystery novelists. With what is already expected this year, I'll probably hold out on this one, since I was burned very badly with Unity's gamebreaking bugs last year.
World of Final Fantasy came next. Exclusive on PS4 and Vita (the first time all show they've even mentioned their ailing handheld system) the World of Final Fantasy almost feels like a pokemon-esque game. You can shrink your character to a chibi and ride monsters, or return your chibi to normal size and have those monsters ride you for some reason. While not much was really shown about this, it looks intriguing enough that I'll definitely pick it up for my Vita, since my PS4 will be getting a major workout this holiday season.
And then, Sony brought the house down. I thought it couldn't get any bigger after the announcement of The Last Guardian, but oh was I wrong. Because they announced the Final Fantasy 7 remake that's been teased for years. The character models appear to use modified Advent Children models, and I also think the in-game engine is modified from Final Fantasy 15's, which combine to make this look spectacular. No release date was given, but I will predict it will have a 2017 release date to coincide with the 20th anniversary of Final Fantasy 7.
After that, I blanked out just slightly. they showed off a quartet of new games from Devolver Digital: Ronin, Eitr, Mother Russia Bleeds and Crossing Souls. They looked fascinating, but what little I noticed caused me to ignore most of this segment, since none of those games seemed to interest me - instead, spots sickened me, which is not what I want my games to do.
Sony then started talking about Kickstarter. I was confused at first, and then the trailer came on. Shenmue 3 appears to be happening. A game originally based on the Dreamcast, Shenmue 3 launched a kickstarter literally during the Sony conference. As of writing, the kickstarter sits at 1.2 million dollars, 60% of the asking price of two million. A direct sequel to the previous games, this kickstarts still has a month remaining. I fully expect this game to get far more than than the asking funding, and with Sony behind them, we can be sure that funding this game will get this game released.
Next, Batman: Arkham Knight was showcased. With the release date of June 23rd, we are shown one of the exclusive Scarecrow Nightmare missions. With you controlling a cop, you suddenly get dosed with Fear Toxin and you start shooting everything. It looks very fast paced, but I don't know what the final reward for these missions will be, so we'll have to see if the exclusivity is worth it.
The next bits step away from games for a bit, first talking about Project Morpheus and dropping a few names of games coming for the system (which we'll probably hear more about in the coming days after people get some hands-on with it on the show floor), and then about Playstation Vue, a tv programming system currently availabe in LA, San Francisco, New York, Chicago and Philedelphia. They will be allowing subscribers to choose channels they want to pay for, which is huge - coming at a time when Verzion is pushing this exact thing with their Custom TV packages. Further, Playstation Plus members will get an undisclosed discounted rate on subscriptions, which would just add to the already massive value of the service.
Returning to the games, which is far more interesting than Vue or Morpheus (though both are big for Sony, I'm sure) we are treated to a reveal of Call of Duty Black Ops 3. The segment starts with a four player co-op mission, fighting a wave of mechanized shock troops, as well as hackable artillery walkers. After that, they surprised by showing multiplayer footage, which felt very like titanfall without mechs - there was a lot of wall running to be had and seemed very fast-paced. It looked very polished, though since I'm not a fan of the CoD installments, much of the excitement was lost on me. They also announced that from here on, PS4 users will be the first to play all map packs for Call of Duty, and a beta for Black Ops 3 will appear on PS4 first in August.
Shifting gears to the Star Wars side of things, we have an announcement for Disney Infinity 3.0. Coming this fall, Disney Infinity will add Star Wars characters to their already robust lineup with two new playsets set in the world. Even better, Playstation will get an exclusive starter pack which includes the base, five figurines (Including the exclusive Boba Fett figurine!!!) and the playsets Twilight of the Republic and Rise Against the Empire playsets, all a month before any other platform. It's all exciting stuff, but I've stayed away from games like this solely because the figurine collection aspect seems like an unnecessary money sink for me.
More Star Wars news, we are treated to some Battlefront co-op missions. We see the Survival mission type for the first time, pitting two rebel soldiers against waves of Imperial forces, starting with stormtroopers but including AT-STs and possibly Sith warriors. It looked very exciting and I suddenly began wondering if I wanted to get this one. Playable Offline, split-screen or online, the lack of a campaign still makes me leery. Star Wars Battlefront is slated for a November 17th release.
Finally, Sony treated us to some Uncharted 4 gameplay. After a small hiccup with their systems - and what appeared to be a demo restart - we see Nate and Sully working their way through an unnamed city toward the tower of someone named Sam. While I'm unsure if Sam is friend or foe, the duo moved through the crowd for a bit before a combat wave appeared. It looks very fluid, and makes me highly excited for this game - as if I weren't already. Many of the environments looked and felt completely destructible, which is huge for a game like this. I'm curious to see how much of the world can be destroyed. Unfortunately, after this demo, the conference ended abruptly, without so much as a word from anyone regarding it.
All in all, Sony brought their A game this year. I was a bit disappointed about the lack of Vita coverage, but that's par for the course these days - and maybe there will be some gems hidden on the show floor for the system. As for the games, what they showed was highly surprising, and everything seemed designed to bury the competition in the dust. Hopefully, the games without release dates will come out soon, because those are quite possibly the best looking of the bunch.