We already know that Sony had a great year, outselling its major rivals in hardware, and with the PS4 shifting almost twice as many units as the Xbox One. We also know, however, that doing well one year can mean next to nothing further down the line and that, let’s face it, gaming can be a pretty brutal arena (SEGA, anybody?). If we bear that in mind, and work on the assumption that a gaming year is pretty much e3 to e3, however well Sony did last year became pretty much irrelevant almost as soon as the e3 press conferences began again this year.
So, without further ado, let’s see how it all played out for them this year…..
After taking the stage, and after the obligatory thanks and prostrations to Playstation fans, SCE President and CEO Andrew House set out Sony’s theme for the year’s conference almost immediately, talking about their “uncompromising commitment to gamers”, and about how the Playstation platforms were “the best place to play games”.
In a similar vein to Microsoft’s Phil Spencer, he also alluded to the strength of Playstation’s gaming “community”, and how the members of that community would continue to “play it first and play it better” across Sony’s platforms. At first, these were just meaningless words, but, as the conference progressed, it became clear that they were to be recurring themes, and, in fact, pretty much the three major motifs of Sony’s presser at e3 2014: the Sony Community, Multi-platform capability, and playing bigger and better games first.
As if to emphasise the third point even before it was made, the first major footage shown was that of Bungie’s Destiny, which won’t be an exclusive, but which will enter beta on the PS3 and PS4 on July 17th, before it does on Microsoft’s consoles. To hammer home the same point a bit more, it was then revealed that a first-look alpha will take place on the PS4 between June 12th and June 15th. As to the actual game, it all looked pretty impressive, although the trailer was mainly cinematic, revealing only the start-of-movie-type-backstory and little else of substance.
The next showing of note was, as we suspected, The Order: 1886, offering us a fairly decent look at some gameplay, wherein our moustachioed Hero gets involved in some pretty serious fisticuffs with a werewolf, in the murky depths of what appeared to be an insane asylum. For me, this all looked spectacular, and at times it seemed very, very much like live-action film as opposed to computer generated graphics. Despite the delays, and assuming it’s close to completion, The Order seems like something to get really excited about, right now!
After The Order, Sony changed pace a bit by showing Entwined, an Indie-type game developed by Pixel Opus, and available now for download, so I’m going to use this as an opportunity to segue seamlessly (*cough*) into a small digression about Sony’s commitment to Indies and the work of smaller studios. It was a theme that kept popping up throughout the presentation, and given it’s an element that led many people to opt for Sony in the first place, that’s probably not that surprising. Indeed, given Microsoft showed some intent in this regard yesterday, it may well become a new, and genuine, front in the console war.
Anyway, aside from the aforementioned Entwined, which is a love story about two bits of a Dragon-ey thing (yeah I know, but honestly, it looked pretty cool), there seemed to be a genuine slew of great Indie/smaller studio type titles coming to Playstation platforms.
Amongst others, there was Magicka 2, Broforce, Not a Hero, Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number, and The Talos Principle. There was also a sneak peak of Abzu, from Giant Squid (the company created by Journey and Flower Art Director Matt Nava), and, as you’d expect, it all looked properly, balls-to-the-wall mesmerising.
However, and to give you an indication of how strong the line-up was, that wasn’t the Indie game which really caught my eye: That honour went to No Man’s Sky. To say I was intrigued would be an understatement of epic proportions, and, to prove my point, here’s an extract from the notes I was writing at the time:
Looks like the Lion King…..on LSD….with a bit of The Land Before Time….Wait, now with a bit of added Star Wars……Ok, that definitely looks like Battlestar Galactica…..Just, WOW!!!
Developed by a team of just 4 people at Hello Games, No Man’s Sky is described as a “Procedurally Generated” world, with every player starting out on their own, individual planet in an “infinite” universe. It looked absolutely mind-blowingly mahoosive, and I could easily imagine losing years of my real life to its stunningly imagined one.
One of the really cool things about a lot of the Indie titles was that they will be available on different Playstation platforms, so this seems like as good a time as any to talk about one of the other important parts of the Sony Conference: the aforementioned Multi-Platform Capability.
I’ve already said how much I wanted to see some Vita attention at e3, and I pretty much got it. Sony stated that the Vita was a “Key pillar” for them, and that there were 100 + Vita games in development, including Child of Light, Tales from the Borderlands, and Minecraft.
However, Sony also announced that the much-anticipated PS Now service would enter open beta in the US and Canada on the Playstation 4 as soon as July 31st, and that this would be followed by opening it up to the PS3 and the PS Vita, meaning hundreds of additional titles would be available for them too.
And, as if that wasn’t enough, Sony also revealed that select Sony TV’s would also have access to PS Now, meaning you can play games on them using only a compatible Playstation Dualshock Controller. That’s pretty cool.
Cooler still though, Sony also announced the forthcoming US release of Playstation TV, which will allow access to PS Now, PS3 and PS Vita classic titles, and can be paired with an additional TV in the home to essentially provide a second terminal for your Playstation 4. It will retail at $99 in the US, and will be available there (and in Northern Europe) in the autumn. How freakin’ cool is that!?!?
You’d be forgiven for thinking Sony just gave it the old “thank you and goodnight” and f*cked off after dropping the above, show-stopping, bombshells, but they didn’t. They returned to the games, in much the same way as we shall now…
As with Microsoft’s own presser, some of Sony’s bigger reveals weren’t exclusives so much as big 3rd party games, some with exclusive content, or which would debut first on Playstation.
In this respect, we were shown exclusive gameplay footage of Mortal Kombat X, and a trailer for Battlefield: Hardline, which will have its first beta run on the Playstation 4. We were also treated to an extended gameplay demo of Far Cry 4, which looked sweet, and featured stunning environments, combat, and, get this, weaponised elephants! It will also allow you to invite your PSN friends to join you in your game – even if they don’t own it themselves.
Then there was the news that GTA V would be coming to Playstation 4, and an extended trailer for Dead Island 2, finally giving those Playstation owners seriously Jonesing for some Zombie action something to cheer about!!
There was also an extended gameplay demo for Batman: Arkham Knight. “Awesome” doesn’t really do justice to what I saw, and there was all different kinds of Batmobile goodness, as well as some pretty impressive shots of a huge, sprawling Gotham City. It was also revealed that Playstation owners will have access to exclusive Scarecrow Nightmare Missions, so, you know, WOO, and indeed, HOO!!
And, finally, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain also got a bit of an extended showing, with Snake looking all gruff, but pony-tailed, and even angrier in his Next-Gen surroundings. Clearly, this guy could really benefit from a hug, but given we get to be all kick-assy while he isn’t getting one, all the better for us because MGS V looks brilliant!
But wait….we’re not done yet. In addition to all of the above, Sony still had some pretty impressive cards to play in terms of exclusives. First there was Bloodborne, which it turns out was the rumoured Project Beast, and which will be a PS4 exclusive – looking like a cross between Game of Thrones and Solomon Kane. Then, there was the announcement that a re-mastered version of Grim Fandango will be coming to the Vita and PS4, making many (*cough*) slightly older gamers collectively piss their pants. There was also news of additional downloadable content for InFamous: Second Son, and the sneakiest of previews of Let it Die.
On a personal note, I was giddily excited to see actual “footage captured directly from a PS4” of The Last of Us, and am almost certainly going to have trouble sleeping before it comes out on July 29th. I take back all the nasty things I said about Sony when I found out the PS4 wasn’t backwards-compatible, not least because the idea of playing The Last of Us all re-mastered and whatnot, fills me with pure, unadulterated joy.
Finally, we arrive at Sony’s real BOOYAH moment (Called it!), and what they chose to end their press conference with. Given all the cool stuff I’ve already mentioned, you’ll understand that this makes it pretty special, and it was. Uncharted 4, people!! Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is coming to the Playstation 4, and holy shit-balls did it look great. Sure, it was only a short trailer, but given all the added oomph and detail in those few, tantalising seconds, I’d gladly give them my money right now!!
In many ways, the sheer length of this piece (erm, sorry about that) is testament to the overall strength of Sony’s e3 2014, and moreover, to the diversity of that strength. A big part of the reason that this piece is longer than the one I wrote about Microsoft yesterday is precisely because I had more to cover. Sure, in terms of games, I think they were both pretty equal, but the fact that Sony have also given significant attention to the Vita, PS Now, and Playstation TV speaks volumes about its commitment to their core community, and not only to what games they can play, but to how they can play them.
I was initially disappointed that Project Morpheus only got the briefest of mentions (I’ve already gone on record as being a bit excited about it), but after the whole thing had finished, I pretty much realised that this was because they didn’t need it. There was enough in those 90 minutes to keep everyone genuinely excited about being a part of the Playstation community. From hardware to Indie games, via exclusive content, I’d be very, very surprised if any owner of a Playstation 4 is currently second-guessing their decision to have bought it, even if a lot of the stuff we saw is for “the future”.
In the end, I think this is the best metric by which to judge Sony’s e3 2014, and, it has to be said, by that reckoning, they absolutely nailed it.
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