Sony began their presser by announcing that they’d shifted 10 million PS4s, which makes 2013/2014 a pretty good year for them, but not so much for the various Industry (quote-unquote) “Experts” who’ve recently been predicting the death of consoles. Safe in the knowledge that their consoles still had a lot of life in them yet, Sony then proceeded to reveal enough to keep existing console gamers happy, and indeed, enough to tempt others into joining the throngs themselves. Going into their bit, the Microsoft Tomb Raider bombshell had left me feeling a bit like I’d been sucker-punched in the gut, so I really wanted (needed?) some stuff to compensate for that sense of loss.
And, in terms of games there was enough to do that. I’ll start with the one that I found most intriguing, and that was the news that Metal Gear Solid creator Hideo Kojima has teamed up with Guillermo del Torro (Blade/Hellboy/Pan’s Labyrinth/The Strain) to make a new installment in the Silent Hill franchise, cunningly entitled Silent Hills. I’m a big fan of the Survival Horror genre anyways, but the fact that one of cinema’s most arresting directors is involved in a re-vamp of a stone-cold classic is positively joyous news. Plus, there’s added Daryl off of The Walking Dead too, so that’s a pretty big bonus, right there (although, as of yet, there’s no news on crossbow-related-shenanigans)!
Closer to the other end of the how-much-a-game-makes-you-poop-your-pants spectrum was the news that Rayman creator Michel Ancel was working on a new PS4 exclusive, entitledWild. As you’d expect, this looks like it’ll be particularly good fun, and has characters running around, riding animals, hunting, and fishing, and all set in a mahoosive (about the size of Europe, apparently), uber-colourful, hyper-fantastical world. There’s no release date as of yet, but expect incidents of parents and children fighting over console time to increase somewhere in the region of a millionty-billion percent when it does land in the (hopefully) not too distant future.
There was also the news that Indie Titles Journey and Unfinished Swan would be making the leap to the PS4 “sometime this year”, and it was good news both for people who missed the games the first time around on the PS3, and those who didn’t: the ports are aiming to have both games running at 60 frames per second, and, on the latter point, the games will support the “cross-buy” feature, so PS4 owners who had it on the PS3 will be able to get it again, for free.
Another piece of news that got me particularly excited was that post-apocalyptic, zombie infested title Day Z would be arriving on the PS4 at some point too. There’s been a distinct lack of stuff-that-wants-to-munch-on-my-brain on the PS4 thus far, so this is great news.
The Tomorrow Children, the forthcoming game from Pixel-Junk Shooter developer Q-games, looks pretty intriguing too. Set in an alternate future, after some mind-melding experiments have gone horribly wrong (who’da thunk it, eh!?) and left small pockets of humans battling giant spiders, Godzilla-thingies, and a particularly sinister looking old dude, players must work together to try and restore the human population. As you can see from the trailer, it’s certainly visually stunning, and is definitely one to watch.
And talking of intriguing and visually stunning, there was also the news that The Vanishing of Ethan Carter (from The Astronauts) would be making its way onto the PS4 at some point in the future too. Billed as being “inspired by the weird fiction stories and other tails of macabre of the early 20th century”, The Astronauts are claiming that The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is a game “to be played at night, alone, and with headphones”. It’s due for release on PC later this year, but a PS4 release will certainly give console gamers looking for more poopy-pants-type-thrills something to look forward to.
And if misty, oppressive and atmospheric stuff is your thing, there was even more to look forward to thanks to a new Bloodborne trailer too. Looking every bit the Gothic horror game we’d expect from the “spiritual successor” to Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls, there’ll be a lot of blood, guts and gore before we’re through, I’d guess. So, you know, let the nightly hunt begin…..and all that!
And if misty, oppressive and atmospheric stuff isn’t your thing, fear not, because there was also a peek at the glorious, lush looking Rime, which is probably about as far away from Bloodborne as it’s possible to be. From the trailer, it looks a lot like Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag would look like if it was made by the team who did the animated classic Belle and Sebastian, and trust me, that’s a very good thing! And if that’s not enough to whet your appetite, the game was apparently conceived whilst creator Raúl Rubio Munárriz was in the process of drowning in the Mediterranean, so, that’s a fairly interesting genesis too. (And yes, for those of you wondering, he was trying to impress a girl)!
That was the actual game stuff, but as at e3, some of the cards Sony played were to do with hardware, and/or the actual game-playing experience, and they were pretty cool too.
Firstly, there was a confirmed date for the launch of PS TV in PAL regions – November 14th. Set to retail at €99, the nifty little set-top box thingy will, reportedly, come complete with OlliOlli, Worms Revolution Extreme, and Velocity Ultra.
Secondly, there was news of a forthcoming ‘Share Play’ experience, which will come as part of the Software System 2.0 update and which, I have to say, sounds freakin’ brilliant. Being touted as a “virtual sofa”, Share Play will allow your friends to join you remotely in games for Co-op stuff, and also to take over your single-player game, even if they don’t own the game themselves.
That’s great for several reasons, but for me especially, having the option to hand off a game to somebody who’s better than me to get a particularly tricky collectible or whatnot, is definitely appealing. Likewise, even though it’s currently possible to play certain games with friends already (via online multiplayer), the fact that you can join in a private game with a buddy, even if you don’t have a particular game yourself, is genuinely groundbreaking stuff.
PlayStation have made no secret of the fact that they’re gunning for the social gaming niche, and this is a great option to have. For example, even though most of my game-playing buddies are several thousand miles away, this is the closest we’re going to get to recreating the good old days of being huddled around the same console trying to get a particular “Hidden Tape” or whatnot, and that’s something I’m genuinely excited about.
All-in-all, it was another pretty impressive showing from Sony. Going back to the Tomb Raider thing, there are always moments when somebody who’s chosen one console over another second-guesses their decision, and the Tomb Raider thing was definitely one of those for me. However, once again, both the games that Sony showed, and their obvious commitment to improving how we play them, made that just a fleeting, passing slither of doubt.
Given how gutted I actually was about it (even though it’s just a “timed exclusive”), that’s probably a pretty good yardstick by which to measure Sony’s Gamescom 2014.