Sony knocked it out of the park with their press conference in 2015, in what became known as the Year of Dreams. But while they dazzled with nearly everything shown, nearly all of it was far, far off. We still have no idea when titles like Final Fantasy VII Remake and Shenmue III will ever hit the console. With Microsoft coming out strong in their own conference, the ball was in Sony’s court to try and take a better shot.

Sony certainly came back with a powerful answer, though just how powerful is really up to your subjective opinion. Beat after beat, Sony demonstrated that they know how to make a conference into an event. There were mic drop moments and tantalizing teases. There were also a few lulls in the energy, but they didn’t last long enough to fully linger on them. And while Sony had plenty of big titles to talk about in 2015, they were largely 3rd-party experiences (and Horizon: Zero Dawn). This time the first-party studios popped out over and over. Let’s talk about the big titles.

THE NEW

God of War

maxresdefault (1)

It looks like Sony Santa Monica has gone back to the drawing board and completely stripped down the core of God of War, rebuilding the franchise into something else. The show began with a full orchestra performing the theme from the upcoming game, with tinges of Skyrim to it, before a live gameplay demo showed snowy wilderness, a young boy, and a very aged Kratos. No zoomed out view of droves of enemies coming just to enter Kratos’ tornado of chainblade death, here. Instead, the camera pulls in tight for an over-the-shoulder view as a noticeably calm Kratos takes his son out for a hunt.

It’s jarring, but intriguing, to hear the Spartan say things like “Think before you act!” Perhaps old age, a new child, or a combination of both have settled the rage, though it shows signs of appearing every so often. There was a very Last of Us vibe to the demo, reminiscent of Ellie’s hunt through the snow. There were also hints of RPG-like elements, as messages popped up saying “Knowledge Gained: Tracking +25”. Of course, it all goes to shit when monsters attack. Even here, the camera is tight, despite Kratos fighting a massive beast and letting all that pent-up rage spill out by bashing its head to the ground. There seems to be a combo functionality, with the boy firing arrows to help Kratos mid-battle, and less of a focus on quicktime events to solve everything. It’s a definite departure for the series, and perhaps just the refresher it needs.

Days Gone

DaysGone004

You could be forgiven for mistaking this game as being set in the world The Last of Us, save for the splash logo from Sony’s Bend Studio appearing just before the footage. A desolate wasteland that was once the US. A grizzled man rides a motorcycle and talks about all that he’s lost. A massive pandemic has wiped out nearly all normal life by turning humans into zombie-like things that are not really zombies… Yes, while God of War was showing small signs of the influence, Days Gone was shouting it from the heavens, and wasn’t working hard to differentiate itself. That’s not to say it’s bad, by any stretch, but it is an odd move considering Naughty Dog are already working on their own sequel. The live demo played at the end of the conference will be placed here for simplicity’s sake.

It begins as Deacon St. John (a biker/bounty hunter name if there ever was one) tracks down a target to a seemingly abandoned mill, scrounging for items and crafting weapons. He eventually spies a Newt, the smaller, sneakier version of the not-zombies, has a fight with his target before encountering the Horde. Here’s where it gets interesting – the Horde is a massive group of not-zombies (they’re apparently alive, but feral) who move together as one. They go down quickly to gunfire, but the sheer numbers make running the best option. The most impressive part of the demo was watching how the Horde moves. They realistically slam through aluminum shutters, break through windows, crawl under and over obstacles, etc. When too many gather over a section of weak flooring, it creaks and breaks. This has potential to be a fun physics-based run-the-fuck-away game.

Death Stranding

1799

I fully expected something with Hideo Kojima at the show, whether it be an interview with House or simply some kind of congratulatory recognition of his work. Part of me thought he might be on stage. At no point did I think he’d have something to show. Even after watching the trailer, I’m still not sure he did. I don’t even know what I watched, but I want it. A  beach covered in black sand and dead marine life, all connected to the water by some kind of cable. A naked Norman Reedus clutching a baby who disappears and leaves his hands covered in oil. What is this? Why does Reedus have 6 dangly bits on his necklace? Why does he have techno-handcuffs? Who are the people floating in the air at the end? Kojima is doing what he does best – showing people something completely off the wall and getting them hooked. At least Reedus seems as confused as I am.

Insomniac’s Spiderman Game

Rumors of a Spiderman exclusive for PS4 have been floating around for a while now, with many thinking that Sucker Punch would be behind it. As it turns out, Insomniac will be taking the reins, and that’s just fine with me. I loved the old Resistance series, and the trailer seems to indicate this is going to be a character-driven narrative of one of the most interest heroes in the Marvel universe. I’m excited to see how this plays out.

Playstation VR

Grouping all these together as they were mostly presented in one large chunk.

  • Resident Evil VII – Never saw this one coming. While Kitchen was underwhelming for the Kaiju team, I knew it was created in the infancy of PSVR and could definitely be improved. What I didn’t expect was “Before Kitchen there was…” A Silent Hills/P.T.-inspired horror exploration game, apparently? Fans have been clamoring for years that RE return to its horror roots, but they may have tipped the scales all the way over by eliminating the action and survival elements? We’ll have to see.
  • Farpoint – A PSVR exclusive that actually looks like a complete game, if not a particularly long one. Trapped on an isolated planet with nothing but your space suit and your gun. Oh, and did I mention the giant demon spider? Neat, I suppose.

maxresdefault

  • VR Batman: Arkham – Hearing Mark Hamill’s Joker immediately grabs my attention, but the complete lack of a single clip of this just doesn’t bode well. Perhaps it will be a batarang shooting gallery?
  • FFXV VR Experience – On the other hand, this showed just about all we could expect to see from a final product. Square-Enix is letting you play as Prompto. Prompto. The least interesting character out of a group of guys who already have very little personality. Oh, and you jump around shooting guns at monsters while the others do the heavy lifting. No thanks.
  • X-Wing Mission – One of my greatest memories growing up is the hours I spent at the computer playing the X-Wing vs TIE Fighter series. Unfortunately, it seems that EA is only giving the smallest hit of that old addiction with a single mission.

Damn, that was a lot of new stuff.

The Updates

Horizon: Zero Dawn

We got another great look from a new gameplay trailer. Here we also got to see some of the various mechanics involved, such as more of the weapons that would be available, as well as how hunting and crafting can work. And now you can mount the techno-beasts! It wasn’t clear whether multiple mounts would be available, but seems likely. It’s also interesting to see that the people of this far, far future time still have knowledge of the machines, being able to hack their brains to “domesticate” them.

Detroit: Become Human

27557127022_33f01140db_h

Though all of the focus on Detroit: Become Human has been on Kara and her attempt to become accepted as a full-fledged human being, Quantic Dream isn’t in the habit of staying with one character in one time through an entire game. This time we got to take a look at Connor, an android who apparently works for the police as both a detective and a negotiator. A showcase revealed his attempt to talk down a rogue android who holds a girl at gunpoint. In a very Quantic Dream fashion, all sorts of possible outcomes were revealed, not just in binaries of who lives and dies but how everything goes down. Interesting, though the sheer amount of possibilities seems overwhelming for someone like me who has to experience every tale.

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare

The initial trailer for the next Call of Duty may still hold a comfortable position as the 2nd-most disliked video in YouTube history (sandwiched between Bieber’s “Baby” and Rebecca Black’s “Friday”). Personally, I thought it was simply “meh” but I thought the same thing about Battlefield 1. The gameplay trailer showed at Sony’s conference, though, was amazing. Flying through space in tiny fighters, going up against large warships, zipping around in zero-g with a grappling hook, and breaching/clearing enemy vessels with new weapons like anti-gravity grenades? Sounds like a good time to me.

The Others + Wrap-Up

We got a brief look at The Last Guardian in a new trailer, as well as a release date of 10/25, but nothing much more, which is fine. Team Ico games are based on moments and connections that can be easily ruined if too much is shown.

Crash Bandicoot is finally coming back…as an HD remastered collection of the first three titles for the PS4. I’m curious how this will turn out as retooling from PS3 to PS4 is a far different beast than going from PS1 to PS4. That’s going to take some serious work.

Final thoughts:

  • There was a lot (a lot) of new stuff brought out to show this year, and not all of it is in the super-distant future given how far along some of the gameplay trailers looked. Sure, we’ll have to wait a while for Kojima’s game and the Spiderman title, but it’s nice to finally see the first-parties out in force.
  • The Vita is dead. Not one mention of it, nor a single game that could possibly come to it (save for maaaaaaybe Crash?)
  • No love for the indies this year. But Sony will be at other conferences and may choose to show of their upcoming indie library elsewhere.
  • As much as I’m loving the first-party offerings, it seems they’re all trying to be the next The Last of Us.