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Sony E3 2014 Press Conference Impressions

Sony E3 2014 Press Conference Impressions

Filed inside: News

Sony brought up the rear on press conferences, just as they did last year.

Last year Sony, along with Ubisoft, delivered some of the best presentations that they could have hoped for. They upended Microsoft at every turn, beating their hardware, taking shots are their poor console decisions and beating their price points. Now that the focus is less on consoles, did Sony really pull it off?

It all started with an emotional vision of Destiny, a game that, while multiplatform, has not been shy about its preference for the PlayStation systems. After a visit from “The Traveler”, an age of human prosperity began, we colonized other planets, lived longer, healthier lives, and realized a vision beyond ourselves on Earth. However, with this came the Darkness, a terrible evil force that would destroy us. You play as one of the few heroes who still walks with the light of the Traveler, and possess the ability to save humankind. It was a nice way to start off, if a tad underwhelming. It does get an exclusive launch window for the beta on PlayStation 4 on July 17th (and even an alpha for PS4 users this coming Thursday). They also announced a new glacier white model of their console that comes with some Destiny stuff added in, bringing hardware into the mix where none of the others did. They later brought up unique weapons and entire stages that are going to be exclusive for the PlayStation 4.

Things continued in short order (get it?) with The Order 1886, an alternate reality action shooter set in a creature-riddled past. The gameplay trailer was the most attractive thing shown on-screen yet, watching a man cautiously traverse a dark space with only a lantern to light his way. While I don’t doubt that much of what was touted as “gameplay” was cleverly rendered trickery to some degree, if this is at all representative of the final product, it’s something to keep an eye out for, the character backpedals nervously while firing on threats, glancing furtively behind him to ensure stable footing. Everything about the title screams “exclusive”, it ran smooth as silk, even with closeups presenting insanely attractive textures and attention to detail.

That led right into the decidedly more abstract announcement of Entwined, a game that is absolutely evocative of ThatGameStudio works such as Journey, flOw, and Flower. The team making the game is comprised of a small team of graduates from some high-end college programs, and tells the story of two souls that are in love, but can never be together. It reeks of style and substance, watching these creatures move across nine lifetimes with Brothers-esque controls that require the use of multiple analog sticks to navigate beautiful soundscapes.

The team responsible for inFamous: Second Son are also hard at work bringing a new piece of standalone content for the game that focuses around another conduit in First Light. Though not a lot of detail was not revealed, it did look impressive.

Little Big Planet 3 came literally right afterward, to many, many cheers. The second game, after all, was a triumph of design, allowing players to design many of their own games with a small toolset that allowed for plenty of innovation. It introduced new friends for Sackboy, Oddsock, Toggle, and Swoop. Oddsock is fast and can wall jump to get around the environment. Toggle is big and strong, but can also shrink down to fit through tight spaces. Swoop, unlike any of the others, can fly and navigate the environments in a matter quite unlike any of the others. All the characters have their own ways to traverse the environment now, and can interact with each other in a great display of interaction. It was an endearing look at a game that focuses on teamwork and aesthetic in its own way, without trying to be photorealistic or totally epic, it builds its own experiences, even as the presenters sort of fumbled their way through the game, it became quickly evident that the game was thoroughly enjoyable, with the audience laughing along with everyone else. It ended with a few more displays of the creative aspects of the game, which admittedly didn’t show much more than we might have expected to see from previous entries, but is comforting, nonetheless. The game is even backwards compatible with all content from Little Big Planet and Little Big Planet 2, and is due this holiday season.

They announced a new IP after this, Bloodborne, the new game by From Software and Hidetaka Miyazaki, which looks very much like it could be the game that was operating under the name Project Beast that leaked some footage recently. As a spiritual successor to Dark Souls, the game features many of the sensibilities therein, brutal violence, intense challenge, and a wickedly dark aesthetic. The trailer was all cinematic (and totally gross) so we can’t really speculate too far as it stands.

Far Cry 4 made another appearance after Ubisoft’s cinematic trailer, instead featuring a trailer that more closely represented possible gameplay. The environment, to say the least, was absolutely insane, with vegetation swaying in the breeze, and wildlife acting in a harsh environment. The video had the main character, Ajay tracking down a convoy in the tall mountains of Kyrat, with the goal of, of course, destroying the whole thing.It became rapidly evident that the environment wasn’t just for show, the player gained high ground to attack their enemies, planted booby traps on barrels and kicked them into enemies and detonated them before stealing a vehicle, laying out a small active assault and driving off a cliff, only to wingsuit out of the entire scenario like a total boss. The whole thing was pretty intense, and only got moreso when a second player dropped into the whole thing live, providing a vehicle through which they could lay down a dual assault, with one player circling for air support, and the other on the ground. The wildlife even reacted to the gunfire, with elephants rampaging through and attacking whatever was in their path.

They kept up the good news that, exclusively on PlayStation, you can invite your PSN friends to play the game even if they don’t own it. It really is a step in the right direction on how to handle the social and multiplayer aspects of the game (yes, I know that Nintendo tends to do this already).

After mentioning their connections to many of the popular aspects where people voice their desires in gaming, Sony followed up with a video of Deep Silver’s new zombie experience, Dead Island 2. The game is decidedly more cartoony, dealing with the problem where Dead Island took itself too seriously, so hopefully it proves to be a more enjoyable experience. The game’s getting some exclusives (a class and level) for the PlayStation, as well, so good news there.

Battlefield Hardline, a favorite from the EA conference, got an exclusive trailer during the Sony conference, though it didn’t show a lot that we hadn’t seen, it did display more ways to move through the same stage seen at the previous conference.

A new announcement was made of a partnership between Sony and Paradox games, all the studios of which are working on new games for the platform. They displayed the first of these in a hilarious trailer for Magicka 2, a cooperative top-down RPG romp that is sure to keep people together. Double Fine is bringing back a remastered version of Grin Fandango for PlayStation 4 and PS Vita.

Devolver digital had a big rush of announcements for smaller titles that will debut exclusively on PlayStation like Broforce, Not a Hero, Titan Souls, Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number, and even some more ambitious endeavors like The Talos Principle. SUDA 51 made a debut for a PlayStation exclusive title, Let It Die, which was rife with violence and clear indicators of some sort of multiplayer arena combat game, a tiny amount of gameplay was shown, so we’ll be standing by for more on this one.

Sony’s dedication to fostering high-end exclusive titles and indie studios was made clear with No Man’s Sky. The trailer depicted a surreal and colorful world, with an interface that highlighted useful resources in the environment in an alien landscape. Ships crossed the skies, strange dinosaur-like creatures were waiting to be discovered. Eventually, the avatar jumped into a ship and flew out into an asteroid belt where a huge space war was taking place. After flying through an armada, the supposed players flew down to another planet’s surface with its own crust composition and engaged another group of enemies.

The head of Hello Games came out to talk more about the game. It’s an entirely procedurally generated universe that is completely infinite. No player will start on the same planet, just as no player will have the same starting experience. They followed the trailer up with even more footage to display just how vast and varied the game can be, and it was truly something breathtaking. The game is being made by a small indie studio, but took a big spot at Sony’s showing, with an epic diversity for all the players involved, indicating that this will be a massively multiplayer experience.

Sony also did something the Microsoft did not, which was to address their hardware and their direction with it. They brought up Project Morpheus, the Sony virtual reality headset that has had a few tidbits of footage going live as we speak. Their dedication to backing the hardware they’ve brought in with their new console is admirable, unlike Microsoft’s recent decision to kind of… “abandon” the Kinect. The hardware is available live to check out at the booth, so stand by for more on that in the coming days.

Sony also addressed more of their mission statements  for their various systems like the PSN, another things that Microsoft has completely ignored, instead only showing games. They mentioned how much the ability to simply share content from their systems has been a key feature, and how this is expanding as YouTube is added to the system later this year. The focus on the growing community of streamers and social gaming is a smart move on their part, I think, and these expansions might give Sony the edge over Microsoft as the future develops. Similarly, they’re giving more attention to free to play gaming, to bring more and higher-quality experiences to people on the systems free of charge, something that’s been displayed by several games on the Vita already, and to come with games like Planetside 2 or War Thunder. They finally gave an open beta date for PlayStation Now (July 31st) after all the tuning they’ve done during the closed beta. PlayStation Now is even coming to some Sony television sets, and by using a DualShock 3 controller you can still play PlayStation 3 titles, even without owning the titles.

They even finally addressed bringing PlayStation Now to the Playstation Vita system, in one of the few mentions that the handheld got over the course of the conference. The system did get a bit of time at the end, including MinecraftTales of the Borderlands, and Tales of Hearts R, and Sony was sure to make sure people knew that the Vita will remain an important part of their catalog.

Continuing their connectivity streak, they brought up the PlayStation TV, a device that hasn’t heard much news outside of the Japanese launch, but it’s good to hear that it will be making an appearance for only $99, which syncs with PlayStation 4’s to allow remote play on other TVs, and streams tons of games from the Sony services: PlayStation Classic titles, Vita titles, and everything. It’s refreshing to see one of the manufacturers who isn’t afraid to address their platforms.

Sony moved out of their hardware announcements with gameplay footage from Mortal Kombat X, which…I must say was a disappointment to me. The game retains a lot of the features that have turned me off to it all this time, but the new interactions with the environments do seem intriguing, and it does look like things might be smoothing out a bit in terms of execution and animation, however, I’m not sold yet.

The Last of Us Remastered got some screen time, and looks pretty good, considering, though for a game that already looked as good as it did, it’s not surprising that there isn’t a huge leap in visual quality.

Then Sony brought out the big guns, showing the (sort of leaked) trailer for Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. True to form, you can see the ways that the losses Big Boss suffered during Ground Zeroes have taken their toll, further solidifying the moniker “Punished Snake”. I really feel like words cannot give it proper justice. Just take a look.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pkNTWqWIHcs

The conference didn’t waste a moment, jumping right from a next-gen Grand Theft Auto V annoucnement into gameplay footage from Batman: Arkham Knight, which finally displayed not only gliding about the city, but showed off the Batmobile in action for the first time. The execution was so smooth it hurt my face, watching as the vehicle switch from a traditional mode of transport to a veritable tank able to move in any direction. Combat is as smooth as ever, with egregious slow motion, new gadgets to utilize. The trailer even plays off your fears, and is something that must be seen.

And guess what? The scarecrow missions are exclusive to PlayStation 4.

The conference closed with a major showstopper, one that, as they say, captures the spirit of the PlayStation 4 in all the best ways. It was, of course, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. In traditional fashion, the game was captured entirely on a PlayStation 4 system, rendered amazingly in what I can only hope is an in-game engine, because every moment of it reeked with attention to detail, an was absolutely gorgeous to behold.

Their focus from the get-go was obviously connectivity and social experiences, which doesn’t necessarily resound with me personally, but makes sense in the gaming space at large. The conference did suffer from some technical problems with volume and timing, some people got cut off, sound clips bled through while people were talking, which was a little odd. There was a lot to be excited about here, though, and Sony wasn’t afraid to make sure they talked about every aspect of their work, from games to platforms, form hardware to online services, even their original television content (which, by the way, is going to be free for PSN Plus users). Noticeably absent, of course, were Kingdom Hearts III and The Last Guardian, and a few other games folks have been clamoring for.

The conference did run fairly long, and dragged a bit  when you compare it to the the others, at the same time, though, Sony’s dedication to clarity and their willingness to talk about aspects of their platforms that the other big dog just wanted to avoid. On the whole, I’d probably say that the conference was the best of the bunch, dropping the action out to address their extraneous services (maybe a little too much), but bringing it back with Batman and Uncharted was a good decision. I think Sony is coming out on top on this one, even despite some of the issue with pacing, it had the most substance.

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Written by Ray Allaire -The Reasonable Gamer

Writer, game designer, and gaming analyst. Practitioner of all nerdy arts: Games, tabletop, TCG, and all. Twitter: @mateusrayje

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