Every year at E3, I inevitably end up thinking of Sony’s briefing as the headlining act. All of the other publishers, including Microsoft, are just the openers. They tend to spend a great deal of time talking about their games rather than showing them off, force audiences to endure painfully stiff, rehearsed conversations, and seem to lack a sense of artistry in their presentation. For the last few years, Sony has been the absolute anthesis of this style.
Taking place on actual stages in beautiful theaters and often accompanied by live orchestras, Sony’s showings feel less like glorified commercials than legitimate pieces of art; compilations constructed, collage-like, of other artistic experiences. Beyond the style and class of the presentation, they always manage to deliver on the games. Nearly no time is devoted to explanations, jokes, gimmicks or anything that isn’t absolutely necessary. It’s trailer after trailer, announcement after announcement, game after game.
In 2018, Sony took what could be called a somewhat less conventional approach. Well in advance of the conference, they announced that their showcase would be primarily about four games: The Last of Us: Part II, Ghost of Tsushima, Death Stranding, and Spiderman. They then proceeded to announce or expand upon one game per day for five days leading up to E3, including AAA titles like Days Gone. This alone is hardly normal, but things just get weirder from there.
The actual event began in a makeshift church that appeared comically small for the number of people it held. As Shawn Layden took the stage, he restated his intention to focus on previously announced games rather than present viewers with a flurry of new titles. He then welcomed Gustavo Santaolalla to the stage, and we were all treated to a lovely, intimate sampling of his composition for The Last of Us, followed by a brand new gameplay trailer for Part II.
Immediately following this, the camera cut to two random guys sitting behind a desk, who politely informed the audience that the press conference would resume shortly, as soon as the guests in attendance had moved to the next building. That’s right, Sony constructed a church, just to show off The Last of Us Part II, and then made audiences wait nearly ten minutes as they ferried everybody into a completely different place for the rest of the show.
During this interlude, Guy One and Guy Two exchanged some profoundly cringy thoughts with one another and confirmed that God of War would be getting a New Game + mode at some point in the future. After what felt like an eternity, we were finally sent back to the real show, where a man proceeded to stand on stage and play a Japanese reed pipe for nearly five minutes.
By this point, I was thoroughly confused and more than a little frustrated. Thankfully, it was at this time that the showcase actually started.
What followed was precisely what I had been hoping for in a Sony E3 event: games, games, and more games. Granted, there were fewer surprising reveals than audiences have been conditioned to expect, but nearly everything on display was impressive. The Last of Us: Part II looks predictably outstanding even if the gameplay does closely resemble what we’ve seen before, Death Stranding is still a bizarre mountain of riveting unknowns, and Ghost of Tsushima must be one of the most stunningly beautiful games I’ve ever laid eyes on. And that’s not even mentioning how wonderful Insomniac’s Spiderman is looking, or the surprise announcement of Nioh 2.
Admittedly, Sony’s offering was considerably more sparse than in previous PS4-era years, but that felt like an insignificant issue once Guys One and Two resumed their babble. They interviewed a few developers from Insomniac, Sucker Punch, and Media Molecule, and for some reason decided that right then, not ten minutes previous during the actual showcase, was the appropriate time to reveal that From Software was working on a PSVR game called Deracine.
For the life of me, I will never understand why anybody thought that this style of presentation was a good idea, why they would force the press to switch buildings mid-show and audiences to wait on them while they did so, or how Guys One and Two landed this particular gig. This is made all the more frustrating by the fact that once Sony started doing its typical E3 thing, it worked as well as it ever has. One trailer flowed beautifully into the next, and I was reminded of the elegance of previous years. But all too soon, two goobers were nattering away in my ear again, unceremoniously dropping major announcements like litter on the side of the road.
Stylistic issues aside, Sony does still have an extremely impressive lineup of first-party games and managed to keep me actively anticipating all of them. The tricky part is, few of the trailers shown actually gave much away in terms of gameplay systems, narrative directions, or even release windows, which effectively kills the structure I’ve been using for these E3 updates. This being the case, I will still break down everything that was announced during the show, but said breakdown will more closely resemble a paragraph than a bulleted list of features in most cases.
The Last of Us: Part II
- The demo to which Naughty Dog treated us began innocently enough. Ellie stands casually on the outskirts of a dancefloor, evidently a few years older than when we last saw her. Her friend eventually ropes her into dancing, after which we are privy to some A+ CG kissing animations. I would actually go so far as to say that it was easily the best, most convincing game-kiss in the history of both games and kissing.
- At this point, the audience is hurled forward in time, where Ellie is in the midst of a conflict. She sneaks around a nonlinear combat stage, choking out some enemies, dispatching others with her bow and arrow, and doing other Last of Us-ish things like crafting explosive bolts in real-time and conserving ammo like her life depends on it.
- All in all, this demo really didn’t show much of anything that we hadn’t already seen in the original Last of Us, with the exception of a far more capable Ellie. It will be interesting to see what new mechanics Naughty Dog brings to the table this time around when they next decide to show off footage.
Call of Duty
- For Black Ops 4, Treyarch has remastered four classic maps from previous Black Ops games. They include Jungle, Summit, Slums, and Firing Range.
- Additionally, if you pre-order Black Ops 4 through the PlayStation Store, these maps will also be playable in Black Ops 3.
- Black Ops 3 is currently available for free for PlayStation Plus subscribers.
Destiny 2: Forsaken
- Release Date: Sept 2, 2018.
- Even more Destiny 2, if that’s your cup of tea.
Ghost of Tsushima
- This demo focused on a samurai as he sliced his way through a couple of Mongols to save a monk for reasons unknown. His motivations are hardly important. What is important is that the game is jaw-droppingly beautiful, and features brutal, precise combat. Every frame looks like the most epic shot from your favorite samurai movie, with blood-red leaves standing out brilliantly against an ashen backdrop. And when the katana’s start swinging, it becomes immediately apparent that this is no button-masher. It is a game of distance, speed, and timing.
- With little known about the story and no release window, Ghost of Tsushima may grace the stage at a few more E3’s before we all get our hands on it, but if this first look is anything to go by, then it will be well worth the wait.
- It was around this point in the presentation that I began to notice the little interstitial clips that were being played between trailers. They featured funny little characters playing instruments poorly, and seemed like the product of a mind filled with childish glee. That may well have been the intention, as each one was made using Media Molecule’s upcoming “create literally anything” game, Dreams. Much of how Dreams works is still unknown, and the developer has been reasonably quiet about the project for the last few E3’s, but with a beta coming later this year, I imagine we won’t have to wait long to learn more.
- A new game from Remedy Entertainment, of Quantum Break and Alan Wake fame, Control appears to be a bizarre, trippy, supernatural shooter. Based solely on the trailer, there’s not much to go on concerning details, but if Remedy can build on the time-bending gameplay of Quantum Break and fuse it with the unsettling atmosphere of Alan Wake, then Control might end up being as cool as it looks.
Resident Evil 2
- Release Date: Jan 25, 2019.
- This is a full remake of the classic Capcom game, complete with an RE4 style over-the-shoulder view.
Trover Saves the Universe
- A new title from Squanch Games, the people behind Rick and Morty: Virtual Rick-ality, this bizarre brainchild of Justin Roiland will be playable on PS4 and PSVR.
- RIP Bathtub Guy.
Kingdom Hearts 3
- Release Date: Jan 29, 2019.
- In addition to showing off the Pirates of the Carribean characters and world, Square Enix also announced that a bundle featuring Kindom Hearts 1.5, 2.5 and 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue would be coming exclusively to the PS4.
- Okay, I’m just going to own this: I have absolutely no idea what Death Stranding is about, or in fact what is going on at just about any point during the trailer revealed during E3. I will attempt to list out what I do know/have seen below.
- It looks to feature an open world.
- Norman Reedus plays Sam, a man who walks around a lot, has many crates, is sometimes shirtless, and uses a fetus to power his evil goo-spirit repellant device.
- There may be an emphasis on stealth.
- The trailer includes some vague references to “time folds,” so I’m guessing that the black goo-spirits have some time manipulation power.
- Vaguely ominous title cards appear, bearing the following phrases: “Give me your hand in life,” “Give me your hand in death,” “Give me your hand in flesh,” and “Give me your hand in spirit.”
- At one point, a woman eats a fleshy maggot, claiming that it will help keep the monsters away.
- Like I said, I have no idea what any of this means, or how Mads Mikkelsen or Guillermo del Toro (if he’s still in the game) fit into anything. I’ll leave that to people smarter than I.
- Aside from the fact that it exists, and the phrase “Defy death, death defies you…,” appears in the reveal teaser, there are precisely zero details to share about the upcoming sequel from Team Ninja.
- Release Date: Sept 7, 2018.
- When I learned that Insomniac would be developing a Spiderman game for the PS4, I was immediately excited. Their most recent game, Sunset Overdrive, excelled at one thing in particular: making it an absolute joy to move from one end of the map to another. Jumping, grinding, bouncing, and wall-running across the city was a one-of-a-kind thrill, and if they could bring that same sense of energy, momentum, and style to Spiderman, then I could think of no better match.
- Early trailers were promising, and have only gotten better since. Peter Parker flips, jumps, swings, and runs his way all across the Big Apple, and does so with a fluidity that speaks volumes to the talent at Insomniac.
- This most recent demo saw the titular web-slinger attempting to quell a prison riot, and eventually throwing down with the Sinister Six on a rooftop. Combat looks like fast-paced Arkham-style brawling, and I was pleasantly surprised to see the number of ways players could leverage their environment to help take out baddies. From ripping car doors off their hinges to repurposing a riot shield as a sort of flail, it really does seem as if the developers want to encourage and reward creative approaches.
- It also doesn’t hurt that Spiderman looks stunning, and has a seriously impressive draw distance for such a high-detail environment.
- In a surprise, post-showcase announcement, Guys One and Two revealed a new PSVR game from From Software, the infamous creators of Dark Souls and Bloodborne.
- The trailer gives away very little about the plot or in what kind of activities players can expect to take part, but it certainly seems to be a change of pace from their usual style of gameplay.
And so ends day three of E3 2018. All that’s left is tomorrow’s Nintendo Direct, beginning at 12:00pm ET, so make sure to pop back in for my final update.