Reviewing Sony’s E3 2016 Press Conference

Wow.  I have to give a round of applause to Sony this year because they killed it.  With a live orchestra scoring the entire thing, they put on what could only be described as the classiest press conference ever.  They kept the talking to a minimum and let the games talk for themselves.  It didn’t work for every game shown, but it was incredibly ambitious and different than what we normally get.  I think it needs to be tweaked for future events, but I don’t think it should be abandoned.

They started with what I thought was the best game of the show; God of War.  I thought the new God of War looked incredible.  It takes place within Norse mythology, stars a bearded Kratos, and is a direct sequel to God of War 3.  I look forward to seeing how they justify that in the narrative.  But what excites me the most is how different the game looks.  It had a behind the back camera which could be interesting, but more important is a greater focus on character development and story.  Kratos is no longer the biggest asshole in the world, and he is now helping train his son to be a God.  But at the same time, this isn’t a complete betrayal of his character.  Him controlling his rage is both a story point and a gameplay mechanic.  As somebody who did not care about a new God of War game going into the show, the fact that it is one of my most anticipated games coming out of it is impressive.

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They followed this with a trailer for Days Gone, the new Sony Bend game.  I’ll talk more about Days Gone later for some weird reason, but the trailer was okay.  The post-apocalyptic setting is getting a little tired, but it appeared well done.  The motorcycle focus could be a nice twist as well.

Another trailer for The Last Guardian was shown, and it was great.  I’m really looking forward to seeing the final game, and the trailer hinted at some pretty crazy things like a second Trico.  But the most important thing was the date.  The Last Guardian will be launching on October 25, which will be eleven years and seven days after the release of Shadow of the Colossus.

After the two quick trailers, they showed a much longer gameplay demo for Horizon: Zero Dawn.  I said going in that last year they sold the premise and that this year they needed to sell the game.  They did just that, and it was incredibly effective.  The demo showed her stalking some crab-like robots and gathering materials from them, crafting, entering a dialogue tree with an NPC, going to a town, hacking an enemy robot to make it friendly, riding that robot, and plenty of other things that I didn’t mention.  The game looks to be coming along really well, and it’s also prettier than it was last year.  I also left the trailer a lot more intrigued by the world and story.  This game has the potential to be something incredible.

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Another game with potential, a great premises, and a dumb subtitle is Detroit: Become Human.  The new David Cage game was present in trailer form, and that trailer was cleverly cut to show this type of game.  It focused on a hostage situation where one of the main characters was trying to talk to another android who had gone bad and was holding a little girl hostage on the edge of a roof with a gun to her head.  They showed the player searching the area for clues, talking to him, and tragically failing.  They then showed a little bit of more research being done, followed by a montage of the different ways the mission could end.  They were diverse, and it made me excited about the openness of this game.  I also liked that none of them could be considered a perfectly  “good” ending.  There are tonal things about this game that really concern, but there are plenty more things that excite me.

They then showed a trailer for a full game being made out of the Kitchen demo that Capcom put out last year.  Knowing that it was Capcom, I immediately assumed this was Resident Evil 7, but I was apparently the only person in the world who thought this because I’ve seen it described as a surprise title reveal multiple times.  Speaking of the title, I have to say the Resident Evil VII: Biohazard is an incredible name.  It is also cool that Resident Evil 7 is a game that can be played entirely in VR.  It’s also cool that there was a free demo released on PSN.  It’s also cool that the game is coming out in January.  The thing that isn’t as cool is the actual game.  They are changing the formula and creating a first person horror game, which while not a genre I enjoy could still be cool.  But the reception has been lukewarm at best.  Still, it was a great reveal when it happened.

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Another full VR game is Farpoint.  It’s a shooter based on an older VR demo.  I have no idea if this will be good or not, and it probably got overshadowed during the conference.  However, I want to see more games like this for PSVR.  It’s just a simple, sci-fi FPS, but it is a full game and a new franchise built from the ground up for VR.  That’s what the platform needs if I’m ever going to get excited about it, and the next three games were not that.

In fact, I’ll just group these all together.  Star Wars Battlefront X-Wing VR Mission, Batman Arkham VR, and the VR mode in Final Fantasy XV came across to me as the three most cynical announcements in this conference.  The Battlefront thing is probably great, Batman is apparently cool despite them showing nothing at the conference, and Final Fantasy is legitimately terrible.  But they all come across as small side projects based on big franchises that will probably sell units but won’t be anything noteworthy.  I would love to see Criterion make a VR game, and I’d be okay if that was an entire X-Wing game.  What I don’t want is a thirty minute mission based on a game that came out last fall.  This VR showing was the big low point in Sony’s conference for me.

To make things confusing, they transitioned out of VR and into a first person shooter, but it was quickly apparent that what they were showing was not a VR game and was instead Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare.  I came in to E3 ready to not like this game, but they convinced me.  I thought the Infinite Warfare demo was great.  It was very much a Call of Duty demo.  It was a scripted shooting section with lots of explosions, but the gravity mechanics looks fun.  Even when these games are good, the demos are usually bad.  This was a really good Call of Duty trailer and has turned me around completely on this game.  They ended with a trailer for Modern Warfare Remastered, and that looks to be coming along nicely.

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Shawn Layden then came on stage with a Crash Bandicoot shadow behind him.  He announced that they were going to be remaking Crash 1, 2, and 3 before showing a trailer for Crash in Skylanders.  This announcement might have been disappointing to some people, but I think this is a good thing to do with the Crash IP.  Bring it back with a low effort project and if that is successful then maybe expand on it.  And they were vague enough to make me think that this could be a Ratchet and Clank scenario, which would be great.  Skylanders is Skylanders, and the new gimmick looks lame.

The orchestra then started playing Star Wars music and tons of fans gasped.  Then they showed the screen and it was a trailer for Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens.  That might seem like a weird fit, but it makes sense to me.  This was a very serious and dark press conference, so a moment of levity was appreciated.  In fact, I think they could have had more moments like this.  Particularly the Bound, Abzu, and Gravity Rush 2 trailers that were put online that night.  They would have absolutely fit the conference, and there was plenty of time for them.  This is probably my biggest disappointment of the show.

But getting back to what did happen, Hideo Kojima made the greatest entrance into a press conference of all time.  He walked down steps as they lit up while the Mad Max: Fury Road theme played.  I was not expecting to see Kojima here, and this game is obviously not going to be out for a while.  But this was still a cool reveal.  He showed a trailer for his new game Death Stranding, and it was weird.  There are also rumors that the trailer is a metaphor for his time at Konami, and they make sense.  I have no idea what this game will be, but having a trailer and a title attached to it is cool to me.

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Another trailer was then shown for an Insomniac Games Spiderman game.  This is the perfect studio to handle a Spiderman game, and I’m glad that it isn’t Sucker Punch.  The trailer was cool, although I’m not sure what the actual game is like.  I almost feel like Sony should have held on to this game until they had more to show just because it got overshadowed by the rest of the press conference.  I’m sure it will be a good game though.

They ended the show with a demo for a game they announced at the beginning; Days Gone.  I have no idea why they did this, but they did.  I thought the demo was unimpressive.  The tech surrounding the horde of zombies is very impressive, and I love the animations on it.  I just don’t know how that translates to an interesting gameplay mechanic.  I’m not saying the game looks bad, and I am open to seeing more of it.  I just thought the demo was underwhelming to say the least.

And that was the abnormally short Sony conference.  It moved, sometimes too fast, but it moved and was exciting to watch.  They showed a lot of great games, and they showed them well.  And while there were some questionable choices and some games left out, I can’t deny that this was a fantastic press conference.

Final Score: 5 Stars

 

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