Sony’s 2015 press conference has become near legendary at this point. With the return of The Last Guardian and reveals of Final Fantasy VII Remake, Shenmue 3, and Horizon Zero Dawn, this year’s PlayStation would certainly be held to an impossibly high standard. While the game announcements may not have quite matched last year’s, the 2016 PlayStation press conference adopted a more streamlined format, added a live orchestra conducted by Bear McCreary, and did their best to blow the doors off the place…
God of War
Sony opened their press conference with a four minute live performance of a God of War inspired piece by the live orchestra before transitioning directly into a demo for a new God of War game. The demo starts off with a young boy playing before a man’s deep voice summons him from in the house before dramatically revealing himself as Kratos. From there, what we saw was a dramatically different God of War.
For starters, this iteration assumes the look of a more traditional third person action game with full camera control on the right analog stick. The tranquil wooded setting gives off vibes of Tomb Raider and The Last of Us from this perspective. Another thing that brings The Last of Us vibes is the story. Yes, the story. In a God of War game.
This time around, Kratos has run from his past as a god and is taking care of his son, teaching him to hunt. The interactions between the two characters are full of the tough love you’d expect from Kratos as a dad, but also hint at something more to Kratos’ motivations. I’m not a huge fan of the series, but this demo got me really excited to see where God of War is headed.
After the God of War gameplay demo, Sony showed off a reveal trailer for Bend Studio’s long-rumored open world zombie game. Days Gone is about a biker gang surviving in a post apocalyptic world very reminiscent of The Last of Us. The main character describes himself as a drifter, a bounty hunter, and a mercenary in the voice over, but more on this later…
The Last Guardian
So we finally have a release date for The Last Guardian. October 25, 2016. We also got a new trailer for the game that showed off a couple of enemies, including what appeared to be an evil Guardian.
Horizon Zero Dawn
Next up was Horizon Zero Dawn. Since a new trailer was released last week to announce the game’s delay to February 28, 2017, Guerilla Games took the stage with a live gameplay demo at E3. The demo showed off a specific quest with Aloy venturing away from her settlement to investigate “corrupted” machines terrorizing the area. During the demo, we got a brief look at what looks to be a huge map, a crafting menu, dialogue trees, new enemy types, and some exciting looking combat. Oh, and Aloy was able to subdue and “override” a Broadhead to mount and ride to her destination.
This demo gave me vibes of the famous The Last of Us demo from E3 2012. Not because of style or tone, but because this demo showed off the game’s systems perfectly while giving the audience a taste of what it’s like to be in the world of Horizon. To some people this may not reach the same heights as a new game announcement, but this was my favorite segment of any press conference and Horizon Zero Dawn rocketed to the top of my list of most anticipated games as a result.
Detroit: Become Human
Because four exclusives in a row just isn’t enough, Detroit: Become Human was shown off next. The trailer seemed to be a mix of cutscenes and gameplay, but showed off the same scene playing out multiple ways based on dialogue choices and how thoroughly the player investigated a crime scene. The trailer also showed off a new protagonist, although it’s possible the game is told through the perspective of multiple people like Heavy Rain was. It was a good trailer but we still have more questions than answers and no release window for the game.
Resident Evil 7: Biohazard
The Resident Evil 7 reveal was executed extremely well. It started off with a callback to The Kitchen, a PSVR demo from last year. As the demo progressed, the player finds a video cassette and plays it, ultimately revealing that The Kitchen has been Resident Evil 7 all along. The big announcement from Sony was that the entire game is playable in PSVR from beginning to end and launches on January 24, 2017. Also, a demo for the game was released on PSN during the conference.
For his second appearance of the night, Shawn Layden came back to the stage to announce the official release date of PlayStation VR as October 13, 2016. He also reaffirmed the price of $399 and announced that 50 games will launch for the headset from launch through the end of the year and introduced a string of trailers for some of those experiences.
The first of those trailers was for Farpoint, a space shooter/exploration game being developed by a new independent studio called Impulse Gear. The game takes place on an alien planet reminiscent of Mars where obviously all hell will break loose. The aesthetic of the trailer was really cool and it certainly seems like there’s potential here.
Star Wars Battlefront – X-Wing VR Mission
Next up was our first look at the Star Wars Battlefront VR experience that was teased a while back. It was a short trailer that all took place in the cockpit of an X-Wing. There wasn’t much to the trailer and it was later revealed that the X-Wing VR Mission will be a free download to all owners of Star Wars Battlefront on PS4.
Batman Arkham VR
This was another quick trailer but with voiceover from the Joker. Batman Arkham VR is being developed by Rocksteady for an October 2016 release and will be a roughly one hour detective mission where you play as Batman.
Final Fantasy XV
Final Fantasy XV got somewhat of an odd trailer focusing on a “VR Experience” that will be a part of the final game for PSVR owners. They reiterated the September 30, 2016 release date as well.
Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare & Modern Warfare Remastered
This year’s Call of Duty segment was actually a surprising high point in the PlayStation press conference. Last year, Andrew House introduced the Black Ops 3 demo and made a huge deal out of PlayStation’s 30-Day exclusivity window for DLC. This year, the demo started with no introduction and went straight into a space battle complete with dogfights and zero gravity shooting. Honestly, if someone hadn’t seen the Infinite Warfare reveal trailer, I doubt they would have known this was a Call of Duty game before the logo came up at the end of the demo.
After the excellent Infinite Warfare demo, we got a short trailer for Modern Warfare Remastered where it was revealed that, in addition to getting all map packs 30 days early, people who purchase the Legacy Edition of Infinite Warfare on PS4 will get access to Modern Warfare‘s campaign 30 days before the November 4th launch.
Crash Bandicoot 1-3 Remastered
While the rumors that Sony had purchased the Crash Bandicoot IP from Activision ended up being incorrect, the two did partner to bring back Crash Bandicoot 1-3 fully remastered for the PS4. The collection will launch in 2017. Meanwhile, you can play as Crash in this year’s Skylanders Imaginators if you’re into that sort of thing.
LEGO Star Wars The Force Awakens
This one was a bit of a surprise to me, but LEGO Star Wars The Force Awakens got a lot of screen time here in Sony’s conference. It was your typical LEGO game trailer pairing silly things on screen with the actual movie dialogue from The Force Awakens. While the game releases on June 28th, a demo was made available during the press conference for anyone watching at home.
Hideo Kojima / Death Stranding
After the LEGO Star Wars trailer, Andrew House took the stage for the first time to introduce “one of the most creative talents in the history of gaming.” He, of course, was talking about Hideo Kojima who took the stage with a ridiculous introduction (above) before introducing the trailer for his upcoming game, Death Stranding. We know that Norman Reedus will star in the game, but overall the trailer left far more questions than answers. That’s okay though, because Kojima himself being back at E3 and showing off a new game was the real exciting part here.
One of the more random rumors over the past few months was that Sucker Punch was hard at work developing a Spiderman game exclusively for PS4 that would be revealed this E3. In the wise words of Meatloaf, “Two out of three ain’t bad.” There was indeed a Spiderman game revealed this E3 and it’s also a PS4 exclusive. Instead of Sucker Punch, however, it’s being developed by Sony’s long-time partner, Insomniac Games. The trailer was awesome and showed a few shots that may have been gameplay footage, but no release window was shown.
Days Gone (Live Demo)
To close the show, Shawn Layden returned to the stage to thank the audience and introduce one final presentation – a live demo of Bend Studio’s Days Gone. As we learned in the trailer earlier in the press conference, the game’s main character chases bounties at times, which brings us to the demo. It started off with the main character talking to someone via radio about losing track of his bounty in an old mill. Naturally, the demo leads us into the mill in search of our mark. After a struggle with him, the two men fall off a roof just in front of an enormous zombie horde. The player leaves his mark to an unceremonious death by zombie before leading the horde on a chase throughout the mill, occasionally stopping to gun down a dozen or so to slow down the horde.
The sheer amount of zombies on screen was pretty impressive but there were parts of the demo that had me concerned. The player’s gun seemed to have unlimited ammo and enemy AI was extremely forgiving in the demo. Both of these were likely specific for the E3 demo to show the game in a specific way, but it does make me wonder how the final game will play. No release window was given at the end of the demo though, so it seems we’ll be waiting quite a while to learn more.
Taking everything into consideration, I’d say that Sony had the strongest press conference this year. While Microsoft also had an excellent showing of games, their conference was bogged down at times with hardware announcements and presenters talking in between demos. Sony really nailed their pacing this year by running trailers and demos back to back in the same way previews run before a feature film. The thing is, most of these games didn’t need any introduction and the impact of each game was only made stronger by those shown before and after it. I wouldn’t be surprised if Sony’s format is held up as the model for other publishers in the coming years.