E3 2018: Sony Conference Summary & Impressions

E3 2018: Sony Conference Summary & Impressions

Sony had quite a task ahead of them after the stellar performance by Microsoft.  So did Sony churn out a conference to remember?  Putting a true experience together is something that Sony has actually quite excelled at.  Theatrics and music have been tools Sony has employed to grasp the attention of its audience while setting the scene.  The very beginning of the conference proved this as Sony helped the audience feel a part of the experience of their first big game to grace the screen this evening.

Right out the gate, the conference’s setting was much more intimate.  It was an unsual stage for a games conference, and even Sean Layden cracked a few jokes about going to church to acknowledge the change in setting.  Clearly the setting and opening banjo performance held a purpose.  It turns out it was the exact appearance of the setting that took place in the The Last of Us Part II trailer that kicked off the show.  The trailer was, yet, another powerful vision of the experience we’re all going to embark on when the game is released.  The gravity of the game clearly carries weight as the scene is swept from Ellie enjoying an intimate dance with her significant other and quickly transitions to her slicing a man in the throat whilst cursing his corpse.  The gameplay video that ensued after is something fans have been waiting for a long time.   The Last of Us was the game of last generation on sony’s platform.  It resonated with just about every single gamer and critic who picked it up so there are high expectations for the sequel.  The stealth/strategic action gameplay we saw tonight was the kind of elevation we should get from a sequel to this franchise.  Joel is no where to be seen in this trailer and that’s a great thing.  We now get to experience the gravitas and brutal combat style Ellie has adopted in this unforgiving world.  She’s passionate, both about the things she loves, and the things she hates.  That is something that I feel Naughty Dog was trying to highlight as it’s about to set the theme or mood for this entire game as seen through Ellie’s eyes.

I loved how realistically the AI searched for Ellie as well as their reactions to spotting her.  The game felt as real as a movie without any clunky animation we’d expect from a game.   Since I don’t have a hands-on experience with the game, it’s hard to say whether moments like the enemy pulling Ellie out from under the vehicle were scripted.  But I get the strong sense that they’re not as the player could have ran in any direction for shelter.  This game is pure grit, and I’m so much more pumped to get ahold of it than I ever was after this feature at the conference.

After a brief intermission, we were treated to a gameplay look at Ghosts of Tsushima, Sucker Punch’s next big project.  Folks, this game looks insanely awesome.  The technical gameplay was visceral, smooth, and emblematic of the type of combat we would have seen during the era of feudal Japan.  The protagonist’s sword strokes were swift and deadly as the combat appears fluid.  The backdrop is gorgeous from the tall wispy grass, to the humble village, ending with an emotional showdown beneath an enormous tree with brightly red-colored leaves flowing in the wind.  Sucker Punch has clearly been hard at work since their last Infamous title as they endeavored to bring us something fresh.  I simply can’t wait.

Control was the next major game to be announced from Remedy and 505 Studios.  What we were able to see was that of a female protagonist, a gnarly morphing gun, and some seriously wicked jedi mind-tricks with some sort of gravity control.  The trailer ended with ‘2019’ as the release so I’m sure we’ll learn more at events such as PSX later this year.

This next one was a huge deal for me.  It’s been a few years since Capcom first teased that they were hard at work on a Resident Evil 2 remake.  Tonight, we finally were able to see that the game truly existed as Leon and Claire battled the familiar outbreak in Racoon City.  All of the key elements were there including a shot of the hulking tyrant, the eerie violence of the famed lickers, and even the characters that we remember including Sherry Birkin.  It was all so familiar, but far more modern and exciting to see rebuilt from the ground up.  The game adopted the over-the-shoulder view that we’ve come to know from Resident Evil 4 which is appropriate for this remake.  To top it all off, Capcom also gave us a release date: Jan 25th, 2019.  This game holds so many memories of my PS1 days as it was also my first foray into the Resident Evil world before solidifying my fandom of the series.  I’m pre-ordering this as soon as possible!  By the way, I completely dug the original PlayStation sitting on the shelves in the trailer.

Death Stranding expectedly took the spotlight, once again, as it has done for the past few years.  This time, we saw what appeared to be game play which features lots and lots of walking with a big bulky pack.  Of course, we saw variations of walking with mountainous terrain, rivers, dilapidated buildings, mountain climbing, and extensive bloody foot wear and damage from what I would presume is a lot of walking.  What’s spectacular about all of this is that gameplay was finally shown and I still know very little about the plot.  It’s as confusing yet just as mysterious as ever.  And, the team is doing all the right things apparently, because every year I simply have more questions and want to know more and see more.  The enemy was largely unseen as we witnessed a female character prevent Norman Rheedus from presumably being ripped to shreds by a creepy invisible creature with that walks on human-shaped hands.  Additionally, the feature ended with Rheedus’s character being overwhelmed by a multitude of shadowy figures.  There is still not a release date, sadly, but we’ve got to be getting closer right?

The end-cap to an intense showcase from Sony was none other than everyone’s favorite web-slinger, Spider-man.  We are about 3 months away from the launch of the game, and Sony just made everyone extremely anxious leading up to as Spidey was put into a rather precarious position.  The Sinister Six is at play as we see Vulture, Rhino, Scorpion, and Electro among other villains interfering with Spider-man’s attempt to contain an off-shore prison break-out.  The prominent villains were among the prisoners to escape and as they cornered Spidey on the rooftop, someone makes an appearance.  Who was it you ask?  Well we have no idea?  Is it someone that can save Spider-man from this terrible situation?  Is it Miles Morales, perhaps (don’t forget that he is in this game in some degree)?  Or could it be another hero of sorts?  Nobody knows and you’re going to have to fork over sixty bucks in a couple months to find out.  Well played Sony.  I’m in.

There were a few other announcements made at this showcase including a game by Squanch games called Trover Saves the Universe.  It’s of course from the same mind as Rick and Morty so the humor is crass and equally hilarious.  Bath tub guy introduces us to a bizarre world while bathing in a bath tub of course with a TV curiously pearched atop a stack of books hanging over the bath tub.  Of course the trailer ended with his demise as the TV plummeted into the water.  It was morbidly funny.  Additionally, Kingdom Hearts 3 was shown for a third time at E3, but this time we learned that Pirates of the Carribbean plays a significant role in the game.  There were under water battles and pirate ship combat galore.  It was a rip-roaring fun time, so check out a third variation of the trailer we’ve already seen online.  Finally, we received a tease for Nioh 2 and a new VR game from From Software entitled Déraciné.  It certainly appears to be a bit dialed back from the grisly combat-heavy titles we’re familiar with in From Software’s repertoire.  Not much was given to us aside from imagery of a young lady, a school, some animals, and flower.  The trailer was rather contemplative and seems to possibly be more narrative-focused than the developer’s previous outings.

Impressions

Sony pulled back a little this year on presentation in terms of quantity and focused on the quality of the stories it was wanting to convey.  The structure of the conference felt a bit disjointed as an odd interview intermission divided the conference between the first showcase of The Last of Us Part II and the rest of the presentations.  Obviously, the intermission was a logistical one as the crowd needed time to move from the church type setting for The Last of Us Part II preview into a more suitable conference environment for the duration of the show.

Despite all of this, I appreciated the length of time Sony spent with each of it’s big titles.  I got the sense that Sony was proud of what it was showing us and that it only wanted to do so with the musical and theatrical introductions that could really complement the gaming experiences.  One thing is for sure, it’s been a long time since I felt any moments of boredom during a Sony conference.  Art begets art, and they always couple the art from their own studios with the artistry of others.  I enjoyed the musical compilations and wish I could have been present in the church setting as I viewed the trailer for the next big thing in the very same atmosphere.  With Sony, it’s clearly all about the experience and making it an unforgettable one.

With the exception of a lackluster EA conference, a decent Ubisoft conference, and stellar conferences from Microsoft, Bethesda, and now Sony, I can say that I’m having a fantastic E3 filled with all kinds of awesome footage and reveals.  I’m still a little sad that we didn’t see anything from Rocksteady or get a new adventure for Sam Fisher in a new Splinter Cell game.  But, I certainly can’t complain with the things we have gotten.  Just give it time.

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