On…Sony’s E3 Presentation

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(small note: I know both Sony and Nintendo did their E3 stuff today, but my comments on Nintendo’s Direct will come out tomorrow, since I don’t want to flood my blog with too many posts in a day)

For this post, I’m trying a different format from the Microsoft E3 post, and I will only comment on the stuff that I feel qualified to talk about (i.e. games of genres I play and sequels of games I’ve played). Firstly because I think it’ll be more informative this way and secondly, because there was so much content shown at Sony’s presentation that I just couldn’t mention everything. So if I missed out a major title that you care about, I’m so sorry, but you probably wouldn’t want to hear my uninformed opinion anyway.

Firstly, for PS3 games. Sony announced that Telltale’s next instalment of The Walking Dead is coming this summer, which is a game that although I’ve never played, I’ve watched playthroughs of and I’m thoroughly captivated by the story (unlike the TV show…). Last of Us, again, looked amazing, though I still constantly think Ellie looks so much like Ellen Page that I occasionally get it confused for Beyond: Two Souls. Speaking of which, I’m eagerly anticipating this game. I was a huge fan of Heavy Rain and I’ve always preferred engaging, immersive story telling games over dumb shooter fare so I’m glad Sony seem to be embracing that. In fact, that seemed to be a quality which Sony has over Microsoft, whose E3 showing was nothing but dumb-looking action games. If they were directors, Microsoft would be Michael Bay and Sony would be Christopher Nolan.

Now onto PS4. The first game that peaked my interest was The Order 1886. Although no gameplay was shown, the setting was rendered in exquisite detail and it looks to be set in a steampunk Victorian London. Honestly I’m surprised more games haven’t done this setting before. The trailer definitely intrigued me with its talk of scientific revolution and of course, being a Londoner (can I call myself that if I’ve only lived here 2 years? I don’t know), I’m very attached to the setting just from the one video. Still, gameplay is important and it looked quite shooter heavy so unless they implement something more interesting than just shooting, I might have to give it a miss even if it is a wonderful setting.

The next thing that caught my eye was The Dark Sorceror, a tech demo from Quantic Dream. I must say, I fell for it hook, line and sinker. As I started watching it, I was pretty disappointed by the melodrama of the old sorcerer ranting about his hatred for the world. It was very theatrical, and not particularly clever or well-written. Still, it showed off the acting prowess of the game engine and the explosive lights were pretty enough. Then, of course, it pulls away to reveal a green screen and shows the sorcerer as an actor and the little orc guy as another actor. Reminds me of the audition tape from before Heavy Rain, but much better looking obviously. It was pretty comedic stuff, and it certainly changed my tone from dismissive to ooh, let’s go watch that in full. It’s no Kara video though, which I still think is one of the most impressive and beautiful tech demos I’ve seen.

Then came the parade of indie developers. Unlike Microsoft who included one token indie game in their presentation, Sony dedicated a good 1/8 of their whole show to indie games. I was seriously impressed. They showed the next game from the creators of Bastion called Transistor, which features a very interesting looking red-headed protagonist. Then they had all the indie devs come onto stage to show off a huge selection of games, including Don’t Starve which I previously reviewed on this blog. They would be allowed to self-publish on PS4 which I think is just fantastic. The fact that they actually dedicated a large portion of time to indie devs in Sony’s presentation really does reassure me that indie gaming will have its place on the PS4.

Up next was the Square Enix video. The big reveal, of course, is that Final Fantasy Versus XIII is actually going to be Final Fantasy XV! I was so so excited by this, because I’ve avidly followed FFV13 news for ages, since it was announced in 2006 and got totally stuck in development hell. I followed it because I loved the look of the game, the melding of fantasy with reality and well, because I’m a Final Fantasy fan in general. I just think there’s something about that Japanese RPG aesthetic which isn’t ever captured in Western RPGs, and I really like that. The trailer they showed featured air ships against gorgeous gothic architecture, and it is of course set in the Fabula Nova Crysalis universe, though it doesn’t seem to have much of a connection with the FF13 and its sequels. I wonder how much of the previous footage we’ve been shown will make the cut into the now FF15 game, which looks to have been shifted from PS3 to PS4 (possibly, it was during the PS4 segment after all). Super excited, and hopefully a return to form for the Final Fantasy series when I know a lot of people hated FF13 (I, on the other hand, loved it and its sequel so whatever).

Straight after this was some really awkward gameplay demo for Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag. The game kept freezing in places and the AI was just behaving really oddly in my opinion. It demonstrated some cool new stuff like hiding in leaves and tropical islands. But I think it was cut short due to technical issues, and it was just a very awkward moment in an otherwise smooth running show. A little embarrassing to be honest.

Then came the Watch Dogs demo which had none of the glitches of Assassin’s Creed, but was obviously very choreographed and worked out before hand. It did show off some of the openness of the game with all the actions you could hover over, though I do wonder how many of those will actually affect the game. Like I don’t know why hacking a random stranger’s phone will actually affect your mission, and if they do make it so it all affects the main story, it’ll feel very unreal and cheap. On the other hand, if it doesn’t have any effect, it defeats the purpose of it being an action in the first place. It’s going to be a thin line to tread where they have to add enough variety to make it seem open, but not too much to make it seem pointless. One interesting mechanic was calling in a friend on a mobile player (i.e. a tablet) and their ability to leave you messages on billboards.

There was some footage of Elder Scrolls Online. To be honest, even as an Elder Scrolls fan, I probably won’t buy into it because I’m not a huge fan of MMOs. Still, the setting looks good, though notably much more cartoonish than Skyrim was. Probably a limitation to the game due to its multiplayer online aspect. Beta will be exclusive to PS4 so that’s interesting, I hope the PC master race doesn’t cry too hard about that.

The last game they showed was Destiny, a collaboration by Bungie and Activision, which you can guess, is basically a Halo and Call of Duty hybrid. To me, it looked like it was set in a world of Halo/Mass Effect, with guns like in Borderlands and shooting mechanics like in Call of Duty. They showed off something called Public Events which resemble MMO instances, I suppose. Definitely one to watch out for. Unfortunately the E3 demonstration was so scripted it was just really cringy to watch as they tried to make it seem like natural dialogue and their blatant showing off of the guns was a bit overbearing. Regardless, for all those who will find the decision between Xbox One and PS4 hard to make because of Halo’s exclusivity, perhaps Destiny will ease that pain just a little bit.

After all, it’s clear to me and most of the gaming community that based on this E3, PS4 looks set to dominate the next generation. Their game exclusives looked so much better than Microsoft’s showing, in my opinion, as it focused a lot more on cerebral, interesting and unique games rather than tired old shooters like Microsoft’s presentation. The bit about the PS4 and its requirements was just a huge fuck you to Microsoft which I found hilarious. That combined with the video released by Sony called ‘How to share games with your friends’, really shows that Sony seems to be in touch with their audience. That’s a nice feeling to have in light of all this Microsoft online DRM bullshit. The PS4, by contrast, supports used games, lets you trade, sell and lend your disks, doesn’t require you to online authenticate once every 24 hours (or ever). And PSN is going to be improved with cross game party chat, playing games whilst they download and all the lovely features of PS+ will carry through.

Then of course, the epic announcement. The PS4 will be only $399, €399 or £350. That’s significantly cheaper than the Xbox One, and it’s even cheaper than the PS3 at launch which I find incredible. It’s the price point which people were expecting. I know I said that Xbox One looked reasonable when compared to say, Apple products, but in light of Sony’s price, the Xbox One looks downright ridiculous and lavish. It was absolutely the killer announcement that Sony needed to make to seal the deal for the next gen. The audience at E3 roared and cheered at the price, and I suspect consumers will too.

I was so scared that Sony would make some misstep here. Maybe they would announce some archaic restrictive DRM or make the PS4 cost £800 or something crazy. But to be honest, I was overwhelmed by this presentation. The games shown were really interesting, the focus on indie development was so refreshing, and most importantly, their policy towards gaming was spot on. It feels as though they were listening to gamers, not the kind that only buy Fifa and Call of Duty, but the kind that actually lives and breathes games. The gamers who follow the gaming world, who know their publishers and developers, who care about video games as an art form, not just as cheap, mindless entertainment. I was super impressed, and for me, the decision about next gen allegiances is so easy. I just don’t care about any console exclusives, and PS4 is offering a significantly better package for a much lower price. Microsoft needs to watch their back, or this could be the end of the Xbox legacy.

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