It’s time to recap the Playstation press conference from Gamescom. As I stated in my recap of Microsoft’s presentation there are a few things that need to be remembered and I’m going to copy and paste them here. First off I don’t yet own any new gen consoles, however I will attempt to write this either as if I owned them or as a perspective buyer. Secondly be weary of the term exclusive, too many times we’ve heard the word exclusive bandied around when the words timed exclusive or console exclusive might have been more applicable. Finally I will be writing about the games as I see them but remember publishers lie. As we have discovered in the past with Killzone 2, Colonial Marines and more recently Watch Dogs, what is shown might not be what we get. We have been misled before and it is important to keep expectations in check. Be excited but don’t be fooled.
Sony’s game division is currently in a very strong position at the moment (even if the rest of the company seems intent on killing itself) after an excellent E3 last year and what I personally thought was a good E3 this year, although most people believe Nintendo had the best showing and it’s easy to see why. Some very bad decisions at the launch of the PS3 has taught them a lesson about being arrogant and thinking your better than your customer, or at least taught them to hide it better, and those lessons have been paying off so far, so let us see if they can keep that going.
The stream started before the actual presentation had kicked off, however we were treated to a few trailers while we wait. Included in this were “Little Big Planet 3” (I am unsure if this is still Media Molecule helming or someone else) and From Software’s much anticipated “Bloodborne.” Both trailers appeared to show gameplay and I am looking forward to playing both of these titles. I’m a big fan of the LBP series and I’ve been meaning to pick up copies of Dark Souls and its sequel for a while.
The conference started up eventually with a montage of different games sown at past events. Jim Ryan the CEO of SCEE is presenting tonight and kicks things off with the announcement that Sony has sold ten million PS4’s to customers. Good for them but not exactly why we’re watching, also claiming that these very impressive numbers are down to the PS4’s social features might be a bit of stretch. Dylan Cuthbert from Q games, creators of the Pixel Junk series, arrives on stage to introduce a trailer for their new game “The Tomorrow Children.” This is a weird, cute looking but ever so slightly creepy (just realised I’m going to be using the word creepy quite a bit in this) game that seems to involve lots of characters mining statues or stone giants and defending themselves from attackers in a weird communist themed society. It was with some disappointment that I learned later that this game is probably a multiplayer online only game. This is followed by a trailer for “The Vanishing of Ethan Carter” by Avalanche Games. There wasn’t a lot shown in this trailer, from what I can gather it appears to involve ghosts, puzzles and a possible murder mystery but it’s hard to be sure.
Mike Bithel, creator of the indie darling “Thomas was Alone” takes the stage. There’s a bit of brown nosing for Sony but can’t argue with the respect they’re giving the indie scene at the moment. Bithel is here to show a trailer for his new game “Volume,” an “old-school” stealth game inspired by Metal Gear Solid which he claims is a retelling of the story of Robin Hood. To be honest from the brief gameplay they showed I fail to see what this had to do with Robin Hood outside of a character being called Rob, but the game looks fun if a bit aesthetically dull (it basically looks like the VR training from early MGS games.)
A trailer now for “Holowpoint” from Paradox Games, a side scrolling shooter, which are usually fun but not overly original. It will be interesting to see what this game can do that’s special. There’s also some chatting about a deal Sony have with Paradox for games and console exclusives or timed exclusives. This is followed by Dean Hall (“I’m a grenade see.”) coming to the stage to talk about how great DayZ is and that there will be a console version coming to PS4. DayZ is an incredibly popular zombie survival game that started life as a mod for Arma 2. This announcement should make a lot of people happy and it is worth researching the crazy stories that have come from this multiplayer game where any player could be your friend or a psychopath ready to kill you and steal your tinned beans. Unfortunately no footage was shown of a PS4 version so I’ve got to wonder how far along this plan actually is.
We were then treated to trailers for a new Ninja Theory game “Hellblade.” The trailer was a cg creation that showed and told you nothing about the game other than it has a creepy scarecrow, a lead character that looks like the protagonist from PS3 launch game Heavenly Sword, and a big sword with runes on it. It’s probably safe to assume it’s another hack and slash or spectacle fighter from Ninja Theory. This was followed by a trailer for the fully exclusive “Rime” by Tequilaworks, a gorgeous looking game with an art style similar to that of Nintendo’s Wind Waker. I’m kind of hoping this isn’t a Proteus rip-off and to be fair there looks like there’s actually stuff to do and puzzles to solve in this game. This game has potential and I’d like to see how it plays out.
It’s now time for the predictable “we love indie developers, honest” indie montage. A surprisingly small selection was shown in this montage, and annoyingly it doesn’t mention the names of the developers for each game which means I’ve had to look them up myself. The following games are all apparently making their console debut on PS4 first;
“Snow” by Poppermost,
“Dreamfall Chapters” by Red Thread,
“Pixel Junk Nom Nom Galaxy” by Q-Games/ Double Eleven,
“Pix the Cat” by Pastagames,
“Papers, Please” by Lucas Pope (this is an excellent catch for Sony,)
“In Space we Brawl” by Forge Reply,
“Ether One” by White Paper Games,
and “Qube 2” by Toxic Games.
Not a huge selection however I’m incredibly pleased to see “Papers, Please” coming to consoles. The game might be basic in graphics and mechanics but if what I’ve heard is true you’ll be emotionally involved in this game after a short time and the agonizing decisions and their consequences will have you thinking about it for a long time afterwards.
After this we had Eric Hirshberg, the CEO of Activision, followed by Jonty Barnes, Bungie’s director of production, to talk about Destiny again. I’ve got to be honest I am starting to get sick of hearing about this, if you’re a fan of shooters and a fan of Bungie’s work on Halo I’m sure this game will be great, but to me it looks like another FPS, a pretty FPS and no doubt a good one, and with music by Paul McCartney and voice acting by the great Peter Dinklage you can’t go far wrong, but I’m just tired of the marketing and hype for this thing, and does it really need more conference stage time this close to release. Anyway we get the usual announcement of timed exclusive content for PS4 in the form of maps and expansions, the announcement that Destiny has become the most pre-order new IP in history (god damn it gamers enough with the pre-orders) and a trailer showing off the competitive multiplayer in a multiplayer only shooting game. The trailer seemed to be showing off different match types but it was hardly informative or just showing regular matched we’re used to in other multiplayer games but with different names.
Ubisoft’s “Far Cry 4” is up next with creative director Alex Hutchinson presenting us with a trailer showcasing the games environments. This game looks absolutely stunning and I hope it still looks this good on release and more importantly I hope they keep the fun of “Far Cry 3” intact. We also finally get details on the PS4 exclusive feature, Keys of Kyrat. Basically when you buy the game you get ten “keys,” when you send one of these keys to a friend they will be able to play Far Cry 4’s co-op with you for up to two hours without owning the game themselves. While this isn’t as good as they made it sound at E3 this is still a pretty sweet deal and a good way to market the game. This is followed by a trailer from Warner Brothers Games for “Middle Earth: Shadows of Mordor.” Unfortunately I can’t tell if this is gameplay, in engine, or just flat out cg, I think there might be a mixture but there was not enough footage shown to be sure.
We now have an appearance form the legend himself Hideo Kojima. Unfortunately he doesn’t have a lot to show us but we do get to see some more upgrades for that essential sneaking tool the cardboard box. The video being played shows off the box’s new abilities such as standing up in it with a picture of a saluting soldier or a bikini model on the front in order to trick, confuse and distract enemies from discovering you. It all ends with Big Boss/ Naked Snake/ Punished Snake/ Venom Snake/ whatever they’re calling him now Big Punished Naked Venom Snake Boss, sitting on the floor with a PS4 box on his head. A very amusing trailer that shows despite the darker story elements the Metal Gear series hasn’t yet lost its weird sense of humour. As a huge fan of the Metal Gear series I have high hopes for this one and really hope Kojima doesn’t pull a George Lucas on us and f*** it up in some horrible way.
The next part of this conference is a mysterious trailer from a new developer 7780s Studio for their game “P.T.” As many of you might already know, in between seeing the conference and writing this blog the truth behind this interactive teaser “P.T.” was figured out by gamers. However for those who don’t already know the truth I won’t spoil it for you in this blog post, instead if you have a PS4 I highly recommend you download this free demo from the store if you can and attempt to complete this demo, failing that find a gameplay video on YouTube like I did and watch it, I recommend this one and this one in that order (which since writing has had annotations added to it to spoil the suprise, typical.) Be aware though, I was incredibly unnerved by this game, it was incredibly creepy, unnerving and barring a few cheap jump scares really knew how make you afraid. I was intrigued by the weird trailer they showed in this conference (barring the stupid “gamer reactions” bit which just irritates me) but knowing now what it truly is has me very excited.
We now move on to the announcement of firmware updates (how exciting), during this section Jim Ryan talked about adding the ability to upload footage directly to YouTube with the share button and we finally got some information on the “shareplay” feature that was promised back at the PS4 reveal. Playstation Plus subscribers will have the ability to virtually pass the controller to a friend (I assume a PS+ subscriber) during a game even if that friend doesn’t own the game, this apparently includes couch co-op games and no doubt utilises streaming technology with you streaming footage of the gameplay to the friend in question. Sony also announced that “Playstation Now,” their by all accounts underwhelming overpriced rental streaming service would be coming to Europe soon with a beta starting in the UK in January, and that “Playstation TV” a nifty little device that plays Vita games on your TV and can stream games from your PS4 to another TV in your house, would also be coming to Europe. All this talk of streaming games via wifi and the internet would be great if Sony’s stream of this conference didn’t keep breaking on their end while they were talking about it. Not giving us a lot of faith in your streaming abilities guys. There was also some talk of their highly anticipated VR headset “Project Morpheus” however don’t ask me what was said because of the aforementioned broken stream.
On a more positive note Michael Denny from Sony World Wide Studios came out to re-introduce first party exclusive “Until Dawn” by Supermassive games. This game is another creepy horror game whose premise involves teenagers spending a night in a cabin in true slasher flick style. The hook of the game is that your decisions affect who will live and who will die by the end of the game, every character as a chance of living or dying and if it can live up to that promise, if the gameplay and mechanics are good and if those graphics are in engine and gameplay, then this game is going to be a real treat.
We now move on to often talked about and constantly delayed “Drive Club.” At this point it’s starting to get embarrassing. Like most racing games Drive Club is graphically amazing, (assuming those are the actual graphics but who knows at this point) and the dynamic weather effects look good but how much different can it truly be from other racing games and after so many delays is anyone still interested at this point. Maybe it’s because I’m not a fan of racing games but I don’t see the appeal in this game and Sony need to get this over with or take it round the back and shoot it. On the plus side no one said “drivetar.”
We now have Sony darlings Media Molecule on stage to announce we are getting a port (although they refuse to call it that) of the Vitas “Tearaway.” This lovely little game that took advantage of the Vita’s functions will be making use of the PS4 controller’s specific functions such as using the touch pad to control the wind or throw objects to the characters, or using the light bar to shine a light into the game world and affect the environment. This is looks like a lot of silly fun and will be great for people who don’t own a Vita but one can’t help but feel Sony are continuing their campaign of screwing over their own handheld console. The Vita is already struggling to find an audience and why should we buy one if you’re going to just end up porting its best games to PS4.
We now come to the last announcements of the night. Housemarque unveil their new game “Alienation” with a gory cg trailer which when we get to gameplay appears to be a twin sticks/ directional shooter. The game looks fun but hardly ground breaking. Finally we end with Michel Ancel announcing his new game from his own Wild Sheep Studios “Wild.” This game, which invokes memories of a little known PS1 game called “Tail of the Sun,” involves cavemen and animals living in an open world supposedly “as big as Europe” (I’ll believe it when I see it.) It’s a cool trailer but it appears to be entirely pre rendered and therefore doesn’t show what the game truly is. Regardless of this I am interested in this game and kind of hope it turns out to be more than just a caveman survival game.
And that’s the end of the press conference, however the post show had some trailers to show off and some mildly annoying hosts to talk about them. We got a bit more “Bloodborne” gameplay and that game still looks great, plus a trailer for “Order 1886” showing off some of the games weapons. I’m really interested in this games steam punk horror setting which might breathe some life into cover shooters, I just hope this doesn’t end up like former Xbox One exclusive “Ryse,” all flash and quick time events and no substance. We also got more trailers for “Infamous Second Son” DLC/ expansion, “Far Cry 4,” ”Until Dawn,” “Little Big Planet 3” and “Drive Club.” The “Until Dawn” footage interested me most has it claimed to be showing actual gameplay. Assuming this isn’t bullshit then the graphics look brilliant and it appears it might be a horror adventure game of some sort. I just hope the gameplay doesn’t boil down to a David Cage style walk around and push the button on the screen to occasionally make a decision.
Overall Sony as had a decent showing this night. I’m not as blown away as I was at their last two E3s and for some reason even though Sony had more I was interested in I was more impressed after Microsoft’s conference. It’s only with hindsight I’m starting to appreciate what Sony showed and nothing beats what happened with “P.T.” although that was actually nothing to do with Sony as I will discuss in a few days. Either way I’m feeling positive about what I’ve seen and I am cautiously optimistic about the future. Let’s just hope we haven’t sat through a bunch of industry lies, I’m sure there are enough of them in the EA conference which I will be recapping next.
Richard Hillier – Bunbury Correspondent