In my first year of university, I saw a jock-looking dude walking around wearing his ‘Class of 2005’ high school top; nothing out of the ordinary, I was sure he was well beloved by his peers. In my final week of study, I saw that same guy wandering around the campus by himself, slumped shoulders still adorned by that very same top — this was in 2009. Sony’s E3 Showcase this year reminded me of that guy still clinging to the glory of past years.
This was most evident during the special presentation for The Last of Us Part II. This was Sony at its most self-indulgent. It gathered guests into a church, it brought in Last of Us composer Gustavo Santaolalla in to perform the theme on banjo, Sony Interactive Entertainment America CEO Shawn Layden even referred to the gathered crowd as his “congregation”. But looking at the game footage, it almost justified the pomp and circumstance.
Ellie is no longer the journeyer in the first game; her enemies refer to her as “Wolf”. Whilst the game has made improvements to its engine — the animation, in particular was impressively smooth — it looks to maintain an emphasis on human stories, stealth brutal, personal combat. The transition of Ellie kissing her girlfriend to her murdering an enemy is the Last Of Us ethos captured in one.
After an awkward intermission where everyone was shuffled to a second theatre, we got our first look at Ghost of Tsushima, Sucker Punch’s open-world take on Feudal Japan. The studio must have worn down its tapes of samurai films, because it is very clear where the game takes its inspirations from. The colour palate, movement of the environment, even the dramatic lighting are straight out the Kurosawa playbook. Even the combat encounters are exactly what you would imagine even if you’ve never seen a samurai film. The only major diversion is that the Japanese characters are speaking in English; it hasn’t been confirmed if audio options will be available at launch.We have no release window yet for Ghost of Tsushima.
Amidst the trailers were Destiny 2’s new expansion Forsaken, Kingdom Hearts III (including a limited edition Playstation 4 Pro), Trevor Saves the Universe (a Justin Roiland ass Justin Roiland game), and the remake of Resident Evil 2, first announced in 2015. We were also introduced to Nioh 2 and Control, the new telekinetic shooter from Remedy Entertainment.
Yes, we have now seen eight more minutes of Death Stranding. No, I still can’t tell you exactly what it is. Amongst the scenes on offer were Norman Reedus walking across deserts, rivers and mountains seemingly on a quest to deliver…something. We saw a new character played by Léa Seydoux. In the closest thing to gameplay, we saw Norman trying to sneak past the invisible enemies that seem to rule this land by using his chest-foetus to power a shoulder-light to illuminate them. We have just enough new context to keep Death Stranding in our radars, but Hideo Kojima is still playing his cards frustratingly close to his chest.
To close the show, Sony showed off more of the upcoming Insomniac-developed Spider-Man game. This year’s demo puts Spidey in the middle of a prison riot, taking out enemies with aerial combos and web-slinging alongside the conventional superhero melee. Over the course of the demo, more and more villains are introduced, including Electro, Rhino, Scorpion, Vulture and Negative Man; yes, that’s five villains all beating down on Spidey by the end of the trailer. We’ll find out whether Spider-Man can get himself out of that predicament on 7 September.
Sony didn’t come to E3 with any mic-dropping announcements like with E3 2015, and it didn’t need to, but by golly did the company try to evoke that mood. To Sony’s credit, it did provide the one thing the other presentations did not: Extended gameplay. These eight-ten minute stretches of footage provided so much more context and interest than all the well-edited mood trailer in the world ever could. If only these weren’t caught in the middle of some school hall showmanship. But hey, at least we didn’t have to sit through another Days Gone trailer.