Everyone has their dream E3 lineup. For many, this list consisted of a variation of The Last Guardian, Final Fantasy VII and Shenmue 3. These were the most farfetched of E3 announcements; they were pipe dreams at best. It’d crazy enough to see even one of these games appear at E3. But what if all three were announced? What if they were all announced in a single conference?
Where do we start? Well I suppose we should begin with The Last Guardian. This game was first announced at E3 2009 and has essentially been unspoken of except by the most ardent Team Ico…that is until today’s extended trailer. It’s still the same puzzle-platformer we saw all those years ago, we are still playing as a little boy as he and a giant cat-creature make their way through ancient ruins. Since then, there has been a lot of detail added to the visual treatment, particularly that of the creature, whose feathers now look near-seamless. The Last Guardian is (finally) coming to PS4 in 2016.
It’s a tough act to follow one of gaming’s white whales, but Guerrilla Games somehow managed it with Horizon: Zero Dawn. Set long after the end of the world when nature has overrun the former husks of civilisation, the Horizon demo followed the main character Aloy as she used her bow and spear to spot and hunt robot dinosaurs, culminating in a combat sequence against a robot t-rex. Not much more was revealed, but I hope there’s more to this than simply surviving in this intriguing universe.
Maintaining airs of mystery was Media Molecule’s new title Dreams. Taking inspiration from lucid dreams, the game uses the Dualshock 4’s motion controls to allow you to sketch, create and puppet whatever you fancy. These works can then be shared and jumped into by the community. What happens from there is completely ambiguous. The watercolour art style looks sublime, but we will have to wait to see what we will actually be doing in this game.
Similarly, we aren’t any clearer on what we’ll be doing in No Man’s Sky, despite another gameplay demo from developer Hello Games. The demo emphasised the game’s pillars of “trading, fighting, exploration, survival,” and I can see the potential for a laid-back afternoon of just exploring the game’s near-infinite procedurally generated planets. I, like many others, still want to know what else we can do in this universal sandbox.
Of course, it wouldn’t be an E3 presentation without a wall of trailers, and we got more than a handful this year. We had trailers for Street Fighter V (which confirmed Birdie and Cammy as combatants), Hitman (no subtitle, just “Hitman”), Firewatch (the gorgeous narrative-driven game from Campo Santo), the Taken King expansion for Destiny (hopefully it will come with more than three missions), and World of Final Fantasy (a chibi take 0n the FF franchise).
And then we got the Final Fantasy VII remake everyone was hoping to see. It was implied that the remake will come first to Playstation 4 before being released on other platforms.
The tentpoles that previous Sony press conferences build themselves on were noticeably absent this year. Previously, Sony championed the indie scene, this year we only got the few indie titles mentioned above and a montage from publisher Devolver Digital featuring Ronin, Eitr, Mother Russia Bleeds and Crossing Souls. Also absent was an Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate gameplay demo; that section was relegated to a trailer showing off Evie Frye, one of the game’s playable characters. If you want to read too deeply into this, this absence of gameplay from both Sony and Ubisoft could be an indicator of the cultural impact that brand has today compared to its glory years of Assassin’s Creed II.
In its place, however, was Call of Duty: Black Ops III. Activision has jumped ship, and now Playstation will have the timed multiplayer map pack exclusives. As for the game itself, it seems to have taken more than a few momentum cues from Advanced Warfare and Titanfall, with its plethora of jumpacks and wallrunning. The gameplay demo also featured four players battling against a giant robot, perhaps indicating a Monster Hunter-esque co-op mode.
We also had more details about Star Wars Battlefrontm, Batman: Arkham Knight and Project Morpheus, but these were deeply overshadowed by the unveiling of the Kickstarter campaign for the open world action RPG Shenmue 3 — thus completing the trilogy of Shenmue and E3 announcements nobody expected to ever witness. Shenmue 3 is currently slated to be released on Playstation 4 and PC. This is contingent on the campaign reaching its $2 million target. “The fate of Shenmue is in your hands now,” said game director Yu Suzuki. When I started writing this, the campaign had already reached $750,000; when I published this it eclipsed $1.1 million. Odds are by the time you’re reading this it would have already met its goal.
Closing out this ludicrously announcement-heavy conference was Uncharted 4. After some technical hiccups, the demo showed off a driving sequence that seemed to take place in an expansive city environment. Nathan Drake was driving though alleyways, on rooftops, through farms — and this all appeared to be at the player’s freedom. It was an impressive set piece for a game already known for its elaborate sequences.
We all joke about the hype train, but this press conference was probably the first time everybody was well and truly on board. Even the most jaded of cynics was left laughing at their Twitter feed, wondering what sweet madness was unfolding before them. Sony’s press conference will go down in the ages as one of the few times everyone’s dream E3 list was crossed off, when the internet’s insatiable desire for hype was well and truly fulfilled.