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E3 2016: Sony Impressions

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After the flaming nonsense that was the Ubisoft press conference, Sony delivered a powerhouse that was truly for the players. There were no awkward conversations; there was barely any talking at all, and games, games and more games were blasted at the audience from start to finish. Very few of these were superfluous, with the likes of God of War, Death Stranding, The Last Guardian, Horizon Zero Dawn, Detroit: Become Human, Crash Bandicoot Remastered, and yes, an exclusive Spider-Man game leading the charge in what could be the greatest PlayStation line-up of all time. I feel faint just thinking about it.

The conference began with a stirring orchestral performance, something new for E3, which immediately established Sony’s presentation as one of maturity and pomp. This was of course going to be the main theme for Sony Santa Monica’s next God of War game, which was then shown in a lengthy demo. This time, Kratos has been transported to Norse mythology, has a son and is now sporting a different voice, a beard and an altogether altered ethos. He teaches his son to plan and think ahead before acting, something which his Greek version would sneer at, and then murder a helpless human in annoyance. Bearded Kratos also has more tender moments, calming his child, and reaching out gently to touch his shoulder after battle. This is certainly something new, which will draw in those that have become tired of the angsty, one-sided characterisations of the Greek myths from previous games.

Games of a similar, natural-world aesthetic were also shown, like Horizon Zero Dawn, which follows Aloy in a post-post-apocalyptic society, who must hunt and destroy robot dinosaurs in a land reclaimed by nature. The combat appears to be some of the most varied shown at the conference, with the protagonist having the ability to use arrows, stealth and net-like ties to take down massive predators and herbivores alike for their parts. These can then be used to upgrade Aloy and her weapons on the fly, cementing Horizon’s stance as an RPG. Guerilla has certainly moved away from the bro-ish nature of Killzone, to make something deeper and much more enticing.

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A trailer was presented for The Last Guardian, a game that will never live up to its hype, nor make its money back, but is still manages to drum up interest whenever shown; mystery and nostalgia are powerful tools. I won’t belabour this discussion, because it’s been happening for about a decade at this point, but I will say this: if that bird dog dies, I will burn the house down.

And now for something that was a complete surprise. Days Gone, a new game from Sony Bend, follows your protagonist through what seems like Sons of Anarchy meets The Walking Dead. The first trailer shown immediately establishes both its personal tone as well as its open world, as relationships and an emphasis on drifting were at the forefront. A demo was also showcased to close the show which identified the main cause of the apocalypse: zombies. These weren’t any old shamblers, however, as they ran at ferocious speeds, tumbling over one another in unsettling multitudes. While Bend may want to try cement itself as a distinct, AAA developer (the company’s last few games were only on Sony handhelds), Days Gone seems much like an unofficial sequel to The Last of Us. Considering the quality of that particular game, this is in no way a knock, and could therefore prove to be one of this generation’s best. Watch out Naughty Dog.

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Speaking of Naughty Dog, Crash Bandicoot is coming back. Unfortunately, he’s coming back this year in Skylanders Imaginators as a monstrous version of his past self. Fortunately, he’s also returning in a remaster of the first three PSOne games. I cannot wait to spin attack tortoises and kangaroos and rampant tigers in high definition. It’s a PETA member’s nightmare, but a Scott Russell’s dream.

PlayStation VR was given some time on stage, with the likes of Batman: Arkham VR and Farpoint, a new space survival game, leading the way. The most astonishing announcement, however, was certainly Resident Evil VII: Biohazard. For about a year, Kitchen has been bandied around conventions; shown at first as a simple scary tech demo, it has now been revealed as a new Resident Evil. It will take place in first person, and seems to be thoroughly inspired by the likes P.T. and Outlast: odd notes of perspective, darkness, isolation and constant danger. After the action shooters of RE5 and 6, it will be good to get back into horror of the series, and will no doubt put the willies up the most hardened of mansion explorers.

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These presentations were all well and good, but perhaps my favourite, the moment where I sat in amazement, typing in garbled capitals to my colleagues, was the reveal of Insomniac’s Spider-Man. A recent Amazon listing showed a Spider-Man game made by Sucker Punch, which was quickly shot down as fake. This then led to the debunking of such an idea altogether. There is no way Sony would have an exclusive Spider-Man game. But, lo and behold, there is now a PS4 exclusive Spider-Man game, by a developer that can do both humour and open-world platforming. Who would have thought?

Not only is this great news for me, as I love the character and his cast of villains, but it’s great news for Sony. PlayStation exclusives, while selling fairly, never break the bank in terms of sales. The sole ownership of such a huge franchise is massive; millions will see Spider-Man Homecoming next year, and millions will buy this game.

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To finish off, I’ll touch on Hideo Kojima’s new game, Death Stranding. Despite the oddity of its name, it looks intriguing. Not only does it have Norman Reedus as its main character, which was also a revelation at the show, but it seems as though Kojima’s weirdness has not waned since his troubled split from Konami. In this trailer alone there is a baby with a black umbilical cord, a naked man, floating men in the sky, dog tags, some crying and host of dead sea creatures.

Will this be the world’s first whale, naked, floating simulator? I certainly hope so.

Sony showed that the talkative fluff of other E3 conferences is antiquated and dull, as presenting games, awesome and mature ones at that, is clearly of paramount importance. This was delivered upon tenfold, as a bandicoot, a naked actor and a bearded Norse warrior gave hope for a bright, PlayStationy future.

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