In a world full of non sequiturs and stifling games of ring toss, Sony were able to deliver a conference this week full of exciting new projects, upcoming release dates and a little clarity concerning one of PlayStation’s most promising titles: Media Molecule’s Dreams. While Quantic Dream’s newly revealed Detroit: Become Human might have been the most intriguing and sought-after reveal at the PlayStation Paris Games Week media briefing, that does not mean that the others on show lacked any punch or interest. PlayStation VR was bolstered by a number of quick trailers, Horizon: Zero Dawn continued to amaze and The Order 1886 was included in a list of well-received releases from this year. Sony may have been smoking from a particularly dank peace pipe when they wrote a script mentioning that final game, but hey, they made up for it in the offerings that followed.
Apart from the aforementioned list, the conference began with a trailer for Call of Duty: Black Ops 3’s newest zombie level: The Giant Zombies Bonus Map. As odd as that title may be, this seemed to be a somewhat nostalgic turn for the series, that will return to its original cast of zombie-killing veterans. Richtofen, Dempsey, Takeo and Nicolai bashed and shot their way through a bloody horde in the trailer, but instead of portraying a series of stereotypical WWII meatheads, there was a definite aura of finality, introspection, and therefore great interest on my part, in their words. Nicolai spoke of returning to a normal life of family at the end of the trailer, possibly marking a meta-end to the Zombies/Black Ops series. I know this trailer piqued my interest slightly, but thank goodness.
Star Wars Battlefront was given a new trailer that showcased a number of its hero characters: Han Solo, the Emperor and Princess Leia to name but a few. Admiral Ackbar garbled some nonsense over a montage of the Rebel Alliance doing their thing in the most philanthropic way possible, and Boba Fett quipped about his inanely rubbish death towards the beginning of The Return of the Jedi. Battlefront continues to look authentically Star Wars in the best ways possible: a perfectly implemented score, beautifully designed worlds and a whole smattering of lasers.
Then, the conference took a little bit of a strange spell, as a few guys from Capcom stood on the stage to talk about Street Fighter V while the game’s executive producer, Yoshinoiri Ono, spoke entirely in Japanese for a long period of time wearing an outfit that can only be described as “The Smart-Casual Bumblebee.” While speaking Japanese is obviously a laudable choice from someone who is, obviously, a Japanese man, the back and forth between Ono and the translator disrupted the flow somewhat, making this section particularly stilted.
A strange, stretching man named Dhalsim, who looked a bit like beef jerky, was shown to be a playable character in Street Fighter V, while an even more interesting man (Tekken’s series executive producer, Katsuhiro Harada) flaunted his way on stage wearing sunglasses and a suit like a less-rehearsed version of John Travolta from Pulp Fiction. He arrived to announce Tekken 7 is coming to PlayStation 4, before showing a nostalgic trailer that traced the lineage of the twenty-year series thus far. While it did show a grand amount of everybody’s favourite PlayStation Allstars Battle Royale character: Heihachi, the most interesting part of Harada’s entrance was that he seemed to enjoy making X symbols with his arms as if he was part of Microsoft’s marketing team.
No Man’s Sky was once again shown with a montage of gameplay, which is particularly apt, because I can’t help wondering why I can’t play the game yet. They did reveal the release window however – June 2016 – which indicates that their coyness about a specific day may be due to the as-of-yet unrevealed date for PlayStation VR. The trailer was narrated this time, which is the first smattering of spoken narrative shown for the game, indicating that No Man’s Sky may contain a deeper story than the very-much ethereal “go to the centre of the galaxy” concept that has been talked about on a plethora of occasions.
Housemarque revealed another new project in the form of a CG trailer for Materfall, and then Ratchet and Clank was once again shown in a new gameplay trailer that was just as beautiful as any Pixar movie around. Of course, one of my most anticipated games, Horizon: Zero Dawn, was given a live demo just after these instances. The protagonist was tasked with taking down some robot dinosaurs known as “grazers,” in order to farm them for parts; crafting was referred to as “a major part of the game,” and seems to be a system of much more depth than, for example, Tomb Raider or The Last of Us. This was of course identified through the game being brought into a mode which froze the scene and allowed an exploration of the various parts of a large T-Rex robot, that could be broken off and then used to the player’s advantage. Not only did this show a wonderful melding of gameplay and enemy design, but also a humorous honesty on the part of Guerrilla Games: “Crash? Oh no… we just opened up Death Mode.”
The next big gameplay demo was that of Gravity Rush 2, and while it looked stunning and wholly dynamic in terms of its beautiful, visual chaos, it seemed a little too derivative of the original title to provide any more than some casual interest from my perspective. It was explained that three combat styles would be included: Normal, Lunar and Jupiter, and although the latter two were toted as ways to make Kat either faster or stronger, she still seemed to be bouncing off enemies with her feet like she did in her first adventure. As Yoda would say: fun that may be, but innovative it is not.
What’s the second best thing about an Uncharted game after the single-player campaign? That’s right; the multiplayer! Both Uncharted 2 and 3, and The Last of Us, had terrific instances of an online component that tied in perfectly with their respective gameplay styles; fun and frantic, and violent and tense. While the gameplay trailer here definitely showed off a fun and energetic experience, it also included elements of nostalgic and hilarity from the story. Hero and villain characters will be making their debut as players in online matches, complete with voices and signature quips. Sully’s frequent reminiscences of brothels and whores will surely be an enlightening inclusion to even the most dire of games.
The next game on show was for all of those fans that really like random polar bears made out of clay. Of course, I am talking about Media Molecule’s Dreams. When they presented this game in June at E3, I was ultimately sceptical about how this game was actually going to be played. Now, after seeing the DualShock 4 walk a giant spindly mouse towards some books with the lightbar, I am still slightly perplexed, but more or less satisfied at this concrete control scheme reveal. Also, there were some macaroons that looked delicious and realistic, and I really want to make my own virtual biscuits. Please, Media Molecule, make that happen.
And now, for the mentioning of PlayStation VR, or as everyone else was thinking: the giant virtual face mask of an elephant in the room. Rigs was shown first as a title directed at those wish to be involved in eSports. Players ran and jetpacked their way around some sort of court, all while firing at one another, scoring goals and making wonderfully odd faces like Iron Man in his suit having a hard day at work. While I am not at all interested in Rigs, it presentation still showed the fortitude and integrity of Sony, in that they are staying true to the most hardcore of hardcore players in providing an entirely competitive experience based on completely, as-of-yet, unestablished hardware.
On the other hand, Until Dawn: Rush of Blood is being developed as an on-rails shooter, and looks frankly like a gimmick product not dissimilar to the static motion games, like Medieval Moves and Wii Sports Archery, from last generation. What did look awesome however was Robinson: The Journey, which takes the form of a first-person dinosaur game made by Crytek. The main focus seems to be on not being squished by giant herbivores, before having to run frantically away from more dangerous and carnivorous predators. Although only a CGI trailer was shown, it appears to be an entirely immersive and tense experience, preying on the player’s vulnerability amongst a horde of terrifying beasts.
And now, for the reveal of Gran Turismo Sport, or as everyone else was thinking: the elephant in the room racing game that should have been the forerunner for PS4 instead of Driveclub. As confusing as it was to have Evolution’s game referred to in the same conference as Sony’s bestselling first-party series, Polyphony seem to want to take the lead as a superior driving experience on PlayStation. Kazunori Yamauchi, the CEO of Polyphony Digital, remained focused on melding video game racing with an actual motoring organisation, in the form of the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile, and continually stressed that this was going to be a “rebirth” for virtual motorsport. These points, along with the fact that Driveclub is now being shown to include motorcycles, indicates that Gran Turismo Sport shall reclaim the car simulator genre after a few shaky years of racing on PlayStation consoles.
There isn’t much to be said about Michael Ancel’s new game, Wild, apart from that you can be a bear and a bird and probably a snake as well all in the same package. It looks to be startlingly beautiful as well as including an infinite amount of possibility in terms of gameplay scenarios. Can I take my bird on a ride down some river rapids? Can I ride my bear into a volcano? I want to ride a lot of things.
To end the conference, David Cage, the game director of Quantic Dream, arrived onstage to deliver perhaps the best announcement of the conference. He revealed that Detroit: Become Human would be the studio’s next PS4 exclusive, and while the name is one of the worst that I have ever heard, the game’s premise is wholly fascinating. Quantic Dream have given their fans something that they have wanted for a long time: a complete game based on the 2012 tech demo known as Kara, in which a female android becomes sentient; wanting to experience life as a human before escaping a fabricated factory-line existence. The scene in question was emotionally deep despite its short length, and from Cage’s words at the conference, it is obvious that he and his team have been pouring over this young girl’s characterisation and her world for quite some time.
Not only was the trailer shown full of beautifully realistic character models and cityscapes, but it also provided a look into a game that was, despite its futuristic setting, more grounded than the oddly supernatural and convoluted Beyond: Two Souls. Taking this into consideration, Detroit could be a fantastic return to the altogether human conception of their PS3 masterpiece, Heavy Rain.
With a few closing remarks by big man Jim Ryan, the conference ended on an extremely high note. While Sony has progressed into this Fall with little more than the Uncharted Collection to satiate yelping fans, it is clear that the approaching year is going to be bright spots on PlayStation’s gaming horizon.