Playstation E3 2014: 'No Man's Sky,' 'Uncharted 4,' and a victory lap
Who’s having more fun than Sony? Not Microsoft: They spent a year convincing everyone that the Xbox One was more than just a videogame console, and then spent a year trying to retroactively explain that the Xbox One was just a videogame console. And not Nintendo: The Wii U isn’t selling like the Wii, and it’s vibing like the Gamecube at best. The Playstation 4 is beating both the Wii U and the Xbox One in sales. Every statistic in the videogame industry is up for debate, but Sony is strolling into E3 in a position of strength. It’s a good deal, especially when you consider that Sony has so far won mostly by not losing horribly.
Because it’s not like there’s an awesome, must-have PS4-exclusive videogame right now. Infamous: Second Son and Killzone: Shadow Fall were placeholders at best. And Sony likes to trumpet how multiplatform games should only be played on their console — “First, Bigger, Better” might as well be their Multiplatform Motto — but plenty of people will be happy playing Destiny and Far Cry 4 on their Xbox One. (Or on their Playstation 3, for that matter.)
So Sony’s press conference was constructed as a victory lap, but there was also recognition that the business of truly dominating this videogame generation was just beginning. Once again, Sony paid special attention to their indie games development — a devotion that gives them plenty of good press with gamers, but which also showcased a greater diversity in their slate, compared to the endless boom-boom-EXPLODE bass rumbles of the Xbox briefing. Let’s do snap judgments on the games they showed off; check back at EW later this week for a more in-depth look at the games that didn’t make my eyes bleed.
The popular word around town is that Bungie’s first non-Halo epic is the most expensive game ever made. Set our solar system’s far future, Destiny is set on a post-apocalyptic post-dystopian earth. The general atmosphere sort of feels like what would happen if Star Trek got invaded by Lord of the Rings and then had to be rescued by a bunch of Jedi Knights in exoskeletons. The exoskeletons make everyone look weirdly sort of similar to Master Chief. Everyone wants Destiny to be good, because gamers are magical thinkers — but it’s weird that a game with so much next-biggest-thing-ever buzz looks like a lot of other space-fighting games.
2. The Order: 1886
Buzz has also been running hot on this new title, a PS4 exclusive about a counter-England in the late 19th century where everyone has cool guns. The video they showed featured a long walk down a dark corridor, a zombie who turned into a werewolf, and a Quick Time Event. Hit the triangle button to start the negative buzz!
From Sony San Mateo comes this definitely-not-on-the-Xbox curio. The designer described it thus: “You control two souls in love who can’t be together.” You control both “souls” using the two analog sticks. When you bring them together, they become a dragon. “Each lifetime draws to a close with the dragon blazing a trial across the sky with living paint.” Best case scenario it’s the most fun art-school dissertation project ever, worst case scenario it’s Flower on more drugs.
4. Infamous: Second Son
There’s new DLC! You play as a lady character! In a better world, Infamous and Crackdown would fight to the death, and they’d both die, and there would be no more Infamous and Crackdown.
5. LittleBigPlanet 3
The lovable Sackboy comes to a new generation, now with his friends Oddsock, Toggle, and Swoop. LittleBigPlanet still looks like a videogame designed by the artisanal bakery down the street from the cousin you hate who lives in Brooklyn, but dammit, the baker does make exquisite pastries.
Lots of bargain-basement horror images: A lantern, a man with an elaborate slicing implement, blood-dogs, angry villagers. But Bloodborne could be much more than just another horror game. It’s directed by Hidetaka Miyazaki, the man who turned the masochistically difficult Dark Souls into a hit.
7. Far Cry 4
While Monday’s Ubisoft briefing showed off the opening cinematic, Sony got to showcase the gameplay of the mountainous Far Cry fourquel. In about five minutes, we watched the player steal a car, jump from one moving into another moving car while killing the driver and the passenger, drive that second moving car off a cliff, parachute down to a beautiful valley, and take over a fortress with a little help from a scared elephant. Also, there’s multiplayer; also, you can invite your PSN friends to join you in Far Cry 4 even if they don’t own the game. Also, there’s a grapple now. So this could be everything.
8. Dead Island 2
Another great Dead Island trailer with no gameplay = probably another bad Dead Island game.
9. Battlefield: Hardline
The military shooter is now a cops-vs-robbers shooter, and everyone has a zipline and a grappling hook. Hard to know what the hardcore Battlefield heads will make of this reboot.
10. Grim Fandango
The cult hit from the end of the LucasArts Renaissance will make a comeback on the PS4 and the Vita. Further proof that Sony is the best when it comes to scoring huge points with very little investment.
11. Devolver Digital’s Titles
This was the part of the show when Sony just started unloading the smaller games. BroForce! TitanSouls! Not A Hero! The Talos Principle, which is described as “A Philosophical Puzzle”! At times like this, Sony really does manage to pitch itself as a liberal arts school that’s just pretending to be a Giant Global Megacorporation.
12. Let It Die
Something about zombies?
From the art director and compose of Journey comes Abzu, which looks absolutely gorgeous and also looks unmistakably like Journey 2: Under The Sea. Intrigued to learn more about the gameplay.
15. No Man’s Sky
The designer of this eyepopping sci-fi game wasted no time namechecking Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, and Arthur C. Clarke. Another key quote: “We’ve created a procedural universe…so vast, so boundless, it’s actually infinite. And we don’t even know what’s out there.” And so No Man’s Sky immediately won the award for Most Ambitious.
16. Mortal Kombat X
Scorpion and Sub-Zero are still fighting, still crushing each other’s skulls.
17. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
Several trailers later, this still looks utterly bonkers. In a good way.
18. Batman: Arkham Knight
The next-generation Batman game looks absurdly gigantic and lets you shoot at things from inside the Batmobile. The Scarecrow is the bad guy in this game, which could imply a preponderance of hallucination sequences, or just that Rocksteady is trying really hard not to bring the Joker back. Good luck, Rocksteady!
19. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
The Uncharted series has helped to define Sony for the last half-decade, with its mixture of top-quality graphics, well-tuned adventure, movie-quality storytelling and oldschool single-player gameplay. You could even throw in the critically acclaimed The Last of Us, a kind of spiritual sidequel to the Uncharted series set in a world where Nathan Drake is a psychopath. Last of Us directors Bruce Staley and Neil Druckmann are returning for this fourth Uncharted, after sitting out Uncharted 3. That’s all we really know at this point — although the trailer’s repeated promise of “one last time” seemed to imply that this might be the “last” Uncharted. We’ll see in 2015.