By Phil Harris
Last year Sony really had nothing to worry about at E3, sales of the PS4 were heavily out selling the Xbox One and this allowed them to relax a little during their press conference. The name of the game in these battles is obviously console exclusives however and after Microsoft's outing Sony needed to show off something in return. Something tangible.
In a way, and to prove what they were creating for the console was palpable, they started with the much discussed and delayed third game, initially being developed by Team Ico, The Last Guardian. The game itself about a young boy and his griffin exploring a vast world, solving puzzles and developing the bond between the characters. Expanding on the video we saw so many moons ago and crediting the visionary input of Fumito Udea, who was in the crowd.
Any game that has been in such development hell is always a concern but the fact Sony had faith to let it represent them as the first product shown started a line of strong games, bar the trailer of Hitman – which felt a little uninspiring in the company.
Starting with Guerilla Games' new franchise, Horizon: Zero Dawn, a post-apocalyptic world where mankind seems to have devolved back to the hunter gatherers and a selection of machines, with likeness to dinosaurs prowls the lands. The game looked brilliant and game play also seemed to be solid and immersive as you hunt these great beasts.
A Streetfighter V trailer also was well received and then we got a long look at No Man's Sky, the game we were excited about last year. Here we saw actual gameplay, the vast nature of the whole game and the fact that we were now told you could, trade, fight and explore this vast area as well as a hint that a race to the centre of the galaxy leads the plot. Every time we see this game the excitement level grows and it is a hope that the gameplay and environment can realise the vast scope of this product.
After this we got a little dreamy as Media Molecule showed us their new graphical toy, where others could enter and alter others developments. A "game" which even the designers failed to explain in good detail but which contains a virtual toy box of tools which, if done correctly could allow the player to develop incredible experiences and then a little tension as Firewatch showed us a first person game, set in a contemporary wilderness, where your only source of information came from a female voice on the radio.
Skipping past the next update of Destiny, The Taken King, (you killed his son, now he wants revenge) and Assassin's Creed: Syndicate we were introduced to World of Final Fantasy. With its cute stylings merely acting as a vignette before we were shown the first footage of Final Fantasy VII, a full reworking of the original game which drew a well deserved reaction from the crowd. There is little chance that this isn't going to be a huge hit as the originals story and gameplay were so strong.
Then, as way of catching us off guard, we were shown a trailer for Shenmue 3, introduced by its creator and Sony giving their backing to support the Kickstarter (which was already funded by the time I write this). Indeed the Kickstarter launched at the time simply froze the Kickstarter site for a while as the sheer weight of numbers moved to back it. And, whilst the two million dollar price tag seemed low, the original game being famous for its vast cost, the thing Sony failed to explain at the press conference, but were obviously interested in seeing and hence backing the project, was whether the Kickstarter would be successful… erm… YES!!
There were more bits and bobs, if I can class Star Wars: Battlefront in that way (we showed our excitement about that product in an earlier press conference) as well as Disney Infinity 3.0 Star Wars, Batman: Arkham Knight and Call of Duty: Black Ops III. The later of these was at the end of a presentation of Project Morpheus (the competitor to Microsoft's Hololens and the Occulus Rift) but in the way it was presented we simply did not get the feel of the product Microsoft managed to do. We wait to try one soon and see what it really can do.
To end we had Uncharted 4: A Thief's End which did everything you'd expect from a live demo, including an embarrassing crash at the start of the experience – but that's live video for you. The game looks like everything an Uncharted fan would expect but wasn't as inspiring as previous showcases of the Uncharted series, probably explaining why the launch has been set back.
Sony showcased a number of nice looking products and had the clean crisp presentation we'd expect from the company but in the end Microsoft just edged the presentations for the second year running, most of this being centred on the better demo of their virtual headset and backwards compatibility announcement. However Playstation users have nothing to fear.
Phil Harris (@PhilipGHarris) is a games developer and writer currently working with One Thumb Mobile on their MMORPG Celtic Heroes. He also created Zentorii, helped design Nevistech's Pet Roulette for Android devices and is the story writer for Blazing Griffin's new space strategy game Distant Star: Revenant Fleet. To read more about Phil check out his profile on Indie Teamup.