Much of the press was very impressed by the amount of actual software shown at the press event, most expected nothing at all. So the level of quality and variety shown really made this a powerful console announcement.
In this part of the series on the Playstation 4 announcement we will take a look at the titles that Sony showed at their “meeting”. The title of each game will jump you to the relevant part of the recording of the conference. The videos are all coming from the official Playstation YouTube channel.
Showing that Guerilla were making a new Killzone game for the new system was a forgone conclusion. Wheeling it out as the first proper game demo in a conference pushing “new experiences” may have been a tactical error however. The game looked great and was definitely being played live, but was very much just another Killzone. The later section with the player hanging from a rope being dragged behind a flying transport ship showed a little better, but nothing remarkably next-gen. The demo ended on an interesting note, with the new “share” functionality being used to live post the whole demo to the Killzone Facebook page. While there may have been some smoke and mirrors (read outright lies) surrounding this claim, the result was that the demo was not a complete waste of valuable presentation time.
With the Gran Turismo series languishing in the unknown after the disappointing and development hell of GT6, and the unwritten requirement that a new console must have a racing game to look pretty at its announcement, the baton was passed to the new IP of Driveclub. From Evolution Studios of Motorstorm and WRC fame, Driveclub is positioning itself as for fans of both driving games and of cars in general. The term “car porn” has never been more applicable than with this game, with the presenter practically popping a boner live on stage as he talked about the paint flecking off the cars and the fanatical detail they have gone into when modelling the vehicles. If that man didn’t walk off stage and demand a towel, a new pair of boxers and a cigarette I will eat one of my many hats. The game looks suitably impressive, and is taking an enhanced Autolog style social system interactions, with a large focus on “teams” and collaborative gameplay.
After the sexual tension of the Driveclub announcement, the presentation took a massive 180 with someone from Sucker Punch taking the stage and talking about how he was “tear gassed at a rally” and how this changed his opinion on what the police were, and how they might not be just there to protect and serve. I half expected security to escort the man off stage, until realising he was actually there to announce a game. The trailer for the next in the Infamous series looked great, with a new main character possessing a mix of the powers from the previous instalments, but there was no actual gameplay.
Jonathan Blow has talked a lot of shit about Microsoft in the past, and so him walking on stage and announcing that his next game would be coming to PS4 made perfect sense for a number of reasons. It reinforces Sony’s commitment to indie games that they have been cultivating with titles like Journey and The Unfinished Swan, as well as flipping the finger to Microsoft and their now well documented horrendous XBLA certification practices and the difficulty of getting smaller games onto their system. Blow’s has been very vocal about the turmoil of getting Braid onto Live Arcade, so Sony getting him in the centre of their games presentation to show off his new game, The Witness, was a master stroke. The game itself looks very interesting, a next generation Myst with stunning visuals and a whole island of puzzle solving to explore during the supposed 25 hours of gameplay. With the game coming in the Playstation 4 release window, it should be one to keep an eye on.
Quantic Dreams frontman is starting to stray very close to becoming the next Peter Moleneux. Every game announcement promises unparalleled engagement with their stories and characters straddling the uncanny valley, but while impressive achievements never seem to achieve the dizzying heights that were being pitched. When Cage walked out on stage everyone expected one of two things, the announcement that Beyond: Two Souls would be jumping generations to Sony’s new platform or that the “Kara” tech demo shown at GDC last year was now an actual game.
Instead of showing some thing with a title attached to it, Cage instead started a section of the presentation where big names stood up on stage and showed tech demos while waxing lyrical about the possibilities of the new system. This was even more unexpected than there being actual games shown, and left a few people nonplussed. There was no doubt that Quantic Dream would be working on something for the Playstation 4, but to be a part of a console announcement and show a real-time demo of an old mans face (albeit a very impressive old mans face) was a slightly confusing, and seemed to simply serve as a show of support from important Sony third-party studios.
I was a very happy man when Omikron/The Nomad Soul was mentioned though. That game was ridiculous and awesome.
Sony’s favourite UK developer were up next, a no brainer considering the success of LittleBigPlanet. Again no game was shown, and a five minute spiel about how Media Molecule wants to “record your dreams”. In another surprise move, no pun intended, the MM developer on stage brought out a Move controller. This had been the first time the Move, Sony’s technically impressive but lightly supported motion controller, had been mentioned. Most of the press were expecting Move to be swept under the rug considering it’s lacklustre market performance, or the physical controller to be dropped after the DualShock 4 was shown to have a Move style light bar.
Media Molecule then showed a two part demo of the concept they have been working with for the next Playstation. Firstly, a 3D clay sculpting tool with “players” using the Move in 3D space. The gallery of creations supposedly made using this tool were impressive and had that signature Media Molecule look to them. After showing the creation a “live” demo, live in the sense that it was a recorded video with both players and action on screen, of the clay creations being animated like puppets with their puppet masters behind them clutching a Move. The puppets then all proceeded to pick up instruments and rock out. Twitter was alive with calls of “I have no idea what I’m watching, but I like it”. This was “pie in the sky” Sony at their best, showing an idea that is amazing in theory but about 5% of the user base will be able to do impressive things with. See LittleBigPlanet’s collection of exceptionally impressive of levels drowning in a sea of poop and dick based creations.
After flashing up a slide showing “virtually every third-party developer” pledging support for the new console, Capcom’s Yoshinori Ono took to the stage to show what they are planning with the Playstation 4. They showed the next evolution of their long-standing MT Framework engine, codenamed Panta Rhei, with a new IP tease. The demo they showed, working title “Deep Down”, had a very strong “Dark Souls” aesthetic with a heavily armoured knight facing off against a dark fantasy looking dragon. The demo evoked the now legendary Killzone 3 pre-rendered demo fiasco from the Playstation 3 announcement, with certain sections having a basic UI overlayed on top that looked almost comically photoshopped. There was no mention of “target renders” or “concept video”, just that this was their new engine. If the demo was real, then this is supremely impressive, but I will have my doubts until I see someone with a hands-on demo.
For a Japanese company, waiting this long in the presentation before bringing out some top-tier Eastern talent was surprising in retrospect, but does gel with the very European/Western focus of the announcement.
Squeenix had the strangest stage presence of the entire presentation, coming on and showing the same Agni Prophecy demo that they were showing at E3 last year, saying that this was a “real-time demo” running on PS4 hardware. There were a few new scenes, but was identical otherwise. Since everyone who would be watching this presentation would have already seen this demo, it boggles the mind why they would take up 5-10 minutes of a busy conference with old content. To top off the bizarre showing Square Enix brought out Shinki Hashimoto, the “brand lead” of the Final Fantasy series, to say that they were “preparing development” of the next title in the Final Fantasy series and that more information would be at E3 this year. No title, no logo, just the series name. When Nintendo pulled this trick with Smash Bros. at the Wii U announcement it was the subject of a lot of press humour, so why Sony decided to do it here is insane. Unless they were really struggling to infuse some Eastern development into the presentation it made no sense.
A lot of press outlets at E3 last year were shocked when the typically abysmal and unintentionally hilarious Ubisoft press conference turned out to have a great showing, some even claiming they had the best presentation of the whole week. Watch Dogs was the title that really made an impact, and it was a great move for Sony to put it pride of place in their announcement. We were treated to a live demo (Yves Guillemot made a point of saying this) of the game in action, and it is the most cohesive and “complete” looking experience shown at the event. Visually the title was dripping with Assassins Creed influences, almost looking like the future Desmond game that fans are clamouring for. The currently unnamed main character using his smart phone to hack traffic spikes and cause accidents, hack trains to stop them at advantageous stations, and really just mess with every bit of technology in sight. The demo ends with a pull-back shot of a security camera with what looks like a gamertag above it, possibly tying into the fact that the game is going to exist outside the “game”, allowing people to influence their game with “many different devices”. What that will entail is still unclear, but it is an exciting prospect. This is a game to be looking out for, whether you are getting a Playstation 4 or a Xbox 720/Durango.
You could practically hear a mixture of hearts stopping and boners hitting laptops when Blizzard’s Chris Metzen took to the stage. Blizzard’s last console game was Lost Vikings 2 for the SNES in 1997, so very quickly people were frantically trying to figure out which of their massive franchises they would be bringing to the Playstation. As it turns out they chose the most boring one, Diablo 3. There have been a lot of rumours for a while now about Diablo 3 coming to consoles, based on job listings, but no confirmation until now that the game will launch on both PS3 and PS4. At this point this seems like a strange title to launch, everyone who cares about Diablo owns a PC and PC owners are getting exceptionally annoyed that Diablo 3 seems to be designed for consoles from the start. This could have been something really special but turned out to be a damp squib. Hopefully Blizzard and Sony’s “strategic partnership” will bear more fruit in the future.
The final game shown was Bungie’s first new IP since Halo, their MMO-eqsue sci-fi first person shooter. Bungie has really committed to this idea, with the universe they are creating here to serve their games for the next 10 years. The press had their first real introduction to Destiny in the weeks before the presentation, and not a lot of new footage was shown. What was shown was visually quite impressive and apparently in-engine, so this is one to keep an eye on and was subtly mentioned to be a launch game.