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Sony’s E3 2015 Keynote

Microsoft, EA, Ubisoft, and Sony have all shown their cards; two of them probably should have folded, but two of them came to the table with a full house, all-in. Enough with the poker analogy. Let’s get to the summary.

I mentioned in the Microsoft article that Sony and Nintendo would have to bring the thunder, and folks, if I may be frank, it feels like hell has frozen over three times in just one keynote. Similar to Microsoft, Sony jumped from game to game, leaving very little filler space between. Let’s just get to it:

Shawn Layden, President and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment America, opened the conversation with a long awaited game, The Last Guardian from Team Ico. After a touching trailer showing the atmospheric and beautiful gameplay Team Ico is so famous for, Shuhei Yoshida comes on stage, introduces the series creator Fumito Ueda, and confirms the game will be released on the PS4 in 2016. Surely this can’t be real!

Afterwards, Hermen Hulst from Guerilla Games comes on stage to introduce their new franchise, “Horizon: Zero Dawn.” The opening monologue introduces a bit about the game’s story. “We weren’t the first ones here. Our stories speak of the ones that came before – the old ones. The world of the old ones was so different than ours. They had built incredible cities, with towers that reaches the stars. But a darkness came, and their cities turned to graves.”

The game features tribal humans fighting robots – some of which have been active for so long they have grown moss and plants on their hides, giving them a more organic look. The gameplay features a female protagonist hunting giant robot deer and dinosaurs. The robots appear to be feral, and further into the monologue, the game is revealed to be about the “balance” between machines and mankind being upset. Basically this game looks like Monster Hunter with giant robot dinosaurs.

Next up, Square-Enix took the stage with the new Hitman game. They showcased the game with a pre-rendered and trendy cinematic trailer reminiscent of the trailer for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, with an intense musical track featuring industrial noises, electronic music, and rhythmic panting.

Asad Qizilbash, Head of Software Marketing Sony America, then took the stage to expands on it, revealing that this is “the most ambitious Hitman [game] ever created”. Developed by IO Interactive, the new Hitman will be leading with a digital release, and will feature an “ever expanding world which deepens as the year goes on.” It sounds as if this may refer to free updates, and expanded content, however this story is still developing, and we hope to have more information soon.

Asad remained on stage to showcase Street Fighter 5, which is a console exclusive for PS4. Two new characters were shown: Cammy, a long-time Streetfighter staple will be returning, along with Birdie from Street Fighter Alpha 3. A PS4 beta for Street Fighter 5 will be arriving on July 23rd.

Sean Murray from Hello Game then took the stage, cutting to the chase quickly to show off gameplay of No Man’s Sky. The demo began inside of a large carrier ship or space station, hinting at interiors for larger ships and buildings. The demo opened with two warring factions, allowing the player to choose a side in the conflict. Sean then went to the game’s map screen and expanded the map as far as it could go to try and give us a sense of scale. “Most of these places have never been visited. Many of them never will be.”

Would you believe me if I said it’s actually an order of magnitude bigger than what’s shown on this map. Each dot is essentially a whole solar system you can visit.
Would you believe me if I said it’s actually an order of magnitude bigger than what’s shown on this map. Each dot is essentially a whole solar system you can visit.

After showing the map, Sean picked a random planet, and warped there. After scanning the planet’s surface, a number of points of interest appeared. Upon arriving on the planet’s surface, he destroyed some rocks, noting that every planet in every system is fully destructible. However, in doing so, he angered a local enforcement robot known as a sentinel, which I assume is the game’s built-in anti-griefing. Considering the scale of these planets and this universe, it’s not likely that griefing will be a huge problem in most areas, but it’s nice to see they have thought of it. Fittingly, the trailer closed with a Carl Sagan quote: “Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.”

After this demo, Asad Qizilbash came back on stage, and introduced Alex Evans from Media Molecule. Alex demoed Media Molecule’s new game, or art platform, Dreams. The game appears to be a 3d scuplting app using the Dualshock 4’s built in move controller. The game allows you to then puppeteer your sculptures to create intricate animations. The trailer showcases one such animation, which opens with a detailed animation of an old man playing piano. I won’t spoil it, because it’s honestly quite cute.

Afterward, Mr. Qizilbash introduced a game that I’ve personally been looking forward to for a while now. Firewatch is a first person survival mystery game, with a pastel palette and Team Fortress-like aesthetic. I’ve seen a few trailers for this game now, but nothing has really shown off any meaningful gameplay. While this trailer was no different, it did get me excited to see it getting some big screen attention.

Look, he has a little turtle buddy!
Look, he has a little turtle buddy!

Then, Adam Boyes took the stage, introducing a new Destiny expansion pack, “The Taken King.” Many new abilities were shown off, including a cool looking energy bow, lighting powers, and a big flaming hammer. The Taken King will be released on September 15th 2015, and will feature PS4-exclusive co-op and PVP maps, as well as exclusive gear.

Afterwards, Adam introduces Assassin’s Creed Syndicate. A pre-rendered trailer introduced us to one of the two protagonists in the game, Evie Frye, highlighting many brutal executions.

Then, Square-Enix got the stage again, showing off the newest entry in the Final Fantasy franchise, World of Final Fantasy. It appears as if characters can grow and shrink at command for various gameplay purposes, and the aesthetic seems similar to Kingdom Hearts. It will be coming exclusively to the PSVita and PS4 in 2016.

Then, hell froze over again. Adam Boyes introduced another Square-Enix game, and it was impossible to ignore the audience’s anticipation. You could hear people holding their breath, and feel their gasps as the screen flashed “Final Fantasy” wait for it, “VII” wait for it… “Remake” HOLY CRAP. What? This was an enormous shock. It appears to be a complete remake of Final Fantasy VII, complete with new visuals, and voice acting.

Holy crap it's Midgar!
Holy crap it’s Midgar!

At this point, between The Last Guardian and Final Fantasy VII, Sony is sitting pretty. They then showed off a few Devolved Digital games in rapid fire, all of which look amazing, including:

Ronin: a 2d “turn based” action stealth game, which looks a little similar to Gunpoint.

Eitr: an isometric RPG which looks similar to Diablo 2 and Dark Souls.

Mother Russia Bleeds: A classic 2d beat-em-up with a psychedelic twist.

Crossing Souls: An isometric, nostalgia-focused action adventure with RPG elements.

I’m a bit disappointed they didn’t show Shadow Warrior 2, but you can’t win ‘em all.

In a bizarre turn of events, Hell froze over yet again as Shenmu creator Yu Suzuki took the stage and announced the launch of his Kickstarter. By the end of the show, it had already reached $250,0000, rising at a rate of nearly $20,000 per minute. At the time of writing this article, it is at $1.5 million, or 75% of its funding goal in under 4 hours. This is sure to be a world record. With nearly 14 years since the last Shenmu game was released, this Kickstarter page was so popular that it crashed Kickstarter’s servers.

Kickstarter Legitimately Crashed2

Wait a second… The Last Guardian was confirmed, Final Fantasy 7 Remake was confirmed, Shenmu III was confirmed… that’s 3 long awaited games finally confirmed. Hang on… Shenmu III is the third game in the series! And so is The Last Guardian! and Final Fantasy 7 remake was the third Square-Enix game shown off in Sony’s keynote!!! IT CAN’T BE!

The stars have aligned and the time is right. Please lord Gaben!
The stars have aligned and the time is right. Please lord Gaben!

Afterwards, Adam Boyes introduced a new trailer for Batman: Arkham Knight. I got flashbacks to the “This is no FPS, this is MGS” trailer for Metal Gear Solid 4, since the entire trailer took place in third person. To summarize, a police officer is gassed by Scarecrow, and everything gets kind of creepy. This trailer was basically made to showcase some PS4 exclusive content for Arkham Knight. I feel sorry for them having to take the stage after FFVII and Shenmu 3.

Then, Andrew House showcased some Morpheus stuff. After what Microsoft showed off in their keynote, I’m surprised by how sparse Sony’s showing was. They opened with some interesting points about game development, stating: “Even simple concepts take on a new sense of depth and exhilaration, causing developers to examine with new eyes even the most basic of gameplay experiences…” which, in my experience, is incredibly true – even the simple act of holding your hands still on a table can make for a compelling VR experience.

He then goes on to state that “…morpheus will be THE virtual platform for families and friends to experience virtual reality together” but then fails to qualify that statement with anything concrete. Compared to what was shown with Oculus and Hololens, I’m not going to be easily convinced, and I’d love to see more from Sony. Perhaps they should have held a separate keynote for Morpheus.

In total, just 2 Morpheus games were shown: Eve Valkyrie (in title alone), and a new IP from Guerilla Games, called “RIGS: Mechanized Combat League,” a 3vs3 mech combat game. The trailers make it look as if it runs pretty smoothly, so that’s a big plus! Check it out:

Then came the inevitable non-gaming stuff. Playstation Vue. Details were sparse, and the market it is available in is even more limited, but it appears to be a live TV streaming service which custom tailors your viewing experience by bringing you content tailored for your tastes. The service area is currently limited in the US, and completely unavailable in Canada currently.

After this short diversion, we were given the world premiere first look at Call of Duty Black-ops 3. Not to be cynical, but it’s essentially Titanfall 2, complete with jet packs and wall running. One of the kill streaks appears to even turn you into a 7 foot tall battle mech that falls from the sky, complete with a minigun arm. Oh, and there’s swimming too, which actually seems like it will change the map designs quite a lot, so that’s cool! Also, the singleplayer features a gadget which makes enemies puke. But ultimately, it looks a little uninspired.

After a short montage of all of the games shown up to this point, Disney took the stage to show some StarWars Disney Infinity playsets, and announce a Playstation exclusive limited edition set. If you’re into that, it’s pretty cool, and it’s sure to make a lot of money, but we came here to see Battlefront, didn’t we?

At that point, they switch to Battlefront, and after a short introduction where the presenter accidentally calls Luke Skywalker “Skywater,” they jump right into gameplay. I’m not sure if it’s because the map is smaller, or if it’s because the game mode was different, but the map in this trailer looked much better than Hoth. I think the sharp edges of the cliffs in this map made it perfect for showing off the shaders. Battlefront is clearly a fantastic looking game, and I think it’s especially great how they faithfully recreated even the sparks in the explosion effects, emulating the practical effects of the original trilogy – I’m pretty sure I even heard a faint Wilhelm scream.

Then came the conclusion, and what would E3 be without a good old fashioned E3 fail. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End appears to have bad luck in press conferences, with their first showing on December 6th 2014 featuring game breaking, fall-through-the-level bugs. After a glitchy start, featuring loading problems, followed by inactive controls, the demo was reset, and carried on through an exciting car chase in a hilly town. Well, at least we know it’s real gameplay then, right? The trailer revealed a few things new to the series, including crowd physics, and drivable vehicles.

Ultimately, I think Uncharted 4 would have been an excellent closer, had Sony not opened with such a strong showing early on in their keynote. I’m still coming down from the hype of Shenmu 3, The Last Guardian, and Final Fantasy VII, but overall I would still say Microsoft’s keynote featured more innovation, so it’s a tough call on which one was better. One thing is for certain, they did much better than Ubi and EA. Nintendo, Square, and PC Gamer, you’ve got the stage, so let’s see something impressive!

For a summary of Microsoft’s keynote, click here.

For a summary of Ubi’s keynote, click here.

For a summary of EA’s keynote, click here.

For a summary of Bethesda’s keynote, click here.

For a summary of the Oculus keynote, click here.

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