It’s hard to articulate just how much confidence oozed out of Sony at their E3 2016 press conference. From the haunting orchestra that introduced God of War at the majestic Shrine auditorium to the no-nonsense way in which they revealed games back to back with little to no interruptions. It was an impressive feat that may have lived up to last year’s magnanimous effort. Sony shrugged off Microsoft’s big announcement of a more powerful console by just showing games and letting the games speak for themselves. We knew there’d be no speak of the PS4 Neo but we all know how reactionary the culture of conferences can be so not seeing Sony double down on new hardware was a nice change of pace.
And what a change of pace it was, indeed.
The evening was so full of rapid-fire reveals that there wasn’t even enough room for the usual Sony suspects to show up. Shuhei Yoshida, Adam Boyes, Asad Qizilbash and even Gio Corsi were all missing as well as most of the developers. Instead, Shawn Layden and Andrew House provided all of the talk themselves accompanied by an incredible orchestra that scored most of the evening’s music. I have to admit; it was quite the tonal shift coming from the previous conferences where LED lasers and large screens dominate the presentation. This was a much more intimate venue and a pleasant surprise.
Before we get to the God of War reveal, I have to state how impressed I was with the live orchestra and how they opened with 4 minutes of new God of War music. It was almost ritualistic, as if they were raising Kratos from the dead right in front of us. Shoutout to the beat-boxing woman who really elevated the overall performance and really set the tone. Her name is Eivør Pálsdóttir and shes a folk singer from the Faroe Islands in the North Atlantic. Bear McCreary, the composer for God of War, did an exceptional job as he always does.
The tension was palpable and once the lights dimmed and the curtains started to lift, it was clear to me that Sony wasn’t interested in another ho-hum conference but a conference that would outdo last year’s performance all together.
God of War was my personal game of show and there are many things that factored into my decision. One of the biggest factors was how wildly different it was from previous God of War titles in just about every way. No fixed camera anymore so the player can control what Kratos sees, the game seems a lot more open (more on this later), the combat is slower and more deliberate than the combo-heavy hack and slash from previous games. The overall vibe from Kratos himself was a surprising departure as well.
He’s much older now and is looking after this little boy and teaching him how to hunt. Cory Barlog, creative director on God of War, has said that the game has bigger, open spaces to explore. Going by the demo it becomes clear that you’ll be able to discover new locales and earn experience.
The live demos were also presented in a unique matter. For God of War and Days Gone, we were able to see the devs play the games in real-time via picture-in-picture as we watched the gameplay unfold on the big screen. It was a really cool experience and a feature I hope continues in Sony’s future pressers because we get to see these hard-working developers react to the crowd as they play their game. Also, it’s nice to know that the gameplay is actually real and not pre-recorded.
Sony also announced the release date for PlayStation VR which will hit store shelves on October 13th 2016 in the United States. I thought they did a remarkable job of selling VR by showing us what their Worldwide studios is working on as well as big third-party support like Batman Arkham VR from Rocksteady and Resident Evil 7.
The only real downtime for me was during the middle when they showed Skylanders featuring Crash and the Lego Star Wars game but even those looked good. Call of Duty Infinite Warfare had an impressive showing and Call of Duty 4 got a big roar out of the crowd.
But no roar was bigger than the one they had for Hideo Kojima’s grand introduction. Kojima literally descended from a bridge of light. It was completely over-the-top but still totally awesome. He unveiled Death Stranding, his new game starring Norman Reedus. The trailer was pure, unadulterated Kojima; the weirdness in full display now that Kojima has the freedom to do whatever he wants.
Oh and did I mention that Insomniac is working on a Spider-Man PS4 exclusive?
You see what I mean?
This press conference was absolute bonkers. You know you’ve had a killer show when you completely forget that The Last Guardian was shown along with a release date for this year. Horizon Zero Dawn also had an incredible showing and just adds to the list of games that Sony jam-packed into this thing. I want every conference to be this way from now on. Ubisoft can still do their own thing but Microsoft, EA, and Nintendo should at least follow this rhythm of just showing games and letting the games speak for themselves.
I was floored by the end and I didn’t think they could even come close to matching last year. In my opinion, they not only matched it but they exceeded it. This is the best E3 press conference Sony has ever done and I can’t imagine what they’ll cook up next year.