No huge surprises that immediately knocked us for six for Sony at this year's Gamescom presser, but plenty of new trailers, lots of rumoured titles confirmed, and some interesting new features coming in the pending firmware update that we couldn't help but smile at.
You'd never guess that Sony spent millions making a super-powerful, really awesome handheld console. Such has the Vita fallen from favour that initiatives that won't see the light of day in Europe until next year get pride of place above it. Even PlayStation TV got a look in.
Sony didn't have the same sort of surprising bombshell that Microsoft managed to keep under wraps until deployment time, but that doesn't mean their showing at Gamescom this year was worse. Far from it, in fact. What we got over 70 brisk minutes was a smorgasbord of game after game, showing off the full range of creative games on offer on PS4 over the coming months.
DayZ coming to PS4 is a Big Deal, although with H1Z1 also coming from SOE, one wonders if Sony can have too much of a good thing going on there. As it is, they'll certainly be monopolising the console market when it comes to zombie survival games. In many ways, it's easy to look at the cavalcade of indie titles shown off in the first half hour as an extended trailer for PlayStation Plus over the coming year or so. Sony have used their subscription service to help introduce early adopters to games they might not normally buy, with indies featuring heavily on the service.
But these games delivered great showings in their own right too. Ninja Theory are perhaps one of the most underrated studios around, but I can't wait for Hellblade. I've been playing a lot of Wind Waker HD recently, and the trailer for Rime instantly struck a chord. It's good to see a return for that game after it was announced a year ago, and I for one will be watching it with a beady eye -- the word "sumptuous" comes to mind. Then, there was a lovely surprise at the end with Michel Ancel bounding onstage to announce that Wild -- his new IP from his new studio -- will be coming exclusively to PS4. It looks colourful and ambitions and charming, much like most of Ancel's work.
The two appearances we'd predicted beforehand came to fruition, but were no less impactful really because of that preparedness factor. Until Dawn returned retooled, revamped, and with a darker atmosphere and a new focus on the DualShock 4. It's open-ended, Cabin in the Woods approach to horror is going to be something to behold hopefully. And there was Media Molecule to soothe our frayed nerves once more later on. Hopefully Tearaway can find a ready-made audience on PS4 rather than trying to create one itself on the Vita.
Finally, there was a brief tease for Share Play, which sounds a lot like the some of the digital sharing initiatives Microsoft were initially trying to implement with the Xbox One. I had to laugh out loud at this one, such was the degree of subtle corporate trolling. It's something that desperately needs some more explaining, particularly when it comes to the feature's limitations in terms of virtually passing a controller over to a friend who doesn't have the game, but it's undoubtedly an exciting prospect.
As is another twin-stick shooter from Housemarque.
You can never accuse Sony of being too subtle when it comes to their press conferences. Pumping wub-wub, triumphant sales figures and freeflowing chemical-free beer was once again the order of the day (not that we'd ever imbibe, consummate professionals that we are), but as the minutes counted down, I couldn't help wonder if Sony could back up their bravado with real gaming substance.
Then again, they've sold ten million PS4s, so they didn't really need to. So I'm doubly delighted that they did.
Unless you own a Vita.
Q Games' The Tomorrow Children got me hot under the collar. A brand new reveal with a unique aesthetic that resembles a cross between Dungeon Keeper, tower defence games and soviet propaganda doesn't work on paper, but I can't wait to see it work on-screen. Volume still looks the business. DayZ was a very brave choice considering Sony's own H1Z1. Rime could be interesting if Tequila Works up their game, while Paradox and even Ruffian (?!) are stepping up to the plate. And WiLD looks utterly iNCREDiBLE.
We love indie games and always love to see Sony put devs on stage rather than drooling esports commentators. Or, erm, Powers. Don't get me wrong: I'll play most of these games on PC, but applaud Sony's sterling efforts to bring them to consoles.
Third parties love the PS4 too, or at least its huge throbbing install base. Ubisoft loves it. Kojima loves it. Activision loves it. All I know is that there'd better be a trophy for completing all of MGS 5 without leaving a cardboard box.
'Share Play' raised every eyebrow in the room, at least until the magical phrase "even if they don't own the game" left us reeling. Morpheus and PS TV gave us little time to mull that over, but once again, the Vita didn't even warrant a mention.
But wait! Tearaway! Oh wait, no, even that last bastion of Vita exclusivity is jumping. I wish that Sony loved that handheld as much as I do.
Never mind, though, because this show was stuffed full of surprises and eye-openers nonetheless. Good show, Sony, and very well played indeed.
Showing off brand new trailers before the show began was a pretty good way to get the audience in the mood before the big show kicked off, and impressive showings from LittleBigPlanet 3, Bloodborne, and The Order (which was a hell of a lot better than the effort at E3) did the trick. This left a question for me though – what did they have to show during the show if these games were being highlighted before the start time?
Revealing that 10 million PS4s had been sold was a good way to start, but then The Tomorrow Children and The Vanishing of Ethan Carter made sure proceedings began with something a little different. Following it up with Volume (along an impassioned speech on Sony’s approach to indies from Mike Bithell) and a surprise appearance by Dean Hall to announce DayZ for the PS4 helped keep the momentum.
Ninja Theory’s Hellblade didn’t really tell us anything other than it’s definitely a game, but I have a sneaking suspicion that it *might* be a sequel to Heavenly Sword that character certainly looked a lot like Kai, anyway.) A personal highlight was seeing that Dreamfall Chapters was definitely making its way onto the PS4, but then again I would say that – it’s my most anticipated game of this year.
Then we got to the third party showings, kicked off with the expected Destiny section which started off a little slow but the reveal of the multiplayer modes piqued my interest, but let’s be honest – the energy really picked up with Hideo Kojima took to the stage. So began the Metal Gear Solid 5 madness, now with box-based insanity in perhaps the best sequence of the show.
Share Play proved to be an interesting concept, but I’d like to see more about how it works before singing its praises, because right now it appears to be a little bit too good to be true. At least we know the UK will be getting Playstation Now next year, so we’ll be able to complain about the pricing sooner rather than later!
We called it admittedly, but it was great to see Until Dawn re-revealed – let’s just hope it manages to live up to the hype that was placed upon it. You know, much like that DriveClub game that followed it. At least the weather mechanics look impressive enough. Thankfully though, Media Molecule then appeared and announced Tearaway for PS4. Part of me thinks it’s great more people will get to play this new version of the game, but I can’t help but feel bad for the Vita – it needs all the reasons to buy one, and it (sort of) just lost one! Hopefully they’ll think of a way to combine both platforms in some wonderful, whimsical way.
The biggest surprise for me though was Wild, which came across as a unique and interesting title that became another reason why the PS4 might end up being the current-gen console I end up getting. In that regard, Sony’s show did the trick – it made me want to surrender my money. At any rate, I’m looking forward to seeing more of the games shown this evening.