PIXEL BURN E3 Blitzkrieg 2015 – The Sony conference

In which Matt asks "where do sailors hang out?"
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[TRANSCRIPT]

Hello you beautiful misfits. My name’s Matt and you’re watching the Pixel Burn E3 Blitzkrieg, Zwei-thousand und funfzehn. And in this video I’ll be chewing my way through the Sony conference.

Which opened, as all these bloody things do, with a montage of various PS4 games, some of which we’d be seeing later on. Which does rather spoil the surprise somewhat- wait a minute, is this song saying “here we fucking go?” It does sound like it, doesn’t it? Hold on, lemme check the lyrics. IT IS! My word, swearing! At a big corporate event?

Shawn Layden, President and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment America, then took to the stage to, well, pat himself on the back really. Delivering some spiel about PS4 being the best place to play games, while simultaneously trying to cram as many uses of the words “Games”, “gamers” or “gaming” into his speech as he was physically able.

When he wasn’t instructing the audience to clap on command. No Shawn, that’s for US to decide.

And generally preaching the gospel of PlayStation like an old time evangelical preacher. In fact the only thing missing from his opening speech was a rousing “HALLELUJAH!”

He left that to the audience, hitting them with the The Last Guardian on PS4 straight out of the gate. Which really doesn’t look at all different from its debut as a PS3 exclusive, way back in the murky mists of time. Although I suppose that could be considered a testament to the game’s art design. Anyway, you all know the score. Boy shouts gibberish at fluffy griffin dog thing to solve puzzles, fluffy griffin dog thing catches boy when he falls, and both generally get into all manner of scrapes. It then ends with a fade to black and the promise of a 2016 release date.

Yeah, I’ll believe that when I see it.

After that initial pandering to nostalgia it was time for something new, in the form of Horizon: Zero Dawn by Killzone creators Guerilla Games. A post-post-apocalyptic scenario where nature has reclaimed the earth and humanity has been reduced to various wandering tribes, once more living in harmony with the natural world. People wear simple handmade natural clothing, wield primitive weapons and take only what they need from…robot deer with giant tanks of green liquid on their backs.

Yep, the big twist in Horizon is that humanity has made way for various breeds of robot creatures like these giant giraffe-looking types, which seem to be doing a better job living in harmony with nature than we ever have. There’re also giant robot dinosaurs with missile launchers of course, because why the hell not? Giant robot dinosaurs with missile launchers that, incidentally, you get to take down with rope arrows and other gadgets, like a post-apocalyptic Ygritte from Game of Thrones fighting an Imperial scout walker from Return of the Jedi.

All in all one of the more intriguing games I’ve seen so far this E3. But it’s a PS4 exclusive, so I’ll probably never get to play it.

We then got the world exclusive debut of the trailer for a new Hitman game, which was very stylish but showed bugger-all in the way of gameplay. It’s just called Hitman now, with not subtitle like “Silent Assassin” or “Blood Money”, and will be coming out on PC as well as PS4. It’s also coming out on Xbox One, but then they’re not exactly going to mention that a Sony conference are they?

And before I could catch my figurative breath we were shown some random snippets of Street Fighter 5, which is definitely NOT coming to Xbox One in the forseeable future. You can thank an exclusivity deal between Sony and Capcom for that one. There’s not even all that much to say about it really, except the background stage doesn’t have half the things in it it’s meant to have.

In the trailer there’s a traditional British pub with that most traditional of British pub names: “London”, along with union jack flags dotted all over the place and the ubiquitous red telephone box. Which are actually something of an endangered species in the UK nowadays. The game itself however also crams in a punk band, men in bowler hats, and the Queen’s royal guard with trombones and trumpets playing their stoic little hearts out. Aside from all that, well, it’s Street Fighter innit? You punch and kick people in the face until they fall over. Nuff said.

Sean Murray of Guildford-based Hello Games then came out on stage to show off what he claimed was a mere three minutes of No Man’s Sky, yet felt a lot longer than that. In a good way that is, and not in an EA-style “oh god my arse has fallen into a coma” sort of way. In a demonstration that beat you over the head with the game’s sandbox elements, Sean started by showing us some impromptu space combat before switching to a HUMUNGOUS star map of the in-game galaxy players will be exploring. According to Sean each point of light is a star and each star is orbited by:

Which is about as descriptive a s saying each planet’s circumference is “as long as a piece of string.”

What he means, according to this Gameinformer article from last year, is that No Man’s Sky has planets the size of one you might find in our own solar system. Yeah, that still doesn’t really narrow it down much.

But enough astronomical nit-picking. After randomly selecting one of these million points of light, Sean hyperwarpamorgises there in his spaceship and touches down to explore. While tromping around he blows up a rock to show off the game’s destructible terrain ele ments, then gets attacked by a giant robot sentinel whose job it is to stop people blowing up rocks. A release date is still to be announced although Hello Games promise it’ll be soon. How long that is exactly is, well, it’s like the size of a planet-sized planet. Vague and indeterminate.

After that we got a huge dose of surrealness courtesy of Media Molecule and their new game called, simply enough, “Dreams.” Which is about dreams. Like Little Big Planet, Dreams is all about encouraging user-generated content, only instead of making little levels for Sackboy to navitage you’re creating your own “dreamiverse” for people to explore. All by using a controller to paint things on screen, like this old man for example.

We then got to see the gameplay trailer which starts with a bloke playing a piano in a moonlit field before shifting to two polar bears playing in the snow. Then there’s a hoverbike chase through a cyberpunk city before a quick cut to zombies rising from the earth, subsequently dispatched by a teddy bear wielding a sledgehammer. We then fade back to the man playing his piano in a field, only now he’s a polar bear with a hover bike. Because…Dreams are weird I guess?

While Dreams certainly looks…interesting to say the least, colour me a tad skeptical of Media Molcule’s claims the game has “no pre-made assets” and is as easy-to-use as they say. While I don’t doubt some players will master it to the point where they’re making stuff like that shown in the trailer, I expect the majority of players’ “dreamiverses” to be a nightmarish hellscape of badly-drawn cocks. I guess it’s one of those those games you have to actually play yourself to really grasp the concept of it.

A good test of it will be if I can make a dream in which you’re trapped on a rollercoaster being driven through outer space by a laughing circus ringmaster, who tells you that you can get off the ride anytime you like. Yep, that’s an actual dream I once had.

Up next was Firewatch from Campo Santo, a studio formed by people whose previous credits include The Walking Dead and Mark of the Ninja. You play a chap called Henry who has left the world behind to work as a fire lookout in Middle-of-Nowhere, Wyoming. Henry’s job is to sit on top of a mountain looking for smoke and generally keeping the wilderness safe and secure, until one day a strange mystery draws Henry away from his lookout tower and out into the world. Initial impressions suggest some open-world survival and explorations elements crossed with Walking Dead-style narrative and interpersonal choices, centered around a dark mystery storyline that belies the game’s otherwise cheery, pleasant-looking visuals. Plus you can also throw bottles at kids!

Game of the year.

We then came the point of the conference where my interest took a swandive, and not because of sweary man-of-the-people Adam Boyes here.

[“THIS SHIT DOESN’T GET OLD!”]

I have a feeling it’s about to.

Specifically a swandive into an empty swimming pool full of broken bricks. Because as much as I like Adam Boyes, not even he could make me excited for the Taken King expansion for Destiny. The trailer for which was, as you would expect, a wad of pseudo-mythic bollocks about [“ORYX THE TAKEN KING!”] who is [“BUILDING A DARK ARMY!”] like every forgettable two-bit sci-fi fantasy villain.

Oh god this game takes itself way more seriously than it ever deserves to be. It’ll have PS4-exclusive missions in it by the way, if you hadn’t already guessed as much. Don’t be fooled by Adam’s supposed excitement for it here. You can see in his eyes that all-too-familiar dead-eyed despair of a Destiny player.

Then there was a trailer for Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate, which we already knew about, hyping up Evie Fry as a playable character. Don’t let that fool you by the way. According to numerous reports she has only a comparitive handful of playable missions compared to her brother, who is still very much the “star” of the game. She does kick serious arse though.

Then came the trailer for World of Final Fantasy, or “Final Fantasy: Chibi Edition” as I’m going to call it from now on. Supposedly a brand new Final Fantasy game set in a whole new world, it nevertheless features shitloads of characters from other Final Fantasy games. Albeit in tiny superdeformed style. Which was little more than a glorified segue to this spiffy CGI trailer for a remake of Final Fantasy VII. Something Final Fantasy fans have been begging for ever since the PS2 launched, and which Square-Eenix said they’d only ever do if they made a new Final Fantasy game that surpassed the original Final Fantasy VII

That hasn’t happened of course. Final Fantasy seven remains one of, if not THE best game in the series, matched only by number 6. What HAS happened is Square-Eenix needs money.

And this remake is an outright license to print the stuff. Assuming the demand for a Final Fantasy VII remake is genuine that is, and not just a vocal minority playing “wouldn’t it be great if?” The crowd at the conference went mad for it though, so who knows? Maybe this’ll pull Square-Eenix out of that big dark Final Fantasy XIII-shaped hole they’ve been languishing in.

After that was a brief segment covering some new indie games from Devolver Digital like Ronin, which dubs itself a turn-based action-platformer. No, I don’t get what that means either but it looks a bit like Mark of the Ninja, and I loved Mark of the Ninja. Then Eitr, an isometric action RPG that reminds me of a hypothetical fusion of the first Diablo and Dark Souls made for the Commodore Amiga. Also Mother Russia Bleeds, a Soviet Streets of Rage with ludicrous gibs that has since courted some unnecessary controversy from the usual sources. And Crossing Souls, which is…fucked if know. Earthbound married to a late 80s kids cartoon? All look interesting though, which is more than I can say for that Destiny expansion.

And then came the biggest gaming news in over 14 years…for fans of Shenmue. A game I never played because I didn’t own a Sega Dreamcast. Like a lot of people didn’t.

With the announcement of Shenmue 3! Or rather, the kickstarter campaign for Shenmue 3, which Sony “graciously” allowed to have a spot on their conference but had absolutely no financial involvement with it whatsoever, no sirree! Yeah, of course that’s bollocks. Sony are helping with the development and the Kickstarter is only there to gauge the level of interest. Which turned out to be over $6 Million dollars worth.

Shenmue, for those who don’t know, was one of those “cult classics” that some gamers talk about in hushed reverent whispers. Released in 1999 and said to have cost Sega $70 million to develop, it was an insanely ambitious open world sandbox game packed full of tiny details. The kind that are ten-a-penny nowadays but back then were downright mind-blowing.

It also gave the world Quick Time Events.

Yeah, thanks Shenmue.

But as I said earlier, I’ve never played it so…pfft? *shrug*. All I personally know of Shenmue is that it’s about a man called Ryo looking for some big, burly sailors.

 

When he’s not taking on 70 men at once.

Still, the announcement of a possible Shenmue 3 pleased a lot of people. Like this emotionally overwhelmed chap for example.

After that was a trailer for Batman Arkham Knight, which isn’t important anymore because the game has already been available to buy for weeks now. Except the PC version, withdrawn from sale shortly after release for the highly technical reason of “being fucking broken.”

Lord Andrew of House House then came on stage, taking a break from training Sansa Stark in the ways of the Sith, to talk about Project Morpheus. Along with some guff about Spotify and PlayStation View, Sony’s TV gubbins which supposedly lets you purchase individual cable channels separately from a multi-channel bundle. And other stuff that only Americans have to worry about.

After that was the exclusive debut for Call of Duty: Black Ops 3, presented by the sinisterly-named Mark Lamia. Urgh.

This was really the only part of the conference that completely bored me to tears, because it’s CoD only you’re fighting robots now. Well, drones anyway, and you still fight ordinary people too. While jumping about with magic rocket boots or something like in Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. That and all the other futuristic stuff kinda reminded me of those Middle East bits in the recent Robocop reboot. I mean really, can we even call CoD a modern military shooter anymore? Everything’s so sci-fi futuristic in it now they might as well just have it all take place on the bloody Moon.

After that came a spiel about Disney Infinity 3.0 with Star Wars stuff in it, serving as little more than a segue to some more Star Wars Battlefront stuff. Which looked pretty much like the bit we saw in EA’s conference, with the Empire and the Rebels shooting each other, only with less snow and more sand because it was on Tatooine this time. Beats me why anybody would be fighting there at all. Because if there’s a bright centre to the universe then Tatooine’s the planet that it’s farthest from.

Formally closing the event was Uncharted 4, A Thief’s End, the fourth adventure of strutting scourge of the third world Nathan Drake. Seen here emerging into a market square full of foreign types that he DOESN’T immediately shoot at. Or do much of anything at all for that matter. Riveting stuff.

And with that the conference was over!

Nah, not really. The interactive cutscene for Uncharted 4 was restarted on account of technical difficulties, and when they finally got it working properly it showed off all of the usual climbing, wisecracks, driving, punching, shooting and other things Nathan Drake does. When he’s not destroying local economies.

Then the conference was genuinely over, whereupon its bleary-eyed attendees all shambled out of the hall under the merciless glare of the lights.

Despite the genuinely new and interesting games shown at this conference, like Horizon: Zero Dawn, Dreams, all the Devolver Digital games and Firewatch, the impression I felt most strongly after it ended however was ultimately, one of familiarity. And as we all know, familiarity often breeds contempt.

Contempt is perhaps too strong a word, yet I still found it difficult to get excited for another Hitman reboot, another Assassin’s Creed game, another Street Fighter instalment, a fourth Uncharted game, or more Call of Duty. For every brand new game on display I had to sit through several things that, while not completely insufferable, didn’t exactly set my world on fire. It was a bit like watching season 2 of Twin Peaks, in that there were some really interesting and exciting new developments going on, but they were all sandwiched between layers of James Hurley riding around on his bike being dull.

The other element of this conference that irked me somewhat was the pandering to nostalgia, established from the outset with the The Last Guardian and followed-up by a double-whammy of Final Fantasy VII and Shenmue 3.

All in all this was, like last year’s Sony conference, a complacent affair. Not terrible by any stretch, and certainly more tolerable than EA’s Sports and Pele parade. It just felt a bit too pandering and self-indulgent for my tastes.

So with that done it’s on to the home stretch of Ubisoft and Square-Eenix’s presentations, which I should hopefully get done for you sooner than this one. But you’ll have to wait for those of course, because I am nothing if not slow and inconsistent. That and I’m still wrapping my warped brain around…this.

[CLAPPING MOON HEAD MAN FROM THE SQUARE ENIX CONFERENCE]

 

Matt

About Matt

Matt is the irresponsible degenerate behind bitscreed.com and the sarcastic writer, editor, director, presenter and tea boy of Pixel Burn.