Sony’s E3 2018: An Experiment Gone Wrong?

I’m going to be honest. I’ve never felt so conflicted when giving my thoughts about something. Sony said from the outset that they were going to try something a little different this time around. Instead of a usual press conference like in years past, we would instead be getting a deep dive into four upcoming PlayStation titles, supplemented by small announcements from third-party games.

It was an experiment, for sure. And one that almost could have ruined the entire thing. Which is a downright shame, because the actual content held by the conference was incredible. Maybe even the best of E3. But that format. Especially after the high point that was Microsoft’s conference, Sony’s, which is usually the most talked-about event at E3, was almost eclipsed.

I was fortunate enough to have been a part of Culture of Gaming’s livestream for the Sony conference. It was an unusual experience for sure, but it wasn’t all doom and gloom for Sony, that’s for sure.

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What Happened?

Let’s get the negatives right out the way. The structure of the conference did no one favors, which had an awkward break in the middle that really broke up the momentum. The intimate church-like setting was a bit confusing at first, but suddenly made sense when we went into the demo for The Last of Us Part 2, which started in a setting looking just like the venue.

And then we went to an intermission. The venue of the conference was changing, and the entire crowd was moving towards it. Many had assumed that the venue would change to correspond with each of the big four Sony titles, which later turned out not to be the case. The rest of the conference remained in the same theater. When it became clear that was the case, it was a huge relief to many (myself included).

The intermission was just awkwardly placed and awkwardly executed. Not to bag on the personalities involved, they definitely tried their best. But after the absolute high that was The Last of Us Part 2, the intermission became a serious break in momentum. It regained that momentum, sure, but it is a glaring low point in a conference that was otherwise full of high points. The question remains, why did they go about the venue change in the first place?

Sure, we all knew Sony was going to try E3 a little different this year. The idea of changing venues during a conference is a novel idea. But whoever organized this had to know that it would create an awkward break in momentum. They had to know that moving hundreds of people to a different venue would be difficult. Even if they were insistent on this formula, there had to be a better solution to combat this.

What if we didn’t get that weird intermission segment, and instead just got rapid-fire trailers for third-party games in the interim? There were ways to get around the problem Sony created, but instead, we got something that felt akin to commercials during a live program. It just all felt very off.

The Last of Us Part 2 Took No Prisoners

Yes, the execution of the conference itself was pretty sloppy. But on the games front, Sony more than delivered. The trailers and demos shown at Sony’s conference packed reveal after reveal. A mixture of some games we had known about for years, and others we were seeing for the first time. The one thing they all had in common was that we were seeing something new from each of them. Sony had said beforehand that their big four first-party titles would be the focal points of the show, and they weren’t kidding.

This kiss was one of E3’s highlights.

The gameplay debut of The Last of Us Part 2 was fast-paced, visceral, and unrelenting. It was offset by a quiet, tender moment between Ellie and her friend/love interest Dina. Moments like these were few and far between in the first Last of Us, and the moments of vulnerability truly helped offset the brutality of the world.

The gameplay seemed more fast-paced and more athletic than Joel’s of the first game. There’s no question of whether Naughty Dog will deliver. Few studios have become as trusted as they have. Many had questioned whether a sequel to The Last of Us was a story that needed to be told. This demo proved that it did.

Ghosts of Tsushima Stuns

Ghosts of Tsushima also got its proper debut after a cinematic trailer last year. What we saw was a gorgeous recreation of Feudal Japan. The scenery was breathtaking, with a glorious sunset in the backdrop of a tense standoff. For me, everything was in the details. From the falling leaves during a one-on-one sword fight to the sword actually retaining blood during combat, this game already looks to be a stunner.

Everyone thought no game this generation was going to surpass the visuals of Horizon: Zero Dawn. Then God of War did just that. Sucker Punch seems to be aiming to pass that bar with their first new IP since Infamous. We still don’t know a ton about Ghosts of Tsushima, but it quickly shot up to be one of my top games at E3.

Sony Came to Play

And then we have Death Stranding. I’m going to be honest, I would be perfectly okay if we just kept getting abstract short films up until its eventual release. We got our first proper gameplay footage, along with a semblance of a story. None of it still makes sense. None of it matters. Days after Sony’s E3 conference, I’m still thinking about Death Stranding. No one knows what Kojima has up its sleeves, but the world is watching.

There isn’t much to say about Death Stranding, but also so much. There could be a whole article dedicated to Death Stranding speculation. But Sony showed much more than that.

Sony closed out the show with Spider-Man, it’s big fall title for 2018. What we saw was an exhilarating sequence of Peter dealing with a prison break. We saw more villains show up, with Electro, Rhino, Scorpion, and Vulture joining Mister Negative. There was also a mysterious sixth villain (hmm…that’s certainly an interesting number), but who that is remains a mystery. Its gotta be Green Goblin…right? Or what about Hobgoblin?

We’ve seen quite a bit of gameplay from Spider-Man already. It looks to be a fast-paced, action-packed superhero adventure. One that hopefully opens the door for an expanded Marvel video game universe. (Maybe unlikely, considering the Square-Enix Avengers title.) Spider-Man is going to be a big game for Sony, and now we only have a few months left to wait.

The Best of the Rest

These four core titles dominated most of the conference. However, there were more than a few other noteworthy reveals. Remedy’s newest game Control was revealed. It looks cut from the same cloth as their previous effort Quantum Break, with a bit of a supernatural twist. That’s definitely not a bad thing.

The Resident Evil 2 remake reveal was one of my personal highlights. At first teased to play in first-person like Resident Evil 7, that soon turned out not to be the case. Resident Evil 2 overall looks much more faithful to its source material than one may have guessed seeing the radical departures of Resident Evil 7. It looks like a fine return to form for a series that’s really hitting a new creative stride.

Kingdom Hearts 3 got its third trailer in three days, along with a newly-announced release date. Four days after Resident Evil 2! The Sony conference showcased the reveal of a world based on Pirates of the Caribbean, supplementing the also newly-announced Frozen world. This game has been a long, long time coming, and I’m still in shock it’s so close to being out in the wild.

The long wait has also spotlighted the huge leap the graphics took. Especially when comparing the look of the Pirates world in Kingdom Hearts 2. The games have always been a visual treat that have recreated the various Disney worlds meticulously. Kingdom Hearts 3 really seems to be taking that to the next level. A New Game Plus mode for God of War and the reveal of a sequel to last year’s surprise hit Nioh were other highlights of the show.

Overall Thoughts

I wish Sony nailed the execution of their showcase. If they had, I would say they would be in the running for best show at E3 this year. Sure, some may call out me critiquing the format nitpicking, but I don’t believe that is fair. A big part of the conference is the actual setup of its show. The last few years have been knockouts for Sony, showing game after game with very little breaks in between.

It’s a format Microsoft took up this year, creating a conference many saw as a highlight of E3. I am of the opinion that the traditional press conference as they are is not long for this world, so I understand Sony wanting to change things up. It’s not like Sony has suddenly lost confidence over this conference (though they may have created some PR disasters), but it’s an unfortunate misstep after years of dominating the conversation of E3.

It must be stated, however, that what was shown at E3 by Sony was all stellar, and paints an exciting picture for the future of PlayStation. Other companies may be talked about more at this year’s E3. But most of the games that stick with me were shown at Sony’s conference. And that’s what matters in the end.

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E3 2018 showcased far fewer block-busting games and announcements than previous years. Most developers and publishers decided to focus more on displaying gameplay of previously announced games. Despite this, there were some large reveals that got gamers excited for the future. Here are five of the biggest surprises that occurred […]

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