Sony assures no complacency on games. And proves it.
When Jim Ryan stepped on stage he promised one thing, that Sony would not be complacent about games. With certain other platform holders perceived to be fixated on apps and television, PlayStation was focused on bringing the best and the broadest range of gaming titles to their fans. It was a statement they made in LA and it was one they were heartily reiterating in Cologne. They weren't lying, either, as over the course of their hour on stage they laid bare their plans and come the end they didn't disappoint.
Trailers for Infamous: First Light, The Order 1886, and Little Big Planet 3 teased the crowd, as well further segments on Destiny, Drive Club, and Far Cry 4 all spouting exclusivity or DLC that will be first on PS4. The big budget titles were by no means the focus, however. As in years past with the likes of Tearaway and Unfinished Swan, Sony had chosen Gamescom as their chance to focus on the breadth of their catalogue rather than just the triple-A, E3 headliners.
Mike Bithell lead the charge, singing the praises of Sony saying that the company had allowed Thomas Was Alone to become a “real game” and reach more players than he ever could have imagined. He was unapologetic about his enthusiasm for Sony’s indie push and told us that “when the door opens you’d be crazy not to jump through.” Unsurprisingly then his Metal Gear Solid inspired follow-up, Volume, was then announced as being first on PS4 and Vita next year. A gameplay trailer followed, showing hints at being a futuristic retelling of Robin Hood.
Pixel Junk’s Q Games were also up on stage, with lead Dylan Cuthbert assuring us that they didn’t just operate in two dimensions. A Mother Russia inspired tune struck up and he revealed their latest project, The Tomorrow Children, a PlayStation exclusive. A sizeable amount of communist imagery appeared throughout, as a young girl steadfastly operated tanks and mined rock faces in a bid to repel an invading alien race. Clones, village building, and combat all featured in a trailer that left me rather confused as to what the game actually was, but intrigued nonetheless.
The exclusive deal with Paradox announced at E3 reappeared with the announcement of Hollowpoint, a game that appeared from the trailers to be a 2.5d shooter set in a dark future where corporations have taken over the world. “Clandestine tactical missions” were mentioned, as well as four-player co-op, but we’ll have to wait until we go hands on to know more. Another game, Runemaster, was announced but that was all we got from Ryan today.
Dean Hall from Bohemia Interactive strode on stage next to reveal the PS4 version of Day Z. He paid homage to the team back at Bohemia who had created a hardcore survival sim that allowed players to craft their own tales, as well as the community that had brought the mod from nothing to Cologne in the space of just three years. He assured this loyal fanbase that this new edition would actually improve the PC version too, leading to a new renderer and community features. Obviously, with the recent outcry about the company’s revelation that they were working on other titles, he felt the need to placate before the rage hit the forums.
E3 debutant Rime also featured. A stunning gameplay trailer of what can only be described as Wind Waker meets Shadow of the Colossus (though those of a certain age may also see The Mysterious Cities of Gold within it) brought huge applause from the crowd. There’s a definite vibe that it’s doing everything right thematically, and the hope is that it holds up when players put hands to pads over the coming days.
Gamescom 2014 saw the reappearance of Ninja Theory, too. A dark, cinematic trailer saw a young Celtic woman, her face painted blue, alone on a moor. Facing a curious effigy, both the music and the weather darkened as a demon’s face flickered across its form. As the women around me remarked, it was good to finally see a non-white male on stage, and I couldn’t help but chuckle. Nothing else from Hellblade this evening, but at least the ladies are represented somewhere this week.
The newly formed Wild Sheep Studios showed possibly the most curious game of the night, one that mapped a game world the size of Europe and featured dynamic eco- and weather-systems. Playing as a human or “as any living” creature, the short teaser showed tribal humans hunting boar and fearing wolves. This could be a survival game in the rawest sense. Forget the guns of Day Z, this is early man (or wolf) picking their way through prehistoric Europe, trying to live for as long as possible.
In what was proving to be a veritable onslaught, Sony threw at us an extended montage of forthcoming indie titles. Skidoo racer Snow, the feline puzzler Pix the Cat, Dreamfall Chapters, Papers Please, Space Brawl, the curiously atmospheric Ether One, Portal-like Qube, a slew of games that just couldn’t fit on stage were crammed into a loud and colourful compilation. Sony are not relenting on their promise of being a home for games from smaller studios.
By this point it felt as though we had been battered with titles. A constant stream of visuals and personalities paraded in front of us, singing these lesser known games’ praises. Sony had set out to convince us that they were serious about providing a diversity in their offerings and, although details weren’t always readily available as to what we were seeing, the variety was undeniable.
Elsewhere, known quantities were trotted out to great delight. The first gameplay trailer of Bloodborne, Dark Soul’s spiritual successor, appeared on the huge auditorium’s screen. A vast gothic city was seen as the lead character fought off werewolves, giant birds, and tree monsters with guns and blades. It looked every bit the hardcore dungeon crawler’s successor, and my only worry remains how gunplay will feature in the mix.
The Media Molecule logo appeared on screen, and the crowd erupted. With LBP farmed out to Sumo, we found out that the Guildford based developer has not let Tearaway go just yet. Obviously the poor sales on the Vita have not discouraged the higher-ups at Sony, and have encouraged the team to reimagine the papery adventure for the PS4. It was stressed over and over that this is not a port, but the same adventure taking full advantage of the PS4 hardware. Every unique aspect of the Dual Shock has been taken account of, from the light bar casting a torch into the world, to the touch pad firing unsuspecting squirrels across the scene. After the retail success of such a charming adventure, I was worried about MM, but it appears as though a sensible and pragmatic approach has been taken by the Sony hierarchy.
Possibly the funniest moment of the night was Kojima’s appearance on stage. His short translated speech introduced a MGS video that showed off the finer points of the cardboard box. No longer just a place to hide, Snake can now pop out to snipe, before disappearing back behind its lid for safety, hurl himself out of one side for a quick escape, or even stick the picture of a scantily-clad lady on the side to distract a guard. It was patently ridiculous but added a great moment of relief to proceedings.
In the obligatory systems update section, Sony spoke about Morpheus, the imminent PlayStation Now (UK beta in 2015), and PlayStation TV, but the highlight in a string of side notes was definitely their Share Play initiative. Though details were scarce, the summary appears to be that, in the future, if you invite a friend to play a game over PlayStation Plus then they won’t even have to own the game. Whether this is similar to Far Cry 4’s Keys to Kyrat, where a PS chum gets two hours free to roam your online game before being forced to buy the game, is unclear, but as a headline it sounds grand.
As Ryan brought proceedings to a close he reiterated his message: the PlayStation was about games. Big or small, triple-A or indie, he hammered home that PlayStation was the home for all developers. With the selection of titles on display too, it’s hard to argue. From the power houses of Activision and Sony’s first-party, to the Mike Bithells and Q Games of this world, the PlayStations in Sony’s booth are going to be extremely busy.
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