The theme throughout the Sony Computer Entertainment America LLC's Monday evening press conference at the 2015 Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) was placing gamers first--introducing them to new concepts, new technologies, and new virtual worlds to explore.
SCEA President and CEO Shawn Layden had heads nodding and jaws dropping with the long-awaited reintroduction of designer Fumito Ueda's much wished for action-adventure, The Last Guardian for PlayStation 4. Gameplay footage showed the cooperative efforts of the game's boy-hero and his gryphon-like companion as they navigated a treacherously derelict ruin. The incredible graphics--and one narrow escape after another--promise that The Last Guardian will deliver the brain-teasing suspense fans are expecting.
Sony had more than one surprise up its sleeve--namely the announcement of the Shenmue III Kickstarter and a remake of Final Fantasy VII for PS4. Shenmue creator Yu Suzuki was on-stage to announce the Kickstarter, which met its funding goal in a matter of hours. The project's success marks the completion of the Shenmue story and the realization of series fans' long-held dreams. Shenmue III will be released for PS4 and PC on a date not yet announced.
After using this wish-fulfillment to whet the audience's appetite, Sony revealed the new third-person action-adventure game Horizon Zero Dawn. This spirited collaboration with Amsterdam developer Guerrilla Games is set in the distant future, when humans have reverted to tribal status and must fight for their lives against dinosaur-like mechanical monsters. Then the action shifted to an urbane trailer for Square Enix' next Hitman game. Details are limited at this time, but Sony revealed that PS4 gamers who pre-order the game will get exclusive beta access, and all PS4 players will be able to enjoy six additional missions within the first year of release.
The hugely popular franchises just kept coming as Sony showed Street Fighter V, World of Final Fantasy, and Assassin's Creed: Syndicate. Street Fighter V came on strong with a dizzying trailer heralding the return of fan-favorite fighters Cammy and Birdie. Players who pre-order Street Fighter V will get exclusive access to the beta beginning July 23, and Sony confirmed that the game will be available exclusively for PS4 and PC. The bobble-headed heroes of World of Final Fantasy promised to crank up the cute factor when they arrive in 2016 for PS4 and PlayStation Vita, while siblings and professional contract killers Jacob and Evie Frye guaranteed heart-stopping action in Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed: Syndicate, coming later this year.
After showcasing some of the world's biggest franchises, Sony then proudly introduced what may well be tomorrow's biggest hits. Shawn Murray of Hello Games kicked things off with a preview of sci-fi exploration game No Man's Sky. In an impromptu demo, Murray took the audience to the heart of the universe-sized sandbox where a space battle raged among planetary masses. Murray then zoomed the map back to a larger view of the universe and revealed that every dot the audience could see represents a separate solar system. He wowed the audience again by zooming back even more, revealing a mind-blowing number of possible destinations.
In addition to mapping the stars, gamers can relish the discovery and exploration of every planet in No Man's Sky. The fully destructible planets are populated with flora and fauna, and are guarded by deadly mechanical sentinels that give gamers ample opportunity to hone their battle skills. The release date for No Man's Sky was not announced, but its arrival means unlimited trade, combat, and exploration on PS4 and PC.
With the appearance of developer Media Molecule's Alex Evans, the presentation took a lighter turn as he introduced the company's newest genre-smashing PS4 project, Dreams. This surreal game offers gamers an all-new palette of tools to unleash their creativity and build their own dreamiverse. Fostering almost unlimited opportunities to create, Dreams' tools work more intuitively by allowing gamers to easily paint, animate, and share their own surreal dream worlds.
Before moving on to its final big announcements, Sony took the time to touch upon more titles in its diverse lineup, including the mysterious first-person adventure Firewatch, the console debuts of Devolver Digital's retro style games Ronin, Eitr, Mother Russia Bleeds, and Crossing Souls, and Activision's upcoming Destiny: The Taken King expansion, which is due out September 15.
From there, Sony featured upcoming games for its augmented reality headset, Project Morpheus. Among them were dogfighting shooter Eve: Valkyrie, god game Godling, marine exploration game The Deep, and three-on-three battle extravaganza Rigs (which makes its debut on this year's E3 show floor). From the virtual reality, Sony seamlessly turned its sights to the PlayStation Vue, the PS4's new video streaming service. The service launches this week in San Francisco and Los Angeles and will go into wide release in July. PlayStation Vue is the first paid service to allow consumers to purchase individual channels a la carte, without a multi-channel bundle.
Some news presentations might start down at the one hour mark--but Sony was just heating up, announcing a new partnership with Activision that will result in Call of Duty: Black Ops III downloadable content coming to PS4 first. The game's four-player mode will be open for hands-on play during E3, and developer Treyarch's David Vondehaar gave the audience a taste of the firefighting, bot-exploding madness with a pulse-pumping chunk of in-game footage. He also revealed that PS4 owners will get first crack at the game's August multiplayer beta.
Pulses continued to race as DICE General Manager Patrick Bach announced the November 17 release of the Electronic Arts-published Star Wars: Battlefront. Bach showed off Battlefront's new survival mode, traversing a desert environment wherein Rebel forces fought off Stormtroopers and Imperial walkers until help could arrive. The game will be playable in both single player and co-op modes, and will allow gamers to step into the shoes of the biggest Star Wars heroes, including Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader.
Enthusiasts know that the Star Wars universe is too big to contain only a single game genre, and fans will enjoy its more playful side in the Disney Infinity 3.0 Edition: Star Wars Saga starter pack. Along with the starter pack, gamers will enjoy the Twilight of the Republic Play Set at launch and the Rise Against the Empire Play Set a month later. Both will be released this fall for PS4 and PlayStation 3--a month ahead of any other platform--and PS4 owners will get an exclusive, limited-edition Boba Fett figure.
After showcasing its expansive lineup of games and its leap into VR with Project Morpheus, Sony wrapped up its press conference with a look at that lovable rogue, Nathan Drake from Uncharted 4: A Thief's End. A cinematic trailer showed Drake and his sidekick Sully walking through a colorful village market, only to be caught in a shootout with soldiers, followed by an electrifying--and in true Drake fashion, humorous--car chase. Uncharted 4 looks to be an unforgettable adventure, coming to PS4 in 2016.
From beloved franchises to all-new titles and from on-tap streaming to virtual reality, Sony's presentation demonstrated the company's profound commitment to keeping audiences front and center--and fired up about games.