Let me set the scene. It’s dark. The stage is dimly lit and there’s nobody on it. Suddenly, those weird little dudes from The Playroom are on stage playing drums, beeping, and so on. It’s been a long day and I’m starting to wonder if I’m still awake or I’ve just fallen asleep and this is some kind of cheese dream. I check my colleagues can see this too and they can, so it’s all OK. Welcome to Sony’s E3 presentation 2018.
As the lights come up, Shawn Layden takes to the stage sporting a smartly cut suit and a beard that looks like it’s too young to remember when Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump weren’t friends. He kind of looks like a cross between Jeremy Beadle pre-expiry and Chris Moyles. Mostly though, he looks happy. We’ve been expecting to hear about four games we already know about and nothing else so either he knows something we don’t, or he’s really good at putting a brave face on.
He tells us that this year Sony are trying something new, and mixing it up a little. Rather than a bombardment of new creatives, he informs us, we’ll be taking a deeper journey, suggesting that there will be a more in-depth look at the games on show. He enthuses how Sony will “take our love for gaming and make it sing, make it sing very loudly”.
With that, we get more music, that seems to be the theme of tonight. This time it’s provided by a banjo player wearing a hoodie. Apparently nobody told him that he was going to be broadcast to millions of people over the internet. He’s not trying hard enough with his beard either. Sony’s beard game isn’t good enough to be honest with you. Ubisoft have wiped the floor with them this year with some tremendous facial foliage. Nonetheless, this guy plays a mean banjo. As you might expect, he’s playing the same banjo ditty that we heard in one of the Last of Us 2 trailers.
The song finishes and the first big trailer begins. Ellie has grown, but she’s still recognisably Ellie. She’s at a party, the apocalyptic events of the last game seem so far away. She’s watching a girl dance with a boy. Turns out that girl is called Dina, and she’s Ellie’s girlfriend. She comes over and there’s a very natural interaction between the two of them and they share a kiss.
This charming love scene cuts abruptly to a shot of Ellie slicing a guy’s throat and suddenly we’re in game. The action is intense, with Ellie fighting a number of guys three times her size, and quite frankly embarrassing the lot of them. Not that they live long enough to consider that embarrassment, arrows through the head tend not to leave much capacity for contemplation.
We see her creeping through a jungle-type environment, with some absolutely stunning animation and the most realistic looking water I’ve seen in a game. Once this is successfully traversed, she appears to be in an abandoned city. Assaulted outside a shop, she takes cover, before leaping out and killing people with axes, her bow and arrow, and a bunch of other accoutrements. She’s got incredibly good at this now. The scene ends with a brutal machete to the neck of one of her attackers, and then fades back to that kiss one last time before the trailer ends. The juxtaposition of romance and violence is very cinematic and striking. The first game set the bar high, but it’s looking like the second might just live up to the hype.
With another short musical interlude preceding, we then go outside to an interview with Layden himself. He’s asked where Naughty Dog’s head is at, which seems like an odd question, but he’s got an answer that talks about how they’re looking everywhere and at what they can do in the series next. He lets us know that you’re gonna have to “work as a player and think as a person”. I don’t know what that means either, but I’m sure it’s very deep and philosophical.
Shawn also gets asked about Sony Worldwide Studio’s year, and concurs that it’s been pretty good. Between Horizon Zero Dawn, Detroit and God of War, they’ve been pretty successful. He outlines his philosophy, which is essentially “do no harm”. With 13 studios, his job is to clear boulders from the road as much as possible, and give them as much creative control to work with their visions as possible. It’s refreshing to hear that in the modern entertainment industry, but clearly it’s working extremely well for Sony and deserves applause. We also get a little snippet of info about God of War, namely that New Game Plus is coming to the title at some point soon.
Next trailer is for Call of Duty Black Ops 4. We’ll be seeing remastered maps from earlier titles. Jungle,Summit, Slums, and Firing Range will all be coming from previous titles, exclusive to pre-order customers. Not only will they be remastered in the fourth game, but available immediately in the third one. If you don’t already have the third one, then Sony have just added it to the PlayStation Plus lineup for all subscribers. We then had another Destiny 2 trailer, showing new features and a few details of gambit mode. It’s playable at Sony’s booth if you’re lucky enough to actually be there.
Another musical interlude. This time brought to us by a bamboo flute player. Seamlessly, we’re inside the trailer for Ghost of Tsushima. We see a chinese gentleman in traditional dress, he’s surveying a vast cornfield. After a brief horse ride through this field (Theresa May would be proud), he comes to the violent murder of a person who we assume is one of his friends.
The assumption comes from just how brutally our protagonist kills the attackers. He moves on to a temple where a monk is being tortured, kills more bad guys, and rescues the monk. There’s a brief argument between him and an unnamed woman who suggests that thanks to the fighting, “they” have already won. Then, there’s a sword to the screen and the game title comes up.
After pausing briefly to watch a banana play an electric guitar we go straight into another trailer. Very brief one this time, with a loot of shifting stones and twisting buildings. It’s a bit like Doctor Strange, but then there’s a little girl throwing things around with her mind and even the good doctor himself would probably find that intimidating. The game is apparently called Control, it’s coming in 2019, and it’s from 505 studios and Remedy. Fade to black and we’re ready for another trailer right away.
To my knowledge, this is 2018’s first E3 trailer viewed from the perspective of a mouse. He’s squeaking along a table which contains an original PlayStation, suggesting that this is going to be something a bit retro. There’s a scuffle, and someone attempts to arrest a rather bitey criminal, who accidentally squishes the poor mouse. Our viewpoint changes to a third person view, and we see our previously unseen cop. There’s a gasp of excitement from the GameGrin Discord chat as we all realise simultaneously that it’s Leon. This is Resident Evil 2’s long-awaited high-def remaster.
All the great stuff that you remember is here. Gill Valentine is as badass as ever, the lickers are even more terrifying when they’re in high-def, and that iconic police station is there in all its glory. We’re not given a date, just a confirmation that it’s coming, but that’s enough for now, just the knowledge is enough for us.
An angular chap blows a single fart sound from a trumpet, then looks in a confused fashion at it. We know how he feels. But there’s no time to be confused, as the next trailer is even more bewildering. A guy in a bathtub introduces himself as “bathtub guy” and tells us all about the game that he’s in from Squanch Games. It’s called Trover Saves the Universe and it’s super colourful, very artistically interesting (think Gang Beasts meets Ratchet and Clank) and it sounds an awful lot like Rick and Morty. Bathtub guy is playing said game when his TV falls in the tub and he gets electrocuted. Trover, a weird purple guy with faces for eyes runs in and suggests someone calls 711, the emergency number here. Then we see the game is by Justin Roiland, and all becomes clear. No release date, but we know it’s coming to PS4 and PSVR.
Cut to yet another trailer, and this time it’s for Kingdom Hearts III. We heard a god amount about this already from the Square Enix conference so you already know what to expect. The cast of Frozen join old favourites from the series on the 29th of January. What we didn’t already know about was the impending release of a special Kingdom Hearts decorated PS4 Pro, and a collection package including HD I.5 Remix, HD II.5 Remix, HD II.8 Final Chapter Prologue and the third game all bundled together.
A barbershop trio of albino rhubarbs sing in a progressively higher pitch. Cut to a new trailer, showing the arse, then head of a foetus, clearly from the point of view of the inside of the body. It’s about this point that I decide to give up taking drugs. Then Norman Reedus arrives and we all know it’s only going to get weirder from here as we see more of Death Stranding. Turns out he’s a courier, delivering something with a giant mechanical backpack.
The Walking Dead Star is talking with an unseen woman initially, then he’s just traversing different worlds with his backpack. Many of them look pretty awkward. Bridges and cliffs are scaled, Norman’s covered in bruises and cuts in the shower and even has to remove a damaged toenail at one point. One of the packages looks oddly human shaped, this doesn’t seem to phase him.
The cryptic message “Give me your hand in life” appears on screen. Followed by a female character we haven’t seen in earlier trailers shushing the protagonist. Cue vibrations from his latest deliver as something unseen makes footprints and growling noises. It appears to be an invisible dinosaur with human hands for feet.
“Give me your hand in death” is our message now. Our new character has the least practical umbrella ever and warns Norman to watch himself for those things in case that wasn’t obvious. She mumbles something about fast-forwarded time and then walks away.
“Give me your hand in flesh” opens our next scene, which sees Reedus in a building of some kind, telling an unseen character he’s surrounded by something else that we can’t see. He can’t get, or can he? He grabs a foetus in a bottle and starts waving what looks like a pocket fan. I officially give up trying to understand this any more. Thankfully, the trailer now ends, although just one more confusing scene is added where a woman eats some kind of maggot, explaining how it “makes the time fall away”, followed one last cryptic message: “Give me your hand in spirit” I’ve got no idea what just happened, but I think I want to play this game.
Quick cut to another trailer, and there’s a pretty poor end to a battle for a samurai. He falls in battle, flaming horns sprout from his head, and then he pulls them out and bursts into a flaming title card announcing Nioh 2.
One more musical skit and we’ve got a guy at a piano playing chopsticks badly. The lid slams shut on his fingers and to be honest I can’t say I really feel that sorry for him. Never mind though, here’s some footage of Spider-Man. He’s saving a woman from a crashing helicopter, although it still crashes so his webs aren’t all that. He gets out with her though.
We’ve got a guy with yellow sparks letting a bunch of prisoners free, that'll be Electro then. Looks like he’s going to be the main antagonist here. Spidey’s job is to kick, punch and leap until the prisoners all go back to their cells. We lean Electro, Rhino and Scorpion are all loose, so clearly it’s a great plan that worked well.
Electro shows up again to taunt Mr Parker, and of course he has to chase him by web-swinging over water, because it’s a Spider-Man game. Eventually the fight end up on what looks like the top of an oil rig, and Electro and pals pummel the arachnid hero into submission. Presumably that’s not where the game ends, but it’s certainly where the trailer ends.
We get some footage of the game being played later and it looks very much like Spider-Man meets Infamous. There’s some really intense combat with lots of aerial acrobatics, and also a kind of bullet time mechanic too. Oh, Spidey’s buns are pretty tight too.
We get treated to one last montage of everything we’ve seen already, culminating in the PlayStation logo. Now it’s outside again to the people at a table. They talk about what we’ve already seen for a while, and then there’s one last game reveal, which is the latest FromSoftware title.
There’s a lot of oil paintings, and a narrator says “Aren’t you excited? You’re going to be a fairy and live where time stands still” There’s a lot of black and white shots of old paintings and buildings, and a cute kitty. Then a man eating soup. Again, we have no real idea what this is, but it’s certainly not Dark Souls. The title of the game is finally revealed: Deracine.
There’s about ten more minutes of recapping from the presenters and talking about the games we’ve seen, but we’ve all seen what we came here for and nobody is really interested any more. There are no more reveals and It’s a rather unusual end to a conference, making it seem to peter out, rather than ending with a bang. All the same, we’ve seen a lot of stuff to make us excited, so if Sony can’t write an ending that doesn’t really matter.
Most of the trailers mentioned here are available on GameGrin, so check out our E3 Hub for more details. If you want to see the fart trumpet guy and the singing rhubarbs then you’ll need to hunt them out on Sony’s YouTube channel; I’ll probably have nightmares if I see them again.