Heading into this year’s E3, Sony was riding high. The PS4 has owned 2017, with high-profile exclusives like Nioh, Horizon Zero Dawn, and Persona 5 connecting with fans and critics alike. Meanwhile the console itself continues to sell astronomically more units than the Xbox One. In past years, the PlayStation press conference at E3 has featured surprising reveals, like a Crash Bandicoot revival, and emotional returns for fans, including Final Fantasy and The Last Guardian.
Last year, the show brought out God of War, Spider-Man, and Uncharted DLC to shock fans, although no release dates were given. Those early glimpses made for high expectations this year, with Sony expected to deliver gameplay and a better idea of when we could play those titles.
After Xbox announced a high price for its 4K-enabled console, the ball was in Sony’s court to deliver the first-party exclusives and third-party partnerships that told fans why they should stick with the PS4 this holiday season. What happened was anything but.
Opening with an instrumental interlude, we were shown a brief sizzle reel for Uncharted: The Lost Legacy, Naughty Dog’s final (for now) story in this franchise, starring two of its most iconic female characters. That DLC, along with a newly announced expansion for Horizon Zero Dawn, is expected later this year. However, for many viewers, audio issues and sever lag had already soured the opening moments of the typically professional press show.
Moving on, the shocking reveal of a proper console Monster Hunter title was undercut by the official statement that the game was also coming to PC and Xbox One next year. Monster Hunter World looks fantastic, and it is wonderful to have the series realized on a system that isn’t handheld for the first time in years, though it will look better on Xbox One X and PC.
Keeping with the theme of giant beasts, the next game shown was one that really no one expected. Shadow of the Colossus, often hailed as one of the medium’s true masterpieces, is receiving a gorgeous makeover on the PS4 hardware. The evocative trailer highlighted familiar environments, music, and monsters, fading to a “Coming 2018” title screen.
That announcement summed up the pervasive, disappointing tone that Sony set for itself this year. After the Final Fantasy VII remake was one of the largest hits on the stage in the past, fans have grown irritated at the lack of information, and apparent lack of progress on the game’s development. The entire development team recently shifted, and the first episode of the planned remake isn’t expected for a few years at least. It was also recently announced that Shenmue 3, another one of Sony’s “dream-fulfilling” wins, isn’t anywhere near completion.
Microsoft, Bethesda, and Ubisoft all staged their presentations around games with tangible, narrow release windows. Everything shown by Bethesda was given a concrete date, while Xbox delivered several new third-party announcements, and Ubisoft’s only outlier was the emotional reveal of Beyond Good and Evil 2 to close their show.
Fans shouldn’t be content with announcements for announcement’s sake anymore. PlayStation has developed a nasty habit of showing games much too far in advance, leading to disappointment and delay. So far this generation, nearly every premiere PlayStation title—Uncharted 4, Horizon Zero Dawn, The Last Guardian, No Man’s Sky, NioH, and Persona 5—has been delayed multiple times. At this year’s E3, Sony made no promises, following every exciting gameplay demonstration with the promise of “come back later.”
Days Gone, a post-apocalyptic adventure starring Sam Witwer, gave a rather generic showing, relying on jump scares and stealth gameplay in an open world to try and surprise fans. The tease for God of War was much more expansive than last year’s, including some new cinematics and massive creatures. Detroit: Become Human looked radically different than when we saw it last year, when it looked radically different than the previous time we saw it, and it’s still far off from an official release.
PlayStation did have the advantage of worthwhile console exclusives over Xbox’s lineup shared with PC gamers. However, the rapid-fire manner in which these games were showcased made it clear that Sony wasn’t ready to talk in depth about any of their games. This show felt more like a Nintendo Direct, with a quick pace and a series of short trailers, but devoid of any personality.
Destiny 2 and Call of Duty showed up to tout some PS4-exclusive content, and there was a significant montage of new PSVR titles, but overall, this conference fell flat thanks to the lofty expectations Sony set for itself. A human element was sorely missed, with no developers appearing to tell us why we should be interested in these far-off games.
While nearly all of the games shown off for the PS4 look original and intriguing, it’s hard to believe that we will be playing any of them soon, and so the show failed to connect, and rarely excited.