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Sony Pre-E3 2015 Media Briefing Summary

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on June 16, 2015 @ 3:00 a.m. PDT

During Sony's Pre-E3 2015 Media Briefing, it presented new coverage for Call of Duty: Black Ops III, Crossing Souls, Destiny: The Taken King, Disney Infinity 3.0, Dreams, Eitr, Final Fantasy VII Remake, Hitman, Horizon: Dawn Zero, The Last Guardian, No Man's Sky, Mother Russia Bleeds, Project Morpheus, Ronin, Star Wars: Battlefront 3, Uncharted 4, and World of Final Fantasy.

June 15, 2015, 6:00 PM
Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena, Los Angeles

It's hard to imagine a stronger start to the Sony conference than The Last Guardian. The follow-up to Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, The Last Guardian has been in production limbo for years. Rumors of its demise turned out to be greatly exaggerated, however, and we got our first glimpse of real gameplay. The Last Guardian is the story of a boy and his friend, a gigantic griffon. It's a puzzle-platformer based around the interactions between the boy and his pet. The boy is the braver of the two and is capable of using his intelligence and small stature to guide his friend around. He can encourage the griffon to jump by jumping himself, call him over to locations that the griffon might not notice, and climb atop the beast a la the Colossi in Shadow of the Colossus. The Griffon, in exchange, is timid, easily frightened and not very bright but makes up for it with brawn to spare. He can even catch the boy when he's falling. It was one of the more impressive experiences at the show thus far, and it's easy to see why it's been in production for so long. It looks fantastic, and the interaction between the boy and his friendly monster puts similar attempts in other games to shame. The demo ended with the long-awaited release date: 2016.

Next up was a new title from Guerrilla Games called Horizon: Zero Dawn, which is a postapocalyptic game in which mankind has regressed to the hunter-gatherer days and roams the remnants of once-great cities. The player takes control of a young woman who is supposedly a member of the first tribe of humans to civilize themselves after the collapse of the old world. We get a brief glimpse of the gameplay, but it looks rather tantalizing. The protagonist hunts robotic animals, sort of a mix of dinosaur and machine, for their parts using a high-tech bow. By using a variety of arrows, she can stun enemies, tear off their limbs, or use a crude spear to perform melee attacks. She begins hunting what amounted to the deer of the world but ends up taking on a giant robot T-Rex. She has to use electric arrows to stun it, slide under it to shoot vulnerable points, tie it down with ropes from a rope gun and tear off its gun to use against it. The epic battle concludes with her victory — one of many to come, it seems.

The trailer after that was a simple one. A series of high-profile targets were displayed, followed by shots of Hitman protagonist Agent 47 as he took them down. It was, of course, a trailer for the upcoming title, simply titled Hitman. Not a lot of info is available, but we know that the PlayStation 4 version will include both a beta and exclusive missions. The first non-surprise of the show was Street Fighter V. The big announcement was the inclusion of classic characters Cammy and Birdy, as well as another PlayStation-exclusive beta.

We got an extended demo of No Man's Sky. As always, the ambitious game looks almost too good to be believed. We got a brief glimpse of space combat, where the player wanders into a war that's raging between two different sides. The combat looks simple in the demo but offers a lot of freedom, allowing the player to attack who he wants. The demo moved to a random system that showed the basic exploration. Players can pick a system, jump there, and then search for beacons to explore. While exploring, they can find animals and environmental objects that they can document and upload for credits, as well as the honor of being named the discoverer of the planet. We also got a look at why you should be careful while exploring. The handheld laser gun used by the main character can blow up environmental objects, but that calls down an angry Sentinel who isn't very happy that you're disrupting the order of things.

The next new IP was Dreams from Media Molecule. By the developer's own admission, Dreams is a hard game to understand. Using the motion controls of the DualShock 4, players can paint and craft objects in the environment and then manipulate the objects to craft complex,, animated dreams. You can use your own tools or borrow ones built by others and create a dream that is all your own. It looks similar to the concept of a Gary's Mod or a Source Filmmaker but with its own flair. More of the game will be shown off later this year. We also got a brief glimpse of Firewatch, a first-person exploration/mystery game where you play as a man alone in the wilderness, trying to solve the disappearance of two young girls aided only by a woman on your radio.

Two older franchises took the stage after that. Destiny will get its next major expansion, The Taken King, later this year. In addition to new enemies, The Taken King will offer a new set of super moves and the expected upgrades to mechanics and loot. There will, of course, be PlayStation-exclusive maps, gear, and a Legendary edition of the expansion, which will be released on Sept. 15. Assassin's Creed: Syndicate also made a showing. Compared to the Ubisoft press briefing, they focused on Evie, the sister of the brother-and-sister team. She seems to focus more heavily on the pure assassination style, with access to weapons, like throwing knives and a brutal-looking cane sword. Exclusive to the PS4 is the Dreadful Crimes DLC, where one of the siblings has to solve a murder mystery.

Square Enix brought its A game to the show. World of Final Fantasy is a lighthearted-looking entry into the franchise for the PS4 and the Vita. Built around the idea of "super deformed" characters, it follows a male and female protagonist as they take on the classic Final Fantasy enemies. Both friend and foe can swap between the small-bodied, big-headed, super-deformed style and a more realistic style, with the mechanics altering based on size. Classic characters like Cloud will also make appearances. Speaking of classic characters, Tetsuya Nomura is directing a full-fledged remake of Final Fantasy VII. The footage showed a more modernized version of the classic city of Midgar, ending with a glimpse of classic protagonists Barrett and Cloud. What was most striking about the demo is that it showed a significant departure from the similar tech demo from a few years ago. Rather than a simple graphical upgrade, Final Fantasy VII Remake looks like it may be an entirely new experience.

The bombardment continued with four games from Devolver studios, all of which will be console exclusive to the PS4, including Ronin, a 2-D action game; Mother Russia Bleeds, a brutal-looking beat-'em-up; Eitr, a sprite-based action game; and Crossing Souls, a bizarre-looking game that seems to be a mix of genres. These were followed by the announcement of the Kickstarter for Shenmue III, which hit its $2 million funding goal in over nine hours. We also got a glimpse of the opening of Arkham Knight, where long-time Batman character Harvey Bullock ends up getting a face full of the Scarecrow's terrifying fear gas.

Project Morpheus was a big part of Sony's show. Morpheus is Sony's VR headset, a competitor to the Oculus Rift. Sony is putting a lot of effort into getting Morpheus adopted and has a lineup of games set up, ranging from underwater exploration to shooters. They showed off Rigs, a 3v3 shooter game specifically designed to take advantage of the Morpheus' capabilities. Sony made sure to point out that the Morpheus is designed with multiplayer in mind, and their ideal situation is many people playing together, each with their own Morpheus.

Call of Duty: Black Ops III made its debut at the show as well. Taking after last year's game, Call of Duty III ramps up the future tech to extreme levels. Players can select and customize their character before going into a mission. They can go into missions with up to four people and take on foes with their friends. Wild gadgets aplenty can be seen, ranging from hacking that allows you to stun foes and control drones to "fireflies," or swarms of mini-robots that can distract and disable your enemies. All the classics, like multiplayer deathmatch, are also still available. We got a glimpse of the deathmatch, and it looked pretty intense. In addition to the usual favorites, like killstreaks, there was also Titanfall-style wall-running and double-jumping and Destiny-style super moves that made it look like a significantly less realistic, and faster-paced, entry than the previous games.

Not everyone is about the deathmatches, though. Disney Infinity 3.0 will also be coming to the PS4. As Disney Infinity 2.0 added Marvel characters, 3.0 adds Star Wars characters. There will be two packs: Twilight of the Republic based on the Clone Wars era, and Rise against the Empire based on the original three movies. Disney Infinity 3.0 will launch with Twilight of the Republic. The PS4 will get access to a special Limited Edition, which allows early access to the Rise Against The Empire characters and stories, including figures of characters like Luke Skywalker and Boba Fett long before they're available in stores.

The Star Wars excitement continued with a glimpse of Star Wars: Battlefront 3's Survival mode, which is a Horde-style mode where up to two players can work together to survive increasingly difficult rushes from AI enemies, aided by occasional supply drops.

The show ended with a demo of Uncharted 4. After a minor technical hiccup, we saw the game in action. There's a lot familiar here. Nate Drake is still the master of making wisecracks as he shoots, punches and jumps his way through danger. The major setpiece of the demo involves Nate commandeering a jeep to escape from an ambush. Players are forced to drive through a surprisingly complex marketplace, taking back roads and narrow alleyways to avoid being boxed in. The demo ended with Drake using his grappling hook to latch onto a moving train. It looked buttery smooth and had all of the franchise's great graphical touches and amusing quirks. Unfortunately, it's still coming out in 2016, although the Uncharted HD Collection may help assuage some of the pain for fans.

Sony came out swinging hard with this conference. A strong combination of exclusives, timed exclusives and games with Sony-specific content rounded out the show. It was an absolute bombardment of games, and by the time the show was over, it felt like Sony had struck some serious blows. Regardless of whether you're looking for an action-packed shooter, a story-driven RPG or just some fun collectibles, Sony has something for you. Assuming it can live up to the strong showing, this may be one of Sony's best years in memory.

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