Well, there’s a pleasant surprise. Sony remembering how to fight…
The PlayStation Experience was chock full of content and surprises.
Some of them were amazing – The Last of Us: Part II, for example, as well as Ni No Kuni 2 and Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite. Others don’t interest me, but I get the hype, like Uncharted: The Lost Legacy, for example. And some just left me asking why – Parappa the Rapper HD, for example, is an odd choice. And Knack 2… don’t even get me started. It was a rollercoaster, but on the whole it’s a pleasant surprise to see Sony getting the spark back, and also remembering and paying homage to its roots with the likes of Wipeout Remastered.
Part of me believes that this is in part down to the Nintendo Switch; Nintendo’s interesting new console due for a big showcase next month, which is likely to be as packed with content as Sony’s showcase was this weekend. Sony suddenly got a brief but potent reminder that in a dynamic and changing market like the video game console industry, that resting on your laurels and gloating at your lack of competition cannot be milked forever. Companies catch up, companies change – particularly when they have to – and that’s a great thing. But I don’t want to dwell on this for long, because I will be doing a Switch thing next month.
Let’s just say; competition can do great things, and tonight felt like Sony got the message.
Sure, not everything was entirely to my taste. That’s just the nature of the beast; a good industry will cater for everyone, not just the one big thing happening at a given moment. It was the breadth of content that was more appealing to me. From fighting games to niche RPG fare, from big showy top-tier stuff to more interesting stand-alone expansions and independent content (though again, Sony smugly likes to talk about ‘exclusivity’ and if you’re paying for it, it’s not very independent is it?). From horror to cutesy cartoon fluff, from forward-looking software to retro remasters and nods to their roots, this was a showcase that spoke volumes about the ‘New’ PlayStation, at least the entity it now is, a separate subsidiary from Sony as a whole. It was Sony saying, “This is where we’ve been and this is where we’re going.”
I like that. It’s been easy to be negative of late, but Sony’s showcase was a great celebration of its heritage and properties. Okay, I’m still not sold on VR (and considering more games appear to be possible in normal one-screen-o-vision, I’m starting to think it’s dawning on Sony that this is going to run aground soon), and the Vita… yes, it’s getting a couple of new games but frankly at this point we all know it’s token at best. However, for the most part, I found myself actually being impressed not just by the games on show but the diversity of genres on show, the variety of art styles and the broad range of ideas it was pushing.
I was also heartened to see the crowd excitement practically evaporate when Call of Duty came around – I almost wanted to shout “THANK YOU!” out loud to everyone. It’s so easy to have an overly-excitable audience that would literally cheer if Shuhei Yohsida came on stage, dropped his trousers and laid out a steamer for everyone to see. But this audience was at least selective in its enthusiasm; Knack 2 got a few odd responses, as it probably should do (though I do often say a sequel is where games get their stride). It was just nice to see a big showreel event like this where the audience can be critical as well as thrilled and excited. It’s the sort of thing PlayStation Interactive can look back at and go, “Right, this wasn’t well received, are we wasting our time and money with Call of Duty exclusive content?” (The answer for any company in this position is yes, yes and oh hell yes.)
The big one for me was The Last of Us 2.
It’s just good to see it back. The teaser was, we’re told, extremely early concept footage (so I won’t expect it for two years at least). And it didn’t say much, if anything, about the plot this time around – we’re told this story is about hate, five years on now Ellie is grown up a bit and more capable. But if the first game is anything to go by, this should be a blinder – the original ruined me, emotionally and physically (almost two weeks of non-stop addiction to a game will do that). My personal hope is that they bring back Bill – I’ve long lamented that he didn’t get a bit of DLC content of his own (we all know this is because girls kissing is more marketable than two guys going at it, it’s fine, we can admit that we still have a ways to go on this front), but I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t very interested to see where Bill is five years on, and whether his rough edges have smoothed out any – god, I hope not. There was always plenty more to tell in this universe; always plenty of scope to take it in a number of interesting directions. And now we’re three years on, I’m fine with a teaser for a sequel and fine with it taking its sweet-as time too. Like Zelda, some things just should not be rushed, no matter how much we want them.
Overall, yes, I thought PlayStation Experience 2016 was a strong event. Coming a couple of days after The Game Awards 2016, it certainly couldn’t have been much worse than that. Like many, I’ve felt lately that Sony has been coasting, and with that new console coming in March, coasting can get you bashed off the road with a blue shell up the jacksie. Sony answered this; it also remembered its past, and it was a good reminder that for all the things that infuriate us about PlayStation – there’s plenty of good in there too. And we should be happy for that.
Now Nintendo, your move next.
We’ve got a fight on our hands, and suddenly I’m filled with optimism…