The most recent PlayStation Showcase came and went. That “little over an hour” flew by, for both better and for worse. So, did it deliver the next phase of what PlayStation is all about?
My initial reaction to the show was that it was one of the worst shows in recent history for PlayStation. I was on the edge of my seat waiting for something to blow me away, and there just wasn’t that big thing. Nothing like the Wolverine teaser in the showcase two years ago or anything that had me rushing to find out more information. But, I think my initial judgment was kind of wrong. The games presented spanned many genres and showcased large and small titles alike. I’ll always give credit to a show that places AAA and indies on the same footing. I can only say I was kind of wrong, though, because this wasn’t a good PlayStation Showcase like I was expecting.
What Sony Did Well in The PlayStation Showcase
Big Indie Games from Industry Darlings.
Indie titles at a show like this are always hit or miss. That statement is especially true if you as the watcher aren’t into anything below a AAA game. This was me years ago. I wanted all the bombastic elements and multi-million dollar production values. Over time, I’ve come to really love the creativity that indie titles (or even just A or AA titles) foster. They trade in the cutting-edge visuals for sublime art-design, and they truly push the boundaries of the medium forward. Sony showcasing games from some of the most sought after indie devs was a major plus. Those games were:
- Sword of The Sea from Giant Squid – Pathless devs
- The Talos Principle II from – Croteam
- Neva from Nomada Studio – Gris devs
Those three games snatched my attention, immediately. I didn’t even realize any of those devs had new games coming down the pipeline. A few other potential great indie games include Cat Quest – Pirates of the Purribean and The Plucky Squire.
I’d be remiss not to have an honorable mention for Phantom Blade 0. A samurai action-rpg that has an environment that just jumps off the screen. It looks as brutal as a soulslike, while having the action of something closer to Ninja Gaiden. It’s beautiful and dark all the same. Look out for S-Game to jolt the market with Phantom Blade 0.
Big Reveals That Didn’t Get (Completely) Leaked
The caveat of not leaking is a big one (ahem MGS3), but the few games that didn’t leak (although may have been rumored well beforehand) were definitely heavy hitters. Bungie sure is busy with everything they are doing in the Destiny universe, but they also have time to resurrect Marathon. Yes. That Marathon. The first-person shooter from way back in 1994 on the Apple Macintosh. I can’t say I have much affinity for the property, nor had I played it. But if one thing is true, Bungie knows how to nail the feel of a game. I know nothing about it, but I am hyped for whatever it becomes. The idea that it is an extraction shooter slightly tempered my hype, but Bungie doesn’t really miss.
The other big non-Metal Gear game had to have been Dragon’s Dogma 2. This one was sort of leaked in the past, and has really become one of those industry secrets. We all knew it’d be coming but not really when. Over a decade in the making, Capcom is returning to the inventive franchise. In a world with more fantasy games than you can count, Dragon’s Dogma 2 looks to retain its rightful place. There have been few games that have had as creative a magic/combat system as Dragon’s Dogma, and I sincerely hope the sequel expands upon that even further.
Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 was almost a guarantee to be at the show, and it didn’t disappoint. What I assumed would be a mainly CGI showing, featured lengthy segments of gameplay. We got to see new powers, new suits and new villains. What was of particular note, though, were two things that many might’ve missed. 1) The web swinging speed certainly feels sped up. It could be because we weren’t actually playing, but things appear faster and smoother. 2) A more densely populated city. The previous Spidey games were great, but the worlds did feel sort of empty. They all had the feeling that you were the centerpiece and things didn’t happen until you arrived. Even if there aren’t necessarily more ai walking about, the locations feel more vibrant.
Things I Don’t Think Sony Did Well at The PlayStation Showcase
PSVR2 Games Were a Let Down
Sony announced that the PSVR2 is tracking 8% ahead of the PSVR launch. That’s great, but I don’t think they really showed anything that is going to continue the momentum or convert non-owners to make the hefty purchase. There wasn’t really anything wrong with the games they did show, albeit they were all really safe “show” games. I don’t think anyone will turn down another version of Resident Evil 4 in VR, nor do I think Beat Saber wasn’t a desperately wanted title on the latest virtual reality set. The addition of an Arizona Sunshine 2 trailer was a nice surprise, but there was one game that stood above the others. Synapse. Voice talent like David Hayter and Jennifer Hale already made this a must buy, but it also seems to feature interesting physics-based gameplay. The games weren’t bad, but I don’t know how this is going to anchor the device as a must-buy for the years to come.
Soft Release Dates
Creating games is a complicated affair that requires a balancing act of hundreds to thousands of people. The pandemic threw a further wrench into the complicated puzzle and it really shows. However, I was shocked with just how much wasn’t given a firm release date. Even something like Spider-Man 2, which has always been slated for Fall 2023, was left without a date. It’s already nearing the end of May and there is just so much in 2023 that was given a vague timeline.
Few PlayStation Studio Reveals and No Factions
Of all the many first-party studios Sony owns, the only one that was well-represented was Bungie. For such a large showcase, I’d hope to get more information on the various studios that likely have games in development. Where was Sony Santa Monica, Bluepoint Games, Sucker Punch or Sony Bend? So many studios that we know are working on something, and it felt like a miss for PlayStation not to even have a tiny trailer and/or splash logo treatment.
The above was a letdown, but no more than The Last of Us 2 Factions failing to make an appearance. Factions was initially supposed to be released alongside The Last of Us 2. We knew that wouldn’t be the case before TLoU2 release, but I couldn’t fathom we’d still be waiting on any information. They’ve mentioned how the project has become their most ambitious ever, but releasing zero info about it is a bummer. It’ll be interesting to see what comes of Factions once it is revealed and released. Part of me thought this would be leaning toward a free-to-play experience, but with how much time and money is being spent on it, I question that initial assumption.
Jim Ryan Instead of Studio Heads and Pacing
This is more of a nitpick than anything, but the format of a brief intro from a suit (no offense here) and then trailer after trailer after trailer just doesn’t do it for me. It loses that human element of which I think made E3 so special. There was time to breathe and process what just happened. Seeing passionate developers talk about their game was also a treat. Giving them the chance to share their hard work with the world for the first time is a magical moment that remains unmatched. With E3 on its last breath, the audience spectacle is over. So, everyone is trying to replicate the success of the Nintendo Direct. PlayStation’s imitation was anything but flattering. It’s obviously that challenging balance of time and budget, but I know they can do better.
The PlayStation Showcase platformed some great indies and unknown larger games. There is kudos to be had for Sony showcasing a wide breadth of genres, and elevating indie titles to sit right alongside AAA reveals. Having said that, this by no means felt like what should have been their E3 replacement show. A solid show, but one that sorely missed the mark with too much CGI and too little first party. .