Rounding out Monday’s barrage of E3 gaming pressers, Sony’s midyear celebration of all things PlayStation got off to a rousing start with one of the industry’s most anticipated—and repeatedly delayed—games on any system.
That’s right, The Last Guardian is still a thing, and as the show’s surprise opener, it was every bit as weird and gorgeous as I’m sure Sony intended, at once highlighting the dreamlike artfulness of creative lead Fumito Ueda’s peculiar mental-scape, as well as the game’s partner-focused environmental puzzles.
Over the course of the demo, a boy (controlled by you) and his giant sphinx-like companion worked their way through vast, precipitous, architectonically elegant backdrops. I guess that’s the thing that still stands out for me as much now as it did when I first saw the game in action years ago: the way the game manages to convey just how massive the creature is, capable of bridging a chasm, say, but with almost ungainly, lumbering movements.
As in The Last Guardian‘s predecessor, Ueda’s Shadow of the Colossus, you can cling to all aspects of the creature, tip to tail, clambering around its feathered bulk, and the connective tissue between ICO and Shadow of the Colossus was visible throughout. We have, in that sense, seen all of this before, but then we’ve seen so few games, indie or otherwise, that match Ueda’s gift for all but telepathically conveying sophisticated gameplay concepts using subtle and ingenious design cues.
“You don’t know how long I have waited to introduce The Last Guardian, with the first ever gameplay footage on PlayStation 4,” said Sony CEO Shuhei Yoshida at the demo’s close. And we finally have, if not a release date, at least a release window: Sony says we can expect The Last Guardian to hit PlayStation 4 sometime next year.
The rest of the show was a medley of unexpected and predictable revelations, the latter including a Black Ops 3 debut multiplayer trailer, a new Destiny expansion dubbed “The Taken King” where you battle some giant batwinged creature, an Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate callout to the game’s alternate female lead and a very pretty but ultimately kind of boring Uncharted 4 closer.
We saw a bit of gameplay from a new Guerrilla Games (the Killzone series) post-post-apocalyptic action-adventure titled Horizon: Zero Dawn, which with its cast of robo-dinosaurs and low-tech, archery-adept heroine had me thinking Transformers: Beast Wars meets Vikings. Square Enix teased its new long-in-development Hitman installment, followed by Media Molecule (LittleBigPlanet, Tearaway) unveiling something unusually artsy (for a mainstream game, anyway) that it’s calling Dreams, which it pitched as “using the PS4 controller to collaboratively create moving paintings,” adding “Now you can literally create anything you can dream of, a game, a play, a performance, all from scratch.”
Firewatch, a game about a volunteer fire lookout officer circa the Yellowstone fires of 1988 that’s been turning heads for its singular visual style, got a surprise nod. And Sean Murray of developer Hello Games ran through a gameplay demo of No Man’s Sky, the literally infinite space exploration whatchamacallit Sony’s been hyping for two years. Though I’m sure the latter demo triggered skipped heartbeats, it did nothing to allay my growing fear that the whole affair is going to be this incredibly gorgeous, unfathomably sweeping, but in the end ultimate patina of a game that scratches away too soon (let the record state that I want nothing more than to be dead wrong about that).
But the show’s biggest two reveals were sandwiched unceremoniously in the middle: a bona fide Final Fantasy VII remake is coming, as is a Yu Suzuki-led Shenmue 3, assuming the latter clears its $2 million Kickstarter goal (which, by the time you read this, will probably have happened).
About Final Fantasy VII, we know next to nothing, save that the teaser trailer suggests a remake that’s more of a spiritual reimagining than the sort of tediously literal remake (of a now ancient combat system, and in hindsight often juvenile story) that I trust no one really wants.
As for Shenmue 3, which Suzuki says will be a sequel to the first two games and “the story you’ve been waiting for” if it achieves its funding goal, I have mixed feelings about the revelation venue. Is it kosher to launch your Kickstarter at one of the most watched video game conferences in the world? Visibility is paramount to any crowdfunding project. Say what you will about Sony’s unwillingness to fund the project outright, then think of all the other arguably as or more worthy game projects that’ll never have access to a platform as spectacular as the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena under Sony’s floodlit and meticulously choreographed spell.