Last night, the ball landed at Sony’s feet, and the Japanese-owned publisher smashed it into an open goal. Where Microsoft had overpromised and failed to deliver with its lukewarm Xbox Series X outing back in May, PlayStation capitalised and came out swinging, showing us a diverse slate of next-gen exclusives with a surprising amount of candour. What struck me about the conference was the remarkable range of games that Sony had to offer. Throughout the conference we saw games that ranged from smaller indie projects to massive AAA titans, yet they were all given the same breathing room in Sony’s vision for the future of the PlayStation 5.
While it was nice to see remake masters Bluepoint Games finally take on Demon’s Souls as well as the return of franchise favourites like Ratchet & Clank and Gran Turismo, it was the more unique projects that really caught my eye.
Sony set the bar extremely high almost immediately, delivering a delightful surprise in Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, which is being penned by Rise Of The Black Panther writer Evan Narcisse. After the incredible success of Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse, it’s so exciting to learn that we’ll be seeing more of Miles, who will be taking over the mantle from Peter Parker after teasing fans with his appearance during the narrative of 2018’s Marvel’s Spider-Man.
Yet Sony didn’t stop there, and the pace of the entire conference soldiered on at breakneck speed. Alongside photo-realistic AAA endeavours like Hitman 3, we were introduced to a set of inspired indies such as KO-OP’s Goodbye Volcano High, a dinosaur coming-of-age story with a non-binary protagonist, and Stray, a game about a backpack-toting cat in a world without humans. It really did fill me with hope to see so many different examples of art direction in one conference, from the cosmicute character designs of Neostream’s Little Devil Inside to the lush colour palette of Solar Ash, the next game from the studio behind Hyper Light Drifter.
There was no chaff to speak of here, and despite the sheer spectrum of experiences, my imagination was set ablaze by these gorgeous games.
Bugsnax stood out to me as something I need to get my mitts on right now. This magnificent-looking sim where snacks and bugs have merged looks like the ultimate relaxation station, with its Kero Kero Bonito soundtrack and cosy visuals. Of course I want to capture those silly strawberries! It looks like a mix of Viva Piñata and Ape Escape (which sounds like a match made in heaven), and I’m excited to hear more from the Octodad alums as it approaches launch.
Another grin spread as I was introduced to the sooty boys of Kena: Bridge Of The Spirits, a Pikmin-inspired 3D platformer being developed by animation studio Ember Lab, who were responsible for the Majora’s Mask: Terrible Fate CGI project that lit up the internet back in 2016. The absurd detail in this game’s cutscenes left me desperate to become acquainted with its world – I love the idea of an animation studio hopping into the world of games to bring flair, detail and depth to the next-generation.
As the showcase delivered a salvo of sound and colour, we received an eye-popping introduction to Bethesda’s timed PS5 exclusives, namely Arkane’s Deathloop and Ghostwire: Tokyo, directed by horror legend Shinji Mikami. Both of these games look inspired by Dishonored in some form, but have taken the immersive FPS premise in entirely different directions. My eyes were glued to the stylish gunplay of Deathloop after I cowered behind my hands at the ghostly data apparitions that haunt Ghostwire’s pretty prefecture. I’m hoping for a rich narrative that will complement the haptic-looking gameplay of both of these games.
Even the shoo-ins like Resident Evil Village and Horizon Forbidden West took delectable diversions from previous games in their respective series. Resident Evil Village’s forgotten village setting was unsettling to say the least, with fanciful characters posturing towards the player in first-person, before werewolves and grisly cables brought an unusual supernatural element to a series that is often easy to pin down. I never thought much of Horizon Zero Dawn in the first place, but this sequel is definitely pushing a different set of buttons with its underwater exploration and vibrant palette.
The fleeting moments of lost interest occurred when the games felt too safe – it was cute to see LittleBigPlanet’s mascot return in Sackboy: A Big Adventure, but I’m not sure Sumo Digital’s spin-off will pique my interest if it lacks the unbridled creative spirit that defines the series it is drawing from.
Destruction AllStars felt a little too derivative of Fortnite and was ultimately quite forgettable, even if the idea of being able to hop out of your vehicle to cause mayhem in a Rocket League-style setting is super smart. Godfall once more looks like it’s been focus-tested into a blur of Destiny-this and Dark Souls-that – I’m hopeful that substance may rear its head as the game approaches launch.
What a magnificent little evening of games that was, one that finally painted a convincing picture of what the next-generation of games is going to look like. Luckily, it’s not full of sad dad adventures or beige military shooters. More than ever, I’m excited for the creative heights the industry is set to broach with the next-generation. If this is what Sony thinks “The Future Of Gaming” looks like, I’m all in.