Sony breaks its prolonged PS5 media silence in style.
Microsoft’s first Xbox Series X event in May was something of a missed opportunity. With meaningful gameplay footage thin on the ground and sporting a rather grisly tone it lacked the excitement usually generated by these next-gen reveals; not helped of course by Microsoft’s decision to show no first-party games. They quickly responded to criticism of the show by admitting that they “clearly set some wrong expectations” in the build up, and by confirming a first-party event in July where genuine in-game footage of marquee titles will be shown.
Whether or not Sony adjusted their reveal event in response to the backlash Microsoft received or (as they’d like you to believe) have been following their own path all along is a moot point; the show was a masterclass in fan service and hype building. Beginning the show with Grand Theft Auto V (originally released on the PS3 and Xbox 360 – incredibly) was surprising, unless you have any idea just how much money and attention this game still generates. The fact that GTA Online will be playable on PS5 from day one is a bigger deal than many may realise, and the first of a series of steps from Sony to encourage its existing fan-base to migrate to the new console.
The term “Pixar-quality” will undoubtedly make a triumphant return when it’s time for the Ratchet and Clank reviews.
Despite the event taking place entirely in people’s living rooms, Sony know how to get a crowd going, and what followed was a quick succession of crowd-pleasers designed to appeal to the masses. Spider-Man: Miles Morales was first up, later revealed to be a shorter, standalone offshoot of the original game – akin to Naughty Dog’s Uncharted: The Lost Legacy. Then came Gran Turismo 7, looking as impressive as ever despite the fact that it’s stunning replay footage struggled to show off much of a generational leap over GT Sport’s already stunning replay footage. Fan-favourite Ratchet and Clank – this time named Rift Apart – came next with a remarkable trailer showing the titular heroes passing between dimensional rifts, followed by an extended gameplay trailer showing the game everybody knows and loves but with a bit more of… well, everything. Finally, a suitably epic teaser for Project Athia from Square Enix rounded off the first of the event’s AAA sections.
The visuals on display in these titles were hugely impressive of course, but more discerning viewers may have noticed that it was indeed Ratchet and Clank that really demonstrated PS5’s main selling point and Sony’s major hardware bet. Sony have made a lot of noise about the console’s custom SSD drive – something many have suggested would mean faster loading times and little else – but Rift Apart uses this hardware feature to directly impact its gameplay. Showing Ratchet and Clank warp seamlessly between fully realised environments, and the ability to load any game asset into the world in an instant could very well be a genuine next-gen game-changer only possible on Sony’s console, once developers start to fully explore it’s possibilities.
Sony dutifully wheeled out some of its big-guns (Spider-Man, Gran Turismo 7 and Horizon 2 shown here), alongside a large helping of third-party and indie titles.
Next came a barrage of third-party and indie titles ranging from ambitious and graphically impressive to smaller art-house productions. With the PS4 (and Vita) Sony did a great job of showcasing the talents of smaller studios alongside major ones, and its great to see them doing the same at the outset of the PS5 era. A full run-down of the games shown during the show can be found here.
Of course, not all games will appeal to all people, but PlayStation’s main strength has always been its breadth of software, and this reveal proved this yet again; the likes of Hitman 3 and Resident Evil VIII nestling comfortably alongside the likes of Oddworld and a new Astro Bot (which was later confirmed as being pre-installed on PS5). Then, up popped Shuhei Yoshida himself, Sony’s newly appointed Head of Independent Developers proudly announcing the existence of the long-rumoured Demon’s Souls remake. Had this been a typical E3 event, this is the one that would have produced the cheering. The trailer was short and lacking in actual gameplay footage, but the very confirmation of it’s existence and that remaster specialists Bluepoint Games are indeed at the helm will be enough for most.
The final game reveal was the one that many had expected, Horizon II: Forbidden West. A sequel to Guerrilla Games’ wildly successful Zero Dawn which showed some predictably lavish landscapes alongside some truly remarkable underwater sections, and the suggestion that the game will be set, at least in part, in a long-lost San Francisco.
The PS5 will be available with a traditional disc drive or as an all-digital edition. Sony remain tight-lipped on prices and release dates however.
And then came the main event. By no means guaranteed beforehand Sony teased it’s grand finale throughout the show, with rather impressive (and expensive looking) graphics shifting and moulding into shapes that eventually emerged as the console itself. And this design is bold; harking back to the days when consoles were consoles, not unassuming square boxes to be hidden amongst all of the others. This is a risk for Sony who will surely be aware that for every user who will devote pride of place to its new machine in their setups, there will be another for whom this console just won’t fit. It was shown alongside an all-digital edition and some accessories, and a final show-reel containing everything that had come before, and that was it.
There are still many unknowns regarding the PlayStation 5 of course, not least its release date and price, but unlike Microsoft’s bleak and surprisingly bland Series X showing, this event was exciting. Microsoft and the Xbox team have a chance to respond with their first-party event in July, and once Halo and Forza are introduced into the mix, things will really start to heat up. With competition fierce the upcoming generation that is about to descend upon us looks like it will be as fascinating as ever; and that can only come as good news for gamers everywhere.
Aside from the fact that the PS5 exists – and a glimpse at its controller – this was the first time Sony had shown anything relating to its flagship hardware at all. They showed blockbusters, crowd-pleasers, third-party reveals, unique indie titles and the console itself. Sony obviously still have more to show, but as a showcase for what its idea of the next generation will be, and as a starting point for the marketing blitz that is yet to come, this event was hugely impressive.