Sony, as the reigning champ of this console generation, has both more and less to prove at a show like E3 than companies like Microsoft. Less because, on the one hand, things are going really well for Sony. It continues to decisively outsell the Xbox One and faces no serious threat that Nintendo’s Switch could outsell its flagship console during its first three years on the market. More, because as the flagship leader, it’s also the company that Nintendo and Microsoft would collectively love to take down at a show like this. But Sony’s E3 show made it clear just how tricky that effort will be. The show didn’t start with a bang. It started with a kiss.
The trailer for The Last of Us 2 is over 10 minutes long and contains some substantial gameplay footage. But what it’ll be remembered for, even if the final game craps gold doubloons, is an amazing kiss between The Last of Us’ Ellie and her girlfriend. Historically, video game engines are anything but good at intimate emotional rendering. Dragon Age: Origins was an amazing game, but watching my dead-eyed protagonist wrap his meat-flipper hands around my romantic partner was about as much of a turn-on as a nude version of The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour. Progress on this front has been slow, to say the least. Characters who can slaughter a room full of bad guys in an aerial ballet of murder suddenly become paper cutouts when asked to emote something subtle and dramatic, almost certainly because the difficulty of climbing out of the Uncanny Valley goes stratospheric when the camera cuts to a close-up of 1-2 people and explicitly invites you to pay attention to subtleties of facial expression. The entire TLOU 2 trailer is good, but the kiss itself at ~3:28 below, is extraordinary.
Ghosts of Tsushima
Not a game I’ve heard of before, but an open-world samurai game set in 1274. It’s built by Sucker Punch Studios, with a gorgeous engine and stylized combat reminiscent of something out of Assassin’s Creed. Supposedly there’ll also be some stealth mechanics, though combat is more of a focus here.
Kingdom Hearts III
I don’t really know what to say about Kingdom Hearts, because this demo video seems to require you to already understand the game series’ nearly incomprehensible plot lines to have much to say about it. It looks gorgeous, the voice acting seems iffy, and the game is expected to launch on January 29, 2019.
Death Stranding is the first game released by legendary director Hideo Kojima since he and Konami parted ways. If you’ve ever wanted to see Norman Reedus stalk across huge, empty landscapes with a baby in some kind of suspended animation on his back, then this is the game for you.
Other major titles announced this year at E3 include a Resident Evil 2 remake, a VR game from From Software, a Nioh sequel, and a new Spider-Man game. I’ve seen some good feedback on this last title from several outlets that got a chance to play with it, so hopefully the final product lives up to the hype. A number of the games Sony showed this year appear to be taking some chances, with unusual story lines or ideas. Or maybe that’s just Kojima and Kingdom Hearts being inscrutable.