One thing that can be said of Sony that no one can deny, when the consumer electronics manufacturer and interactive entertainment company promises to put on a show, it delivers.
For the second PS5 Games Showcase, Sony put forth yet another compelling argument to purchase its next-generation console(s). Of course it can be argued that the real reasons anyone tuned into the pre-recorded livestream at all were to finally learn the prices and launch and pre-order dates of the PS5 and PS5 Digital Edition ($499.99 USD/$629.99 CAD and $399.99 CAD/$499.99 CAD respectively on November 12th or 19th depending on your region of the world). But despite SIE Senior Director Sid Shuman dubbing the event as “one more look at some of the great games coming to PS5 at launch (and beyond!),” Sony still made sure it showed up with a few new magic tricks up its sleeve to thrill the fans.
After an opening montage of PS5 games that were featured during the previous PS5 Showcase in June, the program got off to a fantastic start: with a meaty announcement trailer for Final Fantasy XVI called “Awakening,” simultaneously confirming the game’s long-rumored development behind closed doors, a bold return to a more sword-and-sorcery-themed setting, and PS5 console exclusivity. With the game’s director and development team having deep roots not only in previous FF titles but also more action oriented games like Dragon’s Dogma and Devil May Cry 5, Final Fantasy XVI is shaping up to be a darker, grittier and bloodier title than fans are likely used to seeing in the franchise–a stark difference that will likey set this drop-dead gorgeous game apart from its predecessors in the Fabula Nova Crystallis timeline, especially the “road-trip-with-the-boys,” that was Final Fantasy XV.
Immediately following was an extended look at Spider-Man: Miles Morales where viewers were treated to a brief glimpse of Miles’s everyday life in his new stomping grounds of Harlem before jumping into a lengthy, fast-paced and explosive combat scene between the new Friendly Neighborhood wall-crawler and minions of the super-villain: The Tinkerer, atop the Broadway Bridge. Not only did the gameplay sequence deliver the cinematic set-pieces, acrobatic thrills, and dynamic camera work that gamers who played the original Marvel’s Spider-Man have come to expect; viewers were also able to see some of Miles’ new Spidey abilities in action, such as his manipulate electrical energy in multiple ways, known as his “Venom Strike,” and his ability to turn invisible. It was later revealed that Spider-Man: Miles Morales along with previously announced next-gen titles Sackboy: A Big Adventure, and Horizon: Forbidden West will also be released on PS4–so even if you don’t purchase a PS5 this November you won’t have to miss out, but this gameplay trailer made a very strong case for the PS5 being the only console you’ll want to play this game on.
Next up is a game that I personally never thought I’d warm up to, especially with current revelations about its now infamously outspoken creator, but the appearance and confirmation of the long-awaited Harry Potter game, titled Hogwarts Legacy, led with an impressive trailer that fascinated me against all odds and kept my eyes glued to the screen. A game that will let me create my own wizard-in-training and run about Hogwarts, sling spells at evil foes, battle fire-breathing dragons and explore the larger world beyond the walls of Harry Potter’s alma mater (but also long before he was enrolled there and began hogging the spotlight)? In 2021 no less? Sign me up!
Naturally, Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War chose the PS5 showcase that mattered most to finally make an appearance, bringing with it an action-packed gameplay segment from the first campaign mission. Usually, when a Black Ops game demo takes the stage at a more traditional press conference, it is always one of the most over-the-top and audacious games you’ll see at event. Keeping with tradition, Black Ops: Cold War played its role to the hilt; digital showcases in the time of a pandemic be damned. If a shootout on a Turkish airstrip that escalates into a multi-vehicle car chase with an aircraft carrier, and a remote controlled RC car strapped down with explosives doesn’t sound wild enough for you, then you’ll be happy to know that ridiculous up-close execution finishers and Sniper Elite-inspired bullet cam kills are also along for the ride. The announcement of a free multi-player alpha weekend exclusively for PlayStation 4 owners from September 18th to 20th wasn’t a bad way to cap the trailer off either, asthe game will be out this holiday season and players are going to need to get some early practice in.
Next was an extended, PS5 in-engine trailer for Resident Evil VILLAGE (a.k.a. RE8), and thankfully, the technical performance issues that plagued the game’s first appearance during the June PS5 Future of Gaming showcase did not return to get in the way of Capcom’s reveal this time. Not only is the game looking stunning in terms of its lighting and character detail, but it also appears to channel several different influences that inform its design. Without question, VILLAGE harkens back not only to its first-person-based predecessor, RE7; as well as the premise and settings of RE4’s remote and isolated cultist community, but the art style and animation used to visualize the narrated folk-tale which echoes the protagonists horrific ordeals in the present are rendered like sequence out of the mind of Tim Burton–complete with a stop-motion claymation aesthetic.
No doubt Sony really likes the cut of Arkane Lyon Studio’s jib, because Deathloop was given a very generous return appearance on Sony’s virtual stage to present a 4-minute, deep-dive trailer explaining the puzzle mechanics of the game. It turns out that that Deathloop’s “Groundhog Day” premise is brutally stacked against the player; 24 in-game hours simply isn’t enough for one hitman to take out all eight of the game’s primary targets. Plus, there’s a rival assassin (who may or may not be controlled by a live player) hunting you down. You run out of time, the loop restarts. You get killed by one of your target’s minions or the rival assassin, the loop restarts. It’s rough, but by discovering and completing objectives that impact your targets in various ways, you might be able to manipulate some of your targets to occasionally share or enter the same zone, allowing you to kill two birds with one stone and get closer to breaking the loop. Of course, figuring out these shortcuts will require a lot of exploration, as well as dying and repeating, but if these puzzles are handled in the same way the “stories,” of the current Hitman games encourage players to revisit and experiment with the same missions over and over again, Deathloop could truly become a huge hit during its timed-exclusivity on thePS5 platform.
Capcom announced via a slick but not very informative trailer that Devil May Cry 5: Special Edition will be available on PS5 digitally on launch day for $39.99 USD and will feature a number of new additions (the most prominent being the addition of Dante’s twin brother Vergil as a playable character). Ray-traced reflections will be in full effect (as hinted by a number of shots in the trailer’s opening) and according to the PlayStation Blog, players can also look forward to enhanced performance modes, a new difficulty mode, spatial audio and more.
Oddworld: Soulstorm was perhaps the one head-scratcher in the showcase lineup, since the new gameplay trailer that was shown did not bring anything new to the table that the previous trailer shown at the June showcase didn’t already accomplish. It’s certain to be a fun and challenging experience for fans of the Oddworld games (Abe’s Odyssey in particular), but aside from reinforcing the game’s darker, grittier tone there wasn’t much else to be gleaned from this return showing.
The next chapter of the Five Nights at Freddy’s franchise: Five Nights at Freddy’s: Security Breach, was teased with an eerie, suspenseful, ray-traced effects-laden trailer in which the player appears to play the role of a young boy trapped inside of a Freddy Fazbear’s Mega City Pizza Plex while a dangerous, malfunctioning AI hunts him down. Not much else was shown aside from the game’s creepy, neon-bathed environments and the series’ trademark closet-monster jumpscare at the end; but after playing this game you’re likely never going to look at a Chuck E. Cheese’s the same way ever again.
Bluepoint Games and Sony Japan Studio’s Demon’s Souls remake was simply a showstopper. It was already a given that the game would look amazing based on the trailer shown at the June Showcase, but this time, thanks to the slower-paced, in-engine opening trailer and the demo itself, we really got a good look at all of it, in both cinematics and gameplay. In just about every aspect one can imagine, Bluepoint and Japan Studio have breathed new life into this classic. Despite its dark and decrepit nature, every corner of the Kingdom of Boletaria now pops with vibrant colour and crisp detail. The animations of your character as you block, parry, take damage and slay your opponents are more fluid and weightier, accentuated by your fighter’s audible grunts, shouts and even cries of pain. The game’s massive bosses are larger, appear more lethal and are genuinely more terrifying than ever.
But what was most noticeable from the trailer beyond all the above however was the speed at which the hero was moving and transitioning from area to area, passing through fog gates and the like. A fog gate transition which used to take at two to three seconds for the player to pass through to new area in the original game now takes only a second, and as a result the speed of the game itself has dramatically increased on the whole. Provided that there wasn’t any trickery that was done in the editing, this was the first stand-out example of the benefits offered by the PS5’s blazingly fast SSD where I immediately could see a noticeable impact (beyond Rachet and Clank: Rift Apart of course). Demon’s Souls is set to release alongside the PS5 on November 12th.
Sony then took a moment to introduce a new game-related PS Plus benefit specifically for PS5 owners called the PlayStation Plus Collection, which is according to the PlayStation Blog is a curated, digital selection of PS4 games that “defined thegeneration”, free to download and play on PS5 for all existing PS Plus members at no extra cost to their monthly subscription. One way of understanding it is that it’s much akin to the PS Plus Instant Games Collection, except that the entire collection of titles is available all at once and is filled with nothing but “Greatest Hits” right offthe bat, instead of the random drip-feed of two games a month that PS Plus ownerscurrently receive on PS4, many of which are fairly mediocre. It’s unclear at this point if this new offering will ultimately grow into a service that can rival Xbox GamePass, but at the very least it will give PS5-owning Plus members plenty of content toplay once the lean release months of winter eventually arrive.
Finally, the “one more quick look” was just a teaser, but what was teased was easilyone of the most important sequels in Sony’s upcoming roster that had yet to be formally announced. Today, PlayStation made it official, indicating that a follow-up to Sony Santa Monica Studio’s critically acclaimed God of War soft reboot from 2018is incoming, with the now familiar “Norse-stylized” Omega symbol and the cryptic words “Ragnarök is Coming”, followed by the number “2021.” Kratos’ arrival on PS5 of course was inevitable, but now fans of the franchise can boast yet one more Sony exclusive to justify their next-generation console purchase.