Naughty Dog Saves the Day Once Again for Sony at PSX 2016
While reviewing yesterday’s PlayStation Experience 2016 keynote, it occurred to me that Naughty Dog once again acted as the savior for Sony’s otherwise fairly unremarkable showcase.
That is not to say there weren’t a few exciting trailers, but those happened to be mostly from third-party developers such as Bandai Namco’s Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom and Ace Combat 7 or Capcom’s Resident Evil VII: Biohazard and Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite, some of which are not full-fledged exclusives for PlayStation 4.
Meanwhile, several of the biggest first-party developers at Sony were conspicuously absent from the PlayStation Experience 2016 event. For instance, many fans thought it could have been the perfect venue to reveal the next game by Sucker Punch Productions since they have been silent for over two years after the releases of Infamous: Second Son and First Light, but that was not the case.
We were already aware that the new God of War game by Sony Santa Monica would not appear at PSX 2016. However, even Media Molecule’s Dreams, Sony Bend’s Days Gone, Insomniac’s Spider-Man and Quantic Dream’s Detroit: Become Human were nowhere to be found. WipEout: Omega Collection caused a huge positive outburst of energy among fans at first, but it’s ultimately just a collection of three old games (WipEout HD, Fury, and 2048 remastered for the occasion in dynamic 4K & HDR) rather than a brand new game. The same can be said about the remasters of PaRappa The Rapper, Patapon and LocoRoco – these games aren’t going to set the world on fire, especially after the wave of remastered productions we received over this generation’s course. At most, they can rekindle the nostalgia factor of those gamers who enjoyed them when they were first launched.
One remake that PlayStation fans were actually hoping to see was Final Fantasy VII Remake, which was last showcased at PlayStation Experience 2015. Square Enix isn’t merely updating the visuals with the Unreal Engine 4 in this case but the combat is also being reworked into real-time. As a result, FFVII Remake will probably feel like a whole new game with the same story and characters, just like creator Hironobu Sakaguchi recently noted. However, even this highly anticipated PlayStation 4 exclusive title completely missed the event.
Another exclusive that has been missing in action for a while is Michel Ancel’s Wild, which is a pity as it looked very original. Perhaps Ancel is now too busy with Beyond Good & Evil 2, though.
Japan Studio did announce a new game, Knack 2, though the original wasn’t exactly a masterpiece of sorts and the sequel’s biggest addition seems to be the addition of two player co-op mode. Polyphony Digital brought a new trailer for GT Sport, but the release date was disappointingly still pinned for a generic 2017 after the game was supposed to launch in 2016.
So it was up to Naughty Dog, Sony Worldwide Studios’ prized golden goose, to make ends meet in this showcase. And they did, once again, thanks to Uncharted: The Lost Legacy and The Last of Us Part II.
It is no coincidence that the two game trailers started and ended the PlayStation Experience 2016 keynote. The folks at Sony were well aware that these were the heavy hitters in their arsenal and they decided to position them strategically.
Naughty Dog didn’t disappoint. They never do and this time around, they brought a mix of old and new characters. With Nathan Drake’s story finally over, some had speculated that Uncharted 4’s single player DLC could have starred his brother Sam and Sully; Naughty Dog surprised everyone with Chloe Frazer and Nadine Ross and the fans’ initial reaction has been extremely positive. Chloe is a long-time fan-favorite who was completely missing from Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End and she and Nadine already look like the perfect dynamic duo.
Of course, the single biggest reveal was The Last of Us Part II. We’ll have to wait at least a couple years to play it in all likelihood, but seeing Joel and Ellie once again was heartwarming for all those who fell in love with these characters three years ago.
While the Uncharted saga established Naughty Dog once and for all as a big-time studio, The Last of Us elevated them to the Olympus of game developers alongside a handful of peers (in my opinion, CD Projekt RED, Rockstar Games and Arkane Studios). The post-apocalyptic action/adventure game was a revelating experience mostly due to this incredible connection between Joel and Ellie, who turned out to be the most striking characters I’ve seen to this day in a videogame. This made The Last of Us a special game and in my opinion, one of the best ever made.
Needless to say, I can’t wait to dive into this sequel. The real question though is whether in the meantime any internally produced PlayStation exclusive will even come close to attaining a similar success to Naughty Dog’s titles.
Guerrilla’s Horizon: Zero Dawn has probably the best shot. But it’s doubtless that so far PlayStation 4 exclusives have often disappointed with delays and failures (The Last Guardian is only about to be released after ten years of development; Sony Santa Monica didn’t launch a single PlayStation 4 game yet; Polyphony’s Gran Turismo 6 failed and GT Sport keeps getting delayed), while the developers at Naughty Dog singlehandedly hold the ground for Sony when it comes to consistently delivering quality titles.