Most press conferences at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) begin with a bang – or maybe some explosions or robots.
On Monday night, however, Sony began its 90-minute show with a look at “The Last Guardian,” a game in which a young boy traverses a ruined landscape with an expressive creature – a giant griffin-like figure that whimpered, pouted and acted like a caretaker.
It was a rather friendly opening to an E3 press conference.
The festivities unofficially began Sunday night in Hollywood with a bloody hour from Bethesda and continued this morning with an extended look at Microsoft’s Xbox One slate. Among the games showcased at the latter were “Halo 5: Guardians,” the latest in the “Tomb Raider” franchise and the wistful-looking “Beyond Eyes,” a game about a young blind child.
More than ever, E3 captures an industry increasingly split between large, violent blockbusters and smaller, thoughtful indie-minded experiences. Though E3 doesn’t officially launch until Tuesday afternoon, indications are that this year’s game lineup is a bit broader – and more diverse – than that of recent years. Microsoft, for instance, early in its press conference unveiled the exclusive “ReCore,” a game that appears to star a woman and her adorable pet robot.
Sony surprised fans at Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena with an unveiling of the long-awaited “The Last Guardian,” a game in the works from famed video game designer Fumito Ueda ("Shadow of the Colossus") and once destined for the last generation PlayStation 3.
Boasting muted colors that looked rather earthy, “The Last Guardian's” clip centered on boy and creature working together to traverse once-elaborate ruins, ending with a breathtaking scene in which the child appeared to miss a jump to his pal, only to capture the animal’s tail and swing wildly around the landscape.
Sony also put indies front and center early in the night, including multiple titles from Devolver Digital as well as Hello Games’ “No Man Sky,” an atmospheric space simulator. The company’s Sean Murray attempted to show the expanse of the universe, zeroing in on a battle and then zooming out to showcase seemingly hundreds of galaxies. In seconds he landed, and then moments later was underwater.
The night got even more abstract. Alex Evans from Media Molecule introduced a game he described as “a moving painting,” and one he hopes to capture the sensation of dreaming. The company, known for “Tearaway” and “Little Big Planet,” indicated the game would emphasize motion controls, and it looked to be a surreal experience in which an old man – or was it an old dog? – could be seen playing the piano.
At times, "Dreams" looked a bit claymation-like. Polar bears glided on icy glaciers, flying cars dodged lasers and stuffed animal-like creatures battled what appeared to be evil vegetables. Where the game goes from here is anyone's guess, but it may as well be the world of René Magritte sprung to life.
Among the other titles Sony showcased were a new “Hitman,” a clip from “Assassin’s Creed Syndicate,” a look at the cutesy “World of Final Fantasy” and multiple titles from Sony’s Project Morpheus virtual reality headset, sure to be, along with the Oculus Rift, one of the talks of the Los Angeles Convention Center.
There was also lots of "Star Wars."
Patrick Bach of Electronic Arts' Dice Studios discussed the game's single and co-player renditions of "Star Wars: Battlefront." In single player mode, the game will allow players to relive iconic battles from the "Star Wars" films -- old and new. On the Sony stage, Bach showed off footage of hectic blaster fire on a desert landscape.
There was some immediate speculation that this was the now-famous "Battle of Jakku," which will lead into December's "Star Wars: Episode VII -- The Force Awakens" and be available as downloadable content with "Battlefront," as a shot of a downed Imperial ship was reminiscent of one scene in the trailer for "The Force Awakens." The official Electronc Arts YouTube page, however, described it as a battle "in the deserts of Tatooine."
If you're out for a more family-friendly take on "Star Wars," Sony also highlighted the multiplatform "Disney Infinity 3.0," which will feature numerous "Star Wars" missions for purchase.
Sony showed footage of "Infinity's" "Rise Against the Empire" set, which will allow fans to play through battles in the original "Star Wars" trilogy using tiny figures that spring to life in the game when placed on a plastic tray. Footage that aired includes the destruction of the Death Star, a high-kicking Princess Leia, a glimpse of Boba Fett and a rather toy-ish take on the Millennium Falcon.
Sony owners will have first dibs on the plastic Boba Fett "Infinity" figurine. At least through the holidays, Boba Fett will be a Sony exclusive.
The night closed with a lengthy look at a bloody battle from "Uncharted 4: A Thief's End." Players watched as the star of the series, Nathan Drake, entered a street crowded with vendors after opening a mysterious-looking temple door with his pal Sully.
The clip quickly got chaotic as gunfire soon erupted, but it also showed a game that fluidly moved indoors, outdoors, up stairwells, on rooftops and down roads. Vans crashed into buildings, and Drake battled equally with guns and fists. Though this game features an older Drake, he was moving surprisingly well, knocking down an enemy and catching his opponent's gun on the fly.
The clip was full of one-liners, and despite the fact that Drake created lots of damage, Sully still took time out to encourage Drake not to run over civilians. While the night opened with the meditative "The Last Guardian," Sony kept it loud as the evening came to an end. Here's betting the rest of the week at the Los Angeles Convention Center isn't exactly a quiet one either.