When drafting our Sony E3 predictions for this year’s show, we were more or less on the money. Sure, we didn’t get everything right, but if there’s one thing we were pretty certain of it was that The Last of Us Part II would get little to no time.
Having made an impactful debut during last year’s PSX in December, many PlayStation fans naturally assumed the sequel would feature prominently during Sony’s E3 presser. It didn’t. In fact, there was nothing shown or said during that conference that even acknowledged its existence. And that was totally the right thing to do.
Not everyone seems to think so and it was long after Sony’s spectacular Spider-Man demo that disgruntled fans began to vent their frustrations. In response Naughty Dog creative director, Neil Druckmann gave a solid reason for not showing The Last of Us Part II.
Believe me, we’re super excited to show you more of Ellie and Joel’s 2nd journey, but right now it’s Chloe and Nadine’s time to shine.
— Neil Druckmann (@Neil_Druckmann) June 13, 2017
That’s actually a good decision on an awful lot of levels. Familiarity breeds contempt, and for those that keep tabs on gaming news, a lot of marketing strategies seem to be geared towards building up as much
contempt familiarity as possible, with ceaseless barrages of trailers. It’s a real sore spot for many fans that trailers for film and video games start to delve too deeply into a game’s story, giving the perception that everything has already been shown, that it’s been laid bare before you.
It also makes a lot of sense when you consider it from Sony’s perspective as a whole. Uncharted: The Lost Legacy is shaping up to be a fantastic standalone chapter in the PlayStation series yet, being a smaller-sized game, needs as much exposure as it can get. Stick it right next to The Last of Us Part II and it may as well be invisible to a lot of people.
That same principle can be applied to most of Sony’s line-up, to the point that even God of War, with its bold new story and open world setting, could be overshadowed by what many would consider to be the industry’s most highly anticipated sequel.
Update: It’s now been stated that God of War is not, in fact, open world, but rather has wider level design while still being linear.
You also need to factor in a growing sense of homogeneity through Sony’s line up. Over the last couple of years, they’ve been dabbling with post-apocalyptic themes an awful lot, whether it’s with Horizon Zero Dawn or Days Gone. Alongside the rest of the zombie-obsessed industry, there’s only so many ways that you can paint a world that’s being reclaimed by nature and makeshift human settlements, after all.
Days Gone in particular needs the space to stand out on its own. When it made its debut last year, it took quite a while for anyone to realise that it wasn’t some kind of The Last of Us spin-off. There feels like there’s an awful lot of similarities between the two, even beyond the prevalent themes of entropy, zombie-like creatures, and rugged lead characters.
Days Gone made a good impression during its E3 stage demo this year, and the below follow-up commentated slice of gameplay at E3 was able to show off a lot more dynamism and depth in its gameplay than it had been given before. This is an open world, and the ways you can interact with it are many, whether you bait the Freakers into attacking the camp or decide to take a quieter approach, while the changeable weather conditions affect the number of Freakers and other people you might run into.
There’s an interesting game building up, but the similarities at a glance mean that Sony need to try and keep a gap between the two. That may be somewhat problematic as they are developed in parallel. Sony readily admitted that they announced The Last of Us Part II very early in its development, but where many of last year’s E3 announcements were handed a 2018 release window at this year’s show, Days Gone was not.
That’s great in terms of Bend Studios being afforded the time to finish and polish the game they want to create, but means that it could start to become tricky to give both these AAA exclusives their own time to shine.