Sony has been doing the thing it usually does, which is quietly cribbing ideas from Nintendo. That’s a joke. But now that the September 2019 State of Play has come and gone, Sony seems to still be figuring it out. While the format has mostly stayed the same, PlayStation’s parent company has been doing what it can to make State of Play stand out more. This time, that included an attempt at a megaton bomb using Naughty Dog’s latest, a totally botched stealth drop, and more insistence that the PSVR is still totally a thing. So without further ado, here’s the best and worst of Sony’s September 24, 2019 State of Play presentation.
Nintendo Direct, as a format, is mostly figured out at this point. While Nintendo was a bit more creative with it in the early days, with goofy skits and other distractions from the failing Wii U, these days it’s more of a streamlined info dump. But one thing that’s most important is that Nintendo has taken to being more upfront about what to expect from each presentation and what the main event might be. That was the case with this State of Play, with everyone going into it knowing that some new The Last of Us: Part II stuff was coming.
Unfortunately, the Japanese PlayStation Store accidentally spoiled one of the major surprises, which was a stealth launch of playable demo for the MediEvil remake. The demo briefly went live earlier on September 24, 2019 and, while it was quickly removed, everyone who pays attention still saw it. Naturally, the demo was announced and came out, and that’s still pretty cool. MediEvil will be kind of a hard sell, despite the floating nostalgia for it (hence the low price point), but a demo is a nice showing of goodwill and perhaps more importantly, confidence.
While the consistent presence of PSVR titles in the States of Play has been great, Sony kind of dropped the ball in this presentation. The only game that was really focused on was a janky-looking L.A. Noire spin-off from Rockstar Games. I understand the name value of Rockstar, and it was another stealth release, so it had that going for it. But L.A. Noire is a weird property that Rockstar seems to be tossing at random platforms, but not doing much of note with. This feels like pity software, rather than something that could be a big deal. And all the other titles were shown off in a reel, making anything that could be more interesting slip by unnoticed.
Finally, we got to The Last of Us: Part II. We got a new trailer elaborating on the story a bit, along with a pair of special reveals. One is a returning character from the first game (an obvious one–Joel is back), and the other is the February 20, 2020 release date. Considering how careful Naughty Dog has been since the Uncharted 4 debacle (not really an actual debacle), it’s probably safe to assume this is the true release date. The relative radio silence on The Last of Us: Part II, combined with a heavily-advertised press event that started on the same day as the State of Play, both served as evidence.
I wasn’t really into the story setup, though. It had already been hinted that something bad would be happening to Ellie’s apparent love interest, and in this trailer we saw that we’ll be experiencing that something in gruesome fashion. It seems like this is, on the surface, a revenge story as Ellie seeks justice for her partner against a mysterious group of baddies. That’s a really boilerplate and disappointing framing for this sequel. That storyline was a cliché ten years ago and now it’s more disappointing because, instead of a powerful queer relationship in a major release, it’s just more revenge angst. Hopefully there are some big twists and turns in store for Ellie that will right this ship.
As far as State of Plays go so far, this one was not very interesting. There was some neat stuff, but it was a short presentation focusing on games we mostly already knew about. I’m excited to try out the MediEvil demo, but release date announcements aren’t that exciting anymore when great games are constantly coming out. I’m also not buying what The Last of Us: Part II is trying to sell me yet and am hoping for a bit more before I think about boarding the hype train. In short, I’m glad Sony is trying new things, but the time period between console cycles may not be the best for a regular feed of presentations.