Sony E3 2018: 5 best and 5 worst reveals

Sony's E3 press conference is always a gamble. Look at this year, for example. On one hand, the company heads to video gaming's biggest trade event with the number one console and an early contender for Game of the Year, this spring's God of War, under its belt. On the other, Sony always has the second-to-last press conference of the conference. By then, many of the year's big third-party games have already made their debuts, and after a full day of watching presentations people are starting to get tired. If Sony really wants to impress people, they've got to pull out all of the stops.

So, did they? Well, kind of. While the presentation was certainly odd — we're pretty sure that this is the first time a company broke for intermission 15 minutes into an E3 presser — the games themselves looked fantastic. E3 2018 wasn't Sony's most explosive conference (while watching, it was hard to escape the feeling that the PlayStation 4's days are numbered), but if you're one of the PlayStation faithful, you've still got a lot to be excited about. At E3, Sony proved it.

BEST: The Last of Us Part II hits (almost) all of the right notes

Sony's E3 presentation got off to a rocky start. It opened in a makeshift church tent, leading to a very odd vibe, while the tiny stage and screen looked downright quaint after the previous two days' arena-scale presentations. The less said about the venue's lighting, sound, and seating options, the better.

Once The Last of Us Part II's presentation started, though, things began to click. That church crammed tent full of overheated gaming journalists? It was a recreation of one of The Last of Us Part II's environments — specifically, it's where Ellie, all grown up, engages in a full-lipped kiss with Nina, a fellow churchgoer. That's a gutsy move especially given how controversial the merest hint of Ellie's sexuality in The Last of Us: Left Behind led to some expected (but still disappointing) controversy. Of course, the romantic moment was immediately followed by Ellie stabbing someone in the throat, but still, good on Sony and Naughty Dog for sticking to its guns.

The rest of The Last of Us Part II reveal looked great (and horrifically violent) as well. Stealth-based combat looks just as harrowing as before. The banter between characters, good or otherwise, still puts the dialogue in other games to shame. We even got a hint as to what Joel's been up to: one of Ellie's new friends refers to her "old man," and doesn't seem particularly fond of him. If you liked The Last of Us, the sequel looks like it's going to be more of the same. Like they say, if it's not broke…

WORST: Game announcements on the post-show

When Sony Interactive Entertainment America president Shawn Layden kicked off the press conference, he noted that Sony wanted to do things a little differently in 2018. That meant fewer big reveals and quick trailers, and more deep dives into some of the PlayStation 4's upcoming titles. That worked out well for The Last of Us Part II, Death Stranding, and the rest of Sony's core line-up, but it meant that other games got the short shrift.

Déraciné, a brand new game from From Software — you know, the people who make Dark freakin' Souls — didn't even make the show. It wasn't announced until after the presentation ended, and the video feed cut to the post-show panel. Now, to be fair, Déraciné doesn't look much like the Souls games. It's a virtual reality game that's got something to do with fairies. Still, like From's other offerings, Déraciné is moody and evocative. We'd like to know more. Besides, its trailer is only two minutes long. That really couldn't fit into the press conference itself?

All in all, Déraciné's muted debut is Sony's E3 2018 event in a nutshell: an interesting, promising game gets slightly overshadowed by Sony's bizarre production choices.

BEST: The Resident Evil 2 remake exists — and it's coming very soon

Seven months. That's how long you're going to have to wait before you get your hands on the long-promised Resident Evil 2 remake. Not only is that a lot faster than anyone expected, but, spoiler alert: the game looks great.

After all, Resident Evil 2 remains one of the best games in Capcom's long-running, zombie-killing franchise. It's the game that introduced players to fan-favorites Claire Redfield, Leon Kennedy, and Ada Wong. It's the one that made Raccoon City one of the franchise's main supporting characters, and the Resident Evil game that feels the most like the George Romero movies that inspired the entire franchise. The Resident Evil 2 remake looks like it's going to keep all of that while also adding in Resident Evil 7 first-person sections, as well as an over-the-shoulder viewpoint a la Resident Evil 4. No confusing pre-defined camera angles here.

Oh, and also? The new Resident Evil 2 looks scary. Like, legitimately scary. Face it, the original Resident Evil 2 can be a little campy. Don't expect that the second time around. Capcom looks like its applying the lessons it learned making Resident Evil 7 to its latest remake, although the cannibal rednecks are taking some time off. In the Resident Evil 2 remake, zombies are still the threat of the day, as they very much should be.

WORST: Days Gone has yet to make a compelling case for itself

Days Gone has been a major part of Sony's annual E3 conference since 2016, when Sony's Bend, Oregon studio unveiled the open world action-adventure game. In 2018, though? Nada. Last year, a lengthy demo highlighted both the game's stealth-based gameplay and a zombie bear. This year, the game only appeared in a brief video sandwiched between the two halves of Sony's event, and was mostly used to fill time while the audience shuffled from one theater to another.

That's bizarre, especially given that Days Gone has a release date, which is more than we can say about The Last of Us Part II, Death Stranding, Ghosts of Tsushima, and many of the other games featured at Sony's conference. We'd be lying if we said we weren't worried. Members of the press weren't exactly gushing after recent hands-on demonstrations, and the game comes out in less than a year. That Sony isn't giving Days Gone a major spotlight doesn't bode well.

It doesn't help that Days Gone hasn't done much to differentiate itself from similar games, either. The Pacific Northwest setting is fun and the biker gang-aesthetic is a nice twist, but so far, Deacon St. John's adventure looks awfully familiar. We've played open-world games before. We've slayed more than our share of zombies. Both are fun, but Days Gone is going to need to do something new if it wants to keep our attention.

BEST: Remedy's P7 gets a real name, and it looks cool as heck

Nobody was talking about Control before E3 started. They'll definitely be talking about it after it ends. The latest game from Remedy, the studio behind Alan Wake and Quantum Break, may not have the name recognition of Sony's bigger franchises, but Control held its own on a stage that hosted heavyweights like Spider-Man and Kingdom Hearts. No matter how you look at it, that's impressive.

Technically, E3 2018 wasn't the first time that we'd heard about Control. The game had been revealed a year or so ago with the codename P7, and was described at the time as a "third-person action game … [with] a long-lasting, story-driven gameplay experience and the deepest game mechanics yet in a Remedy game." That's not much. Now, we know that Control is about Jesse Faden, head of a secret government agency, who's investigating an "otherworldly threat." As per Remedy tradition, Faden uses guns, but she can also employ "supernatural abilities" like telekinesis to change her environment and defeat her foes.

Just watch that trailer. It's madness, pure and simple. For the most part, Control is still shrouded in mystery — the stuff that we don't know far outweighs the stuff that we do — but over the years, Remedy has proven that they're good with a mystery. We look forward to solving this one.

WORST: Dreams appears, but only kind of

Sony employed two real-life musicians to break up the action during its annual press conference, but for the most part, the presentation's musical interstitials were handled by animated characters who banged out brief tunes between gaming videos. They were short, quirky, and wildly unnecessary, but fun anyway. They were also all made using Dreams, the upcoming sandbox game from Media Molecule.

That's really cool, especially given that Dreams' main hook is how easy the game makes it to create any kind of art you can imagine. It's also a wasted opportunity. Sony representatives didn't actually reveal the videos' origins until, you guessed it, the post-show, away from the bulk of the on-site press and well after most viewers had closed to the stream.

Once Sony got talking, the panelists gushed about how fun and easy it was to create the short musical numbers using Media Molecule's creation tools, and emphasized that, with Dreams, players could achieve similar results. There's this old rule about not telling when you could show, however. Dreams has been around since 2015. It's well past time for a deeper look.

BEST: Death Stranding's cast gets better and better (and the game gets weirder and weirder)

In 2018, Sony and Kojima Productions finally pulled back the curtain on Death Stranding. During Sony's E3 presentation, we met new characters played by Lindsay Wagner and Léa Seydoux, got a small glimpse into the game's overarching story, and even got our very first glimpse of gameplay. That's much, much more than we've seen before. The latest video is eight minutes long, after all. All that video has got to tell us something.

According to Sony's E3 video, The Walking Dead's Norman Reedus plays a courier named Sam who moves cargo through the wilderness (babies are involved — see, Sam is a "delivery man" — because Kojima isn't above a truly groan-worthy pun). He's also stalked by an invisible monster, carries around a photo of his family (or is it?), and needs help from Léa Seydoux's character, who wears a jacket with retractable spikes and wields one spectacularly impractical umbrella. There are floating creatures that Sam must avoid using stealth-based gameplay and lots of mountains to climb. It's all very moody.

And yet, in true Death Stranding fashion, all of these answers just raise more questions. It's been years, and we still don't know what's going on. We're also not sure that it matters. Death Stranding's stars don't know what's going on in the game either, and they still signed up. We should probably do the same.

WORST: Poor Nioh

Nioh 2 made its public debut during Sony's E3 event, and the audience rightfully cheered. They should've. The first Nioh is one of the best games on the PlayStation 4, merging Dark Souls-like combat with feudal Japan to great effect. The Nioh team deserves all the applause they can get, and we're excited to return to Team Ninja's dark, samurai-filled world.

We can't help but be a little worried, though. See, Nioh 2 has some pretty stiff competition. For one, Sony has its own samurai-themed action game coming out. Ghosts of Tsushima got a major spotlight during the conference, and wowed viewers with both its engaging swordplay and absolutely gorgeous environments. Secondly (and far more importantly), a day earlier, From Software — the people who actually made Dark Souls — and Microsoft announced their own samurai-tinged Souls-like, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice.

That's bad timing for Nioh 2, especially given that Team Ninja flat-out admits that Dark Souls was a major influence on the first game. It's hard to imagine anyone choosing Nioh 2 when they can play something similar from the man who literally invented the genre. We're not the only ones who noticed the similarities, and if you factor in the sudden glut of samurai games coming to market (remember, Ubisoft's From Honor features samurai, too), it looks like Nioh 2 has a rough road ahead of it.

BEST: All the classic Spidey villains

Peter Parker hasn't always had the best time in either the movies or in video games, but recently things have been looking up for the friendly neighborhood web-slinger. Spider-Man: Homecoming effortlessly introduced Spider-Man into the wider Marvel Cinematic Universe (his final scene in Avengers: Infinity War is still one of the movie's most memorable moments), while Sony's PlayStation 4-exclusive Spider-Man looks better every time that we see it.

While Spider-Man's basic gameplay was heavily featured at E3 2018, this year's outing focused on the villains. The Vulture, Rhino, Electro, and the Scorpion — the gang's all here, and they're all out to make Spidey's life a living hell. We couldn't be more pleased. From the look of things, Spider-Man is borrowing from every era of Spidey's history to create something that feels classic without coming across as dated.

That's the right approach. There's no reason to ignore some of the great modern additions to the Spider-Man canon — as we've seen, Mr. Negative plays a big role in the game —  but the old Stan Lee, Steve Ditko, and John Romita Sr. joints still have a lot of power. This way, we get the best of both worlds. September can't come soon enough.

WORST: Everything that didn't make the cut

Hoping to catch a glimpse of the Final Fantasy VII Remake that Square Enix teased three years ago? You wanted to learn more about Concrete Genie or Left Alive? Well, with any luck, you weren't too excited. Those games — plus a bunch of others — didn't show up for Sony's E3 conference or any other major E3 event. Yes, the games that we did see were great, but that doesn't mean that other titles weren't conspicuously missing.

Heck, even PlayStation VR — you know, the major piece of hardware that Sony launched back in 2016? — only got a couple of mentions during the show. A few trailers during the intermission, a brief look at a new game from one of Rick & Morty's co-creators, and the previously mentioned Déraciné debut during the post-show, and that's pretty much it. Given that Sony Worldwide Studios president confidently predicted that "everyone will … be using VR" by 2020 (not to mention all of the money that Sony invested in developing and marketing the platform), that's pretty surprising.

Or, to put it another way: Red Dead Redemption 2 wasn't there at all. Given that Sony and Rockstar Games are partnering to create exclusive PlayStation 4 content for the game, it seemed like a shoo-in. But no. Red Dead Redemption skipped every single major E3 press conference, including Sony's, even though it's poised to be 2018's biggest hit. That is, in a word, crazy.