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V for Victory?: Thoughts on select games from the PlayStation 5 Reveal event, including the console itself

Here are all the PlayStation 5 games announced at the console's ...

Image from Mobile Syrup (Can you spot the V?)

Nearly seven years have passed since the PlayStation 4 launched and helped bring Sony back to first place in the never-ending console wars, a bitter, divisive conflict that Nintendo and Sega began back in the 1980s.

Microsoft’s terrible first impressions with their third console, the Xbox One, hindered its success. To be fair, based on having bought one last year to replace my dying 360 and play the fifth Gears of War, it’s by no means a bad machine in its current state. A lack of killer exclusives and definable difference from Sony’s fourth kept it from achieving the glory Microsoft heavily fought for.

Even Nintendo has managed the impossible and become competitive again despite still lacking behind in graphics due to the novelty of the portable Switch and having a killer lineup of first party titles, which they rarely disappoint in as well as being surprisingly welcoming to the independent development sphere.

But now, in this time of economic, political and even societal uncertainty, the gaming industry pushes forward into the future. Nintendo, due to releasing the Switch in 2017, seems to be staying put rather than pursuing a successor.

Microsoft has already unveiled their next, fourth console, the Xbox Series X, before the PS5, showcased games running on their reportedly powerful system, relying more than ever on the horsepower that comes with the PC setup. Sure, the graphics for their games do look great, such as for the next Halo game, but there is a frustrating lack of gameplay being demonstrated.

Sony, after a very long wait in both showing off games and their console, have finally done so around the time that E3 would’ve happened. If it wasn’t for one hell of a respiratory illness going on a worldwide tour.

Was the wait worth it for me? Very much so. Unlike Microsoft, Sony actually bothered to show you actual gameplay along with the graphics. Both the Series X and the PS5 don’t seem that different visually from the current generation. That can be excused from how lifelike and detailed games have overtime become due to there being less graphical leaps left to jump to.

The focus is on making everything from this generation look bigger, more detailed and best of all consistent in performance. Gorgeously realized worlds with less frame-rate slip-ups, faster, even non-existent loading times. An ever more immersive audio/visual experience.

Sony has made a stronger argument for me than Microsoft that the PS5 will be the system to do all that and maybe a little more. I am open to the Xbox having compelling counterarguments, however.

The following are a selection of games that stood out to me to look out for down the road. Note: not all of these games are exclusive to the PS5. Some will be available on the Series X and PC and will be clarified as such. Ironically, the game that got me most giddy is a multi-platform release, but considering that game’s series history with the PlayStation, I am viewing it as a PS title first.

Spider-man: Miles Morales (exclusive/launch title)

 

Image from BGR (The other man behind the spider-mask has arrived.)

Despite their long-term gargantuan success, PlayStations aren’t known for having strong launch titles. It’s usually a year before anything worthwhile comes along to bolster the system as was especially the case with the PS2.

A year after its Fall 2000 launch, the console recieved Grand Theft Auto III, Silent Hill 2, Metal Gear Solid 2, Devil May Cry, Grand Turismo 3, Jak and Dexter, Final Fantasy X, and cult classic Ico. What a season to be a PS fan.

If there was a good day one PlayStation title, it was Resistance: Fall of Man for the PS3 in 2006. Sadly, Resistance was the only game for a super expensive console with little else going for it compared to the much cheaper Xbox 360 that released their own killer app at the same time that came to generally define their system: Gears of War. Oops.

However, though the exact release date is not known for the PS5, Spider-Man: Miles Morales will be coming out this holiday season to improve the record as the semi-successor to the hit 2018 PS4 Spider-Man game.

At first I thought that this was the full blown sequel to Insomniac Games’ Spidey-simulator. Apparently, it is a smaller scale spin-off that does continue to some extent the story from the first, centering on newcomer Miles, who was introduced in the original as either Peter’s successor or fellow crimefighter.

It still acts as a beautiful tech demonstration for the PS5 and I think it will be meaty enough an experience to justify it’s selling price. Its setting at Christmas time gives both a visual change of pace from the autumn setting of the original game while tying in with both the game and console’s release period.

I don’t really expect much different gameplay wise except for utilizing Miles’ distinct abilities separate from Peter’s, like an electric spider-zap and the ability to turn invisible, which helps out when sneaking around and snatching up crooks, just like flies.

Following the success of Miles’ animated, cinematic introduction to a wider audience in 2018’s incredible Into the Spider-Verse, released the same year as Spider-Man PS4, it has never been a better time to get to know Miles as the second most important wall-crawler out there. Poor Ben Reilly gets shafted once again.

Just in case you’re wondering who Ben Reilly is, he’s best known for being in the Clone Saga, the most hated Spider-Man comic story arc ever. That’s all you need to know as far as I’m concerned.

Speaking of Insomniac Games….

Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart (Exclusive)

Image from Eurogamer (Clank and alternate dimension equivalent of Ratchet)

I’ll be honest, I’m not a fan of this series. I have a friend whose brother loves this series and there a few charms here and there but Ratchet and Clank has never been a serious reason for me to own any PlayStation.

I did play the well recieved 2016 soft reboot/remake of the 2002 original. I thought it was okay and visually spectacular, a great showcase of the PS4’s then cutting edge looks.

Ratchet and Clank was part of not two but three distinct franchises meant to appeal to younger audiences during the PS2 era.

There was Jak and Dexter, made by Naughty Dog, which mildly matured that series to a T for Teen audience with its first sequel. There was Sly Cooper by Sucker Punch which was a PG-rated anthropoid-animals series of sneaking and heisting games, which had you play as that world’s greatest thief, a,well, sly raccoon.

Ratchet and Clank was a Pixar/Dreamworks inspired sci-fi comedy adventure where the alien Ratchet and his straight-man robot Clank went on zany adventures which involved a very creative arsenal of weapons to wreak cartoon carnage against evil-doers. Insomniac, both in R&C and in Resistance, has a real knack for making your tools very fun to use.

What distances me from being a fan is that the humor meant for all ages can be incredibly hit or miss. On occasion, R&C’s quips and cracks can be funny. Most of the time, it falls flat or can be downright cringe-inducing. On the narrative and humor level, Ratchet and Clank is more Dreamworks or Illumination than Pixar. Graphically, it is peak Pixar level, especially now.

What makes Ratchet and Clank’s first PS5 excursion worthy of mention is the creative jumping-through-multiple-universes angle and how it can actually affect the gameplay options as well. There could very well be some new fun toys to play with and of course it looks very pretty to play through. Another way of the PS5 to show off, especially in a manner that is safe for the whole family.

Project Athia (exclusive, though rumored to also go to PC)

Image from PCGamesN (As you might tell, prepare to live your Poison Ivy fantasies.)

So, this short trailer opens with a bunch of words suited for a trailer from that one guy back in the day who often opened with “In a world where…” and so and so.

Not a terribly good impression, but then you see a very small handful of gameplay showing this mysterious young woman jumping super fast on a series of mountain peaks and then trapping a giant wolf with a bunch of vines bursting from the ground. OK, you have my attention in the right way now.

There really isn’t a whole lot more to say based on the little I’ve seen, suggesting a game in early development. Based on the title, that may not even be the final name for the game.

Also, despite the trailer boasting of this being designed exclusively for the PlayStation 5, the web article from where I got the above image stated that Project Athia may also be heading for PC as well. If that’s true, than that undercuts how special this game may be for the PS crowd. Oh well.

Stray (PS4,PS5,PC)

Image from Den of Geek (AAAAWWWWWWWW!!!!!!!)

Being published by AnnaPurrna Interactive, this apparent indie game didn’t seem that interesting to me at first. More post-human than post-apocalyptic, the world is now inhabited by humanoid robots who seem, based on one piece of graffiti, sad about the extinction of humanity. Their faces remind me of early-mid 80s computer monitors and their behavior is strikingly human as well, extending to featuring robo-barbers and robo-homeless people.

However, it is the consistent presence of a single cat traversing through the city full of robots to the point where before you see the game’s logo, you figure out the real star of the game is that adorable orange,tabby cat, wearing what seems to be some tech-like backpack for some probable gameplay purpose.

Just the idea of playing as a cat exploring a post-human world is already signing me up to play it for myself. If I’m being brutally honest, this world doesn’t seem that bleak.

Sure, my species is gone and replaced with robots, but feline-kind has survived. I think both are going to be superior stewards to the planet than us, so this is actually an optimistic piece of speculative interactive fiction for me, disguised as a dystopia.

Ghostwire: Tokyo (Also for PC, console exclusive for PS5)

Image from PlayStation Blog (I ain’t afraid of no ghost.)

Last year at Bethesda’s E3 press conference, Tango Gamework’s newest title Ghostwire:Tokyo, made its debut. What’s important to clarify is that Tango was founded and run by Shinji Mikami, the creator of the Resident Evil series and the guy who coined “survival horror” for RE’s genre, if not invent but popularize.

Tango started off with The Evil Within series, which was Mikami’s spiritual successor to the franchise he founded back in 1996. While not the most popular or well-regarded games, they did give Mikami’s new studio a strong enough foothold.

Perhaps that is paying off with a new game that is less about surviving the horror than getting right up in its face and martial-arts beating the crap out of it. All, unexpectedly, in first person.

Japanese-mythos inspired spirits have taken over Tokyo and most of the city’s massive population has up and disappeared like either God or Thanos localized the rapture or the snap respectively to the one mega-city.

Now, it’s up to some nondescript Japanese dude who wasn’t taken by the ghosts to settle the score. Using some pretty flashy and supernatural martial arts moves as well as a katana, bow and arrow and maybe more, you go right up to the various spooky entities,beat em up and then steal a core from them which I guess contains their soul or essence in order to defeat them.

You also manipulate or “cleanse” the local area with your flashy moves to purge the malevolent presence that has transformed Tokyo into one trippy yet beautiful looking ,shall I say, ghost-town. Come on, how could I resist?

It’s all very intriguing and quite different than the third-person survival action of the Evil Within titles, at least proving that the Tokyo-based developer is willing to think and make games outside of what is expected based on their work.

Death Loop (PS5 console exclusive, PC)

Image from VG247 (Not pictured: Edge of Tomorrow/Groundhog Day inspired first person shooter action with the aesthetic of a groovy blaxplotation movie.)

That description for the image is basically a good description for the game itself. From the studio that delivered the open-ended explore-and-play-your-own-way fun of Dishonored and Prey 2017, comes basically the same tenets of at least the former game but with a chronological twist.

You play as Colt, one badass brother of a guy who is stuck on a visually resplendent but darkly mysterious island called Black Reef. For whatever reason, everyone on the island has one mission when they’re not enjoying themselves with the island’s accommodations: kill Colt.

Colt has a mission as well if he wants to escape the island: find and kill eight individuals who’re responsible for Colt’s imprisonment. All before midnight. There is a huge catch though. If Colt dies and trust me you and him will, he reverts back to the beginning of the night when he washes up on the island.

But he remembers everything. He is stuck in a time-loop as the title suggests and he learns more and more until he can perfect his run, defeat those eight in time and escape. But, there is a catch within a catch within a catch. There’s an enforcer on the island called Julianna whose mission is to be the biggest impediment to Colt’s escape, his primary nemesis in the endless loop.

The interesting part is that Julianna is playable. In a multiplayer component, you control her and enter other player’s games and take down Colt yourself. If that seems unappealing, then you can opt of that option interfering with your playtime and a computer controlled Julianna, ostensibly easier, will hunt Colt and you instead.

It’s all very interesting even if the time-loop concept is familiar. I’ve never quite seen it done in a video-game to this extent and Arkane Studio’s craft in creating eye-catching levels to traverse at your leisure with so many options to get the job done is in full effect.

The weapons themselves are also quite stylish and many of them fit into the early-mid 70s’ blaxplotation atmosphere which is mostly novel for my tastes. There could be some limitation in overall play, based on the time-limit and only ever being in one, albeit large, location to hunt eight targets all at once.

Then again, Arkane’s talent has been in making experiences which aren’t necessarily lengthy, but full of opportunity to go back and do it again in a very different manner. This is one experiment on their earlier games crazy enough to just might work.

Resident Evil :VIIIage (PS5, Xbox Series X, PC)

Image from ComingSoon (From zombies to parasites to mold monsters to werewolves.)

This is one case where the rumors and leaks from a game appear almost entirely accurate. Yet, it doesn’t suck the excitement from me for where the original survival horror series is going next after its 2017 return to roots with the seventh entry.

As Resident Evil returned to earlier entries and re-imagined them to both acclaim, in RE2’s case, and disappointment, this year’s RE3, the people behind the first person seventh game were wondering how to push the foundations of their well regarded return to form. What should they use as inspiration?

Well, how about the beloved Resident Evil 4 from 2005? The game that changed the series into a more action focused experience that ultimately went too far in that direction with the fifth and sixth games. 4 however, managed to balance a genuine horror experience with the action, while also being one of the most rollicking,self aware B-movie experiences possible.

RE8 however, based on its title, is looking at the first and second acts of RE4 as the biggest source for ideas. The first portion of RE4 was in a forest and village section in the most remote,technologically backwards part of Spain imaginable. The potential horror of being a stranger in a hostile,strange land was played to iconic effect there.

Then, by the middle portion, you enter into a castle,or castellen considering the region, filled with macabre, Gothic traps and scares, all while outlasting a Napoleon-looking midget who rules the place. RE4 gets really weird here but in a fun, never breaking up the gameplay/horror balance manner against all odds.

RE8 takes place in a rural, more outlandishly in the past then ever part of Europe, strongly hinted to be Transylvania, Romania of all places. There are no vampires( at least not yet), but there are certainly werewolves and a regal coven of witches to watch out for!

RE8 seems to be taking the visual aesthetic of RE4 and trying to make it a grimmer, less tongue-in-cheek affair. Despite the aforementioned presence of werewolves and witches, it’s important to note that the supernatural does not exist in Resident Evil. It’s all out-there science fiction and pharmaceutical medicine gone horrifically wrong or in the villain’s opinion, horrifically right.

I all but guarantee that every supernatural looking thing, like the werewolves, are the result of the series trademark viruses and parasites used to make monsters referred to in-universe as bio-organic weapons(B.O.W.s).

Furthermore, the more outlandish sights like the giant castle looming over the village, the witches with their magical abilities and even the anachronistically old look to the village and its people could all be a trick of the mind.

Some of the leaks/rumors surrounding RE8 was that part of the newest virus’ effects is hallucinatory. Meaning that a whole lot of what you see as the playable character of Ethan, returning from RE7, isn’t real or highly exaggerated to play on your psyche. The danger however is very real.

It somewhat reminds of the Scarecrow’s fear toxin from Batman and that is an ingenious and overdue way for Resident Evil to try new ways to scare and threaten the player that wasn’t possible before. As for RE4’s ludicrous excesses, you just had to roll with it, which was easy due to how damn good the game was and still is.

Much like a fellow survival horror series Silent Hill ,which is explicitly supernatural and psychological in its horror, much of the horror in Resident Evil VIIIage could come not from the obvious monster coming at you down the hallway or road but in not always being able to trust your own eyes and what exactly you just witnessed.

The trailer for the game ends with series veteran and master B.O.W. slayer Chris Redfield showing up at Ethan’s house and coldly murdering the character’s wife in a seemingly out of character manner. What’s real and what isn’t? That is some new fear for the series and a welcome one at that.

Pragmata (PS5, Xbox Series X, PC)

Image from Rock Paper Shotgun (As you might tell, the world has literally gone topsy turvy.)

What is this game about? Without gameplay, I’ll probably couldn’t tell you to save my life.

I first thought that this was a stealth teaser for of all things, Bioshock 4, which I’ve heard is actually in development. There’s a guy in an advanced looking astronaut suit who scans a road in what might be New York and comes across a mysterious, blue-dressed girl who based on her eyes could be a robot.

Next to the girl is a holographic cat who is partially transparent and seems to be the girl’s friend. As the astronaut tries to greet the girl, all of a sudden the sky glitches out and a satellite falls through a screen that is supposed to be the sky. Gravity at that same time starts going wonky and both the astronaut and girl start floating up towards the descending satellite.

Before the satellite hits them, the girl scans it with her eyes and a 3D-printer like machine on the astronaut’s suit creates a canister for the astronaut to fire with his gun. It forms a rope-bubble around the duo to protect them from getting hit by the satellite and then proceed to fly into the hole the satellite made and fly into outer space, finally somehow landing safely on the surface of the moon.

Once there, they look at the Earth which is upside down and the girl ponders what it is. The astronaut says it’s “Freedom.” End of trailer.

So, I thought it might be something about Bioshock due to that series having big, diving suit fellas called big daddies whose role is to protect creepy girls called little sisters in the underwater city of Rapture.

Ever since 2013’s Bioshock Infinite opened the road to show off alternate universe versions of what amounts to the same general story involving big armored guys protecting mysterious little girls, that is where my hypothesis sprang from.

However, that theory is quickly debunked once I recognize who is publishing and developing the game for a 2022 release: Capcom. Capcom is a Japanese game company with no association with the American Bioshock series, so if there’s a connection, it might as well be visual even thematic influence from those games and nothing else.

Certainly looks cool and the promise of “freedom” from the astronaut along with the ability to seemingly craft whatever you wish from that portable 3D printer does open up some interesting ideas to chew on as to what Pragmata will be two years from now.

Horizon II: Forbidden West (Exclusive)

Image from Future Game Releases (If only the Shire could see us now, Mr. Frodo.)

Horizon: Zero Dawn is viewed as one of the PS4’s most profitable and best exclusives, released back in 2017. It’s intriguing mix of a distant post-apocalyptic future with advanced artificial intelligence taking on the form of animals big and small was one of, if not its most successful selling point.

It was also noted for being a clear example of games embracing more female heroines, especially in a manner that was not clearly sexualizing them. So it came to pass that the legend of Aloy was born, a young, flame-haired warrior/hunter searching for the truth of her world and the dark past that created it. For all the elaborate answers for humanity’s strange new world, yet more await. What to do but go West, young Aloy.

I was not the biggest fan of Horizon: Zero Dawn though I did appreciate its great graphics as well as the AI-animal ecosystem that Aloy learned to manipulate both for her survival and for fun. The overall story and the Hero’s Journey theme surrounding Aloy were less compelling to me.

Aloy never fully clicked with me as a character though the attempt by the developers to do so did feel genuine. Her being a vessel for the player to learn the truth of the world more than anything else made her passable. But there is yet room for her to grow and perhaps Horizon II: Forbidden West will bring me around to actually liking her.

It is a great sign of the times, at least for video games, that what is a pre-rendered trailer and what is actually indicative of being powered by the PS5 is impossible to distinguish. I may have well seen everything in Horizon II’s trailer as being the genuine article and yes, it is a grander, more gorgeous vision of a breathtaking post-apocalypse than ever before.

Horizon II hints at much that would compel me to return to Aloy’s world. The new Pacific coast setting offers a massively overgrown by nature San Francisco to explore, with the skyscrapers having become enormous trees to possibly climb.

Half of San Francisco has sunk into the ocean but that won’t deter Aloy from seeing it due to having some scuba gear to see all of Frisco. New secrets to uncover are inferred such as Aloy turning on a hologram that has a Chinese dragon float around her out of the ground.

New and dangerous robot-animals are to be discovered, overcome, even tamed, like the Miyazakiesque giant snapping turtle. And of course, can’t ignore the human element that will try to ruin Aloy’s day as not all of the surviving tribes of man are so friendly.

The ones that have made giant mumakil-sized robot elephants their steeds to fight Aloy likely aren’t ones for conversation.

It is epic, it is massive and it might become one of the PS5’s most prominent demonstrations not just of processing horsepower but of applying it to a scale rarely pulled off before in any game.

More than anything, Horizon II: Forbidden West promises that the PlayStation 5 will not lack for ambition, whether or not it succeeds is for the time being, irrelevant.

The PlayStation 5 itself

Image from Business Insider (Pick your poison, everyone.)

It’s not just the ambition of what the PS5’s library of games have to offer that is making a good sales pitch, it’s that Sony’s next system is also forward thinking, while not being entirely dismissive of the past.

As you can see above you, assuming the picture actually loads once this article is published, is that the PS5 gives disc users like myself for the most part a desire to stick to tradition or for those who’re simply done with the arduous process of buying a game at a store, taking it home and then putting the disc in, a streamlined option in the digital edition.

In that regard, the PS5 is a transitional piece of hardware. Considering the ongoing dangers of the COVID-19 pandemic which we might not be rid of no later than 2022, not having to risk your life to buy entertainment will be a major selling point. But Sony doesn’t want to alienate those who still like the disc system that the PlayStation made an industry standard back with the original PS1 system.

The console reveal also gives reminders of the PS5’s audio/visual promise of including, possibly bundled with the system and controllers, a 3D wireless headphones, a media remote and HD camera, to make it the immersive entertainment bundle for the next half decade or more.

Finally, to close, consider the console’s look when it isn’t on its side. Notice the curves which give off the “V”. At least you know for certain now what the name of this article is referring to, if you hadn’t figured it out already.

The future, in at least one way, is filled with promise. At least there is something at all to look forward to. Of course, a stiff price during an economic crisis worse than the Great Depression might tempt us to temper some of that enthusiasm.

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