Reactions to the PlayStation Showcase 2021
The PS5 has had a clunky beginning and first-year—supply issues might be at the top of that list, but the shadow of the PS4 has also hovered. Only a few of the games available to date have actually been developed purely for the PS5, meaning that outside of Spider-Man: Miles Morales, the machine hasn’t really had the chance to show us what it’s all about.
That changed with the 2021 PlayStation Showcase, a 40-minute trailer-fest that answered some questions, asked a few more, and gave us a load of reasons to smile in anticipation.
Here are my ten biggest thoughts from the showcase, which you can watch. either before or after reading this.
1 – It’s all very blue
You have to admire Jim Ryan’s shirt. The president and CEO of Sony Entertainment introduced the showreel standing in front of a blue-lit backdrop wearing a shirt that subtly and very cleverly matched. Throughout the presentation, we were shown quick linking pieces that featured more blue Playstation graphics. So, blue. Got it.
2 – Female protagonists are in, and not all of them are feeling modern
Aloy from the Horizon series has done great things for female computer game protagonists, showing us that it’s possible to have a strong girl lead without resorting to a focus on sexualisation and ridiculous body proportions, so it’s great to see that followed up with the amazing looking Forspoken.
This game has some incredible graphics and really looks to be bringing everything we want to this first real generation of PS5 titles. Nothing is lost bringing the main character, Frey Holland, to life. Frey looks realistic. She has a great costume that looks like something someone would actually wear and moves impressively through the world learning her abilities as she goes. If this trailer is anything to go by, Forspoken is going to be one of the big games of 2022.
In a similar way, we have a solid female protagonist in the new Rainbow Six title, Rainbow Six: Extraction. She’s providing a voice-over and seems sensibly armoured and tooled up for the shooting fest that the game promises. There are aliens and weird stuff and while it all looks a bit like ‘we’ve seen this sort of game before’, it’s doing it the right way for fans of the genre.
There’s a cute little girl in Tchia, though the graphics here are hardly pushing the PS5 to the edge. Still, it seems to be a pleasant enough children’s game that will appeal to its younger audience with its delightful colour and styling.
Moving from that we have the hilarious-looking Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands, a spin-off from the main Borderlands series that looks like it will really deliver. Yes, the gameplay looks like it is more Borderlands-style shooting, but that’s no bad thing because the series does it so well. It’s the setting of Tiny Tina running a Dungeons and Dragons-style role-playing game, that I found absolutely fabulous and is a sure thing to be a hit with RPG fans. The cel-shaded graphics that the series is famous for get an upgrade here, too, and Tiny Tina herself is vivacious, providing a fun and irreverent commentary to what looks to be a really fun game.
This leads us, rather sadly, to Project Eve. No doubt other reviewers will be extolling the incredible next-generation graphics, the high-paced action and the generally stunning looks of this action title, but it left me cold. Eve herself is a too-skinny, tightly-clad focus for teenage objectification in a style that seems two decades out of date. It reminded me of all the worse things wrong with Bayonetta, which itself felt like it had its sensibilities dragged kicking and screaming from the 1980s when it came out in 2009. Project Eve is a teenage boy’s fantasy-fest, and will no doubt have tens of thousands of fans spending quiet moments dreaming about the main character with the lights off. For grown-ups though, it’s a little past its sell-by-date even before it arrives. A shame, because the skill that’s gone into the overall look, the outstanding monster designs and the general vibrancy of the game are all, without a doubt, impressive.
3 – Character movement counts
The final piece in the showcase is God of War: Ragnarok. Having recently played the classic PS4 God of War, I was immediately struck with the upgrades for the PS5 sequel. This looks utterly amazing and has the polish and shine of a beloved AAA series, which of course it is. But it was the character movements and lip-synching that struck me—because it’s done so well.
Other titles in the showcase—Alan Wake, Deathloop, Uncharted 4 Remastered, for example, all seem a little unrealistic in their character movement and it can make them come across a little last-generation. Even the otherwise-incredible Forspoken falls down a little with its lip movements, where the mouth is moving in the right way but the lips just don’t feel real.
It’s incredibly picky, but when we’re looking at things to literally showcase the power of the top-of-the-range console, picky is what we do. God of War doesn’t fail on this front at all. Plus, we get a shot of Mjolnir, complete with little lightning sparks, so that’s exciting.
In the ‘did it right’ category, let’s also not forget Spider-Man 2. This was pre-rendered, rather than a gameplay trailer, but we already know just how impressive Insomnia is with their Spider-Man series. Putting both Peter Parker and Miles Morales together is exciting enough (will we get a two-player co-op game?) but adding Venom?! Everyone’s favourite Marvel bad guy is going to sell thousands of units of this game on his own.
Character movement is one of the things that is going to mark this generation of games out from its predecessors. Let’s hope more people start to get it right.
4 – Marvel is taking over the world
So, there’s Spider-Man 2. Fair enough, a sequel to an already beloved series. Then there’s Guardians of the Galaxy, which looks fantastic, but then, out of nowhere, Wolverine?
Now that’s a line-up!
Guardians of the Galaxy looks to have everything we want in a title for the franchise. No, the characters don’t look quite like their MCU counterparts, but that’s probably a good thing that’ll allow the game series to make its own ground. It does have the trademark flippant nature, though, which was something that really made the films stand out. Peter Quill is amusing and irreverent, Drax is… Drax—and Rocket is breaking things. It looks good, seems to include spaceship fights, and looks like it has a story that’ll be a worthwhile time investment. I look forward to it.
We didn’t get much on Wolverine, but what we did get was enough to spark a lot of interest. It’s so easy to get things wrong, as history has shown, but when Wolverine is done right, it’s always pretty epic. This looks right, with the flannel shirt, the grimy bar, and more hair on his arms than any computer game has ever shown before. Seriously, check out that arm! That’s the PS5’s graphical capabilities being used properly, right there!
5 – Remasters are lazy, remakes might not be
Seriously, an Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End remaster? I love the Uncharted series, but this game is hardly old enough to be out of nappies (OK, it’s out of nappies, but it’s still only just of school age) and doesn’t really need a PS5 update in my opinion. Remaster the original 2007 Drake’s Fortune if you have to do anything.
Remasters are starting to feel a little lazy. Demon’s Souls was great and I’m a big fan, Mass Effect: Legendary Edition was arguably a good way to update the franchise and streamline its continuity, but it’s becoming a little too much of a good thing. I know there are a lot of fans of the original Alan Wake, for example, plus it was never available for PlayStation users, but do we need the remaster? Especially when it doesn’t look particularly next-gen. A similar argument can be made for Grand Theft Auto V, as well. Is 4K at 60fps really enough to justify showcasing an eight-year-old game, ‘updated’ for this generation of consoles?
On the other side of the coin, however, is Knights of the Old Republic. Reportedly not a remaster, but in fact a complete rebuilding of the game, this eighteen-year-old game deserves a refresh and, with the eyes of the world entirely on them, I believe the end result is going to be staggering. It’s not a remaster that is using the old code and trying to slap some current-generation graphics over the front and that makes me feel I’m not being hypocritical to be excitedly looking forward to it.
Just no more rehashes of recent games, please. This is meant to be a new generation, not the last decade remixed.
6 – Thank God for cars
There’s a startling homogeneity with this batch of games. Almost every title involves playing an action game where you run around with some sort of weapon, killing bad guys and doing missions. There are different storylines and a variety in terms of quality, but it does seem very similar. The sight of some very shiny cars and a gloriously realised race track injected a breath of fresh air—even if it is the seventh iteration of a well-known series.
With Gran Turismo 7, we’re presented with the most realistic driving simulation that there ever was. And yes, us reviewer types said that for the previous six versions of this long-running series, too. I remember writing of Gran Turismo (the first one, because I’m that old), “The cars look utterly realistic!”, and I probably said something similar every time a new game came out in this series, but watching the camera pan around the impressive selection of vehicles here, I’m left with one thought: The cars look utterly realistic!
I can even see the little holes in the brake discs from a distance! Incredible.
7 – You can tell it’s Bethesda from ten feet away
When the trailer for Deathloop started, my brain went “Oooh, looks like a bit like Bioshock and Fallout. Is this someone like 2K or Bethesda?” and, oh look, it was!
After Microsoft took over this gaming giant, I honestly thought Playstation users would have to accept the loss forever, but it seems there’s still some give from the publisher.
Deathloop looks like it could be a lot of fun, with its interesting narrative and time-loop storyline (we all love a bit of time-messing in our computer games).
8 – Ghostwire looks like The Ring crossed with Doctor Who
They’re the Silence from Doctor Who, right? And the other creepy things could have dropped right out of The Ring. Tell me I’m wrong.
Ghostwire does look great, though. The half-melting face effect is an example of next-gen graphics that I can really get on board with. Understated, subtle, and incredible to look at.
9 – When Radiohead is Radiohead
I recognise that tune, my brain said to me, sounds like Radiohead. That’s cool—who’s using Radiohead in a game?
The answer: Radiohead. Is it a game? Is it just some strange modern noodlings on an old album or two? The trailer doesn’t say much, but I’m intrigued by Epic Games’ involvement with Kid A Mnesia. Apparently, Sony has described it as “an upside-down digital/analogue universe created from original artwork and recordings”. Riiiight, thanks, guys. I can put random words together and pretend it’s a sentence, too.
10 – I want that update to Battle Chess
I was well into the introductory advert video, asking myself if it was really amazing film-quality in-game graphics before I realised it was an advert and they were real people. A shame. That said, it looks like the most amazing update to Battle Chess that there ever could be and I really want it. Get on the job, Sony!