I'd imagine many PS5 owners will have been able to relate to the plight of the ever-suffering Nintendo fan last night, who has sat through countless Directs hoping for more news on Metroid Prime 4 and Breath of the Wild 2, only to be exposed to yet another montage of obscure JRPGs. Yesterday's State of Play offered a similar treatment; there were expectations for Horizon Forbidden West, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, and maybe even God of War 2, but no such titles were shown.
Instead, we were shown PS5 refreshes for a number of pre-existing PS4 games, such as Crash Bandicoot 4 and Final Fantasy 7 Remake, alongside new trailers for Kena: Bridge of Spirits, Deathloop, Oddworld: Soulstorm, and more. In fact, the only true PS5 exclusive to be shown was Returnal, which had already debuted a new trailer the day before, with other surprise announcements like Sifu also coming to PC and PS4.
It was easy to be disappointed by Sony's first State of Play since the launch of the PS5, in other words, but examine the livestream in its proper context, and you can see why the company held some of its biggest cards back for this Spring showcase.
Embarrassment of riches
After spending the entirety of 2020 not only mounting a next-generation campaign amidst a pandemic, but doing so with unimpeachable success, launching the PS5 worldwide alongside a number of stellar first- and third-party console exclusives, PlayStation has earned the right to slow down its hype train for the first half of 2021.
That's not to say there's nothing to be excited about over the next few months for PlayStation fans (more on that in a second), but having already achieved record-breaking sales in the PS5's launch window, Sony can afford to take a break from courting potential customers to the next generation with more reveals for upcoming blockbuster exclusives.
Instead, State of Play showcased Sony's commitment to diversity of genre, tone, and budget, presenting an eclectic mix of indie and AAA titles that exemplified the medium's range on a mainstream stage. As a result, no game looked quite like the other, and there was pretty much something for everyone.
Sifu looks like a striking evolution of the combat mechanics that developer Sloclap achieved with 2017's Absolver, one that channels The Raid with even darker narrative shades. Kena: Bridge of Spirits continues to impress with its intriguing confluence of cinematic animation and Balinese mythology.
And do we really need to shower any more praises on Deathloop, which somehow made itself appear even more stylish with an absolute banger of a newly revealed, Bond-esque theme tune?
Taken together, it's an impressive slate for the first half of 2021. With the dust still settling on the PS5 launch buzz, yesterday's State of Play thus didn't need any PlayStation icons headlining the lineup; the quality and distinctiveness of the titles were compelling enough value propositions for the PlayStation platforms all by themselves.
State of mind
But about those PlayStation icons. We know Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is arriving this June, and Horizon Forbidden West will no doubt follow shortly after in the Winter, provided Guerrilla Games can reach its internal milestones. Sony wisely made a choice to thus avoid the temptation of letting these flagship properties dominate the discourse, instead allowing the smaller gems to benefit the most from having their moment in the State of Play spotlight.
From Away: The Survival Series to The Pedestrian, PlayStation has demonstrated a commitment to promoting indies in its State of Play streams over the last few years, and that was no more on evidence than yesterday, where games like Solar Ash (developed by Hyper Light Drifter creator Heart Machine) were given the space to present deep dives into their experiences. 10 years ago, they might have been lucky to briefly cameo in a 60-second indie sizzle reel at PlayStation's E3 conference.
So yes, I can empathize with the sense of disappointment that some might have felt after last night's State of Play, but what was and wasn't shown doesn't change the fact that 2021 is set to be a fantastic year for PlayStation. We'll see more of Horizon Forbidden West and God of War 2 in due course. For now, why not celebrate the fact that the PS5 and PS4's lineup is more diverse and creatively liberated than it ever has been? I, for one, couldn't be more excited to have a PS5 in my living room for the year ahead.