After ten years of large body counts, forgettable villains and the occasional pithy quip, the world of Nathan Drake and the Uncharted series has finally drawn to a close – we won’t reveal just how it ends (although you should check out our review if you need any more convincing) – but it’s safe to say Nate’s story has come to a close.
The question is, with arguably its biggest exclusive franchise now wrapped up, what does Sony have left to contend with Microsoft and its momentum-gaining Xbox One? This year we’re going to see Gear of War 4 bore its way onto the scene, while rumours suggest we’ll be seeing the return of Forza Horizon 3 before 2016 is out. Not to mention Rare’s MMO-style pirate simulator, Sea of Thieves.
Sure, they’re not Halo or Fable, but they’re recognisable franchises from developers who still hold enough weight to do good numbers for the Xbox One (and the next iterations of Xbox rumoured to be revealed in less than a couple of week at E3).
Sky’s the limit
So what does Sony have left to draw, and will these games be enough to keep PlayStation 4 on top as the eighth generation begins to mature? Well, let’s start off with the delayed elephant in the room – No Man’s Sky.
The two-month delayed and death threat-inducing project from Hello Games has proved something of a critical darling thanks to the studios indie roots, its mind-bendingly big procedural universe and that magic only sci-fi dogfighting sims can conjure.
NMS certainly looks like it could make some good numbers for Sony (especially considering it’s getting a PC release too), but has it got the longevity to prove a platform-leading franchise? NMS’s biggest problem is classification – is it a survival game? An exploration game? A dog fighting game?
Uncharted was always an action-adventure game, plain and simple. Man with gun shoots other men with guns, climbs a bit, shoots more men. Easy to market, easy to sell. NMS has many faces, straddles many genres, and could prove a tough sell to the mainstream.
Next we have something of a wild card – Horizon: Zero Dawn. Another critical darling upon reveal at last year’s Sony conference, the PS4-exclusive comes from Killzone creator Guerrilla Games.
With a strong female lead, the eschew of guns in favour of bows, a world reminiscent of the criminally-overlooked Enslaved: Odyssey to the West and – wait for it – robo dinosaurs, Horizon could well prove a dark horse for Sony.
If it offers a memorable story – a barometer almost every game is judged in the wake of Naughty Dog’s masterful latter catalogue – and an open-world that feels justified in its breadth and content (no, we don’t want to collect feathers or scale radio towers to unlock the map), Horizon could be Sony’s next flagpole franchise.
A Gran idea
So what about some of Sony’s existing franchises? Can these old titans return to form and prove even greater in 2016 and beyond?
Ratchet and Clank, soft-rebooted and retooled for a new generation, proved that there is still an audience for its diet platforming gunplay, but it wasn’t a knockout hit by any stretch of the term. Even back on PS2, Ratchet and Clank was a brilliant series, but it wasn’t a system seller.
Then there’s the returning king, Gran Turismo. Well, Gran Turismo Sport, to be precise. In the wake of the series taking so long to get its entries out (shame on you, GT5) or coming out so soon after there was seemingly little difference in its content (again, shame, GT6) – not to mention the rise of the Forza series on Xbox – Gran Turismo has become something of an antiquated property.