Sony has previewed one of its most anticipated PlayStation games with a trailer that shifted focus from two women kissing to a hanging man being disemboweled in its opening minutes.
The Last of Us Part II is the follow-up to one of the top-reviewed and most awarded games of the PlayStation 3 generation.
Gameplay footage made clear the sequel will be at least as bloody as its predecessor.
However, no launch date was given.
Initial reactions to the title from industry watchers were mostly positive, although one games reviewer remarked that the title was “fetishising extreme violence”.
But there was praise for the way the developer Naughty Dog had presented the kiss.
“I think they were trying to make to clear to people that this is what they’re about – diversity [and] different sorts of stories,” games journalist Julian Rizzo-Smith told the BBC.
“If you look at their franchises, it’s stories led by strong females now. I think it’s really setting a benchmark.”
Sony also premiered the first gameplay footage from its surreal horror title Death Stranding.
The game is being masterminded by Hideo Kojima, who was previously behind the Metal Gear series.
The trailer showed the lead character – modelled on The Walking Dead star Norman Reedus – trekking across a variety of landscapes before coming under attack from a group of invisible monsters, whose presence appears to be exposed by a foetus he is carrying.
The plot still remains unclear and, again, no release date was offered.
Analysis, Dave Lee, BBC North America technology reporter, Los Angeles
A kiss seen around the world! The embrace between Ellie and her (previously unannounced) girlfriend was a moment of genuine emotion – not titillation – that shows this multi-billion dollar industry is finally capturing the diversity of its audience.
It was met with cheers, this was the climactic point of what is a major move forward in this industry. Gamers’ affection for Ellie is based on good storytelling, Hollywood-worthy character development and terrific acting and direction – the character is not, as is so often the case in gaming, an act of tokenism designed to begrudgingly appease critics.
On Monday we also saw Assassin’s Creed, a game criticised in the past for having an entire roster of all-male characters. The latest instalment in the series, Odyssey, provides a new option to play as either male or female throughout the next game and, along the way, develop romantic relationships with men or women.
So, Xbox’s Gears 5, PlayStation’s The Last of Us Part 2 and the multi-platform Assassin’s Creed. All no doubt on course to be the biggest games of the next 12 months – and all lead by women.
Sony has sold more than 76 million PlayStation 4 consoles to date, according to research firm IHS Markit.
That represents nearly twice as many units as Microsoft’s Xbox One, although it is still some way behind the PlayStation 2’s tally of nearly 158 million.
Many believe the Japanese firm’s success has been driven by the popularity of its in-house exclusives including Uncharted 4, Horizon Zero Dawn and God of War.
However, Microsoft now boasts having the more powerful games machine in the Xbox One X and has just announced that it has acquired and created several games studios.
“A strong first-party library is what convinces people to buy your box over someone else’s and this generation of consoles has hammered home that is still true,” commented Laura Dale, news editor of the Kotaku UK news site.
“The PlayStation 4 has had frequent, high-quality first-party exclusives – which is something the Xbox One has not had.
“So, Sony goes into this E3 with everything to lose in the sense that it is in a strong position, but Microsoft did have a very good showing on Sunday.”
Sony opted to show off about half the number of titles Microsoft did, in what was a much shorter event.
One analyst who attended both shows praised Sony’s decision to try and recreate some of its games’ environments for invitees, but added that Microsoft had likely produced the better experience for those live-streaming the showcases from afar.
“Sony certainly didn’t show off as many new, unknown titles… and it was less pointed in terms of release dates,” commented Lewis Ward from the consultancy IDC.
“But I don’t think that was Sony’s primary focus here.
“Its intent was to show off the beauty of its video games.”
Other first-party exclusives shown off by Sony included Ghost of Tsushima, a Samurai-themed third-person sword-fighting game set in 1274.
The Gaming Bolt review site suggested it resembled an episode of Assassin’s Creed set in Japan.
New footage from Spider-Man – the centre-piece of Sony’s 2017 E3 event – was also presented, featuring Electro and Rhino among other villains. The game is due for release in September.
Content from third-party publishers was also displayed.
Capcom showed off footage from a remastered version of Resident Evil 2.
The survival-horror game was first released in 1998 and helped drive sales of the original PlayStation.
The new version is set to be released on 25 January 2019.
Remedy Entertainment announced Control, a sci-fi game featuring a female lead with a shape-shifting gun who encounters several people’s bodies floating mid-air.
The Finnish developer was previously responsible for the Xbox/Windows exclusive Quantum Break.
California-based Squanch Games also announced a platformer featuring new characters developed by one of the co-creators of the TV comedy Rick and Morty.
Trover Saves The Universe’s madcap storyline centres on efforts to prevent a villain from draining dogs’ life essence as part of a plan to destroy the universe.
Unlike the other titles shown off at the event, a version of the game is being developed for use with the PlayStation’s virtual reality headset.
Sony did, however, announce some other PlayStation VR releases following its conference.
They included Deracine, a ghost story set in a girls’ boarding school.
It is being developed by the studio behind Bloodborne and Dark Souls, but the trailer suggested a more lyrical tone than those earlier blood-soaked games.
Sony recently acknowledged that sales of its virtual reality kit had been lower than expected.
“At this point it’s more about supporting customers who bought PlayStation VR rather than trying to make it a huge success,” commented Ms Dale.
“It’s still the best value proposition out there in terms of headset resolution and price, but most of the market is still not ready for virtual reality.”