Friday 8 June 2012

Sony E3 Press Conference

Welcome back to my feature recap of the second press event of E3. After what I consider to be Microsoft’s absolutely poorest showing since I can remember, it shouldn’t be very difficult at all for Sony to lay down a concrete event full of great content for PlayStation hardware owners. I assumed that this event would be very Vita heavy since a lot of PlayStation 3 exclusives have already been announced prior to this event like Sony’s equivalent to Super Smash Bros and God of War Ascension. Nevertheless, here is my summary of what went down.

Sony’s press event opened in beautiful fashion with a terrific montage highlighting some of Sony’s biggest games already released and coming soon. Immediately after Sony President Jack Tretton arrived on stage to discuss the fantastic connection PlayStation has to its audience. He pointed out Kaz Hirai, the man responsible for the construction of Sony’s entertainment branch and really paid tribute to the gamers themselves for continuing to support Sony. Tretton then made way for the first game to be shown, Quantic Dream’s highly anticipated new IP after Heavy Rain.

Titled as Beyond, the audience was clearly very pleased to hear that Quantic’s new project was well under way. It was also announced that Ellen Page will be playing the lead role Jodi Holmes and in-game footage showed off Jodi as she was being questioned by a police officer. A real sense of tension was present in the clip and it’s clear that Jodi has some sort of psychic powers as a cup of coffee went flying across the room when the officer tried to touch her. A breathtaking montage concluded Quantic’s presentation of what is undoubtedly going to be one of Sony’s prized titles.

Tretton continued Sony’s conference by discussing PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale, or as I like to call it ‘Sony Smash Bros’. Sony’s new brawler will be available for the Vita and will also be cross-compatible between the home console and handheld device. A quick demonstration showed off a 4-player battle between Kratos, Sweet Tooth, Sly Cooper and Fat Princess. The aim was to charge up your super meter and use their respective super move to get kills. With three levels of super to charge up, the stronger moves are obviously more deadly. Very cool interaction between the players and the environment occurred as the Hydra from God of War 1 burst through the floor and started attacking players mid game. The game looks incredibly similar to Super Smash Bros and with such an expert group of game designers behind this project, expect it to be a staple multiplayer experience on the PlayStation 3 and Vita. To conclude the PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale presentation, the team behind the project announced two new characters to the roster, Nathan Drake from Uncharted and Big Daddy from Bioshock.

Jack Tretton emphasized the importance of cross-play and the idea of using Vita as a cross-controller. A new DLC pack for LittleBigPlanet 2 that will allow players to use the Vita in conjunction with the game was announced with brand new story, collectables and typical LBP goodies.

Tretton moved swiftly onto the PlayStation Network and the brilliant list of exclusive independent games on the online platform. New games like Dyad, Papo & Yo and The Unfinished Swan are all exciting titles coming to the Network in the future. The PlayStation Plus horn was blown next and a quick recap of all the free games and pounds saved using the service was cheekily mentioned and a free 1-year membership was given to every single attendant of the conference – lucky.

The conference began leaning towards the PlayStation Vita as digitally exclusive titles for the Vita will also continue expanding the handheld’s portfolio and PlayStation 1 classics will also be coming soon. Media application including Youtube will also arrive on Vita. On a more impressive note, Call of Duty: Black Ops: Declassified was announced for the handheld, meaning for the first time a proper AAA first-person shooter title will be available in the palm of your hands, very exciting. Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation was next to be revealed for the Vita with for the first time, a female protagonist. Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation will also be part of a limited edition Vita bundle that includes a crystal white machine, a 4GB memory card and the game.

Ubisoft continued their software presentation by coming on stage to show off Assassin’s Creed III itself. A new playable demo took lead protagonist Connor to the high seas as he controlled a ship and took down other vessels using the cannons on the ship. After a dramatic battle on the water the ships link and the demo finished with Connor jumping across ready for melee action. Assassin’s Creed III will be released October 30th 2012 and also with a special PlayStation 3 hardware bundle.

Ubisoft were clearly big players for Sony this press conference with Far Cry 3 up next. Although already announced, Ubisoft managed to keep their 4-player coop a secret and revealed it with a playable demo. The more I see of Far Cry 3 the more psyched I am for this first-person shooter but I won’t be putting my expectations up too high because the market is flooded with games of a similar nature.

Tretton continued heaping praise on upcoming PlayStation titles that will be enhanced by Move including Bioshock Infinite, Dust 514, Epic Mickey 2 and LittleBigPlanet Karting. Tretton left the stage for a brief moment to let President and Group CEO of Sony Entertainment Andrew House who opened his speech by concluding that the PlayStation is all about “transformative experiences and innovation,” I’ll leave you to decide for yourselves whether this is entirely true. With this the PlayStation Wonderbook was announced, a unique tablet-like device to be used in conjunction with the PlayStation Eye. Andrew House emphasized that brand new experiences ranging from educational and scientific will all be available for the Wonderbook including Moonbot Studios stylish Noire themed Diggs Nightcrawler. The first game to be published for Wonderbook however will be in conjunction with J.K. Rowling and is titled the Book of Spells. A quick demo showed players learning and using spells from the book and the whole process was very similar to AR cards on the 3DS and PSP.

PlayStation Suite was up next with Sony’s goal to bring the PlayStation brand to all Android devices in the foreseeable future. HTC will be the first partner for Sony in trying to achieve this goal. It was then announced that PlayStation Suite will now be called PlayStation Mobile.

Moving back to AAA titles Sony Santa Monica Studios was up next to show off the eagerly anticipated PlayStation exclusive, God of War: Ascension. In typical God of War fashion Kratos unleashed hell upon a group of Minotaur like enemies and then an interesting new gameplay mechanic allowing Kratos to rewind time and rebuild a broken structure was shown. This ability was clearly on a timer but standing on particular spots allowed Kratos to summon this new power and then climb the rebuilt wooden tower. The demo then showed off Kratos tackling numerous huge enemies each falling to a more gruesome Kratos finisher and finally running up a giant Kraken and engaging it just before the demo finished. God of War: Ascension looked absolutely fantastic and perhaps even more gruesome than any other game on show this E3, but it’s absolutely one to look out for. The release dated was scheduled for March 12th 2013.

My favourite developer Naughty Dog were up next to close off Sony’s press event with a gameplay demo of The Last of Us. This particular title definitely looks like game of the year potential when it finally sees release. The demo once again introduced us to the two main protagonists as they traversed through a deserted city. A beautiful design reminiscent of course of Uncharted was present, especially when what looked like ravages and bandits attacked the protagonists. The close quarters combat was very striking and ammo very scarce. The Last of Us looked incredible and was definitely one of the most impressive titles on display for Sony. Considering the Uncharted series is one of, if not the most technically impressive title on any home console, expect this to be incredible.

To conclude another relatively stellar performance that didn’t really pack more of a punch than Microsoft’s conference. However, the first party support is very impressive for Sony, with games like Beyond, God of War and The Last of Us really leading the pack as games that will clearly challenge for honours next year. The Wonderbook, while a cool idea, I feel won’t be that successful but kudos for trying something inventive with PlayStation Move, that I can appreciate. Overall however, I was very happy to see great games both from first party developers and independent developers making their way onto the PlayStation 3. What will happen to the Vita, nobody really knows but one thing’s for sure, the handheld needs a price cut as soon as possible.

Igor Kharin.

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