Sony’s been having a rough time of it lately. Their stock is low, the Vita isn’t exactly thriving, they’ve had all kinds of issues with Playstation Network. Yup, times are tough, but the company put on a brave front and did their best to wow people at E3. Maybe it was just me, but despite the many superlatives tossed about extolling the great accomplishments of Playstation, there seemed to be an almost weary resignation in the air. Maybe not, maybe it was just me. But whereas Nintendo is innovating and Microsoft is imitating, Sony just seemed to be trying to stay caught up. I’ll give them this, though, they definitely had the coolest looking stage.
After lots of PR talk and a nice tribute to the gamers (who, after all, make all of this possible, don’t we?), we finally got around to the games with a really cool presentation from the makers of Heavy Rain. I’m telling you, in a world filled with flash and bash games, having a more thoughtful, emotional experience is great. Beyond - Two Souls certainly looks very unique. The introduction talked a lot about how no one knows what happens after death (which isn’t true, but we’ll let that slide for now) and how the game’s protagonist has a unique connection to whatever may lie “beyond.” The footage shown, which had an almost Polar Express look to it all, was real-time, in-game footage and quickly established a strong mood filled with tension, emotion and a little creepiness. A trailer for the game also showed there will be plenty of action. Looks like good stuff, and Beyond was a strong start to the show.
Next up was Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale. The game features Playstation mascots fighting each other on various platforms from popular franchises and… wait, why does this all sound so familiar. Oh yeah, Super Smash Brothers. That impression grew stronger watching some footage of the game. However, one very cool feature is this game will be cross-compatible; meaning you can play it with someone on either a PS3 or a Vita. The demo showed two people playing on Vitas and two on a PS3; sounds like fun stuff for this upcoming holiday season.
Speaking of cross-compatibility, Little Big Planet 2 is getting some DLC that will be cross-compatible between the two systems. It’ll include new story modes and bunches of new stuff to create and build with.
Next it was on to talking about the Playstation Network. For Playstation Plus subscribers, new free games are coming, including Infamous 2 and Little Big Planet 2. On the digital games side of things, PSOne classics are coming to PSN including games like Tomb Raider and Final Fantasy VII. And just to help get everyone even more excited about Playstation Plus, everyone attending the conference got a voucher for a free year of PSPlus; very cool.
Continuing with talk about PSN, the focus then turned to using it as the hub for your living room’s entertainment. However, this effort wasn’t as strong or expansive as Microsoft’s when it came to this issue, but it was mentioned that HuluPlus is coming to the Vita. Music Unlimited was also mentioned, although pretty much in passing.
Next it was Call of Duty on the Vita. The title is called Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified, and it was touted as the first, hi-def, first-person shooter multiplayer experience on a handheld.
Assassin’s Creed III is also coming to the Vita, with ACIII: Liberation. This title has the first female assassin in the starring role and was built from the ground up for the Vita. It will have some cross-compatible unlocks with the PS3 ACIII. Plus, it’s getting bundled with an all-new crystal white Vita system that will come with the game and a 4GB memory card. To top off all the ACIII, we got to see some really cool gameplay. The new game lets you set sail on the raging ocean to engage in some sweet looking sea battles. So cool. The PS3 is also getting an AC bundle when the game releases this October, which will include some exclusive DLC.
Far Cry 3 is getting four player co-op. The makers of the game came out and demonstrated this feature on stage, stating that they pretty much developed two games for this one title. You have the single player campaign, and an entirely separate co-op campaign to enjoy with your friends. The game will also have a map editor so you can create your own Far Cry experience, and the PS3 will get some free DLC for the game.
In one of the oddest moments, the presentation finally got around to Playstation Move. They touted the numbers of this peripheral and all the games that support it, and that was pretty much it. Considering how much Move was the focus of previous E3’s, the brush off it got here seemed pretty strange. Epic Mickey 2 will be Move compatible, which is pretty cool stuff. I would think that would make it like the Wii version but better in HD. Yet, nothing shown about, and the whole Move presentation ended with a comment that amounted to, “yeah it’s there, but you don’t have to use it if you don’t want to.” Huh.
Next came the most interesting part of Sony’s show, and the longest. The Playstation is getting an interactive story book called the WonderBook. This device uses the Playstation Eye to create an augmented reality, interactive story book. There will be educational and scientific books, as well new content like Diggs Nightcrawler, which is a detective story. The big surprise about all of this is that J.K. Rowling is on board and writing one of the first stories for WonderBook called Book of Spells. It’s a story that’s part of the Pottermore universe and allows you to learn how spells came about and how to use them using the PS Move (that device that’s there but you don’t need to use if you don’t want to… unless you’re playing with WonderBook) as your wand. Unfortunately, the demo for all of this went on far too long, and didn’t even work quite right. However, augmented reality is pretty tricky at times to get to work properly, and stage setting would make that even more challenging. Still, all of this had me wondering, “what is going on?” Nintendo is introducing a new console, Microsoft is doing some very interesting thing with tablets, smart phones and the 360, and the Playstation gets interactive, virtual reality, not-always-working story books? And this is what takes up the bulk of the show? I don’t get it.
Playstation Suite is getting a new name. It’s now Playstation Mobile, and HTC is one of the first smartphone makers that will have a line of Playstation certified phones to play certified games. Not much more was revealed about this than we already knew from last year, but it still sounds like a move that holds a lot of promise.
Then it was back to stuff the audience really cared about with a demo of God of War: Ascension. It looked… well, very God of War. It was hyper violent and bloody with huge beasts and all sorts of crazy action; just what fans love about the series. Also, apparently Kratos as some sort of Force powers this time around to help him get where he’s going. The new GoW hits March of 2013.
And then the show ended with a look at the intense game The Last of Us. It’s pretty brutal, gritty stuff, and there were more f-words in this brief demo than I have heard during the entire show, including everything from Microsoft’s press conference. I’m not one to normally comment on something like that, but seriously, it was like listening to some of the worst players when online with Call of Duty.
With that, the show came to an end. A bulk of it was all about WonderBook, which I’m sure left many wondering about a lot of things. Again, my impression was Sony just seemed a little uncertain this year; not sure what direction to go in (and thus the AR interactive story book). The system still has some great exclusives and it’s move into the smartphone arena could definitely pay off, but all in all, it was not the strongest showing from Sony. Not the worst, just somewhere in the “meh” territory, which I don’t think is where they want to be.