Well, that’s a wrap folks. The annual E3 bonanza has come and gone for yet another year, and now that PSU’s coverage team have had a chance to recover from LA’s vertiginous, eyeball-popping gaming smorgasbord, it’s time to scrutinize the proceedings without those hype-tinted glasses on. Yep, it’s time for the Highs and Lows of E3 2011, where we extol the very best that this year’s show had to offer, while also lamenting on what could – or should – have been. Overall, let us just say that Sony's E3 2011 proved to be a pretty stonking event, though it wasn’t without some honest disappointments.
Join us now as we take a look at our highs and lows of E3 2011.
The Price is Right
Next to the device’s name, the only thing people were interested in regards to PlayStation Vita (then known as NGP prior to Sony’s presser) was the price. And rightly so. After all, a platform’s price is instrumental in swaying punters off the fence and into day one purchase territory, or coaxing those who perhaps weren’t even interested in the platform to begin with. Vita is up against some pretty tough competition in the form of smart phones and the influx of cheap n’ cheerful App Store content—not to mention the 3DS— so Sony had to nail this sucker. And they did. As originally hinted at, there are two models up for grabs—a $249 Wi-Fi SKU, and a flashy 3G $299 model. This ties in neatly with early predictions, and while some were hoping for a lesser $199 SKU, the $249 starting point is actually pretty healthy. Crucially, it also puts on equal footing with 3DS from a price perspective. Combine that with some stellar software, and you’ve got every reason to jump in queue with the rest of those early adopters.
A Ken Levine-shaped surprise
Last year we got Gabe Newell (a massive shock in itself) announcing Portal 2 was coming to Sony’s black beast, this year we got Irrational Games overlord Ken Levine saying BioShock Infinite would be adopting PlayStation Move functionality (okay, a little ho-hum). Not only that, he’s also chiselling away on a new BioShock game for Vita (much better!). To be fair to Levine, while the prospect of waggling our wands at Infinite may not resonate with the majority of hardcore gamers, I’ve no doubt that Mr. BioShock himself will find a suitably compelling, unique way to integrate Sony’s motion peripheral with what is sure to be an equally mesmerizing, triple-A gameplay experience. However, the fact the lauded series is coming to Sony’s new pocket brick isn't the best news here. Nope, the crucial factor is that it won’t be a port—Vita is getting its own brand spanking new BioShock title all to itself. Bring it on. So far, support for Sony’s super-powered handheld is looking mighty impressive indeed, and bodes well for not only a successful launch, but the foreseeable future, too.
Let’s face it, Sony had to broach the subject of April’s colossal PSN outage at some point during its presser, and they didn’t let us down. As we predicted, the firm didn’t flap its gums for too long over the matter, with Sony Computer Entertainment America (SCEA) boss Jack Tretton offering his apologies over the matter to consumers and publishing partners alike, which is all anyone ever wanted, to be honest. Kazuo Hirai also chipped in a little later on, but the bulk was handled by Tretton before moving onto the stuff we care most about—games. So, good show Sony, but I sincerely hope we can all safely move on from the whole fiasco without anything else going tits up later down the line.
Nathan Drake keeps us wanting more
If there’s one thing that will at least guarantee that your press conference isn’t a complete train wreck, it’s footage of Nathan Drake extricating himself from near-death in the latest Uncharted offering. Indeed, that’s just what Sony did at its annual E3 shindig, with clips of Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception and Uncharted: Golden Abyss ensuring we left the auditorium on Tuesday with our jaws dragging along the floor. Okay, so the super cynic in me can’t help but acknowledge both games carry a certain ‘been there, done that’ aura about them, but that’s not a bad thing—the series isn’t in a position where it needs to drastically shake things up. It looks gorgeous, it plays just as smoothly and intuitively as always, and the sharp, witty banter is bang on the mark as ever. Right now, that’s all we need.
Sony bags some meaty exclusives for third-party games
In a world where platform exclusive titles are soon becoming extinct, there’s still one avenue that platform holders can exploit—exclusive content. Sony has bagged itself plenty of PS3-only goodies in the past, and the trend looks set to continue as the platform holder pulled the curtain back on a host of exclusive content for several triple-A third-party endeavors. For one, we’re getting an exclusive character in the Vita version of Street Fighter x Tekken in the form of Cole MacGrath, as well as PS3-only content for juggernauts including Saints Row: The Third, Star Trek, Battlefield 3 and SSX among others. Not too shabby, we think you’ll agree.
…and the Lows
Sony gets chummy with AT&T for Vita 3G SKU
Being out of the loop with this sort of thing, I’ll admit I raised an eyebrow when Kazuo Hirai’s announcement that Sony would be snuggling up to AT&T for the Vita 3G SKU was met with unanimous groans and ironic jeers from the audience. However, upon having a gander around the web it became abundantly clear that AT&T has its fair share of detractors in regards to their customer service, with many punters opting for Verizon among others. Furthermore, Sony and AT&T have locked down an exclusive deal, meaning punters who favour the likes of the aforementioned Verizon, as well as T-Mobile and Sprint are going to have to consume vast quantities of humble pie if they are ever going to enjoy the fruits of 3G-enabled Vita goodness.
Lack of any Metagons
Sony actually did pretty darn well this year and minus the aforementioned AT&T partnership, and as such there weren’t any genuinely low points to speak of. Nonetheless, disappointment did manage to rear its ugly head, namely in the form of the sheer lack of any major showstoppers. Vita buzz aside, we weren’t really blown away by anything. Prior to the show, rumors were rife that God of War 4 would be announced at the event, and we’ve been hearing murmurs for months now on GTA V being at the show, as well as Quantic Dream’s new title, fresh offerings from PixelJunk creator Q Games and Syphon Filter 4. Sadly, none of the above materialised at the presser, and as great as Sly Cooper is, the IP just doesn’t carry the same clout as a certain bald, perpetually cheesed-off Spartan warrior. I would have bet a substantial chunk of my life savings that Quantic Dream would show up, since David Cage and co were in talks with Sony for a reveal of their latest project. Microsoft got Halo 4, why couldn’t we get one major end-of-show spectacle? A missed opportunity. Still, there’s always GameCom…right?
Agent, Last Guardian are MIA
Sony’s shindig was also conspicuously lacking in providing updates on heavy hitters The Last Guardian and Agent, the latter of which hasn’t bothered to show its face in nearly two years. Sure, Insomniac treated us to a gander at Resistance 3 and Naughty Dog pulled out a sumptuous Uncharted 3 showcase, but let’s face it, unless you had been living under a rock for the past few months, everyone knew they'd be there. Indeed, another sneak peak at Team ICO's boy-meets-Griffin adventure would have gone down a treat. Let's hope it shows its face at TGS.
What did you make of Sony’s E3 showcase, PSU readers? Let us know in the comment section below.