Let’s not kid ourselves here. This year’s E3 was always going to be a slightly muddled transition period for the industry, with platform holders eager to squeeze the most out of their current-gen machines before the inevitable unveiling of next-gen systems in 2013.
PS3 and Xbox 360 are quickly approaching their twilight years, and while we expect to see both units supported for the foreseeable future, those triple-A exclusives are slowly drying up. As such, E3 gave us a glimpse at what will likely be Sony and Microsoft’s swansong offerings for their respective platforms.
We at PSU.com game on many systems, Xbox 360 included. But what’s interesting is that after taking a butcher’s at what both PS3 and 360 are offering for 2013, we’d be willing to bet a small amount of money on our belief that Sony’s console offers unequivocally the most diverse, unique software to see us through until fresh hardware arrives.
Let’s talk about the games. Halo 4 and Gears of War: Judgement are easily the two biggest 360 exclusives on the horizon, just as The Last of Us and Beyond (with The Last Guardian a distant possibility) are likely to be PS3’s last crop of exclusives. However, while Gears and Halo’s pedigree cannot be put into question, they’re hardly the most original line-ups, despite some impressive changes to the formula, largely in the multiplayer landscape.
The Last Of Us blew us away at E3
They’re both established franchises, and while that has served 360 well in the past, it would have been nice to receive something fresh to see the console off to that great plastics factory in the sky. Reading around the net, it’s clear that some gamers are tired of the same old series and want to see something new.
PS3 on the other hand offers something that is completely new and unique. Both Naughty Dog and Quantic Dream’s next offerings are new IPs, and are completely disparate in terms of fundamental gameplay mechanics and narrative.
The Last of Us is a bleak, post-apocalyptic adventure game focusing on survival and the relationship between its two heroes, Joel and Ellie.This isn’t just another shoot-‘em-up, and while parallels can be drawn between this and Uncharted in terms of combat, it still stands on its own two feet.
Ammo and supplies are scarce, enemies are highly intelligent, and the game positively oozes tension and atmosphere. These aspects are further accentuated by the utterly stunning visuals, which depict a society that has decayed and totally collapsed, with only stranglers left scavenging around the dilapidated buildings and lonely streets.
Speaking of scavenging, this forms a core component of The Last of Us, with players required to cobble together an arsenal of make-shift weapons and tools by hunting for useful items throughout the environment. You can’t just blast your way through encounters; you could be struggling for ammo and have to find a way of circumventing dangers, or at the very least meticulously plan out how you’re going to make it through with the limited supplies you possess. It’s an entirely different dynamic to your traditional action-adventure.
The fear of surviving and running out of essentials constantly plays on your mind, making it a highly cerebral experience as much as anything else. And for that, The Last of Us is something that’s definitely going to be worth the wait and surely go down as one of the PS3’s most impressive titles to date.
Beyond on the other hand is likely to prove as polarising as David Cage’s previous PS3 effort, Heavy Rain, but that’s beside the point. What we have here is yet another example of an exclusive, highly unique experience that seeks to push the boundaries of interactive storytelling and videogames in general.
Aside from the obvious clout of casting Ellen Page as lead heroine Jodie Holmes, Beyond is possibly the best-looking PS3 game we’ve clapped eyes on, and it’s clear that the visual fidelity in Quantic’s Kara tech demo has been used as the basis for this latest adventure. The graphics are stunning, from the immaculately-crafted facial expressions to jaw-dropping lighting and shadows effects that bring to life the on-screen action.
While mechanically similar to Heavy Rain, what makes Beyond such an intriguing project is the concept and story. Cage said he wants to explore the theme of death, specifically; the mysterious of what lies ‘beyond’ when you pop your clogs, so to speak. We don’t know about you, but we’d much rather have something thought-provoking than another muscle-bound shooter featuring little in the way of a compelling narrative.
Quantic Dream is once again pushing the barriers in Beyond
Cage’s work has always attempted to ring an emotional bell in players, and his work on Heavy Rain is a testament to this; we’ve no doubt that Beyond will pull at our heart strings again as Jolie wrestles against whatever has her on the run from the cops during a frantic chase sequence. What’s more, it seems Beyond will also contain a touch of the supernatural, with our lead character apparently able to wield some sort of telekinesis. It’s different, and we like that it’s different.
These qualities are exactly the type of risks that differentiate PS3’s upcoming crop of exclusives from 360’s efforts. Microsoft is adhering to the same franchises that has kept 360 afloat since day one, and while that’s hardly a bad thing, it doesn’t exactly inspire much confidence in the company’s first-party efforts in terms of going against the norm and crafting something different for its consumers.
It’s not just the fact Sony is doing this that’s so refreshing – it’s the time it’s deciding to do it. PS3 is over five years old now, and we’d usually see this slew of new IP arriving at the start of a cycle; it’s a company’s way of hooking in early adopters, showing off what the new hardware can do, and above all, illustrate how it differs from the competition. To see such a unique line-up this late in the console’s shelf life is pretty impressive, and shows that developers are still keen to push the hardware to its limits while simultaneously giving the system the big send-off it deserves.
Sony itself even admitted that taking a punt on games like Beyond is a risk, with the company’s Scott Rohde describing the line-up as anything but safe. “If you can find another publisher in this industry who would build Beyond, I’d like to meet that publisher,” he told GameSpot. “I really think Beyond is as far from ‘safe’ as it gets.”
But that’s what Sony is about these days; willing to embrace ideas and take risks when other companies would take the safe route, and it’s ultimately this philosophy that has rewarded the company many times in the past. Heavy Rain, for all its detractors, went on to sell over a million copies worldwide, proving that taking a risk is sometimes not the death kneel others would make out.
And we’re very confident it will pay off for them again in 2013.