Sony’s E3 presser has come and gone for another year, and once again, it proved as polarizing as ever. Just have a quick butcher’s at numerous Internet forums and websites and you’ll be able to digest a plethora of razor-edged critique from disgruntled gamers and died-in-the-wool optimists alike, which is where we come in with our stab at Sony’s offering. In many ways, the press conference – fronted once again by eager-to-please SCEA overlord Jack Tretton – was everything we wanted and didn’t want.
Sometimes it dazzled, other times it bedazzled, and sadly other instances it meandered. Just when Sony was on fire (and at times, momentum definitely appeared to be on its side), the platform holder descended into a laborious, yawn-inducing 15-minute chatter about some game half the audience probably wouldn’t even bother with. Other areas were conspicuously lacking, such as triple-A PlayStation Vita announcements, and even whispers on PS4. In my humble opinion though, the worst offender were leaks, killing any chance of genuine shock; a huge chunk of the stuff that was shown was either previously announced or all but confirmed in rumors and whispers in the weeks building up to the conference. Such is the pitfall of living in an era where you can read about anything before it happens, I guess.
Back to the presser, though. Were we impressed? Yes. We were also pretty underwhelmed? Yes. But let’s start with the positive.
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BEYOND: TWO SOULS
David Cage’s new project had been rumored for some time and sadly leaked mere hours before the conference took place, but even that wasn’t enough to kill off the hype. Beyond: Two Souls looks positively breathtaking, and like Heavy Rain before it, will surely challenge the preconception that some folk have regarding the status of videogames as an art form. Meticulous visuals aside, the concept sounds particularly juicy, and appears to have a touch of the supernatural about it, with the main heroine wielding some sort of telekinesis by the look of things. We’ve been waiting for Cage’s new game for a while now, and after the gorgeous Kara tech demo back at GDC, it was evident the French developer would be pulling out all the stops. And he did just that; Beyond stole the show, and floored jaws throughout the auditorium. It almost makes the agonising wait for The Last Guardian seem not like that big of a deal.
ASSASSIN’S CREED III: LIBERATION
We’re pretty miffed about the lack of PS Vita at the presser, but we’ll save that for another time. Despite this, the announcement of an all-new Assassin’s Creed spin-off, Liberation, definitely tickled our fancy, even more so considering it launches day and date with its console counterpart. Aside from looking pretty scrumptious in terms of aesthetic value, Liberation is particularly intriguing for its inclusion of a playable female assassin for the first time in the series. Furthermore, the storyline is set to crossover with Connor’s in ACIII, and we can expect a myriad of PS Vita-exclusive functions that make use of everything from the touchscreen to gyroscope. It looks every bit the quintessential Assassin’s Creed experience, with stunning vistas, open-world gameplay and meaty combat, all squeezed down to fit on PS Vita’s sharp 5-inch LED screen.
PS1 CLASSICS FINALLY COMING TO PS VITA
Okay, so this probably wasn’t going to get tongues wagging during the actual presser, but looking back, this was a great addition to the E3 line-up. Let’s face it, nostalgia sells, and many of us still love playing PS1 games, especially when you can download them on to your PS3 or PSP. PS Vita should have been able to do this out of the box, so it’s a case of better late than never, but it’s still cracking stuff. Many people don’t own a PSP, so the prospect of playing those classics on the go has obvious appeal to newcomers to Sony’s latest handheld platform, myself included. From the look of things the starting list is pretty positive too, with Final Fantasy VII and Tomb Raider kicking things off. Lovely. The best part is you don’t need to buy them twice either; if you’ve already got a PS1 title on PS3 or PSP, you’re set to go.
THE LAST OF US PLAYS AS GOOD AS IT LOOKS
Sony closed the conference in style with a sumptuous live demo of Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us, which up until now has been all smoke and mirrors thanks to cinematic cut-scenes and dynamic trailers. Here however, we finally got to see how the game actually plays – and boy was it worth it. Cynics have dismissed it as simply a more violent version of Uncharted, and while mechanically it seems both games share some similarities, The Last of Us is another kettle of fish altogether. The demo was positively oozing with quality, from the meticulously-crafted visuals, tense atmosphere to the visceral and brutal combat. In the section that was shown, hero Joel made his way through a dilapidated building, methodically dispatching the gun-toting baddies within. More than anything else however, is how authentic the combat was, from the wince-inducing hit animations to the fluidity of the character’s movements. When Joel smacked a goon with the stock of his Shotgun, the impact was met with a satisfying crunch. When a bad guy shot Joel in the stomach, he didn’t just grunt and shrug it off; he cried out in pain and stopped in his tracks, taking a moment to recover. We also got a brief look at the game’s inventory, which seemed jam-packed with crafting possibilities as a result of Joel’s scavenging. The game looks stunning, and Sony couldn’t have picked a better show closer. Oh, and Naughty Dog also clarified that you are able to circumvent the entire area without even throwing a punch or firing a shot.
NATE, BIG DADDY JOINS CROSS-PLATFORM ANTICS IN ALL-STARS BATTLE ROYALE
So, PS Vita didn’t get much of a showing in terms of new triple-A software, but Sony did trumpet one of the key areas of the handheld: cross-platform play. Fortunately, the company wisely took the opportunity to illustrate this functionality with the newly-announced PS Vita port of PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale. Sure, we knew the port was coming, but it was great to hear it finally confirmed along with cross-platform play. Yep, so even if your PS Vita loving mate doesn’t own a PS3 but you both have Battle Royale, then you can still play against each other; and frankly, what better game to fly the flag for cross-platform play than a four-player brawler staring the most iconic PS characters around? Speaking of characters, Sony also confirmed that Nathan Drake will be joining the fray alongside the lumbering Big Daddy, and while the latter is a curious addition (after all, who ever thought BioShock was synonymous with PlayStation? It didn’t even arrive on PS3 until AFTER the Xbox 360), it’s still a solid, diverse cast that is only sure to further expand from now until the game’s launch.