Continuing my coverage of the press conferences at E3 this year, next up we have Sony…go grab some snacks people, this is going to be a long one.
Beginning the conference was a five minute long video package featuring partial cutscenes and gameplay footage from upcoming and already available titles. I am assuming that, from the front row of the press present at the conference that some of the trailers were featured in 3D otherwise I feel that Kudo Sunoda may have sparked a trend of wearing large sunglasses indoors.
PSN OUTAGE APOLOGY
Starting the conference in earnest was Jack Tretton – President and CEO of Sony Entertainment America who not only introduced the conference but also took the opportunity to apologize for the recent PSN outage, though I say “apologize” he only actually said “sorry” to the end users like you and me, he went on to ‘acknowledge’ Sony’s third party publishers for their support and the retail outlets for their original support of Playstation 15 years ago, he even managed to crack out a joke by telling the members of the press that they were welcome for all the publicity.
Jack went on to describe that amongst the already available services on the Playstation Network, CinemaNow would be coming by the end of this year.
But, enough about features and past mistakes Jack; let’s get on with the games!
UNCHARTED 3: DRAKES DECEPTION
To present the Uncharted 3 demo we had Evan Wells and Christophe Balestra, both co-producers at Naughty Dog. Having never had the opportunity to play an Uncharted game before, this was a nice look at the engine and graphics that kick started the success of the PS3.
The demo started with the protagonist Nathan Drake aboard what appeared to be an abandoned cruise liner, much to the joy of a few die hard fans in the audience who could not control their cheering and woops.
Drake moved through the lavishly decorated ballroom of the ship, silently taking out guards as he moves to one of the ships cargo holds, Drake then finds himself surrounded by enemies and in a cover-based firefight. During which the ship was quickly filling with water from a hole created by one of Drakes cutscene-thrown grenades, this was an interesting moment in the demo as the ship suddenly tilted fully on its side as it continued to sink.
The rest of the demo included Drake getting trapped under a piece of falling debris and having to use a quick time event to escape. The game felt very cutscene heavy but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad game, Uncharted 3 looked like a very well put together cinematic experience for the player with some wonderful voice acting.
So it’s Insomniac Games’ turn on the catwalk to parade their latest installment around like a prize poodle, the handler here is Marcus Smith who showed us a section of the game where the protagonist, Joseph Capelli is on a mission to retrieve a power core from a downed enemy ship.
Unfortunately and utterly unsurprisingly, the mission goes badly and Capelli and his teammates are forced to run for their lives whilst Chimera soldiers descend upon them.
The demo pretty much ends there with no specifically stand out moments in the footage, the Resistance games have always been graphically stunning, they are to PS3 what Crysis 1 was for PC and what Crysis 2 has become for Xbox 360. Initially nothing appears to have changed and I feel that’s how hardcore fans of the series like it.
One major addition this time around though would be in integration of Playstation Move and the release of the Sharpshooter Bundle pack, which will include the Resistance game, the Sharpshooter gun attachment, a Playstation Move controller, a Navigation controller and a Playstation Eye camera all being released on September the 6th at $150 (roughly £100)
LOTS OF 3D NEWS
Not only have Sony well and truly jumped onto the 3D bandwagon, they have bought the whole thing and renamed it the Sony Express, announcing that two new pieces of 3D hardware would join the Sony portfolio including the 24 inch Playstation branded 3D television and Playstation branded 3D glasses.
Interestingly, the television comes with unique technology that allows the 3D glasses users to, when viewing split screen, to each see a full screen with only their information on it. Whilst this sounds fantastic the concept feels shaky at best and the idea will most likely spark a new wave of Epilepsy in gamers.
Bundled with the TV will be a copy or Resistance 3, a six foot long HDMI cable and a pair of the Playstation 3D glasses all for $499 (currently just over £300)
The 3D glasses will retail separately for $69.99 (about £43)
Not to ignore their software titles though, Sony will also be releasing collections of the previous PSP title God of War: Chains of Olympus and the much anticipated Ico and Shadow of the Colossus. Both collections will be fully playable in 3D (also HD for us lowly mortals)
To show us the integration of the Playstation Move we now have Chris Snyder and Erick Boenisch from 2K Sports to show us NBA 2K11 with it’s new feature, NBA On The Move.
NBA On The Move essentially plays out like a sports related real time strategy game where you use the Playstation Move controller to point at the characters to perform their best offensive of defensive move. This is a nice integration into the game and does not seem to take much away from the actual gameplay. It is also nice that 2K Sports have built a specific in-game mode for the Move controller rather than try to shoehorn it into the main game.
Sony then decided to wheel out their special guest, NBA superstar for the L.A Lakers: Kobe Bryant. Kobe decided to show us that he could barely play the game and then went on to say how impressive the graphics were and how real they looks and I have to agree with him, at times it did appear as though I was watching NBA on TV, repetitive crowd members not withstanding.
MEDIEVAL MOVES: DEAD MANS QUEST
Shambling on stage next were Umrao Mayer of Zindagi Games and Jeremy Ray of Sony Computer Entertainment America to show us their skeleton bashing hack and slasher for the Playstation Move.
During the demo, we witnessed some arbitrarily basic graphics from the Move title, but the focus (and constantly mentioned by Umrao) was the combat and lack of inventory system. The player used the Move controller in a very Twilight Princess-esque fashion to attack a horde of pursuing skeletons and by reaching their arm to their back over their shoulder they could use their bow as there is no inventory system. (yes, thank you Umrao)
One interesting point I would like to highlight was that during the demo, Jeremy (the player) stood still and showed us how quickly the character could throw throwing stars simply be tilting slightly to the side and flicking their arm out towards the screen, of course there was no need to pause the game as there was no inventory system (thank you again, Umrao)
Also during the demo, Jeremy had to solve some basic puzzles including a lock he had to pick by twisting the Move controller and one involving some giant gears and jets of flame and during these parts whilst the player was stopping the jets of fire and using a very familiar grappling hook device I was instantly reminded of The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time. Of course this game is absolutely nothing like that title, because this one doesn’t have an inventory system. (getting old now, Umrao)
Medieval Moves: Dead Mans Quest releases this fall with absolutely no inventory system.
Jack Tretton then decided it was time to treat our eyes to a trailer to the highly anticipated Infamous 2 and talk about its Move integration.
Now, having never played the original Infamous game it is hard for me to make a comparison but from the looks of the trailer, Infamous 2 looks like a well constructed, action packed, free roaming game with an awful lot of explosions in it.
Feeling like the love child of X-Men and Prototype isn’t always a bad thing though as Infamous 2 looks very impressive and with the ability to create custom made missions online whilst using the Playstation Move hardware may appeal to a wider audience.
After some very brief mentions and subsequently non descript trailers of Little Big Planet 2, Stawhawk and Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time, Jack Tretton submitted the floor to the CEO of CCP (creators of EVE Online) Hilmar Pétursson.
Hilmar wanted to tell us about Dust 514, a Playstation exclusive first person shooter which connects to the EVE Online universe. Dust will also be released with Move support, its own Playstation Home space and integration with the NGP though details on the last part are a complete unknown at the moment.
I personally think the idea of a truly cross platform game is brilliant, with the idea of PC gamers hiring console gaming based mercenaries to perform missions and launch ground attacks for them.
Dust 514 will have a closed beta by the end of this year and a full release in Spring 2012
Next up we had Ken Lavine from Irrational Games to tell us about his unfortunately relationship with the Playstation Move controller, explaining that at first he did not want to include the Playstation Move controller, essentially saying that it was not relevant for the kind of experience he wanted to create.
After a ‘phone conversation’ with Sony, however, Kenny boy changed his mind and wants to include the Move controller in Bioshock Infinite. Ken also announced that Irrational are working on a Bioshock ‘side project’ that would be coming to the NGP. Exciting stuff for Sony’s latest handheld.
MOVE TITLES AND PLAYSTATION EXCLUSIVES
Jack Tretton took the stage back at this point to inform us that several other Playstation 3 titles would be getting Move integration including Saints Row: The Third and the upcoming Star Trek videogame which is set after the rebooted Star Trek movie and its upcoming 2012 sequel and most excitedly, will be shipped with a Phaser shaped Move controller.
The Playstation 3 exclusives on offer included an additional map of Mount Fuji for the latest iteration of the classic snowboarding title, SSX. Addition supercars for Need for Speed: The Run and a bundled package for Battlefield 3 which includes the additional game Battlefield 1943
Yet another leaked announcement coming up folks as Kazou Hirai, the President and Group CEO of SCEE and President of Sony’s Consumer and Product Services Group (also the owner of the biggest business cards in history with that job title) came out to talk to us about the newest member of the Playstation family.
Whilst listing off features that had already been unveiled or leaked previously, Kazou introduced us to the Playstation Vita; previously the NGP.
The NGP features are pretty impressive, including:
2 Dual Shock analogue sticks
Six-Axis Motion Control Technology
Front and Rear cameras for Augmented Reality games.
Both Wi-Fi and 3G networking
Kazou also announced that Sony would be partnering with AT&T for their network coverage which seemed to get a few laughs as according to a source of mine, AT&T are notoriously unreliable.
Kazou also introduced us to some of the Vitas features which included ‘Party’ which boils down to the in-game chat that Sony have been desperately trying to get into their hardware for years now and a feature called ‘Near’ which allows you to connect to and suggest content to people within your network range.
Also announced was Playstation Suite which will allow Playstation certified mobile devices to connect to the PSN.
UNCHARTED: GOLDEN ABYSS
Fresh into the playable titles for the Playstation Vita at E3 we find Uncharted: Golden Abyss. Scott Rohde, Senior Vice President of SCE World Wide introduced both John Garvin and Chris Reese from Bend Studios to show us this game.
Likening this title to the previously demoed Uncharted 3 would yield similar results; both games seem graphically astonishing, even on the considerably smaller size screen of the Vita. Both aspects of the combat and Uncharted trademark climbing and exploration can be controlled using either the regular controls on the Vita or the front touchscreen.
To help strengthen the link between the Playstation Vita and the Playstation 3, games such as Ruin, created by Idle Minds, are incorporating cloud saving.
Both Jeff Lichfield from Idle Minds and Travis Williams from Playstations San Diego studios show off possibly the most obvious carbon copy of Diablo III that I have seen of recent years with this action/RPG.
The main and most interesting aspect to this demo was without a doubt the ability to save in the cloud on the Vita and instantly continue on your Playstation 3 at home. This is something that, if done correctly will set the Vita apart and appeal to the core gaming market.
With the demo of Ruin ending quickly, possibly due to a phone call from Blizzard, who knows, we now have Eric Waas’ on centre stage, also hailing from Sony’s San Diego studios, Eric showed us ModNation Racers, a racer that was popular on both PSP and PS3.
This is stressed as ‘not a port’ by Eric several times and it’s quite easy to see why, with the inclusion of the Vita’s touchscreen and the rear touchpad, it is very easy for players to create tracks and also create valleys and mountains in the landscape, terraforming has never been so easy.
Also announced that, even though this is definitely not a port, is that all of the Playstation 3 created content will available on day one of release…but it’s definitely not a port!
Scott Rohde came back on stage to announce that upcoming Playstation Vita title Wipeout 2048 would feature ‘Cross Play’ that would enable both Playstation 3 owners and Playstation Vita owners to play against each other.
Scott also introduced a trailer for Little Big Planet on Playstation Vita that included an enhanced Little Big Planet toolbox and some nice integration of the touchscreens, controlling pushable blocks with both the front and rear touch panels.
STREET FIGHTER X TEKKEN
The fighting games Nirvana, Street Fighter X Tekken was announced last year by Capcom and onstage now, Yoshinori Ono announced and demoed a version they are currently working on for the Playstation Vita, he also announced that the roster would include the protagonist from Infamous, Cole MacGrath.
Ono said that with Cole’s repertoire of elemental moves, he would make a great asset to the game. I’m inclined to agree with Ono as he demonstrated some of Coles lightning and tornado moves against Street Fighters Ryu.
Kazou came back on stage to address the burning question of the Playstation Vitas price. Fortunately Kazou didn’t cause too many coronaries with the prices announced at the following:
Wi-Fi only Model Priced at $249.99 €249.99 £223
3G Wi-Fi Model priced at $299.99 €299.99 £268
And so this brings the quite lengthy Sony Press conference to a close, it’s quite obvious that Sony had a lot more faith in their Move hardware than Microsoft had in their Kinect, with publishers like Insomniac Games making a blockbuster First Person Shooter like Resistance Move compatible and major sports publishers like 2K Sports integrating the Move remote into their NBA games already, instead of their representative simply stating that they will eventually integrate the new hardware like Microsoft’s conference.
The Playstation Vita being not only announced officially but with some genuinely interesting games on there and room for major growth in regards to cloud saving and cross Vita and PS3 gaming, along with the very reasonable price means Sony presented a very strong contender of Winner of E3