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Sony's E3 2012 Press Conference - Review

The "playing it safe" edition.

Tretton still holds himself well – even after a slightly rough dubstep introduction with more logos and hardware you could wish for – and PlayStation’s Never Stop Playing mantra seems to be resonating harder than ever this year. Jack’s brought some buddies though, and they all had games to show.

First up, Quantic Dream’s David Cage, and his new IP: Beyond, subtitled Two Souls. It’s a brave new title, based on fifteen years of a girl’s life through happy and difficult times, and played by Ellen Page, which explains – perhaps – why Naughty Dog recently changed their lead role in the Last Of US.

It’s visually stunning, of course, way beyond Heavy Rain and with some breathtaking animation. Lead character Jodie’s actress seems to fit perfectly, and the mystery and intrigue given off by just a tiny snippet of the game was enough to sink those hooks in.

It’s this that Sony does well – new experiences – and Quantic Dream’s exclusive new game kicked off a smart, intelligent E3 presser that only – largely – attempted to maintain that impact. Cage was in no-nonsense mode, but his confidence worked well, and the PS3 clearly still has some life left.

Indeed, Battle Royale – next to the stage – garnered a solid reception, and rightly so. It might well carry echoes of Nintendo’s Smash Bros but these are convincingly rounded characters at play, and there’s literally loads of them here, all bundled into one game.

You have to feel for SuperBot though, thrust into the limelight with huge weights on their shoulders, but studio lead Chan Park’s Vita confirmation – Cross Play compatible with PS3 – warmed the crowd up instantly. Cross Play is brilliant, and the 2D brawler worked well across the two platforms.

The demo perhaps lingered a little longer than it should have, building up to a third level ‘super’ for character Sweet Tooth that didn’t really connect as strongly as it might have done, but the fan service on display is ridiculously rich, and the gameplay looks solid.

And the reveal of two new characters – Drake and Big Daddy – didn’t really have the impact either, given that the official Facebook page had already spoiled the surprise earlier today.

The brief section about using the Vita as a controller for LittleBigPlanet 2 felt a little bit flat though – the DLC concept seemed to ask a simple question – why? And what about LittleBigPlanet Vita? This one needed a bit more discussion, unless that’s just me and the fact that it’s late.

Moving onto PlayStation Plus, Tretton confirmed that a dozen PS3 titles would be free – including the likes of inFamous 2 – with more games rotated in and out down the line. The generous twelve month Plus voucher code seemed to connect well with the audience, and the announcement that PS1 titles such as Tomb Raider and Final Fantasy would be appearing on Vita should sit nicely with fans when it finally appears – no date was given.

Was it the Plus announcement we were expecting? No.

A few Vita announcements included Hulu Plus and Crackle apps, in addition to the already confirmed YouTube. Call Of Duty was locked down as “Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified” which Tretton said was “triple A” – it’s a side game, sure, but at least it’s tied into Black Ops. Third party publisher support like the showcased Assassin’s Creed Liberation shows that the portable has some big titles coming, and bundling the (white) Vita with the title this October is a powerful move.

Indeed, it seems that Sony are really behind the Assassin’s Creed brand, with a demo of III showcasing some new elements of the game live. It looks great, but more importantly Sony are being smart hooking into games that already have a loyal following, attaching the PlayStation name to something that’s likely to sell anyway.

Whether that’ll translate to console sales we’ll have to see, but a new hardware bundle should hopefully shift some units. Far Cry 3, another Ubisoft game, will see a great-looking new four player co-op game (developed by Ubisoft’s Swedish studio Massive) as part of the deal. It’s not exclusive (although some DLC will be) but it was a nice surprise.

PlayStation Move‘s position might not have been the easiest sale, but Tretton’s introduction of Andrew House, in his new role, was timely even if it didn’t really work for me personally. Discussing Wonderbook, from London Studio, House showed off a neat video that showed exactly what the Soho based guys are really good at: Eyetoy with stories, but it went downhill from there.

So whilst Moonbot’s Diggs Nightcrawler might have promise, there was a lull here that threatened to kill the atmosphere even once J K Rowling’s name was dropped. Book Of Spells will be Wonderbook’s first title to be published, a Potter tie-in, but the lullaby music was perhaps a little too much and although the demo had potential, memories of Eye of Judgment (and considerable buyer’s remorse) spoiled the effect.

It’s tempting to dismiss Wonderbook entirely, but kids will likely love this, especially Potter fans, even if the conference crowd seemed well and truly bored by the time ‘exit door’ jokes were fired out. Perhaps a little more rehersal time might have avoided the awkward pauses, and the quote from Rowling seemed daft – will this ignite your Move controller? We’ll see.

House then briefly discussed PlayStation Suite – which will, from today, be called PlayStation Mobile. HTC will be the first non-Sony hardware partner that’ll play host to PlayStation Certified branding.

Thankfully, though, the games returned at the end. God Of War: Ascension is naturally looking wonderful, with Todd Papy’s gameplay demo finally awakening the crowd from their slumbers. Kratos is back in fine form, and there’s a familiarity in the gameplay that hopefully means Santa Monica will have plenty of loyal fans ready and willing.

Likewise, the The Last Of Us gameplay demo showed that Naughty Dog still know to make a top tier third person adventure, the duality of the leads an obvious echo of that of Nate and Sully of past. There’s little diversion from what the studio have put out of late, but the concept is solid and the production values second to none. There’s a physicality to the camera that I personally adore, and the gritty action and free-flowing gameplay look amazing.

It’s telling, though, that games like God Of War and The Last Of Us have such massive appeal amongst PlayStation loyalists – and whilst the show desperately needed an injection of life at that point, is Kratos’ new game or the direction the Dogs have adhered to an indication of the safety net such brands and studios provide during the closing stages of a console’s life?

Maybe that doesn’t really matter – the games look fabulous and they’re clearly a smart investment, but more titles like Cage’s Beyond and indie title The Unfinished Swan (the latter sadly missing from the show) – that try to do something different on the platform – might excite more rather than playing things a little bit safe. The crowd lapped up Papy’s gameplay video though, and The Last Of Us will be huge.

Like Microsoft’s conference, this was an event that seemed to look and feel like the end of a generation, like everyone was just poised to talk about what’s next, what’s beyond what we already have. That’s not a criticism, because SCEA couldn’t really have done much else today, and the stuff they did have to show was mostly spectacular. But it’s clear that next year is going to be special and the lack of any real surprises was odd – Sony really did fire most of their big guns before the show.

And The Last Guardian? It’s gone, right?

In short, though, the conference started out strongly, the middle section was muted and a little bloated, but picked up brilliantly towards the end with the last two gameplay demos. A solid enough display, but one that just felt like there was another layer behind it all, a layer that ends with the number 4.

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45 Comments
  1. Guyers94
    Member
    Since: Apr 2010

    Slightly disappointed I stayed up for it, Wonderbook was horrifically boring to watch and I don’t think it will do well even with the Harry Potter link.

    The Last Of Us looked great, as did Beyond, but I thought Battle Royale and GoW were just a bit bland. GoW in particular could have just been a level from the last game.

    I think the most disappointing thing was the PS+ announcement. It’s great that I’ll get 12 free games (Even though I probably own a few of them) but they were teasing the future of the system, is that really it?

    Comment posted on 05/06/2012 at 03:40.
    • Geffdof23
      Member
      Since: Mar 2010

      The games looked good or average, but basically what I expected. I agree about the plus thing though. Seriously was that it? A bunch of free games? Don’t get me wrong – I think that is great, but it hardly lives up to the hype.

      Comment posted on 05/06/2012 at 03:48.
    • Taylor Made
      Member
      Since: Oct 2011

      How did God of War look blunt even if it was alchapter taken out of the last GoW the game looked bad ass.

      Comment posted on 05/06/2012 at 09:08.
      • Guyers94
        Member
        Since: Apr 2010

        I know what you mean, it was everything you could expect from a God Of War game, but we’ve seen it all before, didn’t look to be any innovation.

        No doubt God Of War fans will lap it up anyway.

        Comment posted on 05/06/2012 at 11:20.
    • cnutard
      Member
      Since: Apr 2011

      Felt the exact same about the whole thing. After all those rumours and speculation I was extremely underwhelmed by the whole conference.

      As you say The Last of Us and Beyond looked good, but I didn’t even get to enjoy them properly as I couldn’t find a stream that would work infuriating PS3 browser so had to stream it from my phone through to the TV. It did not translate well.

      Same thoughts on wonderbook too. Hella bored by its showcase on stage and don’t think it will do well at all. They haven’t made Move a success yet and they’re already adding new gimmicks?!

      Comment posted on 05/06/2012 at 13:15.
  2. ThatMattKid
    Member
    Since: Jan 2010

    I was left slightly disappointed by playstation’s conference, I was waiting for something new, a world exclusive, a new partnership…but nothing. Thank god for the Last of Us, trust naught dog to save the day again.

    Comment posted on 05/06/2012 at 03:41.
  3. stage1
    Member
    Since: Feb 2012

    Wasn’t disappointed at all :)
    I had no expectations so everything was great! Cannot wait for The Last of Us!
    Looks like no game streaming features though.

    The ‘winner’ of E3 looks like a fight between Sony and Nintendo now.

    Comment posted on 05/06/2012 at 03:50.
  4. Zoddi
    Member
    Since: May 2009

    It was ground solid but nothing to get really excited.
    Only Beyond and The Last of us were really good. Personally i liked the idea of Wonderbooks for kids and waited for the ending of the GoW gameplay.

    Comment posted on 05/06/2012 at 03:51.
  5. Cutter.T
    Member
    Since: Jun 2009

    Its like they forgot about the vita though. ;_;

    Comment posted on 05/06/2012 at 03:57.
  6. 52pickup
    Member
    Since: Oct 2009

    Horrendous! I was sure in my mind Sony were going to convince me to buy a PS Vita. Tragically it looks as though even Sony are hanging the device out to dry. With the supposed 100 games in development only Liberation was shown,and even then that was a short trailer. Other than that a COD logo and a port of PS all-stars. Nothing of value was shown and I do think the device is assuredly dead at this stage.

    In regards to PS3,only Acension and The Last of Us impressed. I was not sure what to make of Beyond,as that was mostly a cinematic with a trailer pasted in at the end. I can’t even bring myself to talk about that Wonder book,that was highly embarrasing and far too long. Overall a very dissapointing show.

    Comment posted on 05/06/2012 at 04:02.
    • Sympozium
      Member
      Since: Aug 2009

      Whats to expect from Vita? its getting games surely they could’ve shown more but I’m sure there’ll be more announcements after that, thats good enough and then you have all the PSP and PSones games that will be available.

      Comment posted on 05/06/2012 at 13:27.
  7. TSBonyman
    Member
    Since: Dec 2009

    I liked the way they projected the videos on the backdrop.
    Beyond looks fantastic, The Last of Us too, amazing. The beginning of the GoW demo was a bit bland but i was impressed by the end, saw some new moves and i think even better visuals than GoW3.
    The WonderBook thing looks like a nice fit for Move although more for kids.
    Using the Vita as a cross-controller sounds interesting.
    So, no new hardware, no streaming deal … and sadly no Last Guardian :,-(

    Comment posted on 05/06/2012 at 04:13.
  8. colmshan1990
    Member
    Since: Apr 2009

    Best show since 2009 for me.

    Shocked they didn’t focus more on the Vita though.
    Just look at the news stories around E3 so far- Assassin’s Creed: Liberation, Playstation All Stars, Soul Sacrifice, Little Big Planet, Sound Shapes, When Vikings Attack, Call of Duty Black Ops, Need for Speed: Most Wanted, Sly Cooper (which didn’t even get a PS3 outing, only in the preshow) Zone of the Enders HD, Metal Gear Solid HD, Retro City…

    They only mentioned a few Vita stuff at the show though- apps, LBP DLC (like the WiiU), ACL, COD, PSAS and that was about it.

    As for the PS3 side of things, Beyond ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4NEup8y0g-Q&list=PLE2A4A347E96A308B&index=1&feature=plcp )was the star of the show and E3 for me, followed by The Last of Us.

    And the big money bombshell for PS Move- an exclusive Harry Potter book experience thing. BIG money.
    If they could keep getting authors of the calibre of JK Rowling on board, Wonderbook will be HUGE.
    If marketed right with a few more similar announcements, Wonderbook could easily make Move sales match Kinect.

    Still don’t know what Media Molecule are working on, must be PS4 I reckon…

    Oh, MCV proved embarrassingly, totally, wrong. Not good for them.

    Comment posted on 05/06/2012 at 04:16.
  9. greatstrife
    Member
    Since: May 2012

    I’m personally not disappointed i stayed up for this, the vita got the adrenaline stab to the heart it needed considering everyones always bitching about the lack of games for it and ill dispute anyone who says that assassin creed and black ops wont sell any vitas.

    The ps3 -is- coming to an end that much is certain but you can definitely see as far as first party titles are concerned they’re going out with a bang and if they can do this for the end of the ps3s life then there is high hopes for the ps4s birth and as far as the big ps plus surprise everyones been hyping up; let me tell ya, i could care less about streaming the ps 1 and 2 games i own, played to death and look at like a wife in a loveless marriage years later when we got quality on the way. seriously the free -full- games offer has been the first time i have ever considered getting playstation plus EVER.

    respect for putting on a good show, too bad they bored my ass to death with the book crap… but i aint the target market and i just thought “damn my kid would love that”

    Comment posted on 05/06/2012 at 04:19.
  10. skibadee
    Member
    Since: Oct 2009

    that was a great show for me best of the bunch.

    Comment posted on 05/06/2012 at 04:24.

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