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.