2012-06-05

E3 2012: Sony – The Sony Press Conference

by Yo Snyder

Sony’s been having a rough time of it lately. Their stock is low, the
Vita isn’t exactly thriving, they’ve had all kinds of issues with
Playstation Network. Yup, times are tough, but the company put on a
brave front did their best to wow people at E3. Maybe it was just me,
but despite the many superlatives tossed about exhorting the great
accomplishments of Playstation, there seemed to be an almost weary
resignation in the air.  Maybe not, maybe it was just me. But whereas
Nintendo is innovating and Microsoft is imitating, Sony just seemed to
be trying to stay caught up. I’ll give them this, though, they
definitely had the coolest looking stage.

After lots of PR talk
and a nice tribute to the gamers (who, after all, make all of this
possible, don’t we?), we finally got around to the games with a really
cool presentation from the makers of Heavy Rain. I’m telling you, in a world filled with flash and bash games, having a more thoughtful, emotional experience is great. Beyond – Two Souls
certainly looks very unique. The introduction talked a lot about how no
one knows what happens after death (which isn’t true, but we’ll let
that slide for now) and how the game’s protagonist has a unique
connection to whatever may lie “beyond”. The footage shown, which had an
almost Polar Express look to it all, was real-time, in-game
footage and quickly establish a strong mood filled with tension, emotion
and a little creepiness. A trailer for the game also showed there will
be plenty of action. Looks like good stuff, and Beyond was a strong start to the show.

Next up was Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale.
The game features Playstation mascots fighting each other on various
platforms from popular franchises and…wait, why does this all sound so
familiar. Oh yeah, Super Smash Brothers. That impression grew stronger
watching some footage of the game. However, one very cool feature is
this game will be cross-compatible; meaning you can play it with someone
on either a PS3 or a Vita. The demo showed to people playing on Vitas
and two on a PS3; sounds like fun stuff for this upcoming holiday
season.

Speaking of cross-compatibility, Little Big Planet 2
is getting some DLC that will be cross-compatible between the two
systems. It’ll include new story modes and bunches of new stuff to
create and build with.

Next it was on to talking about the Playstation Network. For Playstation Plus subscribers, new free games are coming, including Infamous 2 and Little Big Planet 2. On the digital games side of things, PSOne classics are coming to PSN including games like Tomb Raider and Final Fantasy VII.
And just to help get everyone even more excited about Playstation Plus,
everyone attending the conference got a voucher for a free year of
PSPlus; very cool.

Continuing with talk about PSN, the focus then
turned to using it as the hub for your living rooms entertainment.
However, this effort wasn’t as strong or expansive as Microsoft’s when
it came to this issue, but it was mentioned that HuluPlus is coming to
the Vita. Music Unlimited was also mentioned, although pretty much in
passing.

Next it was Call of Duty on the Vita. The title is called Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified, and it was touted as the first, hi-def, first-person shooter multiplayer experience on a handheld. 

Assassin’s Creed III is also coming to the Vita, with ACIII: Liberation.
This title has the first female assassin in the starring role and was
built from the ground up for the Vita. It will have some
cross-compatible unlocks with the PS3 ACIII. Plus, it’s getting bundled
with an all-new crystal white Vita system that will come with the game
and a 4GB memory card. To top off all the ACIII, we got to see some
really cool gameplay. The new game lets you set sail on the raging ocean
to engage in some sweet looking sea battles. So cool. The PS3 is also
getting an AC bundle when the game releases this October, which will
include some exclusive DLC.

Far Cry 3 is getting four
player co-op. The makers of the game came out and demonstrated this
feature on stage, stating that they pretty much developed two games for
this one title. You have the single player campaign, and an entirely
separate co-op campaign to enjoy with your friends. The game will also
have a map editor so you can create your own Far Cry experience, and the
PS3 will get some free DLC for the game.

In one of the oddest
moments, the presentation finally got around to Playstation Move. They
touted the numbers of this peripheral and all the games that support it,
and that was pretty much it. Considering how much Move was the focus of
previous E3’s, the brush off it got here seemed pretty strange. Epic Mickey 2
will be Move compatible, which is pretty cool stuff. I would think that
would make it like the Wii version but better in HD. Yet, nothing shown
about, and the whole Move presentation ended with a comment that
amounted to, “yeah it’s there, but you don’t have to use it if you don’t
want to.” Huh.

Next came the most interesting part of Sony’s
show, and the longest. The Playstation is getting an interactive story
book called, the WonderBook. This device uses the Playstation Eye to
create an augmented reality, interactive story book. There will be
educational and scientific books, as well new content like Diggs Nightcrawler,
which is a detective story. The big surprise about all of this is that
J.K. Rowling is on board and writing one of the first stories for
WonderBook called Book of Spells. It’s a story that’s part of the
Pottermore universe and allows you to learn how spells came about and
how to use them using the PS Move (that device that’s there but you
don’t need to use if you don’t want to…unless you’re playing with
WonderBook) as your wand. Unfortunately, the demo for all of this went
on far too long, and didn’t even work quite right. However, augmented
reality is pretty tricky at times to get to work properly, and stage
setting would make that even more challenging. Still, all of this had me
wondering, “what is going on?” Nintendo is introducing a new console,
Microsoft is doing some very interesting thing with tablets, smart
phones and the 360, and the Playstation gets interactive, virtual
reality, not always working story books? And this is what takes up a
bulk of the show? I don’t get it.

Playstation Suite is getting a
new name. It’s now Playstation Mobile, and HTC is one of the first
smartphone makers that will have a line of Playstation certified phones
to play certified games. Not much more was revealed about this than we
already knew from last year, but it still sounds like a move that holds a
lot of promise.

Then it was back to stuff the audience really cared about with a demo of God of War: Ascension.
It looked…well, very God of War. It was hyper violent and bloody with
huge beasts and all sorts of crazy action; just what fans love about
the series. Also, apparently Kratos as some sort of Force powers this
time around to help him get where he’s going. The new GoW hits March of
2013.

And then the show ended with a look at the intense game The Last of Us.
It’s pretty brutal, gritty stuff, and there were more f-words in this
brief demo than I have heard during the entire show, including
everything from Microsoft’s press conference. I’m not one to normally
comment on something like that, but seriously, it was like listening to
some of the worst players when online with Call of Duty. 

With
that, the show came to an end. A bulk of it was all about WonderBook,
which I’m sure left many wondering about a lot of things. Again, my
impression was Sony just seemed a little uncertain this year; not sure
what direction to go in (and thus the AR interactive story book). The
system still has some great exclusives and it’s move into the smartphone
arena could definitely pay off, but all in all, it was not the
strongest showing from Sony. Not the worst, just somewhere in the “meh”
territory, which I don’t think is where they want to be.