E3 2012 – Sony Press Conference
I’ll be following the Nintendo press conference later today and live tweeting at @toomanywiresUK. A Nintendo round-up will be posted sometime tomorrow.
Sony’s E3 2012 Press Conference
I was struggling to stay awake and the 2am start was not helping. A dub step powered opening nearly put me in a coma, though Sony did manage to mix in a few other genres in their extended, opening montage which succeeded in waking me up. Jack Tretton, who always remembers to dress up for these events and comes across rather well, was the host for the evening. He opened up by thanking the people who make this all possible - the gamers (that’s me!) - and then announced his unrequited love for Kaz Hirai. The Emperor stood and took a bow.
David Cage was up first with Quantic Dream’s follow up to Heavy Rain, Beyond. The trailer, running in real time, looked very impressive but did not appear to show any gameplay. It’s all a bit supernatural and perhaps more action orientated than Heavy Rain; at this point I’m not really sure what to make of it. Still, it’s great to kick off a show with an unannounced, platform exclusive, new IP.
PlayStation All Stars Battle Royale was next on stage. Studio head Chan Park confirmed Cross-play with Vita, which is a great start even if I can’t muster much enthusiasm for this game. The small character models were lost against a constantly shifting background, one that was often more interesting than the action in the foreground. To no one’s surprise, Nathan Drake was announced as an All Star; Bioshock’s Big Daddy was more unexpected.
Next up was the Vita and PSN. Cross controller DLC will be introduced for Little Big Planet 2, a two year old, largely superfluous game, and there was talk of 80% of PS3s and Vitas being connected to the internet, which is a surprisingly high figure. Apparently, 200+ titles will be coming to PSN over the next twelve months along with an expansion of the PS+ package. In a shameless attempt to butter-up the audience, Jack announced that everyone in attendance would receive a year’s free PS+ membership.
Jack confirmed that PSone classics will be playable on the Vita from this summer– about fucking time – including Final Fantasy VII and Tomb Raider. One of the most highly anticipated Vita games, Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified was glossed over with little more than a promise of more information to come. So that’s nothing more than a name-check for the game that the Vita absolutely must have if it is to make any sort of splash in its inaugural year. Well played Sony, well played.
Fortunately, far more information was available for Assassin’s Creed Vita, to be known as Assassin’s Creed 3: Liberation. Featuring a female protagonist, it looked the business, but I really can’t see myself wanting to play two Assassin’s Creeds in the space of a few months, especially when the home console version looks so much more impressive. Ubisoft walked us through another stage demo of their premier franchise, this time taking to the high seas as our assassin steered a galley through a bloody skirmish. The French developer continued its strong showing – Watch Dogs was a very welcome surprise during their own presser - with a helping of Far Cry 3. We were treated to a newly revealed 4 player co-op campaign. Although it appeared pretty generic and was peppered with hammy instructions and banter from the gaming developers, it’s another addition to what already looks like a massive game, one that is quickly becoming one of my most anticipated of the year.
PS Move would follow, as Sony talked of “innovation” and introduced us to a JK Rowling collaboration, Wonderbook. A painfully long and poorly executed presentation that combined book, Move and PS Eye, it proved that when it comes to motion controls, Sony haven’t quite grasped the meaning of innovation. Dragons and pyromancy have never seemed so pedestrian and for the next hour on twitter, every game feature was followed by a deluge of “can I play this with Wonderbook?” jibes.
After something about PS Mobile, Sony dragged out the wan wonder, Kratos. God of War Ascension got a single player demonstration and it was exactly what we have come to expect. Kratos hacked his way through an army of goat headed demons and didn’t even blink an eyelid when assaulted by an elephant-man. It was a fast, bloody and overly familiar visual treat.
After a thirty second shot of the auditorium in darkness – had Jack nodded off? – it was time for the show stopper: Naughty Dog’s Last of Us. I love the setting, with luscious vegetation taking over a derelict city, and in character movements and camera work it does remind you of Uncharted. However, in combat it marked itself as being very different to its stable mate. The fighting is measured and brutal, as ammo is scarce and every body blow takes its toll. Jaws are shattered and faces blown away as the crowd got a taste for blood, cheering at the fracturing of a skull. What a lovely audience! Last of Us is shaping up to be the kind of exclusive that will make the competition envious and remind everyone, as if we needed reminding, as to the calibre of the Naughty Dog studio.
In a Nutshell
By showing off four big exclusives – Beyond, All Stars, God of War and Last of Us – and keeping the focus on the games, Sony were able to outshine Microsoft in this final hurrah before the next generation announcements. However, last night showed Sony at their overconfident worst, preening whilst displaying a worrying lack of innovation and urgency.
The Vita has seemingly been forgotten. This was the perfect opportunity to commit fully to the struggling portable and sell it to the masses, but Sony well and truly dropped the ball. Perhaps more games will be revealed in the coming days, but for the Vita this was a wasted opportunity, one that Sony may never get back. I will now set myself on fire.