I don’t know what the audience breakdown was, whether the auditorium was made up of game journalists, industry professionals, bloggers or eager fans. All I know is that they were an enthusiastic bunch, whooping and hollering at every single opportunity. A glimpse of gameplay? Cheering. Metacritic statistics? Wild applause. A shot of an ocean? WOOOO! What was it that worked the crowd in to such a tizzy?
Maybe it was the dubstep; it took all of eight seconds for the wubwub to begin, playing underneath a montage of what seemed like every game ever. Sony have always been in a less-than-ideal position with their E3 events, announcing their wares after everyone else has done the same.
At least they started off in style with Beyond: Two Souls, developed by Quantic Dream. You can’t accuse David Cage of losing any ambition since Heavy Rain; this game will follow Jodie Holmes, a girl with telekinetic powers, over the span of fifteen years. We know little else about Beyond, but if this sample is any indication of the full game, then we are a step closer towards crossing the uncanny valley; the dead-eyed human simulacra that populated Heavy Rain are mostly gone. Beyond is an intriguing project, one we will have to wait and see how it turns out.
On a completely unrelated note, Playstation All Stars: Battle Royale got a gameplay demo courtesy of four people who must’ve raided The Wiggles’ wardrobe. As you’d expect, it looked very similar to Super Smash Bros, but this only worked in Playstation All Stars’ favour. Ardent internet leakers meant that the many reveals – the cross compatibility between the PS3 and Vita versions as well as Nathan Drake and the Big Daddy as playable characters – did not hit as hard as Sony would’ve liked. It was pleasant, though, to see the Vita go toe-to-toe with the PS3.
Speaking of which, Sony dedicated a solid block of time to the handheld. Some of the potentially interesting announcements include Call of Duty: Black Ops: Declassified, a fully featured FPS, and Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation, a standalone Assassin’s Creed game starring an African-French woman named Aveline. Some of the less interesting announcements include YouTube and Crackle apps, PSOne Classics compatibility and, wait for it, a Crystal White Vita. Please hold your applause.
Sony always had a cosy relationship with Ubisoft, and that streak wasn’t broken by this press conference. The two revealed that Far Cry 3 has four-player co-op. Sure, it extends the game’s replay value, but the on-stage demo made the game seem shouty instead of merely hectic. Meanwhile, Assassin’s Creed III will feature naval combat. This series has suffered from feature creep, something that was very apparent in Assassin’s Creed: Revelations. Thankfully, it looks like Ubisoft managed to comfortably fit this mechanic in; it felt as lumbering and methodical as you’d expect from a sea battle. Continuing the comfortable relationship between the companies, both games will feature PS3 exclusive DLC.
Sony has a less cosy relationship with the Move controller. To rectify this, Sony announced Wonderbook, augmented reality pop-up books that use the Playstation Eye and the Move controller. The centrepiece of this presentation was Wonderbook: Book of Spells, a collaboration with Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling. It’s an easy project to dismiss; after all, these books are clearly aimed at a younger audience. Still, to say that the presentation fell flat would be the understatement of the show. Apart from the myriad technical glitches, the presentation went for thirteen minutes and forty seconds – an eternity at E3, particularly when people are there to whoop at hardcore games for burly, hardcore people.
Cue the God of War: Ascension gameplay demo. Apart from rebuild mechanic reminiscent of Red Faction: Armageddon, it was basically a God of War clip show: Kratos is still angry, he’s still ripping heads off beasts of questionable mythology, there’s even a kraken thrown in. Though it went for a comparatively short seven minutes, it somehow felt more tedious than the Wonderland presentation. That’s coming out March 12, 2013 if you’re keen.
Thankfully that wasn’t the curtain closer, that duty went to Naughty Dog’s post-apocalyptic game The Last of Us. Uncharted’s legacy is very much present in the game’s environments and animation, but that’s where the similarities end. If Uncharted is an adventure flick, The Last of Us is a survival horror; the protagonists are very vulnerable and are given precious few tools to defend themselves from crazed attackers. When they do use them, the hits and kills are absolutely brutal; a stealth kill that would normally go by in an instant takes a good ten seconds here. It’s this savagery and the game’s oppressive atmosphere that won me over.
Sony’s press conference certainly had its lows and its lulls, but these were offset by some exciting first party games. I have high hopes for Beyond and The Last of Us. As for everything else, I’ll just wait for the Wonderbook version. Cheer over that, audience members!
Sony’s E3 press conference can be viewed below. Note: You have to skip to the second video in the playlist: