Sony’s press conference is, of course, fronted by Jack Tretton – the President and CEO of Sony’s american arm. Jack opens the presentation to professing his love not only to their consumers, but also to Kaz Hirai, who stands up from the front row and takes a bow, to rapturous applause. “I love you, man,” Jack says. Kaz giggles.
Jack Tretton is quick to roll out the biggest guns as fast as possible, and Sony’s biggest gun of the evening is the reveal ofHeavy Rain developer Quantic Dream’s new title: Beyond: Two Souls. David Cage from Quantic dream takes the stage. “Death is the biggest mystery of mankind,” he says. “What will happen after we die, is something no-one knows.” Actually, it turns out somebody knows – and it’s Quantic Dream, because Beyond’s protagonist Jodie Holmes has a link with the spirit world. The game tells her story over fifteen years of her life, growing with her and discovering more about her connection to the afterlife. Jodie will be played by, and is modelled extensively on, Ellen Page. David Cage is very excited about this, and professes that “all gamers will instantly fall in love with her”. Except for Jack Tretton, whose heart is already stolen away.
We’re now treated to a scene from the game, where Jodie is being interrogated by a policeman in some sort of small-town sheriff’s office. It’s running in real time, and looks impressively gorgeous, even on an SD stream. Jodie won’t talk, but before long SWAT arrive to take possession of her, and then, well, there appear to be some sort of explosions. We now see a quick montage of some of the abilities that Jodie appears to have, including what look like possession, pyrokinetic ability, and some sort of protective field. She’s bonded somehow with a spirit entity, and doesn’t appear to be entirely in control. Grabbing the downed SWAT captain, she angrily demands for them to “leave me the fuck alone”, before limping away into the night. It’s beautiful, and the applause is suitably impressed.
After setting the tone with Beyond, Sony switches gears entirely and demonstrate Playstation All Stars: Battle Royale. We see quick shots of some of the character who will be in it: Sweet Tooth from Twisted Metal, Sly Cooper, Parappa the Rapper (rapturous applause), even the titular Far Princess.
Four players emerge onto the stage, wearing colour-coded shirts, ready to do battle – and thus it is revealed that the game will be cross-compatible with the PS3 and the Vita. We see a match played out in front of us, and, while it’s easy to dismiss it as a rip-off of Super Smash Bros., well… that’s basically exactly what it looks like. The only difference appears to be in how you win, which comes down to building up “supers” and unleashing them on people. Nathan Drake and the Big Daddy from Bioshockare also revealed as upcoming playable characters.
Free Things For Americans, New Things for the Vita
A few minutes later, and Jack is back, talking about the PlayStation Plus. “Our members have received over 60 free PS3 games, and thousands of dollars in discounts over the last two years,” he says happily. Now they’re adding even more games, with North American users getting access to games like Infamous 2, LittleBigPlanet 2, and Saints Row 2 for free. There’s no mention of how Australians or other international members will benefit, which seems to be a recurring theme of E3, but everyone gets very excited when Jack promises that every audience member will go home with a free 12-month PlayStation Plus subscription. The real-time approval rating on the livestream plunges sharply.
Now, it’s time to talk about the Vita. PS1 classics are on their way to the console, with games such as Tomb Raider and Final Fantasy VII becoming available soon. Call of Duty: Black Ops: Declassified will also be coming to the Vita, although no information about it is known whatsoever, and we’re also treated to the reveal of Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation, the worst-kept secret in gaming and one that sees you taking the reins of, for the first time in series, a female assassin. The audience applauds knowingly, having read the leaked information about it weeks before.
Ubisoft takes the stage, showing us some “brand new fantasies”. One of those is new, naval-based gameplay for Assassin’s Creed III: controlling a ship, choosing heading and bearing, Connor sweeps alongside other ships in the rolling seas and unleashes broadsides into them, sinking them, before pulling alongside to finish the job in hand-to-hand. It’s undeniably excellent to watch, with some impressive ocean dynamics in play.
Next, however, is Far Cry 3. “We didn’t just build one game,” says Dan Hay of Ubisoft in his deep, threatening voice. “We build two.” The second game is in fact developed by Ubisoft Massive in Sweden, and it’s four-play co-op action for Far Cry 3. Dan moves with the slow grace of an apex predator over to the console and picks up his controller, starting a game with three of his meals/employees. We see them moving through the island towns of Far Cry 3, covering each other, helping each other up, throwing abilities at each other and boosting performance. Eventually, they’re able to move a bomb into place and blow up a bridge in a pretty sweet-looking explosion. It looks neat, but it’s not clear if it’ll be stand-alone yet, DLC, or what.
Augmented Reality and Phones
Changing tone entirely, Sony pulls out their augmented reality card with the ‘Wonderbook’. “What if a book could come to life?” says a small boy in a movie sequence, laughing as the figures in his book appear in front of him and he becomes part of the story. The reality is not quite as immersive, and involves holding up special books in front of the PlayStation Eye to create a virtual book space on screen. JK Rowling is revealed as the first author to be a part of the Wonderbook, with The Book of Spells, a Harry Potter tie in that allows players to learn how to cast spells and be part of the Harry Potter universe. It’s clearly something that children are going to enjoy, and signing on Rowling as the first author is going to be a huge money-spinner for everyone concerned. The live demo doesn’t exactly go to play, but magic is, apparently, a fickle mistress.
The PlayStation Suite, which Sony announced at last E3, is now having its name changed. It’s now ‘PlayStation Mobile’. The difference is tenuous, but it’s apparently to celebrate the fact that HTC are now the first non-Sony group partner to be certified to use the PlayStation Suite/Mobile/Doohickey on their hardware. The audience claps cautiously at this announcement, unsure of what is happening.
Sony closes out their performance with God of War footage, showing Kratos battling a variety of weird goat/rat-men, and an elephant-headed god. It’s brutal and nasty, and every inch the God of War game everybody was expecting, including the bit where he constantly rips enemy heads off with chains.
The Last of Us follows, and if anything it’s even more brutal for the desperate struggle of its combat. It fairly overshadows God of War, and is a powerful reminder that there are, actually, a few original IP’s showing their heads here and there. For what it’s worth, Sony seems to have the lion’s share of them.