E3 2012 Recap: Sony Press Conference

Sony came into E3 this year at an interesting place.  2011 wasn’t as bright as the company had hoped after a massive Earthquake rocked Japan, Playstation Network being hacked resulting in lots of gamer downtime, and total sales not doing quite as well as they projected.  Not only that, this past May, Sony revealed that the company suffered an operating loss of $820 million dollars for the last fiscal quarter (April 1, 2011 – March 31, 2012).  Coming in, one could say this would be a very important time for Sony.  So how did they do?  Lets take a look.

Announcements
Beyond: Two Souls: I thought this was a really great way to lead off the show.  I personally couldn’t get into Heavy Rain, but Quantic Dream’s David Cage promised that this one will be more action oriented.  He also made sure to hammer home that the lead character is being played by actress, Ellen Page.  This is great and all, but they really pushed this on us.  The game looks fantastic, but the gameplay they showed off didn’t really stick with me.  I’m wondering if this game will control like Heavy Rain and how they can pull that off in a more action oriented game.  It’s an interesting concept for sure, but I’ll need to see some more of the game.  It certainly has promise.

Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale: Sony once again showed off this Smash Bros style game (alright, it’s a basic clone) with a live stage demo.  The thing I learned about the game is that characters don’t take damage from attacks.  By performing offensive style moves, you raise a special meter which will allow you to knock other characters off the stage and gain a point.  I really don’t know how I feel about this.  The gameplay demo didn’t really show off anything new as they used already announced characters on an already announced stage.  They did show off Nathan Drake and Big Daddy (from BioShock) in a trailer however.  Overall, a little underwhelming.

Pro-Playstation: Next up in the presser, came the minor announcements. First off, an incoming patch for LittleBigPlanet 2 will allow you to use your Vita as a controller.  Next, everyone in the audience is getting a free year of Playstation Plus.  Playstation Classics are coming to Vita, and it’s also getting video services from Hulu, Amazon, Netflix, YouTube, and Crackle.

Minor Vita Game News: In a very brief announcement, the Vita is getting Call of Duty: Black Ops II Declassified and Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation.  Liberation had a short but cool trailer featuring a female assassin in New Orleans.  It’ll also net you some collectables if you link it to ACIII on the PS3.

Assassin’s Creed III Reveal: Ubisoft took the stage to reveal a new gameplay element in the upcoming Assassin’s Creed III.  Conner is acting as captain of a ship and can take the fight to the British through naval battles down in the Caribbean.  You can walk around the ship and take the wheel as well which was really cool, and the game’s engine features dynamic waves.  You have access to many different cannonballs and the ship destruction is very detailed and impressive.  Finally, you’ll actually be able to board other boats.  There’s also going to be a PS3 bundle which will be released around the same time as the game in October.

Far Cry 3 Reveal: Not to be outdone, Ubisoft then took the stage again to talk about a brand new gameplay element in Far Cry 3.  There’s going to be a 4 player co-op mode in the game as well.  A nice bonus if you ask me as now you have a fourth option out side of the campaign, multiplayer, and map editor.  This game is going to be keeping you busy for quite a while.

Wonderbook and the Playstation Move: Here’s where the conference kind of took a nose dive for me.  The big announcements for the “Move” is the Wonderbook which is basically an augmented reality book.  Their big reveal is the Book of Spells from J.K. Rowling (of Harry potter fame) and it teaches players about the various spells one would learn at Hogwarts.  Essentially, as the book goes through, you get to participate with what’s going on inside the book.  So you may learn a fireball spell and then use it to kill paper bugs or a mini paper dragon.  The lady demoing it took a few tries to get it down so I’m not sure if that was user error or if the AR stuff isn’t as good as they claim.  It’s mildly interesting, but I’m not really sure which target audience this is trying to be aimed at.  I’d imagine kids, but they had adults playing it on stage.  The demo went on for far longer than it needed to.  Apparently, they plan to introduce a lot of these AR Books down the line.  It’ll be interesting to see if they stick with it or if it just doesn’t catch on. 

God of War: Ascension: Kratos is back and as angry as ever.  Here we got to see some single player action.  The new major hook in this title seems to be a time bending technique straight out of Prince of Persia.  As a dock was destroyed by a Kraken, Kratos used an item that rewound time on the dock, slowly putting back the pieces which let him climb to the top of the next section.  Should provide some good opportunity for some interesting puzzles, but outside of that, the game’s visual style looked very close to what we got in God of War 3.  Kratos is still pissed off, still used the Blades of Chaos, and still beats the crap out of mythological beasts.  Not complaining, just saying it didn’t do much to surprise me.  If you enjoyed the previous games, I see no reason why you won’t enjoy this one either.

The Last of Us: Ever since it was outed in Game Informer, I’ve been looking forward to seeing what Naughty Dog was working on.  This demo did not disappoint one bit.  The demo opens with Joel and Ellie wandering around a partially flooded building looking for supplies.  Eventually they work their way up to the rooftop where they hear voices and see some men through a window.  Joel sneaks up behind one of the guys and chokes him out.  Soon enough, the enemies discover the duo and a shootout begins in the hallway.  First thing I notice is that the animations are butter smooth and everything looks fantastic.  Ellie doesn’t get in your way at all and even provides some help by distracting guys or providing you a way to escape danger.  The inventory system is Joel’s backpack which is cool, and it s a little slower paced than Uncharted.  There seems to be more tension in the air and you shouldn’t run and gun.  Edgy, mature, and oh so impressive, I can’t wait to get my hands on this one.

Concerns/Dislikes
Corporate Hype: Sony has always been the one to throw out some overly pro-Playstation remarks and bragging.  I get that, and it should be expected to generate hype for your product, but I’ve always felt that Sony takes it to a whole new level which borders on the absurd.  Typically you’ll hear Jack Tretton brag about having the best of this, the most exclusives of that, or generally the best-selling “thing”.  Any smart viewer can go prove that this may not be the case or as good as they make things seem.  Plus, many times, this is subjective anyway. 

No Vita Love: I think it’s safe to say that many analysts out there expected some sort of Vita boost to help remedy the lackluster sales for the portable device.  Outside of a new Call of Duty and Assassin’s Creed, there was nothing for the Vita.  Sony said it was because of the time crunch, but honestly, I think they could have squeezed in something.  We all know the Vita needs it.

Wonderbooks: As I said up above, Sony spent WAY too much time on this.  They could have managed their time a little better, but instead we were locked into this demo for a solid 30 minutes.

Overall: B+
I really felt like Sony had a strong but unsurprising E3, similar to what Microsoft had.  The Last of Us looks incredible and I’m cautiously optimistic about Beyond: Two Souls.  Other than that, there really wasn’t much else in here that was surprising or very interesting.  One could argue about the Wonderbook, but to me, this seems to be an extension of the Playstation Eye and they really shouldn’t have gone on for as long as they did about it.  Perhaps they could have used some of that time for something else.  I’m also surprised that they don’t have too much else in the way of 2012 first party games, which is usually Microsoft’s problem.  Either way, it’ll be an interesting 2012 for Sony.

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