I think an appropriate title for this conference would have been something like, “Let There Be Blood.” With the new consoles coming, a new arms race between Microsoft and Sony had begun and was escalating quickly. With mostly less than positive press surrounding the Xbox One since it’s reveal late in May, Sony seemed to have an advantage going into E3 and believe me, they ran with it. It was clear early on that Sony was going straight after Microsoft and once the night was over, the chaos and bedlam that resulted was typical for something straight out of a major sporting event. Sony was going for the hearts and minds of the core gamer and just based off of knee jerk reaction, it would appear they succeeded. All they forgot to do was drop the mic and walk off stage.
While the conference was far from perfect (a little long-winded, marred by technical difficulties at points), there’s plenty to dissect so lets dive in. Full report after the jump.
Quick Vita News: Sony opened the show with its handheld placed in the spotlight, showing off upcoming games like Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate, Killzone Mercenary, Final Fantasy X/X-2, and Tearaway. They also announced that Telltale’s The Walking Dead is heading to the portable device along with the upcoming 400 Days expansion this summer.
Upcoming PS3 Games: Don’t worry PS3 players, Sony still has content coming your way the rest of this year. Trailers came fast and furious for The Last of Us, Batman: Arkham Origins, Puppeteer, Rain, Beyond Two Souls (showing off a very different third person shooter/action section), Gran Turismo 6, and a Grand Theft Auto V bundle was also announced.
PS4 Reveal: Finally, Sony revealed the console itself and to be honest, it looks like a little black parallelogram, almost like the Xbox One in italics. Ultimately, it’s pretty much the opposite of what the PS3 started out as: less large George Foreman style and more sleek and slim like the PS2.
Sony Entertainment Puts The Breaks On: This is the point where the conference came to a halt killing the momentum which I felt Microsoft successfully managed to avoid in their presser. After finally seeing the PS4, Sony felt the need to bring out their Entertainment division to talk about services, music, movies and how they’re creating original programming for the platform. Flixster and Redbox Instant are also being added to PSN. Based on my Twitter feed, it seems the majority felt Sony could have cut this segment as well.
The Order: 1886: The first big surprise came from the development studio Ready At Dawn as they revealed a CG trailer centered around a Van Helsing style looking group of four people riding in a horse and carriage. Even though we’re in the 19th century, the group sport futuristic style weapons in a steam punk inspired London. Of course, monster hunting seems to be a large part of the experience. No gameplay was shown, but I am very curious to see more. Could this be a 4 player co-op shooter?
Gameplay Montage: At this point, Sony revisited the group of games announced last February with new trailers for Killzone Shadow Fall, InFAMOUS Second Son, Knack, DriveClub. These titles are also being prepped to be launch titles as well.
The Dark Sorcerer: In a surprise move, Quantic Dream showed off a new title called The Dark Sorcerer. Actually, I think it was more of a tech demo for the PS4 as the old man we saw last February was now a sorcerer reciting an impassioned speech about his hatred of the world. Suddenly, as he neared the apex of his speech, this seemingly powerful man stuttered and forgot his lines. The lights raised, a green screen could be seen in the background, and this old man began a comical conversation with the director off-screen.
Sony Flexes Indie Muscle: In another slap to Microsoft, Sony highlighed 9 Indie developers and brought them up on stage to play their games in front of the crowd all at once. Jack went through each title and developer one by one in what can be described as a move to show that they’re indie friendly. Supergiant Games, known for their Xbox 360 and PC exclusive Bastion, is bringing their next title called Transistor to the PS4. I’m guessing it’s a timed exclusive but who knows. What I do know is the game is going to have an amazing soundtrack and looks absolutely gorgeous. Other highlighted Indie titles were Don’t Starve (Klei), Mercenary Kings (Tribute Games), Octodad (Young Horses), Secret Ponchos (Switchblade Monkeys), Outlast (Red Barrels), Ray’s the Dead (Ragtag Studio), Oddworld New N’ Tasty (Oddworld Inhabitants/Just Add Water), and Galak-Z (17-bit).
Final Fantasy Versus XIII: Okay, actually, Square Enix and Tetsuya Nomura confirmed in a pre-made video that this is now Final Fantasy XV and boy do they know how to craft a beautiful looking trailer. I honestly have no idea what was going on or who was who, but I was impressed by the graphics.
Kingdom Hearts III: One of the bigger surprises that didn’t register for me even as Square Enix showed a trailer that featured the words “Disney” in it. But yes, the world of Disney and Sora are reunited once more in an official sequel to the long sought after crossover franchise.
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag Demo: This one should have been fantastic, but unfortunately the most memorable thing will be how the demo ended. Finally getting that gameplay I craved was great and outside of a few stutters everything was looking wonderful. We were shown gameplay on land taking place in a jungle with plenty of sword action. I was impressed by what I saw as the demo then moved to naval warfare reminiscent of Assassin’s Creed III. This time however, Edward Kenway managed to disable the enemy ship and was preparing to board when….the whole thing froze. I felt real bad for the person on stage as it was clear they didn’t know what to do or say. Needless to say, Sony pulled the plug and quickly moved on to the next presentation.
Watch_Dogs Demo: Another quality showing for an already impressive title from Ubisoft, Watch_Dogs gave us another look at a mission in the game as vigilante Aiden Pierce had to evade the police while saving a contact known as T-Bone. We were shown how he can hack security cameras to guide T-Bone to safety from roaming guards and also a new multiplayer element in which the player controlling Aiden used his phone to call for help. A different player using a tablet synced into the game all in real-time and helped the player evade the police by activating street barriers and interfering with the helicopter overhead. It was an interesting aspect of the game but the real show piece came at the end. Thinking he made it to safety, Aiden was confronted by the local PD. As he raised his hands to surrender, Aiden triggered a city-wide blackout which distracted the police long enough for him to get the upper hand. With the hand to hand fighting taking place in a totally dark city, the visuals just seemed to pop even more as dark silhouettes moved frantically in front of the dark cityscape.
Awkward Lebron moment and NBA 2K14: Yeah, I’m not a huge fan of LeBron anyway and seeing him have a conversation with a real scary looking digital version didn’t help things. After that, a new trailer rolled showing off some gameplay and as usual it impressed. 2K obviously knows what they’re doing here so par for the course really.
The Elder Scrolls Online: This MMO was announced for the PS4 along with a beta that should be kicking off late this year. It’s interesting that a full-blown MMO is coming to a console so we’ll have to see how that will work with subscription prices on top of Playstation Plus/Xbox Live fees as well. Bethesda also showed off a new trailer detailing both first person and third person gameplay.
Mad Max Reveal: Next, a mystery trailer kicked on which instantly reminded me of id Software’s apocalyptic shooter, Rage. Taking place in an obviously hot desert, a character riding in a modified buggy stopped in front of another person begging to be put out of his misery crawling through the desert. The lead character sporting a double-barreled shotgun aimed and then pulled back to get in his car. Defeated, the man turned around to continue crawling when the sound of an engine could be heard. As the car rushed forward, the words “Mad Max” hit the screen. Oh yeah, this game is being worked on by the open world geniuses over at Avalanche Studios so you know this one will be interesting.
The biggest news came at the end when Sony attacked Microsoft and the Xbox One directly. Jack Tretton stepped back up on the stage and let fly the dogs of war. Background slides could be seen detailing how the PS4 would not be instituting any of Microsoft’s Xbox One policies. The system won’t have to check in once every 24 hours, you can play games offline (though you do now need a Playstation Plus membership to use multiplayer aspects for games), used games are fully supported and can be shared like you can currently, and you can pretty much do whatever you want with your disks. The crowd had lost their mind by this point. But that’s not all! The bedlam in that theater exploded once the price was revealed to be set at $399, a full 100 dollars less than Microsoft. I tell you, it was like Oprah Winfrey was there handing out cars to the audience or money was being dropped from the sky. It was insanity.
The Finale – Destiny: As if the last segment wasn’t enough, Sony decided to go out with another bang inviting Bungie to take the stage to demo it’s new title: Destiny. This was one of the games that I was most curious about and honestly, Bungie did not disappoint. A very easy description would be that it’s a mix of Halo and Borderlands with a more realistic sci-fi look to it. And yes, expect skill points, experience, and glorious loot. The worlds look huge, detailed, and visually stunning. What’s even better is that the matchmaking and multiplayer elements are seamlessly integrated. No load screens or no menus as it’s all taking place behind the scenes. Just based on the demo alone, I’m very intrigued by Destiny and it’s something that’s going to be very hard to wait for going forward towards its release in 2014.
Technical Hiccups: As with Microsoft, Sony was not immune to the occasional hiccup such as Assassin’s Creed IV completely freezing. You hate to see these things happen but it’s just one of those things that sometimes you can prepare for.
No release window given: This was kind of surprising considering that Microsoft did announce November as their release period for the Xbox One. I did expect Sony to follow suit to some degree. With nothing being given, I have to wonder if that means they’re looking at a 2014 release and didn’t want to spoil the fun with that bad news.
I mean, what can you really say here. Sony went for the jugular of Microsoft right at the end and based on the crowd reaction, it worked. Jack Tretton took the stage, went after direct policies that Microsoft had set up and basically dismissed them on Sony’s new console. It’s what the crowd wanted to hear for sure and was a great business move. On top of that, they unleashed the absolute bomb that the console will be a full $100 cheaper than their rival. Hysteria ensued in the crowd.
While we still don’t have a release window, Sony did enough to seemingly win over the hearts and minds of those who were jaded by Microsoft’s consumer policies. Stranger still, what Sony announced is typically what we have now in this current generation of consoles so I guess you could say that we’re cheering for maintaining the status quo. It’ll be interesting and maybe a bit awkward to see how Microsoft deals with the rest of this week and if they give into changing anything in order to sway back the momentum away from Sony. Buckle up and grab your popcorn folks, this fight is going to get better as the year progresses.