Tuesday, June 7, 2011

E3 2011 Impressions: Sony

We all know what's been happening recently with Sony, and so there's no beating around the bush. With the PlayStation Network's full operability just coming back to life, E3 is the most ideal location for Sony to wow both the media and people at home alike. If there was ever a stage for them to strike back, this would be it. I'll be taking a bit of a different approach with this one, and instead of analyzing each title and service I will be looking at things more from a whole.

*Note, all images were screen-grabbed from Gamespot.com's live recording*

PlayStation is known to be cool and slick, so Sony doesn't hold back with its cool opening montage featuring games from the PS3 and NGP. Games utilizing the Move and 3D technology are also present. Street Fighter, Mortal Combat, indie games, FFXII-2, Uncharted 3, Twisted Metal, Captain America, and so many more games are shown!

Jack Tretton steps out to address the PlayStation Network's downtime and addresses the press. He also thanks developers and retailers for being so supportive and cooperative during the hack's aftermath. Tretton goes on to emphasize that "consumers are the lifeblood of the company" and that without us, there is no PlayStation. A very welcoming apology and acknowledgement indeed.

Developer Naughty Dog takes the stage to demo the next console installment in their Uncharted series. The audio's a bit botched here, but after a minute they fix it so we're getting a direct feed and not the room's audio. Anywho, the game is beautiful and graphically stunning. When Drake is out on the ship the rain looks so realistic. After he gets in some trouble, the ship starts taking water and it doesn't look good! Again, beautiful water imagery. I have a thing for water looking good in 3D animation, so, yeah. Naughty Dog states a multiplayer beta is coming soon, and something about Subway and getting access to the multiplayer before everyone else. So I guess you buy a sub and get some games! Yay? A trailer for Uncharted 3 reveals the game to come out November 11th.

Next up, Insomniac Games come to the stage with yet another alien shooter. I guess humans are almost extinct because the aliens won in the last game. My first impression of the combat is it looks crazy. Something about getting to a power core because the mission's gone bad, but it looks just as chaotic as it did before. There's a lot of extreme detail in the chaos, but yet again this is a shooter. A Resistance 3 bundle with Move, camera, game, and sharpshooter peripheral is announced.

Two special collections of games are coming to the PS3 says Tretton. God of War Origins features HD remasters of the PSP games, and ICO and Shadow of the Colossus remakes are shown as well! The big news here is that both titles will be released in September in the United States. In 3D!

Tretton says he wants the PlayStation brand to break the mold on pricing for 3D. And so he tries to do just that. He announces two new 3D products: a PlayStation branded 3D display and affordable 3D glasses! With this display gamers don't need split screens for multiplayer action anymore. Wearing the glasses somehow allows for each player to get their own individual screen. A new bundle will be released with Resistance 3, a pair of glasses, the display, and an HDMI cable. Tretton believes this will lower the price barrier in 3D products and drive 3D adoption. We will have to wait and see!

Next up are PlayStation Move titles NBA 2K12 and Medieval Moves: Deadman's Quest. I think NBA 2K12 will likely have regular controller support, but the demo was all for the Move.

So I guess the NBA is on the move, literally? You point and click the characters you want to control the basketball on screen. Kobe Bryant from the Lakers comes out to prove that anyone can play the game. All I could think was "what the hell, he sucks at this game!" but then finally shoots a basket. Kinda awkward appearance, but oh well.

Medieval Moves: Deadman's Quest looks like an improved iteration of that Wizardry game that was introduced at last year's E3. It's an action adventure game where you can use throwing stars, a bow and arrow, or a sword. Each weapon is selected with your own action, pin-pointing your movement in 1:1 fashion. It's stated that many branching paths can be found in Medieval Moves. The game is more for kids, but it looks great and better than anything on the Kinect...

Jack Tretton makes an interesting statement here about how PlayStation wants shooters, sports, casual gaming, etc. The way he says this makes Sony's conference that much more appealing than Microsoft's offerings. Just sayin'.

A trailer for Infamous 2 plays and all I can say is there's a TON of action. Also, more Move compatibility will be coming in an update to Little Big Planet 2. That means Move fans can create and share content that utilizes the Move for other Movin' players. A trailer for Starhawk rolls where things that look like mechs shoot things.

Tretton announces that a particular franchise has sold more than 4 million units since 2002, so it's Sly Cooper of course! A funny trailer plays of a character that takes the role of Sly Cooper but is a fake! Fun gag I say.

The company CCP appears from Eve Online fame, and together with Sony they are announcing Dust 514. Which I guess is another first person shooter. It's going to connect the console shooter to the online MMO. In the trailer a lot of shooting stuff goes down and a narrator mentions things about changing the course of history. I don't know what this is all about, but Eve fans who like shooters may rejoice?

A trailer plays for the new Bioshock Infinite from Irrational Games. It looks kinda creepy and the trailer was made entirely from in-game footage. Ken Levine comes out and talks about his skepticism with the PlayStaton Move. Going further on his rant, he mentions how Sony contacted him to make him a believer. He makes it very clear that Irrational doesn't do silly motion control games where you swing your hands around, but Sony convinces them to try it. They got past their anxiety and there will be Move support for the next Bioshock game on the PS3. He then awkwardly announces a new game set in the Bioshock universe for the NGP.

Saint's Row 3 gets some mention and so does a Star Trek game. It looks like everything a gamer who's a Star Trek fan would want coming in 2012. Tretton also announces a peripheral in the shape of a "phaser" from Star Trek. Action packed, huh?

Tretton goes on to announce some exclusive content coming to the PlayStation. SSX, which was born on the PlayStation, will be getting an exclusive Mt. Fuji track. Need for Speed Run gets an additional disc with extra cars, and Battlefield 3 gets a free copy of Battlefield 1943 because of the extra blu-ray storage capacity. That pretty much puts Xbox's version to shame...

Finally president and group CEO Kazuo Hirai takes the stage to talk about the NGP. He mentions how 6 years ago Sony made a plan for great entertainment. The launch of the PlayStation Network was a big deal for them, and they learned things from the network's outage about trust and loyalty of customers. He is truly overwhelmed by their support.

In 2004 the original PSP was released, and so it's about time we get some more information! But first Hirai announces PlayStation Suite, meaning there will be PlayStation certified android smart phones and tablets coming to the market.

Announcing that he has high expectations for the PSP in years to come, he states that the next iteration breaks traditional expectations in playing. He introduces its new name, the PlayStation Vita.

Vita (Veeta) means life, and Hirai says it's the first product to blur the lines between entertainment and real life. It features dual analog sticks, a 5-inch multi-touch OLED screen, front and rear cameras and touch pads, six-axis control, wifi and 3G models, and support for augmented reality.

Sony will be partnering with AT&T for the 3G service, with some of the crowd reacting in giggles...

Two features, one called "Party" and the other called "Near" will allow for people to play live anywhere with headsets and compare trophies while sharing content and connecting to other players. Social networking and connectivity are also featured.

Scott Rohde comes out to talk about the Vita and introduces some guys from Bend Studios to demo Uncharted: Golden Abyss. This is a new Uncharted game on the Vita. Demoing the game, the graphics are stunning for a handheld. Damn. The game makes use of advanced rendering techniques like water shaders and dynamic lighting. You can tilt the PSVita to tilt Drake into the direction of his jump. You can tap the screen, use traditional buttons, or combine them to play the way you want to play. A cool example is shown where you can select which stones for Drake to climb on.

A social action-RPG game called Ruin gets announced, and the demo shows one dude fighting a bunch of other dudes. You can connect to the PlayStation Network and share your stats on Facebook and Twitter. You attack a rival who's been building their own lair, and the more strong they are the larger the lair they have.

You can save your game in Ruin to the Vita, and via a cloud save you can pick the game back up seamlessly on the PS3 within seconds, apparently.

Next up is Modnation Racers for the PlayStation Vita. It's not a port of any of the former Modnation games, just to be clear. The guys who demo the game show us a really neat feature where you create a track using your own hands. You use your finger to draw the direction of the track, adding bumps in the road and the like.

You use the front and back touch surfaces to add land deformations to dress up the track, making a lake, mountains, hills, or whatever you want. They've added the feature to choose what kind of lighting you want in the track by using the touch screen.

Then you can go and play the track you just built instantly and share it with other people later on. Owners of the Vita will have access to the PlayStation 3 version's community created tracks. Cool!

A quick detail is re-emphasized stating that we will be able to connect games from the Vita to our PS3's by using cloud saves, content sharing, and online features.

Little Big Planet is announced for the PlayStation Vita! This new game will utilize all of Vita's features. Imagine Little Big Planet with touch, tilt, and use of the cameras. You can use them to take a photo of someone's body, exampled by taking a woman's hair and using it as the legs for a monster was charming.

Yoshinori Ono takes the stage, enthusiastically to say the least, to present Street Fighter x Tekken on the Vita. He then announces that the character Cole from Infamous will be making an appearance. He was VERY excited.

A trailer just about rounds up the conference that shows many of the games that are in development for the PlayStation Vita. Just some of the games shown feature the next Uncharted title for the Vita, a sci-fi racing title, Little Deviants, Pool, Modnation Racers, a new fighting game, extreme golf, a new hack and slash, and what looks to be a new Onimusha title.

Kazuo Hirai comes back out to announce the Vita will be out this holiday season. He then answers the questions everyone's been waiting for: prices! The Sony PlayStation Vita will retail at $249 for the wifi model and $299 or the 3G model. Wow! That puts them in direct competition with the 3DS.

Final Impression:

Sony's E3 2011 conference sure was impressive. They showcased PlayStation 3 titles, Move titles, new services, an affordable HD/3D TV, and gave a name and price to the PlayStation Vita. The conference may have run long, but it was chock full of great information. Plus, they announced a release target for the ICO and Shadow of the Colossus HD remakes, so props to that. Everything was straightforward and it's clear the PlayStation brand of gaming is continuing to grow as a fierce competitor in this generation of gaming. Nintendo watch out, because the Vita's coming for the 3DS. I can't wait to see what happens!

-Jared C.