The Sony event started with an intro montage showcasing Playstation's extensive library of well-established games and franchises as well as glimpses of upcoming titles, a good indication of where the focus of its presser would be.
CEO Jack Tretton took center stage to welcome the physical and online audience, pointing out that some consumers had lined up at 4pm the day before in order to secure a seat. Certainly handy to have fans of that caliber in attendance to clap at all the right moments.
David Cage from Quantic Dream, the developer responsible for Heavy Rain, followed with the announcement of its next title, Beyond. Pitched as a 15-year journey through the life of main character Jody Holmes – played by actress Ellen Page – who seems to be in touch with the "other side". In-game footage leaned heavily on tense, paced dialogue, before a quick highlight reel of more action based sequences that should satisfy fans of Heavy Rain.
All-Stars Battle Royale is Sony’s answer to Nintendo’s flagship Smash Brothers, though even the announcement of Nathan Drake (Uncharted) and the Big Daddy (Bioshock) still leaves the lineup of characters looking less than inspired. A live demonstration does however show the game being played by either the PlayStation 3 controller or the PS Vita within the same match, in-line with the running theme of E3 so far being that of connectivity between a portable touch screen device and the main console system.
Surprisingly it took almost half an hour before the focus was shifted in earnest onto the PlayStation Vita, with the announcement that a range of compatible PSOne classics (including Tomb Raider and Final Fantasy VII) will be available for the system via PSN.
The big win for Vita owners was the revelation of platform specific titles in well-known console franchises such as Call of Duty: Black Ops Classified and Assassin’s Creed 3: Liberation, the latter featuring a female assassin protagonist, a first in the series.
Showing its continued support for Sony, Ubisoft announced exclusive DLC for both Assassin’s Creed III and Far Cry 3. While a new four-player co-op mode was shown for Far Cry 3, a new gameplay demonstration from Assassin’s Creed III featured a controllable pirate ship with broadside cannon battles and dynamic weather effects.
Leaving no peripheral behind, an augmented reality interactive storybook utilising the PlayStation Eye and the PlayStation Move entitled Wonderbook was announced. The first book available will be Book of Spells, written by Harry Potter author J.K.Rowling. While conceptually interesting, there were some issues with the execution during the live demonstration that called into question the accessibility of the hardware itself to a potentially wider and younger demographic.
Sony did a surprisingly good job of interspersing corporate messages and software upgrades between their gaming showcases, seemingly to keep the energy levels of the loyalist audience fans on a high. Briefly mentioning PlayStation Suite (renamed to PlayStation Mobile) support for Android phones and tablets, it was revealed that the first non-Sony partnership will be with mobile manufacturer HTC.
Moving back to the games, gameplay for God of War Ascension is pretty much exactly as expected. A new time manipulation mechanic and new enemy execution moves doesn’t do much to alleviate the fact that while it looks pretty, it doesn’t feel any different from its predecessor at all.
Closing Sony’s event was the Naughty Dog developed The Last Of Us, its post-apocalyptic world on full display during a well-paced gameplay demonstration. Opening with exploration scenes of the overgrown crumbling city, the banter between the main characters shows a familiarity indicating the level is some way into the game already.
Moving inside a building, the atmosphere becomes tense as every close encounter with aggressive antagonists has a sense of weight and desperation to it. The main character is certainly no invincible Nathan Drake cutout, and the feisty young girl companion does assist where possible during fights, although it’s difficult to determine where the player control starts and finishes.
The Last of Us was certainly a fitting finale to the event, as it seems this year Sony has concentrated less on conveying the corporate message with a focus instead on their heavyweight franchise games and exciting original IP.