The last month hasn’t exactly been nice to Sony despite the continued success of the PS3 and the hype train that has been rolling for the NGP/PlayStation Vita. Having things like your security be hacked and having an integral part of your network and revenue source be down for the month will hurt any company, if not because it becomes the source of jokes amongst everyone but because it may make gamers flock to another system. But despite the issues with the PSN from hackers who have nothing better to do (why don’t these dudes just focus on hacking the phones of celebs?), Sony went into E3 with their chin up and went on to provide a show that while it definitely had some painfully boring moments and demos that weren’t smooth as butter, still gave us what we wanted: good games and pertinent info.
Outside of briefly addressing the PSN outage, Sony went on with their E3 conference as if everything was totally fine. Some gamers may have wanted every key player of the SCE corporate ladder to come out and personally apologize for the PSN outage and Sony’s poor security design, but at this point since everything is patched up and is looking good (fingers crossed) there’s not much Sony could do outside of saying “hey dudes, we’re sorry and thanks for sticking with us.” Just like Microsoft, Sony stayed to their most recent E3 formula: show us exclusive games, talk about exclusive partnerships, give us a sizzle reel or two, talk about their portable plans, and then walk off stage like ballers. It may have been a bit uneventful for Sony to keep their standard E3 formula intact, but kicking the show off with a new Uncharted 3 demo is something that I don’t think many people can complain about. And compared to Microsoft, at least Sony opted not of focus on 3rd party games for a good portion of their conference since 3rd party games are stuff we don’t really want to see from a conference from the big three (Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo).
The Uncharted 3 demo shown at Sony's conference may once again show that the third entry in Naughty Dog’s series is treading in familiar territory, but seeing Nathan navigate a massive cruise ship at sea during a storm just shows the brilliance of Naughty Dog as developers. Visually the stage offered a new element in the Uncharted world (lots and lots of water) combined with lighting techniques that while a bit superficial (you know some of them were just thrown in for the sake of being showy) still created a feeling of awe during the presentation. I don’t know if Uncharted 3 is on the verge of getting a case of Call of Duty-itis by providing a tailored action experience in which everything plays out the same way no matter what you do (the rollercoaster mentality) but seeing Drake tumble as a ship turns on its side was really damn cool to see since it at least offered something a bit different from what we’ve seen in previous Uncharted games.
Uncharted 3 is a guaranteed success, but I don’t know what to think about Resistance 3. The second game to be featured at Sony’s E3 press conference, the Resistance 3 demo started off looking good as the atmosphere of the level looked good in all its dark alien glory. But the problem the Resistance 3 demo had was the flow of it felt totally off, despite Chimera soldiers being blown to bits or sucked into mini-black hole like devices as the action didn’t look quite fluid and the 2nd stage of the demo merely showed that Insomniac Games could create a stage that was fun to look at and watch, but may not be too entertaining to play. The lack of a booming applause at the conclusion of the Resistance 3 demo almost spoke volumes as it in a way showed that no one really knew what to think of the game since almost everything we’ve seen lately has been a mixed bag to a degree.
As predicted, Sony went full bore into talking about how awesome the PlayStation Move is and how much growth the device has had. The PS Move has been a nice success for Sony and the easy integration and reasonable control methods for core games like Killzone 3 has paid off to a degree when it comes to making the PlayStation Move be perceived as something that isn’t a gimmick. Listing some impressive 3rd party games (Spider-Man, Activision’s new James Bond title), showed that developers have embraced the PlayStation Move to a degree as a legit gaming peripheral or they simply want to have another selling point on the box. As much success as the PlayStation Move has had, the 1st party showing from Sony this year proved to be a bit underwhelming if not completely disappointing. Instead of showing a new IP that directly catered to the core audience, Sony opted to show Medieval Moves: Dead Man’s Quest from Sports Champions developer Zindagi Games. Upon hearing that a new Zindagi game was being shown I was actually excited since I love Sports Champions, but upon watching the exceedingly long demo I almost began to shed a tear out of sheer sadness.
At this point Sony hasn’t exactly opted to go full bore into appealing to the casual market as they’ve instead opted to find a middle-ground of sorts with PS Move games that can appeal to young gamers or the core audience who simply want to have something to play. Medieval Moves may borrow a few control elements from Sports Champions, which will most likely control like a charm, but the game looked boring and extremely derivative. It wasn’t just the actual game itself that I found disappointing, but the demo presentation itself was one that may go in the record books of being in the top 3 worst demos to appear at a Sony conference, right next to the GT translator dude and Genji 2’s massive damage moment. Maybe sheer nerves got the best of the Medieval Moves presentation, but when looking at just the game it’s hard not to be disappointed with this being Sony’s main 1st party Move showing this year. Medieval Moves debut at E3 this year almost makes one wonder what the hell happened to the promising 1st party IP Sorcery, which wowed if not at least piqued the interest of gamers.
Since Sony loves to give their 3rd party partners a shout out, NBA 2K12 took to the stage to show how gamers can experience some b-ball action with the PlayStation Move. If you love basketball and RTS games, then you’re going to love NBA 2K12 as its quasi RTS basketball action when using the PS Move. I loved NBA 2K11 last year as it was the best basketball game to ever be made in the past few years. I’m sure the team at 2K will once again create a rick basketball experience, but even an appearance by Kobe Bryant couldn’t get me excited about using my PS Move to select which teammate I want to pass the ball to whilst using the PS Move.
I wouldn’t say that the PS Move is in a danger scenario as of now as developers are still supporting it, some of whom may find creative ways to utilize it such as Ken Levine. A surprise of sorts to appear at Sony’s conference, Levine came out to tell us that he was bitten by the PS Move love bug and that Bioshock Infinite would support Sony’s motion device. Levine didn’t have anything to show us as to how Bioshock Infinite would be played when using the PS Move, but I suspect that the team at Irrational Games will come up of some interesting ways to use the device aside from using it as a lightgun. It would’ve been nice to see Sony bring out some heavy guns for the PlayStation Move and show off software that utilizes the devices in many different ways, but we instead got some cool confirmations of it being used in games like the new Star Trek game, which obviously will have it being used as a lightgun.
Perhaps the PlayStation Move is being typecast in a way with it being used for core centric action games as a way to blow off the head of an alien or a crazed citizen of a city floating in the sky. But at least the PlayStation Move isn’t being used solely to provide another layer of interactivity in games such as Cars 2 or whatever the hell Disney is going to release down the road. I think as the years go on Sony will likely continue releasing software that fits a few specific genres like that of the fitness genre along with titles that are directly core centric, and perhaps utilize the full range of the PS Move and PlayStation Eye’s capabilities instead of merely focusing on the pointer aspects of the device. As much as gamers wanted to see both the Kinect and PlayStation Move make the next leap as gaming devices, I think of as now both are in a state of purgatory of sorts before they move on to the next realm of existence, just like in Lost.
Eventually after a bit of 3rd party exclusive hoopla (don’t worry about it as it isn’t as good as the Joker bonus in Batman: Arkham City), Sony went on to discuss the NGP or as we can now officially call it the PlayStation Vita. With Vita meaning life in Latin, Sony is hoping that their new portable device will soon become an integral part in your life thanks to its robust software line-up and social network features. Sadly Sony didn’t build upon of their new PS Vita features such as Near aside from giving us brief descriptions of them, much like they did back at January. However, Sony did reveal or at least give us a better glimpse at some cool PS Vita software such as Uncharted: Golden Abyss. In a way Uncharted: Golden Abyss is a game that will give core gamers an experience they want but at the same time it could be a warning sign of the things to come down the road. In an effort to both highlight the features of the PS Vita along with making the game user-friendly the team at Sony Bend has created a touch centric combat and platforming mechanic for Uncharted. Instead of using the face buttons to attack enemies, gamers can tap the screen to punch an enemy or touch a series of objects for Nathan to climb/jump to. Using the touch based jump mechanics in Uncharted: Golden Abyss basically looked like you could play the game on autopilot as it required no real input or timing on the part of the player. I don’t think the touch features of Uncharted: Golden Abyss will result in a game that dishonors the Uncharted experience as it could just be an option of Sony to offer a more mainstream approach to how games are played, which I find a bit off-putting to a degree.
The devs behind the PSN game Pain (Corey’s favorite PSN game of all time) showed off their new PS Vita/PSN game Ruin, which looks like a HD version of a standard dungeon crawler. There’s honestly not much to say about ruin as the demo simply showed a lot of hacking and slashing in a nicely rendered environment. The big selling point, which will likely become a feature for other PSN/PS Vita games is that you can save your data from the PS Vita version of the game to Sony’s Cloud server, then hop on the PSN version of the game by using the same save file. It’s a cool feature but it may end up going the way like some of Sony’s other inter-console pet projects.
The news that perhaps made Sony’s E3 presentation worth the slow parts and lack of megaton reveals was the official pricing of the PS Vita, which will only be $250 for the WiFi version and $300 for the 3G enabled version. A lot of skeptics wondered just how far Sony would push the price of the PS Vita considering their past tendencies to charge as much as they want for their bleeding edge pieces of technology. But as we saw today Sony has its head screwed on the right way as the PS Vita is launching at a very competitive price point which can easily turn people away from purchasing a Nintendo 3DS when looking at the features of the two devices. In the era of mobile gaming and the appeal of free or $2 games on the iTouch/iPhone have, a $250 dedicated gaming device may be a hard sell for some consumers, but if Sony delivers on the software front (Rockstar is making PS Vita games) and actually goes about promoting it properly, then we could see Sony finally gain some steady momentum in the handheld arena.
This E3 for Sony is shaping up to be a good one, at least compared to the somewhat dull showing by Microsoft which failed to set up any momentum for their internal efforts – which you know is usually the point of most conferences instead of being a commercial for other companies. Sony may have played things safe with an Uncharted 3 demo and a reveal of a HD remake of the God of War PSP games, but Sony did give us a few pieces of gold in the form of the their PlayStation branded 3D gaming monitor and the exclusive deal with CCP and Dust 514, which is indeed another space marine shooter but folks do love that sort of thing. Sony’s press conference this year wasn’t as great as it has been in previous years as the lack of 100% shocking announcements was limited and the exclusion of games like The Last Guardian was a bit hurtful in a way if only because we want to see the goodness as soon as possible. Compared to Microsoft, Sony put on a hell of a show that may not have been executed completely smooth but also didn’t reek of fakeness and feature games that made you wonder what people were thinking of when they put everything together. With Nintendo set to drop a few bombs in a couple of hours, Sony probably won’t end up winning E3 but in the wake of the recent media backlashing they’ve received they did put on an entertaining show that has gamers buzzing about the future.