E3 is in full swing, with Microsoft already delivering their underwhelming keynote, and Nintendo delivering their extremely weird pre-E3 briefing (with their actual keynote to come later today). Late last night, Sony delivered their keynote. It was full of multiple Assassin’s Creed games, Sony’s version of Smash Brothers, the prequel God of War: Ascension, and Naughty Dog’s Uncharted follow-up, The Last of Us, which got head billing, and rightfully so. The keynote was kicked off with a new IP from Quantic Dream, makers of Heavy Rain, and there was also a surprise, something Microsoft failed to deliver, but it was weird and underwhelming. Check out what happened, after the break.
- Sony led with Beyond, a new IP from Quantic Dream, makers of Heavy Rain. All of the footage shown was realtime, but as far as I could tell, none of it was actual gameplay. The game focuses on Judy, played by Ellen Page, doing the whole shaved head and crappy sweater thing. She seems to possess some kind of telenkinesis, and the S.W.A.T team is after her. The story of Beyond follows 15 years of Judy’s life. The scenes shown looked pretty reminiscent of Heavy Rain — the heavy-handed acting and dialogue, the incredible graphics, the slow, thriller-like story. David Cage presented, and makes the bold claim, “It’ll be unlike anything you’ve ever experienced before.” I bet it’ll be like Fahrenheit and Heavy Rain. Hilariously, after the demo, Jack Tretton accidentally called her Jodi. Already, Sony kicking off the keynote with a new IP is the best thing that’s happened at E3 so far. Nintendo, however, is still yet to come.
- PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale. It’s been no secret, but Sony has been developing their own version of Smash Brothers for a very long time, with rumors dating all the way back to the PlayStation 2 starring cast members from games like Devil May Cry and Onimusha. The demo shown is your typical four player battle royale, this time featuring Kratos, Fat Princess from the titular game, Twisted Metal mascot Sweet Tooth, and Sly Cooper. Interestingly, the game is playable on either the PS3 of PS Vita, and the demo had two players on the PS3 and two players on the Vita, all playing together. The game is pretty similar to Smash Brothers, but you get to be Kratos, so that’s cool. A new twist, however, is that by fighting, each player builds up a special move meter, which can gain levels. Each level of the special attack unleashes something different and stronger. Sweet Tooth managed to get a level 3 special, which spawned his ice cream truck mech and netted him a bunch of kills almost instantly. At the end of the demo, SuperBot Entertainment announced two new additions to the cast: Nathan Drake from Uncharted, which was received with a humongous cheer from the audience even though he’d obviously be included, and Big Daddy from BioShock, which was interesting because that’s not exactly a Sony property. If you like Smash Brothers, but want to see how Nathan Drake fight Kratos, this looks like your shot. Looks fun.
- Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified was announced for the PS Vita, though basically nothing of it was shown.
- Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation was shown for the PS Vita. This AC you may have already heard about that features a black female assassin. A short clip was shown of the assassin doing AC things: Running and jumping off rooftops and murdering guys. PS Vita is getting an ACIIIL bundle, featuring the first white Vita.
- Assassin’s Creed III was shown, with a new game play element revealed: Boat battles. This, of course, makes sense for a game that takes place during the American Revolution. It started off pretty cool, the player walking around a heavily crewed ship. The ship took off to sea, with the player at the helm. Then, enemy ships appeared, and a boat battle mechanic was shown, but I felt it was a little underwhelming. It looked very pretty and extremely exciting to watch, but underneath it all, it simply looked like the player pressed on an analog stick to drive the boat, and then pressed a button to shoot the cannons. My personal take was that it was slightly more involved than a quicktime event, which I personally find fine, but a lot of people do not. At the end of the ship battle, however, the we saw the crew pull up alongside an enemy ship and jump across, which is unfortunately where the demo ended. An Assassin’s Creed III PS3 bundle was also announced.
- Far Cry 3, announced around one year ago, was shown off, but with a four player co-op. It looked like four people playing Far Cry. If you were wondering, Far Cry is a first-person shooter in a tropical setting that looks like a first-person shooter in a tropical setting.
- Sony announced Wonderbook for the PlayStation Move, which is kind of neat, but also kind of pointless in theory. You read a book in front of the PS Eye, and animations pop up off the book on the TV. It’s like a virtual pop-up book with moving parts. Sony then announced a partnership with J. K. Rowling, and the first Wonderbook will be Book of Spells from the Harry Potter universe. A very long demo was shown off, where the Move lollipop became a Potter wand onscreen, and the person playing the demo learning a fire spell. It was neat to see, but really, if you’re making an “interactive, animated book,” I mean, why don’t you just make a video game? The audience was audibly not thrilled with the demo, which was unfortunate, because the tech is very cool, but like I said, it seemed kind of pointless. It would’ve made a great Move tech demo a couple of years ago. Harry Potter fans might dig Book of Spells, as it was announced Rowling will be writing new fiction for the product. Awkwardly, a Sony presenter said something along the lines of “As J. K. Rowling said about Wonderbook herself,” but then she didn’t come out on stage, or even have a video, but rather a text quote was put up on a slide on an overhead screen. The audience laughed.
- The real meat of the show began, and God of War: Ascension was shown, cementing The Last of Us as the headliner. GoW:A showed off a lengthy single-player game play demo, and it’s GoW. Kratos showed off some powers from the PSP games, including the ability to affect enemies and the environment by manipulating pockets of time. It looks very pretty, as GoW tends to, and Kratos murdered everything as brutally as possible, including a humongous anthropomorphic elephant warrior, whose head Kratos eventually cut open, revealing very detailed brains, which Kratos then also destroyed. Good stuff. As one familiar with the GoW single player demos might’ve guessed, the demo cut to black as Kratos launched himself at a huge boss, which I would’ve guessed was Scylla, had Kratos not already destroyed Scylla in one of the PSP games. If you like God of War, you’ll pretty much love this. If you don’t like God of War, you probably won’t find a reason to start now. The audience was pretty thrilled, and I have to say I was too.
- The keynote ended with Naughty Dog’s new outing, The Last of Us, which got top billing. After three Uncharted games, Naughty Dog deserved to knock God of War out of the top billing spot. The demo shown was gameplay, with main characters Joel and Ellie (who, guess what, isn’t played by Ellen Page, but pretty clearly physically modeled in her image) traversing the post-apocalyptic world, running into a few enemies. The engine in TLOU is pretty clearly the one from Uncharted; environments and combat looks pretty similar, just tweaked and improved. Rather than Nathan Drake mowing down hundreds of villains in Uncharted’s action movie style, Joel and Ellie have a great deal of trouble with around four or five guys. Combat looks extremely context-sensitive, similar to how Uncharted 3′s melee system worked. Enemies respond with appropriate dialogue if they hear your gun click because it ran out of ammo, Joel bashes enemies into walls and desks if they’re within range, and when Joel gets pinned down, Ellie throws a heavy object at the head of an enemy. Interestingly, there was a segment when Joel had to make a Molotov cocktail of sorts, and an in-game menu popped up as Joel dug through his backpack, which seemed to show the player combining components in order to make the throwable. An on-the-fly crafting system seems pretty interesting. Overall, TLOU looks pretty awesome, though unfortunately, doesn’t look as light-hearted and charming as Uncharted, but, you know, that’s just fine if it ends up as good as it looks.
- Upcoming DLC will allow people to play LittleBigPlanet 2 using the PS Vita as a controller, with added features the Vita would allow. Simultaneous multiplayer on Vita and PS3. New story mode, costumes, stickers, etc..
- Sony gave out one year of PlayStation Plus to everyone in the audience.
- PS1 classics finally coming to the PS Vita, starting this summer.
- YouTube, Hulu Plus, and Crackle coming to the Vita.
- PlayStation Suite, the PlayStation branded phone and tablet games, are coming to Android. Sony rebranding PS Suite as PlayStation Mobile.
We still have Nintendo’s press conference to go, but Sony easily stole the show from Microsoft. Whether or not you dig games like God of War and The Last of Us, Sony announced a new IP in Beyond, an alternative version of Smash Brothers with iconic characters, and had a deluge of Assassin’s Creed. Aside from the games, Jack Tretton is always the best speaker, and the Sony keynotes are always the most professional — no Usher doing a whole song and dance over here. Sure, they gave away PlayStation Plus subscriptions instead of free Xboxes like Microsoft did two years ago, but PS+ comes with a bunch of free games.
The Last of Us continues to look phenomenal, and I can’t wait to get my hands on a new console God of War and de-brain some elephant men. The Wonderbook tech was pretty sweet, and Move continues to show that the tech behind it is pretty amazing, but it also continues to show that it isn’t being used in a way compelling enough for gamers to care very much. Overall, it was a good keynote with some topnotch titles. Seriously, watch that The Last of Us demo above.
- Microsoft’s E3 2012 Keynote
- Nintendo’s E3 2012 pre-E3 coverage announced a Wii U social network called Miiverse