Back in June, Sony absolutely dominated E3. We were given our first look at the console itself, told a price and a launch window, teased a huge amount of games, and enjoyed a few jokes at the expense of Microsoft and their questionable policies. Two months have gone by since then, and with Microsoft pulling a complete 180 on said policies, the two consoles are getting closer and closer to something resembling an even playing field. The stage was set once again for Sony to prove they are the current kings of the console war, and it was time for them to make their move. As much as developer diaries and badly rehearsed statistical facts are a part of any conference, we wanted to see the games do the talking, and talk they did.
Gran Turismo 6
The conference started off with a focus on the PlayStation 3, beginning with Gran Turismo 6. The demo started with a showreel teasing the brands and manufacturers involved with GT6, manufacturers who are using the game’s physics engine to create concept cars that will appear exclusively in-game, and in some cases, will actually be built in real-life. The Gran Turismo titles have always been at the forefront of visual excellence, and when the demo started up it was evident that 6 was no exception. GT6 looked absolutely stunning, the photorealism of the cars and tracks were like nothing we’ve seen on the system before. Unfortunately the demo was heavily cinematic, the sweeping camera doing its best to make the action seem dramatic and exciting, but in doing so making it difficult to get a grip on what exactly the game will look like when it’s actually being played. That being said, on 6 December 2013, we can see for ourselves, but in the meantime, there is bound to be a steady stream of in-game footage emerging as we approach release.
A few details about the story for the Gran Turismo movie that was announced last month were given too, even if they were slightly cryptic. Jim Ryan teased that “the film’s human dimension will be inspired by GT Academy”, and will be produced by Mike de Luca and Dana Brunetti. Expect more news on that soon.
Little Big Planet: Hub
There’s no denying the popularity of the Little Big Planet franchise, that much can be seen by the millions of user-created levels spread across its titles. Introducing Little Big Planet: Hub then was no big surprise – a new free to play service for PlayStation 3 that’ll be launching later this year. Not too much was given away in the trailer itself which showed various sack children doing various activities to the narration of Stephen Fry. Promising instant access to the tools we need to create and share levels and content, and as with any free-to-play game, lots of little big things to buy too.
Grand Theft Auto V
No new game details were given this time, the focus instead on the partnership between PlayStation and Rockstar. Launching on 17 September 2013, GTAV will be available as part of an exclusive PS3 bundle, complete with a “custom designed” Pulse Elite headset. Additionally, as of Friday, all GTAV pre-orders on the PSN store will receive a generous 75% discount off of existing Rockstar titles on top of the pre-order DLC.
Three new Vita mega pack bundles were announced for Europe, with each ‘themed’ bundle including between six to ten games. It was also announced that as of now, the PlayStation Vita will be receiving a price drop in America to $199 and in Europe to €199, as well as a promise of ‘significant’ price reductions to Vita memory cards in both regions.
Game announcements came in the form of Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate, and Lego Marvel from Warner Bros., Football Manager 2014 Classic from SEGA, and Borderlands 2 from 2K. In addition to these major publisher titles, it was also announced that indie hits Starbound, Fez, and the newly announced Velocity 2X will be coming to PlayStation 4 and Vita later this year.
Tasking you to create, build and manage the ultimate music festival, Big Fest is a free to play game allowing you to co-operate or compete with other players to become the ‘worlds greatest music promoter’. Working with hundreds of unsigned bands, players have the opportunity to actually discover new bands and potentially help them on their way to fame. Visually, it looks similar to Rollercoaster Tycoon and includes the construction and micro-management expected in any other sim. It’s a great idea, especially if it can eventually help unsigned bands get recognition as there is so much good music out there just begging to be found and appreciated.
Designed around the Vita’s touch controls, Murasaki Baby sees you literally taking the protagonist by the hand and leading her through a nightmare landscape so beautifully twisted it could easily have come from the mind of Tim Burton, manipulating the world around you with your finger to clear the way for you terrified companion. The game looks absolutely beautiful, the hand drawn visuals making it appear as endearing as it is creepy, and the haunting music adding an atmosphere far too sombre for something so adorable. Murasaki Baby is certainly a game to keep an eye on in the coming months.
A few more indie announcements were next; Rogue Legacy, Wasteland Kings, Volume, and Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number are all coming to to PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita next year. Guns of Icarus Online is also coming to PS4, as is N++ this winter, boasting even more insane levels than ever, as well as tools to create and share your own creations. Finally, The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth will be available in Spring 2014, and will be absolutely free for PS+ subscribers. Minecraft was also announced as a PlayStation 4 release title, which is nice.
Sony Worldwide Studios
There were also a handful of announcements from Sony Worldwide Studios. A teaser trailer for Everybody’s Gone to The Rapture by The Chinese Room, visualising a deserted world in the aftermath of a huge disaster. Nothing much else was divulged about the title, other than it’s built on CryEngine 3 and looks unnervingly haunting.
Rime by Tequila Works was up next. The footage was still early but it looks absolutely beautiful. The visual love child of Ico and The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker, and as clichéd as that sounds, there really is no other way to describe it. It’s homage on the verge of plagiarism, and I can’t wait to see more.
Teamwork is the name of the game next in Arrowhead Game Studios new offering Helldivers, a co-operative squad based, cross-platform shooter. Other details are sparse at the moment, and from the trailer it looks like your typical top-down, arcade shooter so it’s hard to get excited about this one at the minute.
Next up was Resogun, a beautiful looking arcade-action shooter from Housemark, makers of Super Stardust. Full of power-ups and explosions, and promising addictive arcade gameplay, Resogun looks beautiful and challenging in equal amounts.
Shadow of the Beast for PlayStation 4, a re-imagining of the 1989 Amiga classic, was debuted next. The trailer didn’t give too much away, but it looks to be extremely visceral and epic.
Also announced was news that The Playroom will come pre-installed on every PS4 from launch and claims to offer innovative ways to play using the Dualshock 4 and the PlayStation Eye Toy. The trailer on show in one of the usual affair; groups sitting on a sofa trying too hard to look like they’re having fun. To be honest, from the trailer it looks like nothing more than an upgrade of Eye Toy Play so I won’t be losing sleep over this one.
A new trailer for inFamous: Second Son was shown that teased a couple more of the game’s plot points. It’s looking great, the extras teased in this new trailer showing that it’s shaping up to be even better than its predecessors.
Killzone: Shadow Fall multiplayer was shown too, showing off a system to create your own warzone by setting the parameters for combat, weapons allowed, and pick ups available amongst other things. It’s nothing new to FPS’s, or games in general for that matter, but the potential for multiplayer longevity increases significantly when players are given the option to create content to an extent, Halo is evident of this, and it’s nice to see the Killzone series following suit in the next generation.
Assassin’s Creed III is headlining September’s PlayStation Plus line up, as well a new subscription deal; for the next month, all year subscriptions purchased will receive an additional ninety days subscription for free. There really has never been a better time to sign up to PlayStation Plus.
Assassin’s Creed IV
Showing off a never-seen-before level, as well as the games remote play functionality, Assassin’s Creed IV was the first of the Ubisoft games on show at the conference. The first part of the demo taking place on the PlayStation 4 and showing off one of the games stunning naval battles, an evolution of the naval battles from Assassin’s Creed III. The action looks absolutely epic, and the sound is incredible – the cracking of explosions and the impact of cannon balls pulling you completely into its world. The second part of the demonstration was on the Vita and sees Edward Kenway on-foot in classic AC style. The transition between PS4 and Vita is fantastic and the remote play feature seems to work extremely well. There was also a PlayStation-exclusive level on show starring Aveline de Grandpré from Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation. Although it looks stunning, I was expecting more from the PS4, the visuals on show looking more like an upscaled PS3 demo than the future of gaming.
The world’s tiniest CEO, Yves Guimont, took to the stage to talk about the future of Ubisoft, specifically the recently made deal with Sony Pictures to make a movie based on Watch_Dogs. This segued into a new trailer for Watch_Dogs running on the PlayStation 4. It looks very stylish, and the trailer teases a little more towards the story, but as with the Assassin’s Creed IV demo the visuals don’t look how you might expect them to look on the Sony’s next generation of hardware. It may look tidier with a hands-on, so I’m going to reserve judgement for now.
A free-to-play next-gen combat game dedicated to World War II battles, War Thunder looks simply amazing. I can imagine the online is going to be great fun, but World War II has been done to death now which may put a lot of people off. War Thunder will be available as a launch title for PS4.
Andrew House took to the stage to close the conference with some more pricedrop news. The 12GB PlayStation 3 will now cost $199. Cross platform games will be available for a significantly discounted price when first bought on the PS3 and then bought on the PS4 at launch. Think of it as a sort of reward to PS3 owners for transitioning to PS4. Activision, Ubisoft, Warner Bros., and EA are first on board with this scheme, with more to come in the near future. All PlayStation 4 games will available to play on Vita via remote play – which completely contradicts the comment made during the Ubisoft section of the conference.
There was time for one more dig at Microsoft before announcing to the room that PlayStation 4 currently has over 1 million pre-orders world-wide, and will be launching in 32 countries this holiday season from 15 November in the US, and 29 November in Europe. Why there isn’t a simultaneous world-wide release is anyone’s guess, but at least we won’t have too long to wait. It does however mean that we in the EU will have two weeks of trying to avoid spoilers from the launch line-up, which knowing the internet as it is, will be easier said than done.
Another solid conference from Sony then, proving to the gaming world once again that they have more than learned from the slightly disastrous launch of the PlayStation 3. The games are looking fantastic, the price is more than reasonable, and their support of indie developers is absolutely inspired. If they can keep this momentum going, and most importantly deliver on their endless promises, we are all in for one hell of a treat. Now, let’s see what Tokyo brings.
You can watch the full conference here at the official site.