Saturday, July 6, 2013

By: Jamaal Ryan

Sony didn’t have much in terms of software in comparison to Microsoft. There weren’t a high number of surprises, new franchises, and even game demos in the press event. But there was something deeply profound about Sony’s message to the video game consumer.
Last year’s Playstation press conference received criticisms over the lack of Vita presence on stage. This year wasn’t much different, but Sony decided to lead their press conference with a Vita line up:
Batman Arkham Origins
Counter Spy
Destiny of Spirits
Doki Doki Universe
Killzone Mercenary
God of War HD 1&2
Final Fantasy X and X2
Dead Nation
The Walking Dead: 400 Days
Neat little titles such as Doki Doki Universe, Counter Spy and Destiny of Spirits look to give a proper handheld feel. The remaining games listed were either games we expected such as God of War HD 1 & 2, or games that we heard of quite some time ago only to see a proper reveal now like Final Fantasy X and X2. But with the amount of attention given to Vita in comparison to everything else, this felt more like a, “Let’s just get this out of the way before we move on to the big game.”
We’ve seen Pupperteer and Rain well before E3, so their presence wasn’t all that significant. It was nice to see gameplay footage of Arkham Origins, though it simply looks like another Arkham game, which is less exciting the third game in within four years. Grand Turismo 6 was sexy as hell, almost as sexy as Drive club and Forza 5, but it was Beyond: Two Souls that took the PS3’s attention by storm.
We’ve seen Jodie as a little girl specimen, and on the run with a very present Aiden guarding her; but we never saw her quite like this. In the first half of the trailer, we see Jodie undergo some grueling training from basic boot camp trials to brutal hand to hand combat. Then, fully prepared as a CIA operative, Jodie has been assigned a mission to single handedly eliminate a Somali warlord named Jamaal (God damn it!). This adds a new exciting layer to the fiction of Beyond: Two Souls, further solidifying Cage’s claims that the story will cover many facets that chronicle Jodie’s life.
About Beyond: Two Souls
In revealing more about the story in Beyond: Two Souls, Quantic Dream’s CEO Guillaume de Fondaumiere stated that Beyond’s narrative will not be played in chronological order. In addition to it being a unique method on how the story is delivered, you’ll face the consequences of your actions as well as Jodie’s in a particular order that when pieced together chronologically, it will begin to make more sense as you progress.
In this particular section shown at E3, character navigation was a lot more traditional than Heavy Rain. As shown here, the player will have control over both Aiden and Jodie. As eluded to in the game’s debut trailer at E3 last year, Aiden can possess enemies and either kill them out right, or use them to kill their own allies before offing them themselves.
As demonstrated by her combat abilities, Jodie is very capable on her own as well. The combat system, like the navigation, lends more control to the player. It’s essentially a simpler, more intuitive control scheme; and while it’s difficult to get a solid handle on it just from explanation, many have complimented its simplicity. Theoretically, it boils down to a game of opportunity as the combat will slow down during scenes which indicates the player to register a quick movement of the joystick which will then trigger Jodie to react. There are no prompts, so that wasn’t just the developer omitting the HUD for the presentation. I’m very skeptical as to how simple it will be to react in combat until I get my hands on.
This violent, and dare I say tonally conservative level of the game was radically different from what we’ve seen in previous vertical slices of Beyond. I use the term ‘conservative’ loosely because it shows the range of themes covered in Two Souls, from a homeless Jodie delivering another homeless woman’s child (shown at the Tribeca Film Festival) to Jodie the CIA operative sent to assassinate a Somali warlord, we will see the dynamics of Jodie’s growth through the 15 years of her life.
Beyond: Two Souls releases in October 8th 2013.
You can all shut up now, we’ve seen the box.
The Playstation 4 is the sexiest home console I’ve ever seen with a sleek, sharp, angular and very Japanese look. It makes me excited to sit it right next to my Xbox One as two stark and even intimidating looking consoles.
Because Sony spent almost its entire time on games rather than media and entertainment at the Playstation 4’s reveal in NYC, it was inevitable that they had to take some time discussing such subjects at E3. Thankfully, they only spent barely 10 minutes announcing Redbox Instant – released earlier on 360 – Live Events, and Flicker. But what was the most touching was Shuhei Yoshida’s adorable presentation with the Twitter photo of the Podcast Beyond crew on stage. BEYOND!
The Order 1886 was probably the freshest title at Sony’s press conference. The aesthetics of it were very reminiscent of the Resistance franchise; taking an alternate historical approach, this time in Victorian London, and putting a sci-fi spin on it.
What was seen in the trailer was a group of seemingly specially trained individuals who were brought into a gated property in what could be Whitechapel London, who were then ambushed by what looked lik werewolves. Each of the four carried unique weapons such as a napalm launcher, a gatling gun, and the last which looked like a rail gun. Though it was claimed that the trailer was shown in engine, no gameplay was shown.
Killzone Shadow Fall’s time on the stage more so than the Playstation4 event, left some wondering if this next gen title will bring anything substantially defining beyond prettier graphics. It’s a neat looking shooter, with the presentation showing off an accompanying drone that can deploy shields and provide aiding fire in battle. But I still wasn’t convinced how Killzone’s bringing the next generation of shooters to Playstation 4.
About Killzone Shadow Fall
Guerilla continues with its international wartime inspiration 30 years after the events of Killzone 3 with Killzone Shadow Fall’s Cold War like setting; having the Helgast and the ISA living side by side who are however separated by a vast Berlin inspired wall.
Just as every console should launch with a racing game, every console should kick things off with a first person shooter. Guerilla Games have proven to be among the best developers on Playstation 3, next to Naughty Dog, to bring the full power of Sony’s hardware and project them on screen. We’ve seen some of what’s in store with the look of a pre and post terrorized city from the Citadel-esque sheen to covering everything in fiery rubble. At E3, we get a more organic look and feel with the jungle environment which looks expectedly stunning.
The E3 trailer didn’t entirely do Shadow Fall justice as to the new gameplay mechanics. The ‘Owl’, the drone seen in the trailer, can enable you as a Shadow Marshall – Killzone’s version of a seal team 6 soldier – to zip-line himself across chasms and even as far as from one observation tower to another (approximately 15m maximum), and stun enemies for a temporary advantage along with the deployable light shield. The Shadow Marshall himself has the ability to see his enemies behind cover and, as the developer unveiled after its first viewing, slow down time with Adrenaline Mode with the use of one health pack.
These tactical advantages are complimented by the expanded level design of Shadow Fall. Not only is the new Killzone far prettier than previous games, but the environments are more open, giving you free rein to complete objectives in the order of your choosing; this is a huge relief from Killzone 2 and 3’s unapologetic draw from Call of Duty’s linear design.
Managing director of Killzone Shadow Fall Herman Hulst mentioned that Guerilla Games has a new IP in development. Killzone Shadow Fall will launch with the Playstation 4.
Image source: Gamersyde.
Right before another showing of Knack, one of the most satisfying gameplay trailers was none other than Infamous Second Son, giving us much more than the “You are not in control” trailer back in February. We now know a little more about Delsin Rowe, the main lead in Second Son.
It appears that his older brother is a detective who was seen reprimanding him about having to arrest Delsin countless times. His brother also looks to be the go-to inside man for Delsin who’s bound by the confines of the law as we see him leading him to a high security facility but unable to accompany his brother any further.
The banter between Delsin and his brother is telling to the kind of character the new protagonist is. Delsin is the near opposite of Cole who embraces his powers bragging about not seeing a downside to them. Cole was better realized in Infamous 2, but with the voice of Troy Baker – quickly becoming the most popular voice actor in the industry – we can expect a more interesting character.
Some of the abilities in the trailer look reminiscent of Infamous 1 and 2 such as shooting energy projectiles out of his hands and what looked like him draining the life out of an enemy. New abilities we see include his melee weapon, chains wrapped around his wrists which looks more like Kratos’ Blades of Chaos (without the blades) more than Cole’s Amp from Infamous 2. We also seen him vanish into smoke in a ventilation duct and shoot out of the roof vent to gain some air time. The trailer closed with one of the most popular moves from the Infamous series, showing Delsin Shoot up in the air with a smirk on his face before crashing down, eradicating his foes in a massive shockwave.
About Infamous Second Son
Second Son takes place 7 years after the events of Infamous 2, following the good ending to that game. Delsin is in constant conflict with the Department of Unified Protection (DUP), which is similar to today’s Homeland Security. Conduits like Delsin are labeled as bioterrorists who are hunted down by the DUP.
Much like Killzone Shadow Fall, Second Son is adding more to the experience than just better graphics. It is said the environmental damage is permanent, even after you leave and return. Deslin looks even more agile than Cole, which says a lot being that by the end of Infamous 2, Cole can reach from one end of the city to another with near seamless fluidity. In one encounter, we see Delsin fire some energy blasts at his enemies, turn and shoot through the roof of a ventilation duct, and hover back over his enemies; all within the matter of seconds.
Delsin is also the Megaman of Infamous. He just isn’t able to use the smoke abilities that we’ve become familiar with; he can also absorb the powers of others and make them his own. In some gameplay footage, we see him violently erecting spikes that shoot out of the ground and fling his enemies into space.
As much as we wished that Second Son would be a launch title, it will release in February 2014.
Imange source: engaget.
I was one of the few that blindly appreciated David Cage’s speech of polygon count and emotion at the Playstation 4 reveal, mostly because I become stupidly infatuated with everything he touches. But that speech that meant little to many, paid the hell off at their E3 tech demo. Its timing was strange, as Quantic Dream usually releases tech demos just prior to their next title.
We’ve seen this in The Casting before Heavy Rain and in Kara before Beyond. But being that Beyond has yet to release, seeing the Dark Sorcerer was unexpected. It starred the old man featured in the model image from February, now as an ominous sorcerer conjuring up dark magic right before it takes a hilarious turn. If this is what we can expect from Quantic Dreams next game, then we are THAT much closer to an indistinguishable parallel between digital and live action.
Sony continued to flex its game partnership muscles with the endearing showcase of indie titles. After leading with Transistor, Sony displayed the following titles in a very personal way, giving each game a space to share the stage:
Don’t Starve
Mercenary Kings
Secret Ponchos
Ray’s The Dead
Oddworld New ‘n’ Tasty
From the Playstation Vita to the Playstation 4, it’s clear that Sony is continuing to facilitate an open relationship with indie developers.
Square has made me excited for Final Fantasy again. Some bits and pieces were hard to follow in the hodge-podge of elaborate cinematics, but Final Fantasy XV seems to be taking an all new approach to Final Fantasy gameplay with what looks to be a full on action RPG with no battle stages separate from the environment.
Lastly, though this announcement isn’t for me, I know plenty of people who are excited for the announcement of Kingdom Hearts III, and there were probably less who were excited of Final Fantasy XIV.

Outside of the technical difficulties, AC IV showed some impressive footage ranging from stalking a target, to escaping a hail of canon fire, to naval battles before ending with a ship boarding fight. However this did little in exciting me for the AC franchise. It didn’t address (which might not have been capable of showing in a press conference time slot) the rigidity of AC 3 in which you failed missions if they weren’t completed in the exact fashion required from you. AC IV promised to rid that constricting game design, though nothing was shown for it. After three disappointing installments in my experience, I will have to see a lot more of Black Flag in order to consider it.
About Assassins Creed IV
The world of Assassins Creed IV black Flag is massive, boasting over 50 locations and 75 mini locations – your satellites off the coasts of the main lands. Throughout this vast Caribbean space lays incentives and collectibles that will, one way or the other, have a purpose in upgrading Edward and his ship, the Jackdaw.
Interestingly enough, game director Ashraf Ismail claimed that they took inspiration from Far Cry 3 in terms of upgrading Kenway’s equipment by using hunting and whaling. There are plenty of little touches in making the open world involved, from purposeful collectibles to earning upgrades for Kenway and his ship through hunting and other means, all in a vast uninterrupted open world.
Companion missions, which players might recognize from previous AC games where you were able to send off agents to gather resources for you and bring them back, are now more interactive with Edward’s fleet ships that can be sent out to pillage and plunder other ships. Instead of it being a simple numbers of probability game, you can even jump into those missions and help them fight and achieve their goal. Being that you can assist your fleet in plundering, you yourself can do the same to any ship that you face. This is similar to what we see when an RTS allows you to play as a unit to help steer the tide of battle.
 Ismail stated that they tried to implement naval combat into multiplayer, however in the end, they just weren’t able to pull it off. Though it’s disappointing that such potential was lost, it’s nice to see the developer attempt something so ambitious and we can hope that they will continue to work on the AC franchise to see if they can marry multiplayer on land and on sea. In the meantime, AC IV introduces a new mode to their assassin vs. assassin gameplay with Games Lab where players can customize their own matches.
Assassins Creed IV Black Flag will be available at the end of October this year.
Watch Dogs showed more impressive gameplay with Aiden’s access to the connected environment. In this demo, Eden must help his friend T-Bone escape as he’s being hunted down by mercenaries. After evading the police, Aiden is spotted by a samaritan who attempts to make a phone call right before Aiden simply walks up and smashes the phone on the pavement.
He then hacks what almost looks to be a pay phone to access the camera to the room in which his friend T-Bone is trapped in; he then triggers an audible diversion that allows T-Bone to escape the room.
Outside of the establishment, he hacks the security cameras in a sequence where Aiden guides T-Bone behind cover before they reunite and make their escape.
While T-Bone gets away, Aiden has to make it out on his own. As the police close in with a chopper, another person on stage is shown using a tablet to trigger what looked like an EMP blast that fudges the chopper’s control systems. Aiden sprints down the main street, calling up traffic barricades which the troopers crash into, right before he’s caught by police who command him to surrender. With cell phone in hand, Aiden creates a black out, giving him the chance to incapacitate the officers, beating one down and shooting the other two in the legs with a targeting system similar to Red Dead’s Dead Eye.
We’ve seen enough of Watch Dogs that at this point, nothing will make us more excited other than getting our hands on the damn thing. But at least in this demo, we get a better sense of how much control Aiden has over the city of Chicago.
About Watch Dogs
Watch Dogs supports a number of types of gameplay approaches; the main three being action, stealth and hacking. For me, it was difficult to immediately pick up on the three different play styles in Sony’s conference. Stealth was seen early in the demo with Aiden abiding by the traffic laws and stopping his vehicle when patrols were nearby. This will give anyone who has successfully evaded the police immediate nostalgia, such as myself. Hacking was demonstrated in getting T-Bone’s tail out of the apartment by guiding him indirectly through the cameras.
Watch Dogs has a very “stay connected” feel both in its single player and its multiplayer. As seen in the on stage demo, players who are using a smartphone or tablet can also interact with another player’s game. Using the demo as an example, when in a bind, your Aiden can send out a signal to all of your friends who will receive a notification on their touch device. If they so choose, they can respond to that signal, and in a top down view of your location, they themselves can interact with your game, disabling traffic lights, knocking out power, or even hacking choppers directly.
Multiplayer also brings an oddly-synchronous dynamic to competitive play. Both can be involved in challenges in which one player as Aiden on the console or PC can make an attempt to complete an objective while the other player with the touch device can be using everything at their disposal, including the Chicago police force, to prevent you from reaching your objective.
Watch Dog’s unique gameplay features such as hacking, stealth vs. actin gameplay, all in the first city open world title for the next generation is enough to separate it from the behemoth franchise installments releasing later this year, that being Saints Row IV and GTA V. And though it remains to be seen that it’ll live up to its ambitions, this new IP certainly looks promising.
Look for Watch Dogs on November 19th this year.

(Let’s forget that the awkward conversation between Lebron and James even happened.)
Sandwiching the announcement of Avalanche’s Mad Max title was two of what could possibly be among from most played multiplayer games of 2014.
I remember when I was first introduced to The Elder Scrolls franchise by one of my friends, he stated that Morrowind played like an off-line MMO. I don’t have the dedication or the patience to partner up with friends. But with the trailer’s quick reference to embarking on quests “alone”, if The Elder Scrolls Online can deliver an experience like what I did in Skyrim, then I might be interested in making this my first MMO-RPG.
About The Elder Scrolls Online
Set 1000 years before Skyrim, The Elder Scrolls Online takes place in Cyrodiil which was the setting for Oblivion. Here, players can join up with one of three alliances: Daggerfall Covenant, Aldmeri Dominion, and the Ebonheart Pact with the meta goal to crown their emperor. The game of crowns boils down to acquiring more land than the other faction to build up their alliances.
Players can take to arms in Siege Battles, a way to take over keeps which will bring hundreds combatants in a battle for power. Even outside of PVP, you have the potential to run into plenty of other Elder Scrolls players in Zenimax’s Mega Server which theoretically eliminates server boundaries. Game Director Paul Sage did state however that they’ll find ways to balance the player count to ensure things like having hundreds of players battling single monster doesn’t occur.
Character progression evolves on the flexibility from Skyrim. There are 4 basic classes that hold their own skill lines; in addition to that, there are skill lines attached to your race as well. Additional skill lines can also be opened up with the different guilds you can join. Akin to games like the lost gem, Kingdoms of Alumar, your character abilities can be very versatile and drastically different than from what your original skill line allowed you to do.
Staying true to the Elder Scrolls feel, Online allows players to view the world in both first and third person; with third person allowing situational awareness and first person making combat feel more visceral and kinetic, both have always been appreciated in the franchise. In addition, TEOL has stripped away many of the HUD elements that you typically see in an MMO game – with the exception of a task bar that’s minimal yet contextual to your actions.
Quests adhere to the similar design seen in past entries where one thing leads to the other, and then the other, and then you realize you’re nowhere near your point of origin. Even with other elements such as stealth, crafting, the aforementioned guilds and NPC companionship (though there are no dragons), Zenimax is making every attempt to TEOL feel like an Elder Scrolls game while delivering that massively multiplayer online experience.
Beta signups for TEOL can be done at http://www.elderscrollsonline.com/en/ and the full game will release in Spring 2014.
There’s something about Bungie’s games that draw you in. The former Halo studio historically puts so much effort into making their games look distinct, their worlds massive, and their settings oddly soothing despite the firefights. As a developer who’s worked so long together, that feel has effectively transitioned into Destiny.
We watch as two Fire Team members enter an abandoned building in the dystopian outskirts where if I was playing, I would explore in the opposite direction just to see how far the world stretches. The enemy encounters were very different from what we’ve seen in Halo. From the dimly lit halls to the boss room, the two only encounter Grunt-grade Fallen opposition up until the Rixis Archon Slayer, casting “space magic” and aiming down the sights. Missions seem to follow a very Borderlands 2’zy objective of shooting s**t to grab more loot. And in a game like what Destiny aspires to be, for most, that will be the only reason to play.
The following Public Event debuted with a jaw dropping entrance with a massive explosion set off in the distance knocking down surrounding towers followed by a looming ship passing overhead with another Fire Team rolling in on sick looking hover bikes. Accompanied by the third member of their Fire Team, the battle that ensued was very much a like a small scale raid in a first person shooter. Drop ships swooped in delivering enemies by the truck load as the Fire Teams multitasked taking them out and concentrating fire on the Devil Walker, a giant heavily armed spider tank. We see each member unload their full arsenal of space magic and killer weapons, firing on foot and from above on jetpacks.
It was the proper way to close the show with one of the most highly anticipated franchises of the full next generation.
About Destiny
As you may already know, in Destiny you will be able to choose between 3 different classes, all of which will have their own specialties. However Bungie stresses that there will be a lot of overlap in an attempt to relieve players of regretting class decisions. But to take advantage of the different specialties, players will be able to use multiple classes.
Players will be able to put together their own Fire Teams, folks who team up to complete quests and even compete in PVP matches.
In the quest to continue making your destiny your own, each hero will be accompanied by a Ghost, little drone companions that are issued to players which will potentially be customizable throughout your time in Destiny. As already revealed, players will be able to acquire their own ships, but we now know that they’ll become your own personal storage, holding all of your loot and vehicles as well.
One of the obvious advantages of next gen technology is the seamlessness of match making we’ve seen. In Destiny, you can be embarking on your own quest, and then just around the corner, as seen at the Public Event at the end of the demo, orders of players will be present pursuing their own objective. To answer those that want to have a more solo experience, Bungie is well aware of that and assures players will know the type of space they’re in whether it’s private with just them and/or their Fire Teams, or a space with the potential to run into other players.
The most important thing to me coming from Bungie is their intentions on crunching down on time commitment. Their goal is to ensure that even within 20 minutes, you can accomplish something. That transitions to Bungie allowing players to go in solo or roll with fire teams, and engage missions cooperatively or match up competitively. The emphasis on the freedom of time investments and catering to your style of play are very significant claims for a game that is persistently online with MMO like qualities.
Destiny will release in 2014.
The ear-to-ear grin on Jack Tretton’s face said it all, Sony killed it.
The message “for gamers, by gamers” from February spilled over into E3 in a way only Sony can deliver. Yoshida announced roughly double the amount of titles in development in Sony’s World Wide studios, 20 of them within the next year; a somewhat sucker punch to Microsoft’s 15 while showing off Playstation’s unmatched exclusive build. While most of the games themselves weren’t there, the Playstation brand has such an established base that it earns the consumers’ trust.
On top of their in-house studios, the ‘Indie Circle’ was one of the most eloquent showings in the history of E3 press conferences.  The 9-game stage was an effective statement calling all to indies that Sony’s platform is a publisher free space where devs can reach a wider console community.
A few inevitable non-favorites snuck in between such as the ultimately painless entertainment round that ran under ten minutes, and the announcement that players will be paying for Playstation Plus which will be integrated with standard online functionality.
But in an unexpected beautiful mudslinging fashion, Sony injected mercury in their boxing gloves and struck Microsoft with three critical blows:
  1. The Playstation 4 will ‘fully’ support used games, allowing the trading of discs with friends, trade ins with retailers, overall, having full ownership over disc based games.
  2. The Playstation 4 will not require an internet connection for title authorization.
  3. The Playstation 4 will launch at $399
This received a resounding standing ovation by the audience and myself at home. And regardless of the fact that Sony announced that third party publishers will be free to impose their own policies to incentivize consumers to purchase new instead of used, and regardless of the fact that frankly, Sony largely said, “We will keep doing what we were doing,” it was the bold message directed with an avuncular finger pointed at the gamers while sticking the middle finger off behind them at Microsoft that rang to true to viewers.
This overwhelming response must have been reflected in next gen 3:2 (PS4:XBOne) preorders, which forced Microsoft’s hand to pull the disc licensing/online DRM policies completely from Xbox One’s features.
“On Playstation, concepts like ‘true consumer ownership’ and ‘consumer trust’ are central to everything we do.” Typically I gloss my attention over the marketing “philosophy” of corporate executives. But from what we’ve seen at Sony’s press conference, there’s actual meaning behind this consumer centered approach.

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