Wednesday, June 11, 2014

By Jamaal Ryan

When compared to Microsoft’s presentation, Sony’s E3 was surprisingly traditional in content. Whereas Microsoft was all about games-games-games, Sony also included statistics, services, and media applications that aren’t directly tied to games. But nonetheless their 2 hour media briefing was meaty and satisfying, filled with enough announcements and gameplay reveals that properly make up what an E3 press conference should be.
Sony’s conference had the most exciting third party presentations at their show. Batman: Arkham Knight had its first public gameplay debut at their media briefing. As good as Arkham Knight looks, it’s easily the largest open world city that I’ve ever seen. Along with a seemingly wide set up that would be enough to justify the hefty Batmobile, Arkham City is strikingly tall, with buildings stacked on multiple levels that make the city look like a metropolis from Star Wars rather than modern time.

Speaking of massive cities, if anyone would have guessed who Rockstar would have partnered up with on the show floor, it would have been Microsoft. But seeing the GTA V reveal at Sony’s press conference elevated their status by showcasing the most successful selling game of all time. It’s like walking into a club with a celebrity, it makes you look cool. And with the GTA V unveiling, Sony certainly did.
And while Microsoft opened with MGS V last year, Sony spliced in a very Kojima styled trailer that did little to serve the gameplay as its debut did last year, while equally making you excited for a new Metal Gear nonetheless.
The only disappointment was what is assumed to be Project Beast. Now known as Bloodborne, the new title from From Software gave nothing more than a barely conceptual CGI trailer that was equally as cryptic as it was gross.
To a degree, Microsoft’s press event seemingly had more exclusive titles under its belt, however Sony made a better case as to why you should pick up games on their platform over the competition’s. Sony reached over into Microsoft’s cookie jar with transferable content that can be brought over from both the PS3 and 360 versions of GTA V and pulled into the PS4 version. Perhaps that feature is available for both next gen systems, but Sony called it first. But the best example was with Far Cry 4 which didn’t insult you with “Hours of more content and exclusive DLC!” bullshit. Far Cry 4 is given the dedicated handheld treatment where players can invite their friends into their game to play co-op even if they don’t own the game. Damn son.

Like the entirety of Microsoft’s event, their inclusion of indie development felt artificial and rushed, dedicating focus to roughly about two indie titles before shotgunning through a sizzle reel. Sony was patient, giving their indie developers their time in the spotlight. Titles like Entwined and ABZU were shown off and given context by presenters. Sony isn’t quite exempt from doing their own reel, however the Devolver Digital presentation was focused; and unlike what I saw at ID @ Xbox, I want every single one of those games. Though hard to quantify as indie, fans were blindsided by the announcement of Grim Fandango, a bona fide gaming classic. But the incredible show stopper had to go to No Man’s Sky, the title that took Sony’s conference by storm just as they did at last year’s VGX with a more in depth demonstration of the procedural ecology and seamless exploration of their galaxy.
Many lamented over Sony’s departure from their game streak with the suitable Jack Trenton replacement, Shawn Lauden; however Sony managed to keep their side announcements relevant. Twitch is was an undeniable success on PS4, but with added interactive features, alongside YouTube support, and Sony is slowly but surely justifying that Share button on the Dual Shock 4.
Sony effectively ate Microsoft’s lunch that is Xbox Originals with the announcement of Powers on Playstation, albeit its time on stage dragged for a bit too long. I can’t argue the tastes of gamers when it comes to TV, however for me, Powers is much more exciting than a street soccer tournament or improv comedy.
Stepping towards hardware outside of the Playstation 4 was their biggest stumble. As a PS3/PS4/Vita owner, I never gave two shits about Playstation TV (formerly known as the Vita TV) and still don’t. Owning all the native systems that the PS TV emulates renders the little device useless to me. PS3 and PS4 game functions are contingent on your internet connection with Remote Play and Playstation Now, and the Vita library support is limited. Allow me to play Vita titles by using the Vita as a controller where I can actually play titles that use both the front and rear touch surfaces, and then I’ll consider it.
“Vita TV” aside, Sony just doesn’t seem to be doing enough to pimp the Playstation Vita itself. The Vita was muddled in the context of all the other features within the Playstation ecosystem, and was only given brief mentioning of just a small handful of titles that are in development for it along with the 100+ projects. It seems as if Sony is shifting their strategy from marketing the Vita as a standalone device to an accompanying one, something that I’m not quite sure that’ll work.
Lastly, Project Morpheus wasn’t even worth mentioning at their press conference. As excited as I am for VR on the Sony platform, Morpheus’s showing at their press event was more of a reminder than revealing new developments on the prototype, two newly announced titles aside.
And then we have the first party content.
LittleBigPlanet 3 and Uncharted 4 were highlights of the show in their own right. LBP 3 was endearing in its clumsiness. They didn’t waste time with dramatic and/or exec intros. Bam. The game just simply appeared on stage. And unlike other multiplayer romps seen at E3, LBP’s presenters looked like they were having genuine fun with the constant fuck ups and authentic banter, very much unlike the fake ass hokey smack talk we’ve seen before.
Uncharted 4, even in its predictable “One more thing” slot, still amazed. It served its purpose just to showcase what the most visually talented developer can muster out of the PS4 hardware, and it did not disappoint. Nathan Drake looks scarred, seasoned, and dare I say slightly aged, looking even more like Nolan North than the Uncharteds beforehand. To the diehard Sony fans, it also evoked a sigh of relief, giving them something to hold on to after the crumbling establishment that was Naughty Dog which precipitated after Amy Hennings’ departure.
Sony killed it again this year, and they did it with a good clean fight unlike last year. Sony hit all the beats you would come to expect at an E3 press conference but in a non-formulaic manner. The half hour side step that detoured into the Playstation ecosystem served its purpose just enough. But with third party showcasings such as Far Cry 4 and the first gameplay trailer of Mortal Kombat X, indie games such as the very Journey like ABZU and the infinitely impressive No Man’s Sky, and first party debuts with LittleBigPlanet 3 and Uncharted 4, Sony executed E3 with damn near perfection.

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