E3 2012: Sony Checks In

For the first few minutes of the Sony press conference tonight, I thought they might blow everyone else out of the water. But partway through, it felt like the presentation just ran out of steam, and by the end I was having trouble even registering what games I was looking at, which is kind of a bad sign.

I do have to give some props to SCEA’s Jack Tretton, however. He’s not the slickest speaker in the world, but he’s head and shoulders ahead of the presenters at Microsoft, EA and Ubisoft, who just look awkward and lost most of the time. Seriously, guys, you spend ridiculous money on these presentations, you can’t hire some proper spokespeople for these shows?

Anyway, the games:

Beyond: Two Souls — this is the latest from Quantic Dream, previously known for Heavy Rain. As you’d expect, it’s got a major focus on story, and a lot of this demo was one long cutscene featuring the main character, played by Ellen Page, mostly not talking and being interrogated at a police station. From this point on, I suspect I’ll mentally refer to this game as “Ellen Wake.”

PlayStation All Stars: Battle Royale — Sony’s answer to Super Smash Bros. features characters like Fat Princess, Kratos, Sly Cooper and Nathan Drake beating the crap out of each other, if you’re into that sort of thing. It’ll also feature cross-compatibility between the PS3 and Vita, which I find kind of fascinating, but wonder how useful it’ll be if nobody actually buys a Vita.

Assassin’s Creed III — after showing off some footage from Liberation, the Vita release of AC3, we were treated to a demo from AC3 proper, featuring a giant naval battle and not a whole lot of ninja-like stabbination. Sony also announced a special AC3 hardware bundle coming later this year, if you (like me, if you can believe it) still don’t own a PS3.

Far Cry 3 — for this, we got a live demo of four people playing co-op onstage, continuing the trend of every shooter on the planet featuring some kind of co-op play, something I never thought I’d see a few years ago. However, it wasn’t entirely clear if you’ll be able to play the whole game co-op with friends or if this was just a smaller piece of content designed specifically for that purpose; it appeared to be the latter, which was a little disappointing.

Wonderbook and Book of Spells — this is where the press conference took an unexpected left turn. At first, you could sense the audience squirming as a rep came out and starting talking about Move, Sony’s forgotten entry into the Wii / Kinect / motion control space. Then they introduced Wonderbook, a new kid-friendly franchise where you’d use Move to bring storybooks to life. Or something. At this point, it just wasn’t sounding that interesting.

But then, a curveball. The first Wonderbook entry would be Book of Spells, a game being designed with input from J.K. Rowling, where you’d use the Move controller to learn spells from the Harry Potter universe, along with their backstories. I guess if you’ve got a 6 year old who’s into Harry Potter, it might be worth checking out, but as impressive as the Rowling get is, even that doesn’t seem like enough to rescue Move. 

God of War: Ascension — How is this game different from every other God of War game?  Hells if I know. There’s Kratos, chaining combos and and beating the crap out of stuff. I guess if you’re a God of War fan, you’ll be happy for more, but it barely looked any different from previous installments. And it’ll be out March 2013.

The Last of Us – to give you some idea how much my interest had fallen off by the end of the press conference, I initially thought this was some new DLC for Uncharted 3, with a focus on ultraviolent close quarters combat instead of exploration and climbing. But wait, no, wake up Sluggo, this is a whole new game from Naughty Dog.

The demo featured two protagonists slowly making their way through an area and getting into several brutal scrapes with groups of enemies along the way. It seems the focus is to give the fights some real ooomph, and the crowd was really getting into it by the end. So put that one in the win column for Sony.

All in all, not as lackluster as Microsoft, but hardly the stuff legends are made of. Overall Grade: B.