Sony hauled out the big guns for its moment in the E3 spotlight, including major new IP (Beyond! The Last of Us!) and the latest titles from favorite franchises like God of War. They also had some surprising announcements.
Sony kicked things off with one of the biggest wow moments E3 has yet delivered: the latest game from Quantic Dream, the makers of Heavy Rain. For their follow-up, Quantic wanted to tell a new story that touched on a question that everyone wonders about: “What lies beyond death?” Beyond is the 15-year-spanning story of a girl who has a connection to some kind of being that straddles the world we know and the one that lies beyond. But this is no ordinary production. Quantic Dream has teamed up with actress Ellen Page to bring their new protagonist to life, and the character matches Page’s own likeness. She not only provided the voice but a full motion-cap performance. The astonishing scene they showed off from the game — embedded below — contained very little dialogue from Page, but her every facial tic and suppressed or fleeting emotion was readable on the character’s face as if Page herself had been transported inside the game world. It was truly astounding, and Quantic Dream’s penchant for creating tense drama married to Page’s incredible performance, along with an added focus on action this time, has created something really special. There’s no release date yet for Beyond, but whenever it arrives, it’s going to be amazing.
Next up, Sony trotted out their already-revealed fighting game, PlayStation All Stars Battle Royale. Four on-stage players demoed a round of the game, which featured some intense brawling with lots of power-ups, take-downs, and interactive environments. They made a lot of noise about how the game is being made so you can cross-play with your friends across your PS3 or PS Vita. (Two of the on-stage players used the Vita, the other two PS3, but they were all playing the same game.) I wouldn’t be surprised to see Sony push more of its exclusive titles into cross-play territory like this, as it gives players a taste of the kind of functionality offered on Nintendo’s Wii U (just like Microsoft did at their press briefing with Xbox SmartGlass). Sony also announced two new playable characters who’ve been added to the game: Nathan Drake from Uncharted and Big Daddy from BioShock.
There was no footage shown, but Sony announced a new Call of Duty title that’s being made exclusively for PlayStation Vita. They promised that Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified would be a full-fledged, triple-A title, and not some watered-down handheld spin-off.
At last, Ubisoft’s top talent took the stage to show off Assassin’s Creed III. After Ubi’s own press event earlier in the day, where AC3 got major stage time, the game’s developers wisely chose to show PlayStation fans something brand new from the game — a mode of play that as yet we hadn’t seen. And it didn’t disappoint. A live demo was played where hero Connor Kenway captained a vessel in the Caribbean Sea, and engaged in a major sea battle. Connor took the wheel, steering the ship this way and that, while enemy vessels closed in on all sides. As they drew near, guide lines appeared in the water to help the player know when to fire. At a cue from the player, Connor shouted orders to his crew, and cannons were fired, creating serious damage to the other ships, which fired back and chewed into Connor’s ship. It was an intense battle that looked like an awful lot of fun.
After the AC3 demo, Sony announced another Vita exclusive: Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation. Like the Call of Duty exclusive, Ubisoft promises that Liberation will “bring the full Assassin’s Creed experience” to a handheld device for the first time. The title stars a brand new, female assassin named Aveline, who lives and fights for freedom in 18th Century New Orleans. Sony is taking full advantage of this great-looking exclusive by offering a Vita hardware bundle that includes the game. Assassin’s Creed III is also getting a similar PS3 bundle. Liberation, the PS Vita bundle, and Assassin’s Creed III are all scheduled to go on sale October 30, 2012.
But Ubisoft wasn’t finished yet. Next up, they brought out Far Cry 3, announcing for the first time its 4-player co-op mode. Gameplay looked vaguely reminiscent of Left 4 Dead, with players depending on each other to survive some intense battles on FC3‘s island setting.
Next, Sony had a big surprise. It’s not uncommon for news of new hardware devices to leak early, before an official announcement can be made. But I don’t remember seeing so much as a whisper regarding this one. Sony has a brand new peripheral device on the way, and it’s something entirely unlike anything any other console maker has done. It’s called Wonderbook, and it’s a large, book-shaped device that works in tandem with PlayStation Eye and Move motion controllers. It creates an augmented reality experience that you control and interact with, and Sony’s positioning it as an educational tool aimed at kids, aka a new way of reading and learning. Wonderbook’s first title is just about the biggest, most exclusive title Sony could have possibly landed: a new Harry Potter tie-in from J.K. Rowling herself. In association with Rowling’s online Pottermore service (which Sony produces), Book of Spells is exactly what it sounds like: an interactive game/learning tool that teaches kids (of all ages) how to cast magical spells just like the ones Harry Potter learned at Hogwarts. The Move controller becomes a wand on-screen, and the game guides you through various spells and activities. It looks like a blast. They also mentioned that Moonbot Studios, creators of the popular interactive books for iPad, The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore and The Numberlys, is hard at work creating a title for Wonderbook called Diggs Nightcrawler. Color me excited for that one!
After some talk about PlayStation Suite — Sony’s venture to bring its gaming services to tablets and smartphones — being renamed “PlayStation Mobile,” it was time for the last two big titles of the night. God of War: Ascension was shown first, and though nothing new was announced about the game, we got an extended demo of the game in-action, with loads of intense action as Kratos took on one baddie after another, each increasing in size and lethality. It ended with Kratos taking a daring dive into the ocean to take on an enormous Kraken. Personally, I think all of Kratos’ problems could be avoided if somebody just gave the guy a hug. Or maybe Xanax.
Sony finished off the night with an extended demo of The Last of Us, the next big franchise from Uncharted creator Naughty Dog. The gameplay was intense, as our two apocalypse survivors faced off against a building full of bad-guy humans (no spore monsters here), with ultra-realistic fighting, dialogue, and world interaction. The protagonist here is no super-human. He gets hurt, reacts as any normal person would, and gets a helping hand from his teenage cohort. The intensity was ratcheted way up for this one, and it left everyone in the house very excited to see how well Naughty Dog pulls off this shift into such a different genre.
And that’s it for PlayStation. Next up: Nintendo’s headliner event where they show off the Wii U. How many Wii U games will they show? Will we get a release date? Price? And most importantly: will the gaming public be as impressed by the Wii U’s tablet controller as they were by the Wii’s motion controls six years ago?