E3: Sony Conference - Beyond: Two Souls, PSone classics and Assassin's Creed on PS Vita, Wonderbook, The Last of Us
By Matt Bailey
A Brand New Game
After a showcase of titles Sony began their conference with the new title from Heavy Rain creators Quantic Dream, Beyond: Two Souls, starring a performance-captured Ellen Page. As visually impressive demo, it also managed to draw in the audience with the presence of the characters on-screen rather than through action or dialogue. The facial expressions and realistic movements of the characters showed this as a step beyond Heavy Rain, although gameplay-wise we expect things to be more similar. It's again an "interactive drama", and while there are claims it will be quite different, this certainly isn't an action adventure game or a first person shooter. This will be all about the story. It's also going to be PlayStation Move-enabled again, but we don't yet know how this will work.
All-Stars and PSone classics for PS Vita
It was great to see a brand new game straight away, allowing Sony to quickly differentiate themselves from the Microsoft conference, although they followed this by demonstrating their Super Smash Bros. clone PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale. More characters were revealed, and the rumoured PS Vita version (it was previously PS3-only) was confirmed and demoed. In fact, the most interesting part was the cross-platform multiplayer and simultaneous launch, which we hope to see happen more in the future.
Oddly, this was the only first-party PS Vita game revealed by Sony on-stage, who have since admitted they should have showed more. There was stuff on the show floor, but their new handheld should really have been front and centre for its first E3 conference since launch, particularly when new games are lacking right now. One ray of hope from Sony directly was that PSone classics are now confirmed, although they weren't any more precise with a release date than "summer", and compatible games will be coming in batches rather than bringing full compatibility from Day 1. At least you'll be able to use the games you've already purchased for use on the PS3 or PSP.
Import spin-offs for Vita
There was some hope for PS Vita owners, though, with two spin-offs from big, established console franchises. Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified will tie into this November's Black Ops 2, although nothing was shown for the game at all apart from a logo and a mention. We strongly suspect it will be a first-person shooter (which is possible on the handheld thanks to the twin analogue sticks), but it would have been nice to see it in action. We did, however, get to see more from the Assassin's Creed III spin-off, Liberation. It's promising the full Assassin's Creed experience, with an open world and a standard third-person view, but it's actually getting a unique storyline set around the time of the main game, but set in New Orleans with the Spanish Empire in control. For the first time in the series there will be a female protagonist, although there was no confirmation on whether Desmond would be involved.
While Sony didn't seem to find the time to show us anything interesting they'd been working on for the PS Vita, they did spend 20 minutes showing off Wonderbook, a PlayStation Move augmented reality interactive book which didn't seem to fit well with the adult audience in LA. That's not to dismiss it as an idea - the ability to read along and interact directly with a book, particularly when there is content coming from J. K. Rowling, is likely to have strong appeal to children. But there weren't children in the audience, and technical issues didn't help win over sceptical journalists.
Not the last of The Last of Us
More appealing to the crowd was the footage of The Last of Us which closed the conference. Naughty Dog's new third-person action-survival game already impressed when it was revealed earlier this year, but the company showed plenty of new parts, including gameplay sections. There's lots of shooting and violence, a theme common to many games demoed on stage at E3, but the camaraderie between the characters was impressive and we know the company can tell interesting stories. It may not be completely original, but it was another demonstration of a new game not part of an established franchise that Sony brought to the conference, in contrast to Microsoft's efforts.
Those looking to see more support for the fledging PS Vita platform will have been left disappointed by Sony's conference, with the exception of Assassin's Creed III: Liberation, with a worrying lack of first-party development being shown. However, those looking to the PS3 in 2013, possibly its last year as Sony's prime console, will be happy with the original games and ideas on stage.
For more discussion and debate around all the conferences, listen to the latest episode of the allaboutgames.co.uk Podcast.