Sony E3 press conference 2011: My highlights

Sony’s press conference wasn’t particularly kind to those of us who live in the UK. Not because it didn’t mention much about Europe but because it was on so freaking late! To top it off things were running late so what should have started at 1am instead began almost twenty minutes later. Not a massive amount of time unless of course it’s 1am…

Anyway, onwards and upwards and Sony began proceedings with an official apology from Jack Tretton regarding the PSN downtime recently. They couldn’t exactly ignore it and despite mumblings within the community that they would do just that, Sony have proved they are a humble company after all and do value their image and development studios dearly. It was classy and well done, almost as much as the segway between negativity and positivity regarding PSN; start by apologising and end with “isn’t it awesome? Well it’s going to get more awesome too!” referring to the many video and music streaming services either on or coming to the PS3.

Naughty Dog made an appearance with a playable demo of Uncharted 3 to wow the audience though after seeing the new Tomb Raider game, I wasn’t as wowed. Don’t get me wrong, Uncharted 3 looks good, very good with all the usual Nathan Drake stylings that make for a fantastic third person action adventure but, and it could very well have been the live feed, the demo didn’t feel like it came on leaps and bounds from Uncharted 2. Then again, said game was really quite special so perhaps it doesn’t have to and perhaps my incredibly tired eyes saw things differently. Still, the action looks superb with the demo showing Drake sneaking his way around a ship, taking out guards and being chased by a huge wave of water that did look incredible. Naughty Dog have done wonders with their water physics it seems. Another must have for this holiday season? It’s definitely looking that way.

Again Sony pushed their commitment to 3D entertainment as hard as they could with almost every demo and trailer in 3D – for anyone in the audience with 3D glasses of course. But they realise that not everyone has a 3D capable TV or even wants to upgrade to one seeing as they can be a tad pricey. The solution? Produce a 24 inch PlayStation branded monitor and two pairs of glasses for $499 plus throw in a copy of Resistance 3 for good measure. That should sort it right?

To keep with the whole 3D love, Sony also announced God of War Origins, a 3D and HD remastered version of the PSP God of War games which, to be honest, doesn’t do a whole lot for me though it’s a series with legions of fans so I’m sure it’ll sell well. What did tickle my fancy was the Ico and Shadow of Colossus HD collection that will also be in 3D. Team Ico’s legendary games were meant to come out not long ago but were pushed back until later this year. The inclusion of 3D is probably why.

Ken Levine of BioShock fame took to the stage to show off another dazzling trailer for BioShock Infinite, a game not out until next year but already looking amazing. He went on to say how in the past, he’s not been too kind towards motion controls particularly Sony’s Move. However they’ve some how made him change his mind (cough huge wads of cash cough) and now he loves the device because it isn’t just about waggling a HD wand but so much more. Levine spoke of enhanced interactions with Elizabeth, the female hero of BioShock Infinite, by using the Move controller. What ever could that be?

What I found quite bizarre about Sony’s conference was how their next handheld is meant to be coming out later this year but it didn’t seem to be shown with the gravitas that a new system deserves. The official name is now PSVita and all I can think of is Ryvita, the tasty health food snack. I’m sure that will dissipate soon much like the giggles after hearing the name Wii for the first time. It also has a price of $249 for standard Wifi models and $299 for ones that are both wifi and 3G capable. No doubt Sony are making a considerable loss for such a relatively low price but they need to match the 3DS in order to compete. Graphics and processing power be damned, if the 3DS is having a hard time selling a $349-$400 PSVita will definitely struggle. Expect prices of £220 and £250 here in the UK.

One PSVita title that really looked good was LittleBigPlanet. A series which has now graced all current gen PS systems with each one adding a little more magic. The PSVita version does so with its touchscreen controls utilising all the tools from the PS3 in a smaller, maybe even easier to control, pocket port, making good of all the features PSVita has. Take pictures with the camera and instantly import them into the game is one example. Graphically it looks lovely but could well have been faked so I’m taking the footage with a pinch of salt but still, LittleBigPlanet on PSVita may just be a the one game you need to make the system make sense. And with touch controls, the kinds of levels and experiences created by the users are likely to be similar to bite-sized iPhone games, adding another feather to LBP‘s already downy cap.

A good show from Sony but I wasn’t particularly blown away by anything. A few odd choices were made and the delay was a little annoying though handing out multiple 3D glasses and getting everyone to their seats must have been a pain. Next up however is Nintendo this afternoon at 4:30pm BST which is the conference I’m most excited about. Not long now!

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Beyond the Labyrinth looks ace

One of the main grumbles about the 3DS is lack of software with more promises of future releases than actual dates and with the launch games predominately being revamps of old titles, consumers have been reluctant to upgrade of buy the system in the numbers Nintendo had hoped for. Along comes Tri-Ace, the team behind Resonance of Fate and Star Ocean, with Beyond the Labyrinth and jaws are pleasingly dropped at the first screenshots (via Siliconera).

The game may still lack a release date and for that matter any real detail but from the look of it, Beyond the Labyrinth is at least making good use of the 3DS’s processing power. Famitsu bagged eight screens in total (see them all here) and state the game is a dungeon RPG featuring a talkative female who may or may not be the lead but is clearly important since she’s the first character shown. It probably goes without saying the look of Beyond the Labyrinth is reminiscent of Ico and Shadow of the Colossus which is another exciting prospect.

But other than the handful of screenshots and it being called a dungeon RPG, very little else is known. Though Tri-Ace do like to experiment with combat mechanics, opting to not always stick to the regimented ideas of JRPGs. It’s possible Beyond the Labyrinth will continue this tradition but it’s just as possible that there could be no fighting whatsoever but instead an emphasis on exploration and puzzle solving. Either way it’s worth keeping an eye on this game’s development for the art-style alone if not anything else.

Shadow of the Colossus and Ico remake adds Trophies, The Last Guardian may contain Move

The port of Team Ico’s Shadow of the Colossus and Ico may have a ghastly box-art but at least the upscaled graphics will be a wonder for the eyes. In an interview with Dengeki Online (via Andriasang), director Fumito Ueda said : “[Both games have] become HD, the textures have been redone to go along with that, and also PS3 Trophy support.” On top of these glorious new texture, Sony’s championing of 3D has made its way into the collection too. Ueda continued “Originally, we weren’t planning on making them 3D compatible, but it was decided upon suddenly when we determined compatibility would be a possibility. Neither Ico nor Shadow were made with 3D in mind originally, but they do fit it well I believe.” I’m not so bothered with Trophy support or 3D for that matter but new textures could make the already beautiful world look that much more stylised. But the quirky charm of the PS2 graphics did contribute to the feel of the game so I hope those elements aren’t lost in the upgrade.

On the subject of 3D, Ueda was questioned as to whether his next big game, The Last Guardian will include the feature: “We’re still looking into this. In its current state, we’ve pretty much used up the full system specs. However, we’d like people who don’t normally play games to play, so if it can reach these people, we’ll think about it. With this meaning, it’s not the case that there is absolutely no plan for support.” So basically they’re looking into it but aren’t ruling it out if it works. And what of Sony’s other new baby, Move? Ueda stated that if they do implement such a peripheral, it’ll be in addition to normal controls. Phew.

Shadow of the beast

Once no more than a rumour, the recently confirmed HD revamp of the two most significant games in our beloved hobby have been insulted by shoddy box art. Team Ico’s wonderful Ico proves the foolishness of the argument about games being ‘too short’ and Shadow of the Colossus showed us the cruelness and importance of video game death. Both are making their way to the PS3 at some point in the future (Sony are yet to decide the date), most probably by PSN but seemingly a store-bought version is also on offer. Swedish retailer Webhallen.com outed the box art which has all the grace and dignity of an injured ferret. While it’s true that once bought, what’s on the disc is more important than its housing but these two titles are tremendously artistic (yes games are art) and a complete package of style and brilliant gameplay should be considered. Especially when you think of how Sony pride themselves on making ad campaigns that are more pompous than informative – remember This is Living?

I may be making mountains out of mole hills on this one as is Kotaku who alerted me to the story but is it too much to want a touch more class in this medium? It is? Oh, okay then.

My favourite games of the decade

Over the last ten years, we’ve had the pleasure of consuming some amazing stories, touching characters and utterly beautiful graphics mixed with outstanding audio techniques. Was it the best decade in gaming? Possibly. But also a very significant one. Developers opened their arms wide to embrace a new market ready for tapping – the casual gamer. Nintendo’s success of the WIi and DS, Sony’s knack of borrowing their idea and Microsoft’s desperation to jump on the band wagon has made for some very good gaming – both in casual and hardcore experience. But enough of my rambling, continue reading to see my top ten games of the last decade. In no particular order of course as it was hard enough picking only ten!
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My new feathered friend

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Team ICO director, game designer and all round nice chap (the first 2 I can confirm…) Fumito Ueda was interviewed by the Playstation Blog regarding The Last Guardian and turning ICO/Shadow of the Colossus fans into a mass of continuing excitement. There’s even some new footage of the unkown-release-dated-but-oh-so-desirable game. The video above will fade to black before coming back so fear not as it’s all there! My opinion? I WANT I WANT I WANT!