After soaking in the vastly differing experiences of Microsoft’s chilled and enjoyable Play Day in the morning and EA’s skull-cracking press conference in the afternoon, it was up to Sony Computer Entertainment Europe (SCEE) to finish off the day with its media briefing in the evening of August 16th to truly get us ready for gamescom.
While it wasn’t quite the spectacle that EA brought to Cologne, Germany, and it certainly wasn’t as laid back as Microsoft’s event, SCEE managed to find a great median with some surprise announcements, welcome reveals and a super slick presentation.
As is de jour, the briefing kicked off with a montage trailer showcasing some of Sony’s upcoming first- and third-party, with titles like Uncharted 3, Journey and Resistance 3 included, but interestingly games such as Batman: Arkham City, F1 2011, Assassin’s Creed and Battlefield 3 were included in the trailer reel, too.
Current SCEE president and CEO Andrew House commenced proceedings proper by speaking about the importance of the European market to Sony, while mentioning the company’s ‘innovative’ games and products while using such heady phrases like “continued leadership.”
According to House, Sony sees itself as an innovator and deliverer of entertainment and is proud to be able provide platforms to help bring game developer’s “musings of the imagination” to life, with experiences only on, and “only possible,” on PlayStation 3.
House also hammered home Sony’s aim to provide maximum choice and flexibility to its customers with a wide range of gaming platforms and games at a wide range of prices to suit “any budget.”
As Andrew House will soon be moving to Tokyo to take up the position of group CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment in September (currently held by Kaz Hirai), his replacement, Jim Ryan (currently chief operating officer at SCEE), took to the stage to handle proceedings, who immediately launched into a dissection of Sony’s upcoming handheld, the PS Vita, talking about “state of the art” technology with the device’s dual analog sticks, 5-inch OLED screen, 3G and Wifi models, front and rear touchpads and cameras, SixAxis motion control and more.
The focus of the event was clearly on PS Vita with more feature talk, with mentions of ‘Near,’’Party,’ and ‘LiveArea,’ all of which will let you bring you closer to your friends by finding out what they’re playing, their progress in games, look them up on Facebook, Twiter and Skype (and check in on FourSquare), as well as chat through Sony’s network.
A ‘Trophy Application’ was also mentioned to let you compare Vita and PS3 Trophies with friends, and Ryan went on to confirm that all PS Vita games will be made available on PlayStation Network simultaneously, while PSN messaging and “anywhere, anytime” internet browsing was further confirmed.
It was at this point that senior vice president of SCEE worldwide studios, Michael Denny, arrived to talk about the incredibly strong launch line-up for PS Vita ‒ the best ever for a PlayStation platform. Denny was also on hand to announce Resistance: Burning Skies, the final name of the handheld’s diminutive version of Insomniac’s first-person shooter, developed by Nihilistic ‒ a live demo of Burning Skies revealed how much the studio is packing into the game with amazing visuals and great uses of the PS Vita’s touchscreen.
LittleBigPlanet for PS Vita made an appearance in trailer form to further showcase the game’s use of PS Vita’s features, like the touchscreen and cameras, with the ability to take photos and use that image (or the image’s texture) to create objects in the game ‒ in the trailer, we glimpsed a raging dinosaur spring to life, made from photos of walls, plants and other bric-a-brac.
Another game that takes advantage of the PS Vita’s unique capabilities is Reality Fighters, a new Augmented Reality game that makes use of your surroundings to provide a setting for two customisable fighters (ala Street Fighter or Tekken). A live demo of Reality Fighters was given which included the live audience attending the press briefing as the in-game audience watching the two virtual combatants slug it out with punches, kicks and special moves.
A surprise new intellectual property (IP) was also revealed, Escape Plan, which features the black and white exploits of characters Laarg and Lil, two curious chaps that you’ll need to navigate through dangerous 2D environments by solving navigation puzzles ‒ watch out though, there are all kinds of ways that these two fellows can die so: don’t die!
The PS Vita will enjoy extremely healthy support from other third-party developers, including Ubisoft which will be bringing six titles to the handheld, with an all-new Assassin’s Creed game in 2012, while EA will release FIFA 12 on Vita in early 2012.
What about Sony’s PSP, though? Never fear, because now that the Vita’s older sibling has sold 71 million units worldwide, the handheld will be enjoying a new revision when a new PSP model is released later this year (the ‘Fall’), and will be priced at €99, while the range of €9.99 PlayStation Essentials titles will ensure you’ve got a full library of PSP games to play.
Talk then shifted to the PlayStation Move and its respective success, with over 200 Move compatible games now available for the device in under one year of its release. FIFA fans will be pleased to know that EA Sport’s next soccer sim, FIFA 13, will indeed make use of the motion device when that game is released next year, which is just another show of support for Sony’s device.
Move Fitness was announced, too, which will use dual PS Move controllers to track your movement and take you through a range of exercises and activities, such as shooting (basketball) hoops, doing jumping jacks, punching robots, slashing food and sparring with a boxer. DanceStar Party was also revealed, which will use the Move to allow you and a friend to dance to forty officially licensed music tracks against the backdrop of a song’s official music video, with features such as a live video feed of your performance, a dance creator and a workout mode.
The media briefing then took a breather with a live dance performance by a super talented group of dancers, using two illuminated Move controllers to highlight the presentation. ‘Death-defying’ may be too dramatic a term to describe the moves executed, but it was definitely a ‘don’t try this at home’ kind of routine, with one dancer in particular leaping and being thrown about the stage.
Getting back to the games, it was revealed that 22 million PS3s have been sold in European territories ‒ news that was quickly followed up by a brand new, very stylised trailer for Resistance 3, which was inspired the game’s box art (created by graphic designer Olly Moss).
Naughty’s Dog’s Arne Meyer was in attendance to show off a gameplay demo of Uncharted 3, too, once again causing many a jaw to drop with the game’s fantastic visuals, epic set-pieces and excellently shot cinematic sequences, as Nathan Drake battled through enemies and leapt off of rooftops (with an aerial takedown shown) to reach a cargo plane in the process of taking off ‒ despite a hopeless looking situation, Elena came to the rescue to help Nathan chase down the plane in a jeep, and after a thrilling punch match between our hero and a muscle-bound enemy, the demo unfortunately came to an end. Sad faces ensued.
There were still more surprises in store for attendees with the reveal of the PSN downloadable title inFamous 2: Festival of Blood, a new take on the open-world action of inFamous 2 as vampires take over the city of New Marais. After protagonist Cole MacGrath is bitten by one of these sun-dodging creatures, he needs to fight for his life in a new story, with new gameplay features and themes.
The last big announcement at SCEE’s gamescom 2011 media briefing was the reveal of a worldwide price drop for the PlayStation 3, down to €249, $249 and ¥24 980, which Sony says once again adds to the company’s range of entertainment choices, with the PS Vita releasing at €249, the new model PSP releasing at €99 and the PS Move Starter Pack retailing at €59.
SCEE’s media briefing may not have been the blockbuster show that EA presented, nor was it as social and inviting as Microsoft’s Play Day, but it was definitely packed with great new games and exciting announcements, which is perfectly fine in our book. We’re looking forward to getting our hands on the games revealed at the briefing over the coming days as gamescom 2011 kicks off proper.