I spent a considerable amount of time at Sony’s booth this year, mostly in the God of War line — until they realized I had a Media badge and bumped me to the front. What I did get to play around the entirety of a booth could be considered a Sony fanboy’s dream.
From God of War III, to the PSPgo, to everything in between, I’ve documented what I had the chance to see in this handy little “impressions” post. So what are you waiting for?
Sony’s booth this year was arguably as large as the Nintendo booth, with more people waiting in lines for various games and products. Arguably a line as big as the Zelda line was the one for…
God of War III
A little precursor: I’d never played a God of War game before. Not that I didn’t like the series, but because I was always wrapped up in another game when each iteration came out. So, after watching the live demo during Sony’s press conference I made a bee-line to the show floor to try it out. I’d been a fan of action games for a long time but had recently been wrapped up in shooters, RPGs, and social games to get back into the genre. Playing God of War III helped rekindle the fire that had been waning for so long.
The game’s controls were simple enough: one button does this attack, another does this. This is how I block and this is how I run. That’s it. GOW III has the basics of combat down, but throws in a level of animated bursts of visual glory (or gory?) that have been unseen until now. The way Kratos moves, while still a little like the Hulk in an ice arena, is vastly improved over games like Ninja Gaiden 2 or Devil May Cry 4. The camera’s positioning on screen doesn’t block the player’s view, framing the scene just right. From a photographer’s point of view the camera is in the perfect spot: the character is the focus of the action but nothing is cut-off or forgotten. What is visible on the screen is everything I need to be aware of in the game, without the pop-in of enemies that plagues many action-oriented games.
The game felt right. Without ever having experience with Kratos I was able to jump in and have a blast, ripping apart the giant enemy beasts as entrails poured out one second and firing a catapult at a giant demon off in the distance the next. The game plays like the fun, classic games I grew up with on the NES. For being a game that is still a year away, GOW III is extremely polished. I can only hope that the oft-rumored Hi-Def remakes of GOW I and II make their way to the PS3 before then.
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
This was my game of E3 this year. Once again, I’d not played the previous iteration of Uncharted but once I witnessed the absolutely incredible demo during Sony’s presser my mind was blown. Playing the game was no different. I’ll keep this short and sweet: it will be impossible to beat Uncharted 2 for game of the year this year. Not one moment of the short demo that I was lucky to try did my heart stop beating at a million miles per second. Not because of the whizzing by of bullets on screen (or the guy standing over me with VERY strong peppermint breath) but because of the sheer intensity at which every moment played out. I took a couple shots at an enemy, ran a bit down the screen, and had chaos absolutely erupt behind me. Rinse, repeat.
The visuals as well were amazing. The lushness of the scenery, even in the multiplayer demo I tried with other players bogging down the system’s processors, was enough to make me play while constantly mouthing “wow!” and “OHMYGOD” at every opportunity. If it sounds as though I am gaga and avoiding the details, I assure you it is for good reason. The controls were good… not the best, not bad, but good. The selling factor of a game of this scale is that it brings a complete experience to the player. I will play this game until I finish it, and I will remember enjoying it in 20 years time. I hope hope HOPE that the final product captures the promise showed in the showfloor demo.
White Knight Chronicles
As I walked towards the first few demo areas off to the side of Sony’s main floor, I noticed White Knight Chronicles calling to me. There were a few demo stations available, so grabbing the controller for a few minutes was no issue. The game played much like what I felt it was going into it: a Final Fantasy knock-off. In fact, this is to Final Fantasy XIII what Legend of Dragoon was to Final Fantasy VII. To justify my comments, I’ll say that this game is “good enough” as an RPG, but doesn’t do anything new for the genre.
The controls were as I expected: the same rehashed RPG camera angles, the same magic and attack systems, and the same “all you really need is one button” gameplay. I’ll be button-mashing the X-button when I play this game for review later this year, it seems. The game set-up is also atypical of JRPGs: the same unlikely hero in rags-to-riches storyline of bringing down an empire. Will it ever get old? Apparently not. The visuals were also lagging behind as the characters were bland and lacked any real definition, almost with a “realistic anime” look. Perhaps this is the visual style that Level 5 — the terrific JRPG developer — were targetting, but it does not manage to even make a splash when compared to upcoming behemoth visual masterpieces from Square.
There was one novel addition that I saw. While I didn’t play it myself, the gentleman playing next to me had been able to transform his hero into the White Knight, a “mech”-like deity that most closely resembles the Evangelions of Japanese anime lore, albeit in sword and shield attire.
I walked into the (tiny) PSP area to get my mitts on the PSPgo, specifically. I was first intrigued by the device when the rumors and images broke over the weekend prior to the expo. I thought, “this could be a cool little device, but I’m not sold on the styling yet”. When I put my hands on it to play Little Big Planet, I was disappointed.
The design of the product is not optimal to me. First of all, where a second analog stick should be is a space designed for it, but instead replaced with the select and start buttons awkwardly filling up the space. Secondly, the analog stick is in the wrong place. Period. With such a small game system the location of the stick puts it much too close to the face buttons on the right. It was extremely cramped, causing me to hold the system at a slight angle just to get myself accustomed to accessing the nub. I could not control the game right. Reminder: This is coming from a person who’s owned two original PSPs. Thirdly, and stylistically, the system is the Mylo. There is no hiding it, and no Sony fan can deny it. The little bits of trim are nice around the edges, but the amount of circles used in the design and buttons is lazy. Everything is a circle. Everything. I don’t ever want to see another circle again. Finally, the rear of the device looked horrible. While the aluminum backside is a nice use of material, the design of it pales in comparison to similar sliding tech, such as in phones and netbooks. The backside is riddled with bumps, ridges, labels, and undesirable screws. Before you say “well, you never look at the backside, so why does that matter” realize that everyone else around you IS looking at it.
The positives: The system is incredibly light while still feeling solid, unlike the original Sixaxis. The sliding mechanism has a sturdy glide without feeling as if it will become loose later in its lifespan. The screen resolution was crisp, clean, and somewhat glare-free. Each PSPgo had several games loaded onto it, and the XMB was pretty much identical to the PS3 in accessing them, which is a plus or minus depending on who you ask — for me it’s a minus, but some like it.
Finally, the price is horrific. For a machine that costs to produce less than the current PSP-3000, jacking up the price by $80 to $250 makes it more expensive than both a Wii and an XBox 360. I will not buy this until the price drops to below $180, which means I’ll probably be waiting for a while.
Little Big Planet PSP
Little Big Planet for the PSP was pretty much a carbon copy of the PS3 version. I spent about 8 minutes with the demo, and was instantly reminded of the PS3 version (in a good way). In fact, the only qualms I had were with the PSPgo’s button layout issues, not with the game. Although I do wish that the sackboy was controlled with the d-pad instead of the analog stick, playing on a PSP-3000 would alleviate my issue. The smooth transitions, music, and whimsy were all there and carried over well from its older brother on the PS3. In fact, this might be considered the best-looking handheld game of all time. However, I wish that the developers had spent a little bit more time creating a few new experiences for the game. With a year passing between the release of the two games, more unique experiences need to be added to justify purchasing this game if the original LBP is already owned. Is there enough to differentiate it as its own experience? Or is this merely LBP-lite for those who didn’t play on the PS3? So far all I’ve seen is for the latter.
Other games I played included Soul Calibur: Broken Destiny for the PSP, which is a spot-on take on the fighter series transitioning to the handheld. All of the controls were there, surprisingly, and all played well. Playing a fighter on a handheld is always a unique experience, and Soul Calibur fit the mold to a tee.
While there I didn’t get to spend time with Heavy Rain, Gran Turismo PSP, EyePet, Invizimals, MAG, or Assassin’s Creed 2 due to time constraints. However, I can say that Sony had a terrific showing — perhaps the best of E3 in terms of playable games to be excited about. Feel free to visit our previous post showing some of the other trailers of Sony’s offerings.