Thoughts On Sony's E3 Conference

Let's get it out of the way -- The Last Of Us? Stellar E3 demo. Up there with Watch Dogs in terms of wow factor. But if the Sony conference had a three act structure, my review would be this: strong opening, middle act needed some work, many loose ends need tying up.

I love the general atmosphere of Sony conferences -- Jack Tretton is far more comfortable on stage compared to Don Mattrick, the jokes come easier, they hit the mark. He's infinitely more watchable. This time, however, I could almost feel the padding. It took so long to get to the first video game... to the first anything for that matter!

Lucky, then, that the first 'thing' shown was David Cage's Beyond.

Beyond had a strange atmosphere. Tense. Once we heard the announcement that Ellen Page would be playing the main character it was straight into the demo. There was little 'gameplay', but the scene shown evoked a real sense of drama. It's safe to say that, whatever tech Quantic Dream is using, has evolved considerably since Heavy Rain. Performances have been elevated substantially.

Part of me was instantly disappointed, however, when the SWAT team showed up. Because I knew, instantly, that traditional action tropes were incoming. The rest of the Beyond's E3 demo felt like it could have been taken from any game shown at the conference -- explosions, fire, destruction. I'm sure this isn't completely representative of the game as a whole but still, I had hoped to see more of how interactivity would actually work in Beyond.

PlayStation All-Stars was PlayStation All-Stars. A fun diversion featuring some neat PS Vita and PS3 integration but... nothing mindblowing. Assassin's Creed on Vita, with a female assassin -- interesting enough, but given the track record of the PSP it'll be a hard sell for me personally. Handheld iterations of major franchises tend to feel non-canonical, and a bit derivative in my experience. A b-team game. I hope I'm proved wrong. The only exception to this rule I can think of is Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker.

But Assassin's Creed III. Wow. Just wow. Genuine, genuine game of the year contender.

Then the lacklustre middle act. Look, I understand that Sony needs to promote facets of its business outside of core games, but it felt as though the Wonderbook demo was aboout 10 minutes to long.

It's a high concept that we instantly understand -- books brought to life. It never really felt like it needed any kind of live demonstration, particularly a dull one full of gaffes. I understand the potential here, and I really like the idea of pushing video games into more traditional types of entertainment. I get the mass appeal this brings to games, and the potential for education, but E3 didn't feel like the time, or the place, for such a lengthy demo.

Then God of War -- interesting Blinx the Timesweeper mechanic, but not enough to distinguish a series that desperately needs reinventing. Gritty origin story doesn't work when the original story is insanely gritty to begin with. God of War by numbers -- that's what it felt like.

That said, God of War is a tricky game to tinker with. We're talking about a game, like Halo, with a refined 30 seconds of fun core, a great sense of weight, and a pacing formula that works. I'd just like to see a little more risk I suppose.

The Last Of Us felt like the perfect way to round off the conference. In many ways it felt like a traditional E3 demo -- gunplay, cinematic set pieces, stunning locale -- but at the same time it felt a little subversive. Violence was predominant, but unlike Uncharted where the violence felt completely lightweight and inconsequential, The Last Of Us felt far weightier and real. Silent takedowns weren't a matter of simply snapping necks, the process was far more elongated and brutal. The final shot, where the protagonist fires a shotgun at the face of a downed enemy, didn't elicit laughter, it drew gasps. Violence in this game is constant, but feels more meaningful and contextual.

I very much liked what I saw.

In the end Sony's E3 conference was defined by what wasn't shown -- no The Last Guardian, precious few Vita games, no new hardware.

That's two for two. Both Microsoft and Sony have disappointed so far. Here's hoping Nintendo will have something more interesting to show.


    Agreed. It was better than MS's though. Tretton, with his Shatner-esque looks, just carries himself better. Even the "I love you man" to Kaz was ok.

    They did do a rent a crowd, you could tell but it helps make the preso.

      Even if he is a better presenter, the content is really what matters and Microsofts was overall far stronger. Microsofts may well of had the biggest lows like fable the journey and ending with black ops 2 but overall It revealed Halo 4 and Gears of War - Judgment. I was hoping the vita would deliver if anything to keep nintedo competative with the 3ds but the title reveals were very dissapointing.

    Microsoft & SONY's shows were disappointing. Microsoft was worse but the Glass

    Both SONY & Microsoft's shows were rather boring; maybe Microsoft a tad more boring. But the Xbox Smart Glass software is interesting.... Nintendo should be worried..

    This is the way the generation ends
    Not with a bang but a whimper.

      Well, the Sony conference ended with shotgun to the face.

      But I see your point!

      I don't know. I'm not really buying into this whole negativity thing. Is it natural for consoles to slow down the major hardware innovations towards the end of a console's lifecycle - the obvious answer is yes.

      But all parties are still working to keep their consoles relevant to consumers in non-gaming contexts - this is something that no previous generation of consoles has really had before, and is quite exciting conceptually.

      And we're seeing some pretty cool games, including one or two that we didn't know were coming. Aside from a conspicuous absence of Last Guardian, I don't think there's a lot more I could have actually wanted. I'm not an avid first-day-purchase gamer, but I saw some games that I'd like to play, some new features in my hardware I'd like to tinker with, and a general level of assurance that there's still decent content coming out to keep me entertained in the future.

      When was the last E3 that actually blew our balls to the wall? Has that happened in recent years? Not to me - but I don't mind. I don't need to be overwhelmed to be satisfied. I've seen a half dozen games that I plan to own - with my budget, that's plenty :P

        Aw poop, that wasn't meant to be a reply.

        Sorry -0.

        I love your optimism! And I like that way of looking at it — you’ve seen the games you want and there’s a fair amount of them.

        Yep I'd defintley say this show is making it even more obvious that Msoft and Sony are edging away from their current consoles and doing a lot of work behind the scenes on their new projects.

    I only tuned in at the end. The new GoW game looks fun, though I'm still disappointed it's a prequel. I already know Kratos's backstory and I've already played games set before the first game (the PSP games). The Last of Us looked amazing. I don't know if I'm disappointed with the Conference or not. I wasn't really expecting any major announcements and I was happy to see some footage of some upcoming games. Still, it did feel like it was lacking something.

    Also, Mark, I am curious. If the Conference had featured The Last Guardian would you have thought the Conference was good or would you still have felt it was lacking? I'm not questioning your integrity here, but you do seem very hung up on that game (not that that's a bad thing).

      I think the conference needed another surprise. Another wow moment. The Last Guardian would have been it for me -- that's it really.

      Another new IP would have been hot as well. What about more on The Unfinished Swan, or a sneak peak at what Thatgamecompany is working on (early I guess) just another couple of things like that would have put things over the edge a bit.

        I wonder if the Nintendo approach is the right one to take?

        One mediocre pre-conference on tech.
        One on games.
        One after-conference on random junk.

        It makes prime time more punchy.

    Last of Us was the highlight for me...
    I think the harry potter stuff was lack-luster,

    Although i liked the idea of far cry 3 co-op. #2 got a bit lonely wondering around the place. I wonder if u can play the whole game co-op, or just multiplayer like ME3?

    I'd throw in here that the announcement that PS+ subscribers get access to an additional 12 games this month is pretty impressive, especially when it includes inFamous 2, Just Cause 2, and LBP 2.

    To me, it's worth a yearly sub just for inFamous 2; the extensive catalogue of free games that keeps building each month is awesome.

      Good call. I totally missed that.

        Wait...I mean:


          Speaking of live blogs. Mark, would it be possible to set some sort of live chat thingy for future blogs you can use so we don't have to constantly refresh the page to see the new stuff you've written?

            I had 2 tabs open, one to watch the video and another to constantly update to read mark's witty observations. would have worked perfectly if it wasn't for STUPID WORK, which is what i am sipposed to be doing...

      I'm fuzzy on details. Was this the bit that was North America only?

    The Last of Us and the PS+ program are things that make me want to own a PS3. Unfortunately it seemed like Sony spent their time sweeping their problems under the rug and hoping no one would notice. If I was a Vita owner, I would be quite worried at this point. Announcing PS1 classics for Vita (something that should have been available at launch) just doesnt seem good enough.

      I own one. and didnt notice any new games at all announced. (a couple like all stars came through that were leaked, and ones like Assassins creed have been on EB for ages, although at least we know its name now.)


    Fuck me that was awesome. I was burnt out over AC2 and all the semi sequels but now i am officially stoked on AC3.


    Totally agree about the SWAT team in Beyond, the second they turned up, it went from being interesting to the same old sh#t

      Hmmm, am I the only one who didn't mind that? I don't think this game will be a shooter, I think it will be a QTE movie like Heavy Rain, with plenty of action and plenty of deeper character stuff. I trust David Cage (not sure why, but I do!).

      I didn't see the SWAT team showing up as being any different to when all those cops swarmed Ethan at the hotel in Heavy Rain. I agree with Shane, I think it'll be an interactive QTE movie like game rather then a shooter or anything.

        Hopefully with a better story & better voice acting.

    In terms of ending a generation, MS showed a superior line up of games compared to Sony, if predictable in my opinion. Sony's conference was shockingly... dull, I watched it with only Beyond and Last of Us leaving any sort of impact because they were new titles. All Stars seemed really shallow in comparison to SSB while FC3 multi-player was meh. Naval combat in AC3 was probably the more other exciting moment, but had already left a strong impact from Ubi's own show earlier.

    In comparison, MS had an assortment of game footage, despite the majority of titles being multi-platform, it at the very least gave viewers something to watch. Hell, Black Ops 2 was actually interesting. Yes they had Usher, and long segments of entertainment convergence but by god it was better imo than Sony's Wonderbook segment.

    I was expecting a strong showing of Vita titles this year from Sony to show how their future plans for their ailing handheld similar to Nintendo's show last year with 3DS. Perhaps reassurance Last Guardian is no t in development hell. KH3? Final Fantasy? Instead they decided to show Wonderbook....

    Other than Ubisoft, day 1 E3 this year has been a little disappointing to say the least. Ball is in Nintendo's court and I'm eager to hear of even more 3DS developments, and of course Wii U. Hell, the current memes going around atm about Nintendo not needing to do anything and still "win" are pretty hilarious.

    MS so won the dueling conferences simply by not mentioning any stupid avatar stuff. #endofstory

    The mid section sagged...the Wonderbook stuff went on for far too long....little in the way of Vita (seriously what the hell happened with the Vita)...look i understand why they went with the wonderbook stuff (mainstream press will eat up the JK Rowling involvement)...but it was just boring as all hell to watch as it droned on for far too long and ate up time that could have been used to show off more Vita titles or such

    No Vita love, not looking good for my favourite portable.

    As for the rest, I just didnt feel there was anything NEW apart from Beyond. Anyone else?

    Leaving aside the multiplatform stuff, which I don't think should be showing up at a platform holder's conference, my thoughts are:

    The Last Of Us and Beyond - both look great, some quality new exclusive IP from Sony which is probably the only thing that gave them the edge over MS's conference.

    God of War 4 looks OK. I love God of War, I'm sure it'll be a great game. But I would have been very happy if they'd left it with GOW3, which was a good way to end the story, and have Santa Monica go and create something new. They've been making God of War for 2 console generations now. Time to move on before they sink into a rut ike Lionhead with Fable. It's not a series that needs multiplayer, and I can't help but feel this may be the game that crosses the line between pushing the series forward and milking it.

    Things that disappointed me: The Last Guardian. A no-show here now has me seriously concerned for what was my most-anticipated game. Media Molecule - where are they? I was hoping to see/hear something about the new IP they're working on now they've moved on from LBP. The fact they weren't mentioned makes me think it's probably on PS4, so we'll have to wait until next year. I'd also been hoping to see what's next from Guerilla - I'm sure I read somewhere they were doing another Killzone for PS3 and an original IP for next gen. The fact nothing was shown also has me wondering if they've decided to push Killzone back to PS4 as well.

    On the happy side - as a PS+ subscriber, I'm pretty happy about some of the free games coming our way. I've already got a few of them, but I'm pretty happy just to be getting Choplifter HD which I keep meaning to buy anyway. Wouldn't mind a go at Infamous 2, either. I didn't mind the first one, but didn't love it enough to want to buy the sequel either, so this works out well.

    Overall, a bit meh apart from those 2 new IPs. But the lack of info from a couple of their major first party developers makes me think we could be in for a treat at next year's PS4 announcement.

    no offense mark, but the article seemed like you were more in favour of the sony review, then you called it dissapointing?

    honestly, i was impressed, xbox was god awful, but sony seemed to realise E3 is about games, and showed off a lot of good ones. the only gripe i had was also in the lack of PS Vita games...

    Good post, fully agree, except that I was far more impressed my Sony than Microsoft. I was actually quite excited by Wonderbook, it was way better than the flogging a dead horse I expected re: Move and I am a huge reader with an interest in game-based learning. And yeah, Last of Us brilliant, good description of the action, and AC3 now very exciting

    ACIII didn't do anything for me, doesn't look like any reinvention at all, and that ship sequence reminded me of a very similar one featured in AC Revelations.

    AC Liberation on the Vita looked like a half arsed port from the AC Brotherhood/II era.

    Not impressed! Looks like my Vita will be getting traded towards a Wii U. Cheers for nothing Sony!

    Sony delivered in spades....

    I'm so glad I'm not the only one who remembers Blinx the Timesweeper!

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