The E3 2011 Report: Sony

Yeah I know, Microsoft was earlier, but time zones being what they are, you're getting the Sony review first. Besides, it doesn't sound like I missed much. Anyway, that aside, lets jump in!

The big question on everyone's mind heading into this years E3 (or one of them at least) was what Sony was going to do to respond to their recent *ahem* security and network issues. With all of the bad publicity Sony has been on the other end of lately, the question of whether or not they would be their usual arrogant selves at the E3 presentation was on most peoples minds. Now, after having watched through the majority of Sony's E3 conference, I have this to offer. This was one of their better presentations I've seen them give. Lets start with what they did right.

The Good:
Sony started off right. Tretton came out (wearing a tie, Sony of Japans CEO actually called him out on it) and spent the first few minutes apologizing to both players and consumers for all the trouble that they've been put through. Arguably they could have spent a bit more apologizing, but what they did offer was, considering Sony, fairly humble for the giant. They then constantly buttered up their developers and players during the conference periodically taking a few moments to thank them for sticking with them despite their recent troubles. Of course the real star of E3 is the games, and Sony did have some good stuff to show off this time around. The demo for Uncharted 3 looked nice (I'm glad to see another game going for the rare ship level with the stormy ocean rocking the player around, its underutilized), with both excellent graphics, snappy gameplay and snappy dialog. Sony also gave players another look at Infamous 2 while reminding of the release date (tomorrow) on the audience. They even teased an old favorite with a new trailer for a Sly Cooper title.

They also had some interesting stuff to show off for the Move and their new handheld the NGP, now called the Vita. Now I'm not exactly sold on the Vita, but they did get the $250-$300 price right (one is 3G...guess which). They showed off some strong content for the system as well with a new Uncharted title, Modnation Racers and even a portable LittleBig Planet. I am a bit hazy on how much of the Vita's control is regulated to the touch screens. For example in Uncharted players can simply draw a line on the screen and then watch Drake follow it and do whatever you would normally do with the buttons, or you can well as tap an enemy repeatedly on the screen for attacks. I'm skeptical because as the developer pointed out it makes the game a cinematic experience, not a gaming one. It opens new players to it, and it's entirely optional, but I worry about how many developers will follow suit.

Sony's biggest surprise was that the EVE Online tie-in first person shooter Dust 514 is now a PS3 exclusive. While this is definitely a win for Sony fans, it's also a bit worrisome because as EVE's developer pointed out during the show, tying together a PC MMO and a console FPS has never been attempted before. Given the heavy team and objective based nature of most MMOs and the un-teambased gameplay (as well as come-and-go fanbase) of console shooters, I wonder if the game will be able to sustain itself in the long term. Hopefully so, because the footage we saw in game looked beautiful, and the idea is a compelling one.

The Bad:
Some of Sony's new presentations were a little underwhelming. Resistance 3 for example, looked very unfinished for the amount of hype expected behind it and try as I might I couldn't find myself to be interested at all. Worse was Sony's demo of Medieval Mayhem, an on rails and buttonless Move action game that drew fairly blank stares from the audience. After the heat Sony poured on Microsoft last year for having Kinect games with no buttons, they went and tried to pull a button-less game in front of the same audience. A game which I may add, didn't even look that good and seemed to have some motion control issues. Oh, and the new Gears-of-War-esc Star Trek tie-in game of course. All I have to say about that is this very meme-like observation: Spock with a Rocket Launcher.

The Ugly:
Sony's poorly acted out performances by guest stars such as Kobe Bryant. You could literally hear the zeroes clicking in his head as he gave out some very, very poorly scripted lines. While there were a few genuine performances by some real devs, there were a few that just came off as poorly played and poorly read.

Sony also needs to get a grip on itself. Hyping your console is ok. Blatant lies...a little less OK. For the last time Tretton, the PS3 is not the most powerful gaming experience around. That honor goes to the PC. This was especially cringeworthy during a small side note on Battlefield 3, where Tretton spoke out on how the best version of Battlefield 3 was going to be on the PS3. For the last time Tretton, DICE is a PC developer first and foremost. All the footage shown so far? PC footage. The game is not going to look better, or even close, on a home console then it will on a PC packing more then ten times the hardware power. End of story. There was a few moments when Tretton's old self slipped out, and they were just as cringeworthy as past slip-ups.

I'd also count the fact that Sony spent way too much time talking about 3D TVs they would be selling as a point against them. E3 is for games...not for shareholders. As nifty as the Dual split-screen 3D-TV is (it shows individual screens to two players, each one the size of the TV), the cost is an offset. Also, lack of HD. In the future...more games, less Sony Corp.

The ugly and bad aside, Sony's performance this year came off better then their last few. The humble side of Sony was nice to finally see, and some of the new games they had to show were definitely on the right track. Look forward to some trailers for my favorites later this week!

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