Tag Archives: Playstation 3

A Question of Identity in The Last of Us

A Question of Identity in The Last of Us

“Shut up, man. Don’t you know who that is?”

He doesn’t. His friend, apparently, does and apologizes for speaking out of turn. The pair was simply lingering out on the street, leaning against a wall and talking about the rather mundane activities within the quarantine zone. Walking by, I stop and listen for a while. What they’re saying is filling in a lot of blanks that I have about where I am and what’s going on, but I drop one too many eaves and the confrontational fellow instigates with a hearty “what the hell are you lookin’ at?”

I don’t know what I’m looking at. In fact, I don’t know who I am. I’m not capable of answering either question, despite both being mostly rhetorical in nature. Gruff as I am, though, an apology is thrown at my feet, one that I dismiss. “No harm, no foul.” But what if there was harm? What if these two fools had crossed me in some way? The hasty verbal retreat, the confidence with which I respond, the assertiveness I bear as I stand my ground. What exactly am I capable of?

Having played so many franchise titles as of late (in this year alone we saw DmC Devil May Cry, Dead Space 3, Aliens: Colonial Marines, Crysis 3, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, Tomb Raider, Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon, et cetera, et cetera, ad nauseum), it’s somewhat rare now that we get to experience a triple-A title in hazy wonderment like in Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us. Reboots and spin-offs skew only slightly from the source in Tomb Raider and Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. Sequels like Crysis 3 continuing pulling out the thread their predecessors had already teased loose.

It’s a specific type of mystery, though, that I’m talking about. BioShock Infinite had plenty of questions to answer, mysteries to solve as you played the game. But those were tied to telling a compelling narrative. Even by forcing myself to limit the amount of marketing I took in, I already knew the setup to the story. I knew Booker was looking for Elizabeth, I knew Elizabeth had unknown powers, and I knew we would be in a city in the sky that was ruled by a fellow named Comstock. I knew all of the ingredients to the soup. I just didn’t know how it would taste.

But I also knew Booker. I knew all about him before we started the adventure. He was a Pinkerton, he obviously regrets the things he did, and he is in a bad way with some unsavory people. Finding out about who Booker is and used be was not the point of BioShock Infinite‘s story. Instead, it was all about finding out how he fit into the skyward city of Columbia and the blossoming life of Elizabeth. The mystery shrouded the story, not the character.

These men on the street, though, seem terrified of me and I don’t know why. The opening chapter of The Last of Us is powerful and intense in ways I haven’t experienced in video games in quite some time (maybe ever), but it shows a different man. Joel pre-plague and Joel post-plague only share a name and a past, but now they are different people. Would that same family man with a brother and a daughter be the one that scares people just be staring at them?

Slowly, things begin to come into focus. We take our lens and point it at Joel and Ellie and the image gradually sharpens. And it’s not because we can but because we want to. Situations like this where two men are visibly scared of a single man beg questions and questions always deliciously demand answers. They had vocalized what I’d been wondering for the past 10 minutes. Who is this man?

It’s a subtle psychological affirmation of your gaps in knowledge. Something diegetic to the game doesn’t know the answer to your question, so it feels reassuring that you don’t know either. But that makes your thirst that much stronger. To find the solution to the riddle, to crack open this peanut of answers and be able to push back against this substantive intellectual pressure is an intrinsic human desire. We may not have the answer right now but we’ll get it, god dammit.

This type of desire is reinforced with the introduction of Ellie. Joel doesn’t care to find out who she is and doesn’t even much want to go through with the deal that brought them two together in the first place, but pertinent questions arise that tie back to things we want to know about Joel. The implications of who Ellie is and what she’s capable of invite a deeper analysis of what Joel hopes to gain from this newly ravaged world. And it opens up a wound long sewn shut that left little more than emotional scars and a strident personality.

Same as before, we know what we’re making. We know this is going to be a stew, but what are the ingredients? We know Joel takes Ellie across the infected country, but we know nothing about either of them. Joel is a man, Ellie is a girl, and that’s it. With BioShock Infinite, I could have at least pumped out two paragraphs on both Booker and Elizabeth before the game even started. The Last of Us crafts a more complex narrative around the question of what we’re doing with who we are. It adds texture and layers to a rather straightforward tale and set of tropes and is refreshing amongst a familiar world of well-met cyborg soldiers and space miners.

“Don’t you know who that is?” No, but neither do I.

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Hands-On With Diablo III, Console Version

Hands-on with Diablo III, Console Version

Blizzard, it seems, is really into drinking and gaming. Hanging around outside of one of the Diablo III demo rooms in the private Activision area at E3, one of the game’s marketing team members tells me that this is his favorite way to play the game. He describes it as Gauntlet (Legends, probably) and perfect for sitting down some with buddies and knocking back a cold one while you slay hordes of demons and ambulatory trees. The guy giving the demo also says that relaxing with a brew and playing this would be a great way to spend an afternoon.

I think I’m inclined to agree.

Based on what I saw, the console version of Diablo III is primed to be a distinctly different but still enjoyable take on the game. Heading into this, the biggest question I had was how they would manage to turn a click-heavy PC game into a controller-based console port that people would actually enjoy playing. Well, they did it by simply taking out the clicks and turning an indirect control scheme into a direct one.

Diablo III (PlayStation 3)

Indirect meaning you previously would just click somewhere and your character would go over there and do at thing. What that thing would be, however, is up to the context of the environment. Walk over somewhere, go flip a switch, or just stand there and cast spells. It was about as indirect as games come, but with a controller, Diablo III feels much more like a traditional action game but, you know, Diablo, which is to say it’s pretty great.

You move around with the left stick and you have attacks and abilities mapped to the face and shoulder buttons (somewhat making up for the expansiveness of a keyboard). The most meaningful change, however, is the right stick. It’s dedicated to dodges which means you can roll or flip in any direction to evade attacks. This turns what is normally just a rote routine of spamming attacks and spells into a skillful interplay of movement, positioning, and inflicting damage. That’s not to say that wasn’t there before, but having a stick that can quickly put you somewhere out of or into danger really moves that up to the forefront. One problem, however, is that I found myself constantly wanting to move and attack in different directions, which meant a lot of quick flicks to fire off some potshots before continuing to hove around.

Visually speaking, the game looks most identical to the PC version. The default camera view is much closer and presents a tighter frame for the action so that the aging PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 can keep up. This does, however, make the assets look a bit softer since you can see things much more clearly.

Diablo III (Xbox 360)

A big change is the UI. Obviously adapted for controllers, your equipment is mapped across a rotary dial on the left half of the screen that you select with a spin of your stick. A high-level overview of your equipment is presented to you on the right that spells out which piece is generally better, though you can still see the nitty-gritty details, too. And when you pick up loot, you can press up on the D-pad to cycle through your recent stuff and see from a glance if something improves your attack or defense and if you want to equip or drop it.

I played shared-screen with another fellow on a PS3; I was a demon hunter and he was a wizard (we swapped after realizing we’d each gotten what the other preferred). Instead of going split-screen, the game will zoom further and further out (the default camera position is much closer than in the PC version) until it hits a maximum range, at which point movement will warp an idle player to the active one. The second player and beyond can log in with his own account or play a guest one with the option to load saves from the cloud or a USB stick, though you can also play online. And while no cross-platform capabilities were discussed, the console versions will be updated with the 1.07 patch.

Diablo III (PlayStation 3)

From what I saw, this may be my new favorite way to play Diablo III as well. It feels much faster and much more gratifying when you successfully kill a large group of enemies with nary a scratch on you. But we also saw just a very small, 15-minute slice of the game, and most of the problems with Diablo III come out in the tail-end. I’m not sure if those will be addressed in any meaningfully different way from the PC version (probably not), but I can at least say that so far, Diablo III for consoles is shaping up quite well. Now where did I put that beer…

Look for Diablo III on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 on September 3rd and PlayStation 4 sometime in 2014.

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Arriving First And Finishing Last

Arriving First and Finishing Last

We are standing on a bridge. This bridge connects two things that are both familiar to us and altogether alien, simultaneously in the way you’d expect and not expect. The first is the seventh generation of video game consoles: the Xbox 360, the PlayStation 3, and the Wii. It has changed so much since the 360’s launch in November of 2005 that it’s hardly recognizable anymore. The Dashboard no longer has blades, PSN is actually providing value now, and the Wii has come down from its sales pedestal. The entire breadth of that generation is several journeys put side by side and end to end.

The eight generation is just beginning, but it’s a culmination of feelings we’ve long become jaded to. In all, we’re just looking forward to three console launches and we’ve already been through one, and that single event was as lackluster as opening your birthday present to find a countdown to your next one. The console itself is decent enough, but multiple times a year now we are subject to this gnawing sense of been there, done that. Every year we have one or more big Apple product to buy. In 2011 we got the Nintendo 3DS and just last year we got the PlayStation Vita. We are numb.

And now that we’re supposed to also anticipate Valve’s onslaught of hardware offerings and a plethora of specialized Android devices, it all kind of feels like being caught in a blizzard rather than enjoying some fresh powder.

The old trio has grown long in the tooth, though. We’re tired of what the 360 and PS3 has to offer. The Wii has long been collecting dust in the corner. The services and the hardware are more tiring than endearing at this point. We’ve gone through multiple rounds of new controllers and full-on console replacements. We are worn.

So to look forward past the bridge and greet things like leaked Orbis and Durango specs with cynicism is strange. We are tired of where we’re leaving and nervous about where we’re headed. The bridge is our limbo, an imprisonment of our own design. What do we have left when we hate where we’re going and loathe where we’ve been when we should only be looking forward with unfettered optimism?

Perhaps, my fellow travelers, we’re looking at this all wrong. Perhaps we’re trying to get excited about the wrong things. Our mindset is one of the hardware age, and that seems to be all but done. Up until the beginning of the PS2 era, video game experiences were intrinsically tied to the platform. There’s a reason why such vivid imagery pops into your mind at the mere mention of 8-bit and 16-bit gaming when I have said nothing about any particular game or year. This tethered concept began to wither away with the PlayStation and the N64 and never seemed to come back after.

Yet we still have such strong mental images and emotional ties to the current set of consoles. Some games, sure, but it’s mostly and ethereal sense of personal investment. It’s hard to put your finger on it because you’ve rarely had to articular just why things fallout the way they do beyond yelling in YouTube comments about fanboys and haters.

What you’re associating your experiences with is the software innate to the platform, such as firmware and services. Internet irrationality aside, when you boot up a 360, a certain feeling comes over you, a sensation of corporate structure and rigor. It’s comforting, in a way, to know that every movement of yours is guided and purposeful, if overtly monetized and scrutinized. It’s changed, though, since the launch with the blades. Those sliding slabs felt more utilitarian, more like you were there for business and not pleasure. Now it’s a mix of both.

The PS3 boot-up has gone largely unchanged as the XMB has gone largely unchanged. It still opens to a congealing orchestra warm-up and fades into soothing shapes and colors. The association with the console at first glance is elegance. But once you start using it, the connection changes to futility. System updates, game patches, an impossible-to-navigate store, etc. All these things fight against your desire to elevate this to a classy affair.

That is until recently when PlayStation Plus made a compelling argument for a better pay service over Xbox Live and the PlayStation Store got a redesign to finally look and function as nice as you’d always hoped it would. Over the past six years, Sony has been working hard to turn around its PS3 image and the public opinion, and it’s been paying off. It’s no longer “that one with the Ratchet games” but now it’s just the PS3.

As far as the Wii goes, it’s almost perfectly analogous to a salad; light, bright, and healthy. Also, incredibly boring if you’re not a Food Network chef. Eventually you grow tired of it. You know that it’s good for you to play (the sprightly gameplay, easygoing facade) but it so rarely changes to something exciting that you eventually put it down. Maybe for a week, maybe for a month, but eventually you put it down for good. Or at least until someone comes along and tells you to add raisins or chicken and then you’re ready to go again.

Notice that for the most part, none of what you associate with these consoles has anything to do with the hardware. The closest you get is with the Wii, but it still stands that the intrinsic association with the console is elsewhere. Different from the days of Atari and Commodore and the NES, the mental ties you make are largely comprised of the things surrounding what you played instead of those within the realm of how you played. That’s because at this point, service is king. Or rather, the services offered.

The very simple reason that the 360 beat out the PS3 this generation is because Xbox Live was far and away the superior online service from the beginning. The playing field has been leveled since then, but even PSN’s $0.00 price tag couldn’t compete with Live’s cross-game chat, achievements, and a coherent ecosystem. And on the console, the mere fact that you could sign into multiple accounts in multiplayer games didn’t even make it a fair fight. The one-year head start was an advantage, sure, but no amount of time could give such an insurmountable plus as being a better software service.

The Wii had a compounded problem of not offering a wide enough range of games or enough high quality games while being a conduit to a service that would have better fit in 10 to 15 years ago. Friend codes were an absolute swing and a miss, and to even say that Nintendo went up to bat is a generous concession. Worse yet, it seems as though they haven’t learned their lesson and now Wii U accounts are basically tied to the console they’re created on. And they have restricted M-rated games to “adult hours.” And so on and so on. Nintendo has already shown its hand in its eighth generation services, and it seems content to once again be in a distant third place.

According to the leaked Orbis specs, though, it seems as though Sony is learning. The highlight is that users can now sign into multiple accounts at once just as you can on the 360 and everyone can individually earn trophies, a major coup in terms of reappropriating the weapons that defeated you before. Sony had previous underestimated the social aspect of modern gaming and seems to be adjusting (it has a Share button, for goodness sake, and I doubt that it’s for the Share Care Bear).

If you examine the leaked docs, you’ll notice that the specs are nearly identical, something that can’t be said for this generation’s 360 and PS3. The hardware is secondary to the experience; Microsoft and Sony have realized that it’s the software wars that matter now. And it’s not just for the consumers. The developers matter, too, as they will choose what is easiest to develop for second and most profitable first. Or maybe not, but it doesn’t really matter because one follows the other. The next generation must court users with services and developers with users, but users will also be drawn to what developers put out there, so if a console is easy to develop for and not full of Cell processors that are hard to wrangle, then it’s a double win.

We are past the concerns of hardware. Past a minimum line and we don’t care; all that matters is that it’s good enough. The more tangible product is the software, the stuff you interact with which interacts with the hardware. The abstraction has become the game and now we’re going to see who plays it better. This is not a bridge from the PS3 to PS4 or the 360 to the 720; this is a bridge from hardware to software, and I’m not sure everyone is going to make it across.

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The Unfinished Swan’s Unfinished Thought

Along with Journey from thatgamecompany, The Unfinished Swan is probably the most affecting game I’ve played this year. Hell, maybe ever. It joins a very small group of games that I could just write about forever and ever (the others include—among others you can probably guess—Dark Souls, Red Dead Redemption, Deus Ex, and the aforementioned Journey). I’ve read and been told accounts of Giant Sparrow’s debut bringing players to tears, stopping them cold as they realize the world they’ve entered and how they are at the mercy of the game and yet everything is within their control. I never reached the point of waterlogged eyes, but trust me when I say that if I was not such an emotionally empty shell of a human, I might have wept.

Just a little.

The potency of the game likely has something to do with its brevity. Not even rushing through on my first playthrough, I completed The Unfinished Swan somewhere in the neighborhood of two or three hours. Perhaps that affects the cost proposition for some, but to me, it felt refreshing. It was a game that did what it wanted to do and didn’t water it down to fill some arbitrary temporal mandate, stretched thin with unsatisfying filler that doesn’t fit and throws a kink in the otherwise lovingly crafted rail. After all, no one likes their drugs cut with sugar.

Or water. Or I don’t know what I’m talking about. Come guys, cut me some slack. I’ve never been a drug dealer!

The Unfinished Swan‘s problem might be that it concentrates its doses a bit too strongly. As mentioned by designer Ian Dallas in a post at the PlayStation Blog, the mechanic most widely associated with the game—splattering an entirely white, blank world with black blobs of paint—”is actually just the first 15 minutes.” That, to me, is probably an overstatement of how quickly that section passes, but it is representative of the philosophy of the game’s final design.

Dallas says “things get really weird” after that, and it’s true. You’ll continue on to work with variations on that same splatter mechanic. Well, “variations” probably isn’t the right word. You can see from the PAX trailer that you’ll also shoot blobs of water to guide plant life, but there’s more. You’ll also be bumbling your way through a harrowing nighttime land of scares and then an abstract plane of crafting after falling through a drafting table, each one with its own, very distinct methods of gameplay. I don’t want to get into much more since half the fun of the game is discovering how to use those particular tool sets, but know that Dallas was right about the weird thing.

So you take the two-ish hours required to beat the game and divide it among the four chapters and you’ll get just a little over half an hour per shift in the gameplay, which is a god damn shame. At the end of each bit, I felt like each one could have gone on twice as long. Just as you feel like you understand the depth to which each mechanic could go, the game changes nearly whole cloth and you’re left just the tiniest bit confused. Why did it change? Are we coming back to this? God I hope so.

You never do. “Always leave them wanting more,” I believe is how the saying goes, but The Unfinished Swan leaves you wanting a bit too much. An early example in the monochromatic section is that the paint doesn’t really affect water (or what we’re led to believe is water). It just sort of plops down and sinks in an oddly fascinating way before being gobbled up by a fish or dissipating beneath the surface. It causes a mild revelation that though it is your best (and only) tool in the world, the black paint still can’t reveal everything to you. And then a frog you recently blasted—err, revealed with said paint is gobbled up by some swimming beast, so are there things that are already blackened in this white and eerie tableau? There are so many implications and unexplored nooks and crannies of the black and white world that as soon as you leave it, you’re still left pondering those mysteries.

The most egregious bit is definitely the last section where you fall into that blueprint in the, um, attic(?) of the previous chapter’s world. I don’t want to ruin it for you (though you can see a bit of each section in the Giant Bomb Quick Look, something Patrick should have restrained himself from doing), but an entire game could be built from this mechanic alone. In fact, some have and yet I feel like The Unfinished Swan may have done it the best and still explored the concept the least. About midway through that chapter, the game will brush against what feel like revelatory moments but then just walks away from them to show off even more half-explored experiments.

But it’s saying something when I believe that even in these underutilized moments, The Unfinished Swan exudes so much brilliance and creativity that it brings out a sensation and optimism in the medium within me that is normally reserved for games like Super Mario Galaxy and, well, Super Mario Galaxy 2. The difference is that in SMG and SMG2, those ideas are fleshed out and fully realized. They take those ideas as far as you would like to see them go and even further into territory you didn’t even know existed. The Unfinished Swan instead points you in a direction, shows you a thing, says “wouldn’t that be neat,” and walks off before you get to say “HELL FUCKING YEAH IT WOULD.”

Everything The Unfinished Swan gives you is engrossing. It’s enchanting and all-consuming to a fault. It’s as if the wrapping on a present were the gift itself—and what a gift it is. It is brilliant and shining and something you wish you had created so others could understand the beauty in your mind as you do that of Ian Dallas. Giant floppy bow and all, it inspires you to dream up what is on the inside, how beautiful and life-affecting its contents must be. Too bad you never get to open it. Too bad.

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Playing With The Box: The Unfinished Swan

As my days fill more and more with people either with child or having raised a child (an inevitable effect of growing older), a few things stand out. First, I’ve become less tolerant of discussions revolving around the weather and what’s for lunch. Second, babies aren’t really qualified to be alive until another three or so months after birth, or so I’m told. Third, children still love to play with the strangest things.

For me as a kid, that was especially true. As much fun as I would have playing on my Sega Master System and later my SNES, playing with what was ostensibly trash was the best. From building dioramas to turning pipe cleaners into super posable action figures, I rarely became as entranced with the real thing as I would with corrugated cardboard. This big box that the new TV came in can be my fort and the box that my new Power Ranger came in can be his fort. Sometimes the TV’s remote control would get involved and be a wrestler or something, but whatever. It was fun!

And apparently that’s still a thing among children today. “They’ll always have more fun with a handful of rubber bands and some paperclips,” one friend would say. “Just give them an empty box and you’re set for the day,” would say another. And it’s not hard to see why. As children, we basically know nothing about the world we live in. Like, at all. We know hot things are hot and cold things are cold, but aside from that (and, despite what your mother told you, that most things are lickable), we just know that things can simply exist. If we can dream it up, we can believe with all our hearts that it is real because knowing nothing, we have nothing to contradict our proposal of a fountain that spews out churros or every forest has a treasure chest hiding somewhere deep inside it or a mammal that lays eggs—oh wait, never mind on that last one.

Either way, it’s our imagination that makes these throwaway, everyday things that seem extraordinary. It’s our literally limitless creative minds that fill in these gaps of practical knowledge with the fantastical and it makes adults envious. They know the truth. They know that some things just are not meant to be and never will be and they envy the fact that children still have no clue that physics will always dictate that Clifford the Big Red Dog simply cannot exist.

But if you play The Unfinished Swan, the longtime project of former comedy writer Ian Dallas and his development studio Giant Sparrow, you can reach that point again. The fairy tale narrative sets the somber stage (a young boy chases after an unfinished swan that escaped a painting his late mother left behind), but the gameplay is what really brings it home. Starting out on a stark white background, you see nothing—literally nothing—before you except a pale limbo, a wan purgatory in which you know and see nothing.

And then you paint. You press a button and a glob of paint shoots forth from you and it hits…something. It splatters, but not against anything flat. It converges. You fire again and it splatters again, this time filling in more of the picture. It’s a corner. But a corner to what? A room? A box? Perhaps where that incomplete avian ran off to?

Then it dawns on you, slow in its approach but fast and hard once it lands like a slap in the face minus the conviction. You are awakened to the notion that there is an entire universe in this blank white canvas and you just can’t see it. In an excited frenzy, you begin to blanket the world around you, revealing the walls surrounding you. It’s a nigh macabre scene of black revelations erasing the white unknown. But then the pattern breaks. The wall isn’t there.

It’s a door, or so it seems. You walk through it and paint a hallway. Curious. You take a turn and another turn and finally another before you are greeted by a recently darkened bench. A bench? Painting further, a pole is revealed. A lot of them. A forest! And to the right, a (black) picket fence. An entire countryside is hidden in the blanked out scene and you are just discovering it.

These opening moments of The Unfinished Swan are more than just about discovery but about a moment of clarity, albeit a disingenuous one. Much like a child, you have the same realization that, crudely put, things exist. In fact, so many things exist, that nothing is really stopping every conceivable thing from existing. Just moments before, that wall and that bench and those trees didn’t exist, so what’s stopping the next splash of black from revealing a rocket ship or a platypus-bear or anything else you can think of?

Which, given some thought, is a sobering notion. Much like Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, we are merely ascribing meaning to these shapes. What we know in this monochrome environment is what we see. If it’s all white, we see and know nothing. If throw our paint around, we see forms in the dichotomous haze, but nothing is certain. It is merely a silhouette of something unknowable to us. Keep painting, and we’ll soon know nothing once again.

Our tool for knowledge can just as easily be our tool for ignorance. As soon as we realize that we are limited to applying something uncertain to something unknown, the illusion of infinity shatters, but paint it all black, and we can try to believe again, but it is fruitless. It is the return of Plato’s prisoners to the cave. We’ve seen and understood the intangible truth and we can’t go back to our ignorance feigning knowledge.

And so we grow up. Tying Spider-Man to a helium balloon you got from a super market fruit stand no longer seems all that much like saving the world and more like ruining a perfectly good albeit lazy marketing display. That realm of possibilities begins to feel more like a pen than a wide open sky, no more boundless than the letters of the alphabet or the cherries in a sundae. There’s a finite number of things under the sun. Would it be selfish to want to see it all? Would it be to hope that there’s more to the world? That everything you wished for exists somewhere?

That this box is more than a box.

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Level Up – Episode 5: GDC and PlayStation Move

GDC is wrapping up tomorrow, but the biggest news probably already happened. Well, according to Britton, the second biggest piece of news, but regardless, some shizz went down. Obviously, we’re talking about the PlayStation Move announcement from Peter Dille & co. during the Sony keynote on Wednesday. This motion controller revelation trumped even the OnLive official launch date announcement, which is pretty hard to do.

As you’ll notice, I didn’t mention what Britton went gaga over. You’ll just have to listen to find out.

Listen here or download direct.

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E3 ’09: Sony

Jack Tretton said “2008 is the year of the PlayStation 3.”

To be honest, it wasn’t. Sure, we had Metal Gear Solid 4 and LittleBigPlanet, but neither were the top sellers they probably should have been. And with Final Fantasy XIII and the next title in the Metal Gear franchise, “Metal Gear Solid: Rising” both coming to the Xbox 360, what’s Sony’s move?

It’s rumored that a new PSP model was going to be one of their biggest announcements, but the internet got the best of them, and the PSP Go! is known almost in its entirety already, and has been for the past week.

Sony started off their year with the bang that was Killzone 2. Down the pipe we know they have the likes of God of War 3 and Uncharted 2. But will it be enough? Does the former gaming juggernaut have any earthshattering surprises up their sleeves? Will they try to jump onto the motion control bandwagon like Microsoft has with Project Natal?

It’s time to find out.

12:50 – Waiting for the Sony conference, something has occured to me. I’ve been told more than once that I look vaguely like G4’s Adam Sessler. The thought terrifies me. What do you think?

1:12 – We’re starting at last. Montage of some upcoming games. Uncharted 2, Ratchet and Clank, God of War 3, LittleBigPlanet, Heavy Rain… Some pretty big games on their way. Video is set to the musical stylings of Queen.

1:14 – Jack Tretton is on-stage, thanking God that the press showed up. Joking about press leaks and how he was worried there’d be no reason to come (referencing the afforementioned PSP Go! stuff), much to the pleasure of those in attendence. Classy.

1:17 – Claims that Sony is the only company with 3 successful systems on-sale at once, referring to the PS2, PS3 and PSP. Thing is, I think Nintendo did the same thing for at least a short while with Wii, DS and GameBoy Advance.

1:18 – Talking about the PlayStation 2. How long is it going to take until Sony finally stops talking about it? Oh, right. This is PS2 year 9, and they’re going for the whole 10-year life cycle thing.

1:19 – Over 100 new titles for the PS2 this year? Crazy.

1:20 – Talking numbers. Standard affair, but it reminds me why Microsoft’s conference was so great. It didn’t have any of this stuff. Jack is currently talking about how great inFamous is, which, sure. It’s pretty rad.

1:22 – Someone from Naughty Dog is out to talk about Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. Multiplayer beta starts tonight at midnight. Going to show single-player here, now.

1:23 – The crowd is cheering as Nathan Drake scales a building. Game looks impressive graphically and seems to have some nice dialogue during gameplay. Oh look, a nice helicopter…

1:24 – Action has camped up. Gunplay is being shown. Looks standard but well done, and mixed with all this Lara Croft-like acrobatics could make for some cool situations.

1:26 – Game looks intense and pretty cinematic. Keep an eye on this one, PS3 owners.

1:27 – We’re finally going to see gameplay of MAG – Massive Action Game. 256 players simultaneously fighting a battle.

1:28 – They’ve got 256 actual players about to play this demo. Impressive.

1:29 – Looks like a pretty involved multiplayer FPS, with every player assigned to a squad (across two large teams), and a squad leader capable of giving commands to his squad. Seems to be objective-based gameplay.

1:31 – XP system a la Call of Duty 4 confirmed. Dude just got +5 EXP for killing another dude.

1:32 – Spawn points, a la Battlefield, have to be secured for attacking players to push forward toward their goal. Players (or at least squad commanders) can call airstrikes. Seems to take a lot of tactical strategy. Hopefully that won’t be an issue with so many idiots playing online. MAG will be playable on the show floor, and should be out this fall.

1:33 – Time to move to the PSP.

1:35 – The crowd is actually cheering at a pink PSP Hannah Montana bundle. They’re either jokesters or paid. Or both.

1:36 – Kaz Hirai is making his way to the stage.

1:37 – He pulled a PSP Go out of his pocket. Says it has a couple of names, the first being “Worst kept secret of E3.” Glad to see they’re light about the subject and acknowledging it.

1:38 – PSP Go has no UMD drive, and all of its games and software are download-only, somewhat like the iPhone. 50% smaller than the regular PSP. Controls slide out, like a Sidekick Slide cellphone.

1:39 – Media Go announced, which replaces the Media Manager of before. It’s a PC application that is used to transfer media to your PSP.

1:40 – Now he’s talking about some weird sounding program called “Sense Me” that analyses your music library and chooses songs for you based on the mood you select… Or something. He glossed over it really fast. Comic in Fall.

1:42 – PSP Go will be $249.99. PSP 3000 will still be $169.99. Anyone sold on Go? I’m not, personally.

1:44 – The father of Grand Turismo is coming onto the stage.

1:45 – Grand Turismo PSP announced at long last. He has it running on a PSP Go right now. The device does indeed look small, which could be nice. Says that even though the device is small, the game is a full-scale Grand Turismo experience.

1:46 – The translator seems to be reading notes the whole time, which is kind of weird.

1:47 – Tons of cars (800+) and tracks, plus content sharing. You can trade cars with friends in an attempt to “catch them all.”

1:50 – Playing a trailer of the game now. It looks like a Grand Turismo game. SURPRISE! Apparently it’s coming October 1, 2009.

1:51 – Something Metal Gear is coming. Hideo Kojima is showing up. I wonder if it feels like coming home to your family after announcing that you’re sleeping with their enemy.

1:52 – He’s not here to talk about Metal Gear Solid: Rising, though. He’s talking about a PSP game called Metal Gear Solid: Peacewalker. Set 10 years after MGS3. We had heard a bit about this yesterday, so not a huge shock, but still nice.

1:53 – Kojima is writing and producing. Says it’s a true MGS sequel, not a spin-off or sidestory. So much for MGS4 being Kojima’s last Metal Gear game!

1:55 – Here’s a trailer. Kicks off with some live-action stock footage and some voice-over. Looks like the continuing adventures of Big Boss in the lead-up to Outer Heaven.

1:56 – Graphics look really sharp for a portable title. Lot’s of sneaking, so hey, it’s a Metal Gear game.

1:57 – There’s… 4 Snakes/Big Bosses/Clones on screen right now. Say what? They’re facing a Metal Gear, looks like. And the trailer ends with the infamous cardboard box antics. Coming in 2010. My interest is piqued.

2:00 – Jack is back on stage talking about… Resident Evil on PSP? Brand new, exclusive game sounds like, but… That’s all we got.

2:00 – Hannah Montana was name dropped again, and the crowd cheered again.

2:02 – Montage of upcoming PSP titles. Final Fantasy Dissidia, Monster Hunter, LittleBigPlanet, Soul Calibur and others are in the lineup.

2:05 – Time to talk PlayStation Newtork games.

2:06 – Adding over 50 PS1 classics to the service this year, starting today with Final Fantasy VII. Fanboys everywhere can rejoice.

2:07 – Talking about PlayStation Home and where it’s come since launch 6 months ago. As one of the millions that was pretty disappointed by Home, I’m not sure many in attendence care too much.

2:10 – PS3 video now. There’s Uncharted 2 again. inFamous, Madden, Final Fantasy XIII… The usual suspects. Batman: Arkham Assylum, White Knight Story and Ninja Gaiden and there too, with many more. Seems to be a solid lineup.

2:15 – Got to say, this is a long montage with tons and tons of games being shown. Not all of them are exclusive, by any means, but PS3 owners should be happy with what’s available.

2:16 – Announcing Agent, a Rockstar game that’s exclusive to the PS3. Nice move, Sony. That could be a smart move after the blunder of losing GTA.

2:17 – Ubisoft folks are on-stage to show Assassin’s Creed II. Wasn’t Ubisoft’s press conference yesterday?

2:18 – Now, I was a big fan of the original Assassin’s Creed, so I may be biased, but this sequel looks fantastic. I’m liking the new setting a lot.

2:18 – Leonardo DaVinci is one of Ezio’s “friends” that helps him become an assassin. He sounds like Bond’s “M”, providing Ezio with gadgets and weapons.

2:20 – Ezio is deadlier than Altair, the hero in the first game. And he looks it. The crowd seems impressed with deal-blade assassination.

2:21 – Italian dude was just OWNED. Assassination complete. Time to get the hell out of dodge.

2:22 – The crowd cheers as the demo ends. I’m impressed. The game launches this holiday season, along with an original PSP Assassin’s Creed title.

2:24 – A video is playing of Final Fantasy XIII. I’m a big Final Fantasy fan, but I’m kind of sick of seeing this one and just want to play it already. Still, I like the English voices being displayed here.

2:27 – Dude, WHAT? Jack just announce Final Fantasy 14?!?!?!? 13 isn’t even out yet!!!! Bir us XIII Versus. He also makes sure to say that the PS3 will be the only console it will be available on.

2:28 – Wait… This trailer is reminding me of Final Fantasy XI. The online game.

2:29 – AHA! Called it. Final Fantasy XIV: Online. Extremely less excited now. Unexcited to the point that I barely care. Interesting that it’s PS3-only, though.

2:30 – Now Sony is showing off a new motion controller. Everyone is jumping on the Wii train!

2:31 – Ok, I’ve just gotta say it… This motion controller – in its current form, which they stress will change – looks like a dildo.

2:32 – Looks like it interacts with the PlayStation Eye in order to replace the dildo device with a racket, golf club, stop sign… Maybe even a real dildo?

2:32 – Dude running the demo just said, “It’s still hard.” That’s way funnier to me than it should be.

2:34 – The technology looks cool, I’ve gotta say, but what’s gonna happen in the new war between the Wiimote, this thing, and Natal?

2:36 – “Sub-millimeter accuracy.” Accurate enough to write and draw with the little wand-dildo.

2:37 – Looks way too similar to the Wii Remote for me to be super stoked, but it does look like better technology than the Wii uses. I may have to write up my thoughts on all this motion stuff in a seperate blog.

2:39 – Fighting monsters with swords and throwing stars. Looks fun enough. Oh, bows too. It’s an archery kinda day between this and Wii Sports Resort. This one may be impressing me more.

2:41 – “PlayStation Motion Controller” coming Spring 2010. I wonder if Nintendo will launch a new Wii next year, too, to combat this and Natal.

2:42 – Talking LittleBigPlanet costumes. Disney themed. Awwww, cute little Jack Sparrow Sackboy!

2:43 – Just announced ModNation Racers. Another “Play. Create. Share.” title like LittleBigPlanet. I’m guessing you can design tracks and whatnot.

2:44 – Yeah, the character creation looks similar to LittleBigPlanet, though it’s a slightly different style. You can also customize cars, looks like.

2:46 – Real-time physics, drifting… Looks like a standard kart racer. Looks nice graphically, though, and customization could be a big draw I suppose. It’ll have to top the creation tools of TrackMania, though.

2:47 – Tracks are rendered and playable in seconds, so that’s kind of cool. The creation stuff does indeed look pretty easy and cool. You can add mountains!

2:49 – A friend just mentioned that this is basically Mario Kart meets LittleBigPlanet, and that’s pretty darn accurate. So if that sounds awesome to you, then maybe you should be excited.

2:51 – Jack is back.

2:53 – Third title in the “Ico” trilogy is known as “The Last Guardian.” Looks like the “Project Trico” footage that actually leaked awhile back, but that’s not exactly a bad thing. A lot of people have been anxiously awaiting this team’s newest title.

2:54 – For those not in the know, this game is from the people who made “Ico” and “Shadow of the Colossous” for the PS2. Very artsy (and good) games. This new game follows in the same vein in a lot of ways, with a weird furry/feathery creature and a small boy.

2:56 – Yeah, aside from the title “The Last Guardian” and maybe some touchups and new footage, this is the exact same trailer that leaked before. Oh well, it looks outstanding and very stylized in HD.

2:57 – Short tease of Grand Turismo 5 for the PS3 now. Seems like some people have been waiting for this one forever, but realistic car racing isn’t really my thing.

2:59 – GT5 looks good graphically, if this stuff is in-engine. But that’s all I can really say.

3:00 – Time for God of War 3!

3:02 – This totally looks like a God of War game, which, hey, is a good thing. They say it’s the last part of a trilogy. Really, now?

3:02 – Harpy riding!

3:03 – Did Kratos just sprout wings for a second? Other than that, it looks like pretty standard GoW gameplay. Looks very, very epic, though, and gorgeous graphically. Should easily please fans of the series.

3:05 – Confirmed: Quick-time events are back. They look better, though.

3:06 – Those interested in God of War should definitely track down a video of this gameplay demonstration when all this is done. I can’t really describe it. But it’s brutal in all the right ways.

3:07 – Coming out March 2010.

3:08 – That’s a wrap.

Pretty impressive, I’ve gotta say. Sony didn’t let leaks or Microsoft’s guns get to them. The conference went really well. We’ll have more in terms of coverage and comparisons later.

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Sony Rumors

Courtesy of T3

Courtesy of T3

Though we sidestepped the bountiful rumors of Sony’s new motion-sensing contraptions (not to mention Microsoft’s own cornucopia of similar, confirmed stories) and the new gussied-up PSP, but there’s only so much we can let pass by before catching all those wild suppositions with our giant Butterfree net. Turns out that a slimmed down version of the PS3 could be in the works, much like the post-South Beach PS onePS2, and PSP-2000.

Part of the totally-reckless-but-hopefully-true rumor mill is that this miniaturized version of the PS3 will receive a new paint job (pictured, courtesy of T3) and a huge bump in storage capacity. According to Ars Technica, this will mean the end of the 80GB model and an introduction of a 120GB or 160GB configuration, bundled with a DualShock 3 controller, though probably not the fabled white US version.

The slimdown, however, has some actual gravitas to the tale. This August will supposedly bring sub-65nm Cell processors and sub-90nm RSX graphics chips, which will also mean Sony can finally sell the PS3 for a profit (they currently sell at a loss).

For more comprehensive, albeit more furtive, details on Sony rumors, check out PlayStation LifeStyle. Tip for the oblivious: be sure to pay attention to the STYLIZED words.

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LittleBigPlanet, Rock Band and others coming to PSP

Despite the fact that I’ve only touched my PSP lately to play the “Star Ocean” ports, it’s a nice machine that’s hindered by it’s rare exclusives and good games.

That could be changing soon based on announcements from this week’s “Destination Playstation” even.

Sony has announced a slew of new games, including a version of LittleBigPlanet that’s complete with all the “Build. Create. Share” features of its big brother on the PSP, as well as new levels designed specifically for the PSP platform.

“Rock Band Unplugged” will offer downloadable content, and… That’s about all we know.

We are similarly in the dark for a new, exclusive entry in the “Assassin’s Creed” franchise coming to the PSP later this year from UbiSoft. Hopefully it will be better than the DS game, and hopefully UbiSoft will also formally announce “Assassin’s Creed 2” later this year.

They also announced “MotorStorm ArcticEdge” for the PSP and… PlayStation 2? They’re still doing that? Sure, why not?

EA also announced “Madden 10” (as in 2010, not the tenth Madden) as well as “Tiger Woods 10”, suprising absolutely no one.

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