My take on Sony’s pre-E3 press event

“Where was the love for the PS Vita,” was my first reaction after watching most of Sony’s pre-E3 press event this afternoon (NZ time).

Actually, no it wasn’t: my first reaction was “When can I play The Last of Us? That looks so freaken amazing,” after Sony closed out its presser with a demo of Naughty Dog’s next adventuring game.

For Sony it was all about the games and the PlayStation 3 – and there were a lot to take in – but very little love for the Vita, a console that isn’t a year old yet and is struggling to gain traction with gamers. Apart from an Assassin’s Creed game for the Vita (Assassin’s Creed 3:  Liberation)  and cross platform connectivity with All Stars Battle Royale, Sony had nothing for the Vita. That’s a worrying proposition, especially for early adopters of the handheld. Does the lack of first-party support mean that Sony is worried as well?

 Sony’s CEO Jack Tretton opened the event by thanking gamers for giving the company the inspiration to do what it does then welcomed on to the stage French game maker David Cage, the man behind the innovative but ultimately tedious Heavy Rain, who revealed his new game, Beyond: Two Souls, a game that spans 15 years and lets players “live the life of a video game character”, namely Jodie (voiced by Juno actor Ellen Page).

After Beyond Two Souls came PlayStation All Stars Battle Royale, which I flicked between while I was doing some work, then AC3: Liberation,which brings a female assassin this time around, then Assassin’s Creed 3, which showed a sea battle aboard naval ships and involved sailors, rigging, cannons, explosions and lots of shouting. Some Far Cry 3 co-op multiplayer was shown as was a rather tedious reveal of Wonderbook, an inventive partnership between PlayStation and British author J.K. Rowling where you use the PS Move as a wand to cast spells while reading a magical book. It was fun at first but the on-stage demo just went on for far too long. I got bored with it.

Tretton introduced God of War: Ascension as “one of the biggest and most epic releases on PlayStation 3” and we’ve seen the multiplayer component before but this showcased the single player, which saw the forever angry Kratos take on goat like creatures, a large Kraken and an elephant warrior that met the wrong end of Kratos’ anger. It’s due out early next year.

 The biggest cheers, though, were saved for Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us, which cements for me the developers pedigree as a AAA game maker that knows how to do narrative – and has the visual grunt behind it. Make no mistake it was a brutal trailer with Joel and Ellie, the two main characters in the game’s post-apocalyptic world, having to fend against rather aggressive foes. The combat is visceral and forceful, with Joel slamming a foe’s head against a desk at one stage and shooting another at point blank range with a shotgun, while Ellie throws a brick at another’s head to distract him – before he’s pummeled by Joel. It’s a stark display of a struggling world after a disaster. “Good job with all the killing, and stuff,” Ellie says after they’ve survived the encounter.

The Last of Us is unmistakably Naughty Dog: it reminded me a lot of the Uncharted series with similar visuals and a main character that even moves slightly like him. I guess what I’m saying is that it feels like a Naughty Dog game – and that pleases me a lot.

If I was a betting man, I’d say Sony won the round today, offering more games than Xbox was able to but the game of the day for me, easily Ubisoft’s surprise announcement of  Watch_Dogs, a game set in a society where computers can see everything and nothing is a secret. It actually reminded me a lot of the TV show Person of Interest, which I have enjoyed.

Nintendo is up tomorrow, revealing what it has planned for the 3DS and other things Nintendo. If I can get up in time, I’ll watch it (it’s at 4.30am NZ time). I need my beauty sleep, you know.