In a day full of keynotes, Sony had the last word today with their evening E3 press conference. Sony trotted out a parade of executives and developers to show off the games on the horizon for the upcoming year. The Playstation 3, and Vita made a cameo, but the real star of the show was the Playstation 4. Does it match up to our grand expectations, and can it keep the heat up when it comes to its chief rival Microsoft? Well with the Help of Scott and Carl, lets find out.
Scott Heinowski: Sony started the day today by reminding us that the Vita and the PS3 were still kicking, but they did not spend much time on them at all, barely even mentioning the Vita. I thought this a bit odd for a moment, but I think they realized that people weren’t really there to see the vita. I know I was not that interested in seeing Vita titles, but as a Vita owner did it bug you that they didn’t have anything to announce for that platform?
Carl Kloster: Yeah. I know PS4 was the star of this show, but Vita seems to be a great companion to the PS4 and I thought that would get it a little more spotlight time. I was hoping for the announcement of a new Uncharted or Assassins Creed for Vita. But really I just got short trailers of a few Vita games, and then told that HD re-releases would come to Vita at some point. It wasn’t anything to really thrill me as a Vita owner, and thats not going to entice many people to pick up a Vita as well.
SH: They then, at a fairly rapid pace, went through the upcoming PS3 titles including: The Last of Us, Puppeteer, Beyond Two Souls, Gran Turismo 6, Arkham Origins, and GTA V. The thing that this reminded me is that we actually have some pretty awesome games coming up on the docket for this generation, I’m sure this is their intention, but it still is good news for folks who aren’t going to be ready to shell out for a new console this year.
CK: Compared to Microsoft really only showing three Xbox 360 titles at their show, Sony made the PS3 seem like it’s still a big focus for them. Showing Last of Us didn’t seem all that special, mainly because it releases on Friday and reviews are out. But Beyond Two Souls still looks great, even if this trailer made it feel almost like a Metal Gear game. And you didn’t mention Rain, which I think looks like it could be a really cool game.
SH: And then they got into the meat of the matter, the Playstation 4. This time we get to see the actual console. The console well, it’s a parallelogram. The front of the PS4 ends up looking like a disposable 2 blade shaver, with the front panel and rear panels 30 degrees or so off plumb. It looks kinda cool, and a bit slicker than its rival, but not too much, it still feels a bit boxy.
CK: I was actually surprised how much it and the Xbox One have in common looks. Basically they are both black boxes with both matte and glossy halves. But the PS4 has all it’s venting on the back compared to the Xbox One having venting on back and top. Honestly when I first saw it I was reminded of the PS2 slim design. I kind of like the slanty design, it gives it a nice feel. Also, did you notice that Sony showed it standing vertically and horizontally? I haven’t seen any images of Xbox One standing up vertically. So for everybody with narrow but tall media center space, you’re choice has been made.
SH: Then after a bit of media talk, we finally got into the games. We had already seen a few games from Sony at their February event, But we got to see some progress on the ones we saw, and some all new announcements.
CK: The Order 1886 is one of those games where, i like where its going, but you really didn’t show me much of anything. I don’t know what type of game it will really be, though I’m leaning towards first or third person shooter. The setting could be cool, but I really don’t have enough info to make any kind of gut feeling on it.
SH: Creepy steampunk London with intricate guns, electric trains, horse drawn carriages, airships, and a horde of sinuous humanoid baddy coming from all sides. You would think there would be something there that would grab me, but as much as I want it too be cool, It strikes me that they could of played both too close to the trope and been a little too loose with the world building. They have shoulder mounted radios, so those exist, but yet these people – who are clearly elite – ride in on a horse pulled carriage, when there is clearly more sophisticated modes of travel around. I guess its too early to call this one, but I still need to be won over.
CK: I know this was a title showed at the PS4 reveal, and so I was a little sad to see it pop again so soon. I was more disappointed to hear it’s not a launch title, but will be out Q1 2014. That being said, the characterization showcased in the trailer, along with some of the cool new powers really grabbed me and made me want this title. I probably need to go fire up and complete inFamous 2 real soon.
SH: Yeah, Cool new powers and interesting setting of state of emergency dystopian seattle make for an interesting looking game. The gameplay makes it look like its designed to make you feel like a total badass. But interestingly they didn’t go for a gameplay video like the one above they went for a trailer.
CK: Bastion is one of those games that I hear so many good thing about, but never found the time to play it. Another game I should play soon to rectify that. Transistor though had a load of style, lovely graphics, and was a breath of fresh air in the Sony conference. I want to know more about this title, but I already like what I’m seeing.
SH: Transistor was really the combo breaker for me, the game that didn’t fit the mold. That is a good thing though. It was a very deep and saturated stylistically, and despite its simplicity of being a top down view reminiscent of its older sibling bastion the world seemed intricate in its art deco meets cyberpunk style, and rich saturated but dark color scheme. The music seemed spot on too, I’m interested to play this regardless of platform.
CK: I’m actually really excited that Sony seems to be embracing indie developers. I know the Wii U is a friendly platform for that as well, but the Xbox 360’s indie games never really had much of interest and I feared the Xbox One would kind of pass it aside. Sure at the Microsoft E3 conference they mentioned working with indie developers and then announced Minecraft for Xbox One. But Minecraft, to me, is a bit bigger than what an indie game really is.
SH: Final Fantasy XV (formerly known as various and sundry other things) looked to be coming along, but sadly it seems that the Final Fantasy series is too formulaic for me these days, perfectly tousled or spiky hair and odd outfits? Check. Something interesting and different? well thats a bit harder.
CK: I’m more excited for Kingdom Hearts III than Final Fantasy XV, but I’m glad to see Final Fantasy Versus XIII finally materialize into a real product. Both games had impressive graphics, thanks to next gen hardware of course, but I was surprised to see a more actiony take for a numbered Final Fantasy title. The biggest kicker though is that Kingdom Hearts III will probably not be out for another year or two, and that’s disappointing.
CK: It was looking like there wasn’t going to be any onstage demos in the Sony Conference. But thankfully we saw a few titles played on stage proving that at least on some level all this is the real deal. I wish it had been some more surprising titles than Assassins Creed IV, WatchDogs, and Destiny. Even though the Assassins Creed IV had some stuttering issues, it looked fantastic. WatchDogs continues to impress me every time I see it. Destiny looked more interesting than I had really thought, but I’d need to form up a good co-op team to really get me into the game.
All in all, there wasn’t one title that made me say “I need to have a PS4”. inFamous Second Son comes pretty close, but it’s not even a launch title.
SH: Sony made a big deal to state its position on used games, as to rub salt into Microsoft’s self inflicted wound. Sony said unequivocally you will be able to resell and lend disc based games, without restriction or additional cost. They also stated that the PS4 would not require any internet connection or check in with sony to be able to play single player games. While I think this was brought up mostly just to stick it to Microsoft, It’s nice to know for me that I will be able to sell my used game or lend it to a friend.
CK: Well, they did say it wouldn’t require a connection for single player Disc Based Games. And I doubt it has the 24 hour strictness of the Xbox One for it’s PSN Digital titles, but I wasn’t clear on that. Of course, my stream wasn’t working for the last 20 minutes so I may have missed some words.
There is another side to the coin that I do want to talk about. Playstation Plus. Sony said your PS+ account will transfer over to the PS4 and thats great. But it seems they took online multiplayer and made that a PS+ feature, rather than a basic thing for just having a PSN account. So now we’re back to paying to play online, and I know at least one person who is not going to be thrilled with that. On the other side of that though is I’ve found PS+ to be quite valuable, netting a fair selection of games and discounts over the last year that’s made it worthwhile.
SH: I’m not particularly happy about online multiplayer requiring plus myself. It’s not like I mind paying for it if I can see that my money is going toward keeping up a seamless infrastructure, but when I am paying for it I feel like It needs to be at least very good and PSN has fallen short before.
Finally we heard the price, $399. This feels right in line with what a console should be at launch, at least to me. Frankly though, after the Xbox One was announced at $499, I was surprised for about a minute that they were going to undercut it by a full 100 bucks, but then I kinda realized why the discrepancy. It’s Kinect. Since sony isn’t leaning on a piece of extra hardware to define its experience we might get to save a few bucks if we want to. Given, that means that the Xbox one does something special for 100 bucks but the question is how many gamers want the voice control and motion control experience.
CK: Yeah, the price difference is most likely all Kinects fault. But what surprised me is that Sony isn’t including the Camera for PS4 in its system. So once again it’s relegated to accessory instead of every system having it and will likely be under utilised just like the Move is now. Which is too bad because for as much as I’m not a fan of motion control, I like how the Move works.
$399 is actually a little less than I thought it was going to be. I was thinking $449 for both PS4 and Xbox One, so I guess they balanced out with their prices. $399 for the PS4 really puts a squeeze on the Wii U deluxe at $350, so I wonder how Nintendo will react.
SH: So my take away from this event is that Sony – from top to bottom – has tightened up its game and are really focusing on what their core customers want. While that completely does not preclude them from screwing it up down the line, I think their batting average is highest as we shift into the next phase of this nascent generation of gaming. There are still things I would like to see though, the user interface, the street date, and their implementation of cross game chatting, and these are just for starters. But for now this seems to be as locked into what the customer wants as I have seen in a long time.
CK: Yeah, I’m excited for the PS4 in a way I hadn’t really been excited for the PS3 before. I’ve tended to ignore my PS3 for my Xbox 360 a lot this generation. But the way Sony is handling the PS4 with regards to game DRM, region free, listening to consumers and developers, and everything else is making a really strong case for the PS4 being my system of choice this fall. I think it’s more “the peoples console” than the Ouya wants to be seeing how well PS4 has approached consumer needs and indie titles. However, Sony showed too many games they already had showcased before E3. We saw Killzone again, Infamous Second Son again, etc. I really wanted to see more new titles that I’d find at launch, or close to it. Kingdom Hearts III announcement is great, but how many years till I can actually play it in my house?