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Analysis: PS3 goes Beyond, but Sony fails in Vita rescue bid

Tuesday, 5 June 2012 07:41 GMT By Rob Fahey

You’re watched the media briefing and read the headlines, but what does it all mean? Rob Fahey breaks down Sony’s E3 2012 and finds much to praise – but fears for a certain portable.

Note the glaring, howling omission from the first-party line-up. Aside from a mention that PlayStation All-Stars will be coming to Vita as well as PS3, Sony had no new software to announce for its new handheld – which seems like a fairly shocking omission given the ongoing worries about weak sales of the hardware.

For Sony, it was all about the games. There are years when E3 press conferences start to echo one another, almost making you wonder what the point is of having multiple platform holders if they just do the same stuff. This isn’t one of those years. After Microsoft’s conference, heavy with technology announcements, non-gaming entertainment and casual titles, Sony took entirely the opposite track – opening with a giant montage of gaming spread across the siege wall of screens that made up its conference stage, and mostly staying game-focused for the rest of the 90-minute show. There was major new IP alongside proven franchises – but the company gave no hint of how it plans to rescue its struggling handheld, PS Vita.

One of the most heavy-hitting new IPs came early in the show, with the first game on stage being new PS3 exclusive Beyond, which is being developed by Heavy Rain creators Quantic Dream. Like Heavy Rain, it looks likely to be a divisive title among gamers – but it takes the technology of Heavy Rain (and Quantic Dream’s more recent tech demo) to the next level, using it to capture the performance of Oscar-nominated actress Ellen Page as lead character Jodie Holmes. If you liked Heavy Rain, that’s great news, because one of the weakest parts of that game was the often terribly shonky voice acting performances – and it’s clear that Beyond doesn’t repeat the mistake.

The lengthy scene we saw was spooky, atmospheric and pitch-perfect, and the montage shown afterwards suggests a much more epic and action-packed narrative than Heavy Rain. Half the gaming world is still going to despise it, but the other half are going to love it intensely – which qualifies it as a pretty good thing with which to kick off a press conference. I’ll take games which are loved and hated over bland games which inspire nothing but “meh” any day of the week.

Of course, the sight of Ellen Page in the game brought to mind another of Sony’s eagerly awaited titles – Naughty Dog’s The Last Of Us, whose female companion character recently changed her formerly very Ellen Page-like appearance (I guess now we know why). The Last Of Us, appropriately, didn’t show up until the end of the conference, and was demonstrated in a gameplay scene which started with exploration of a beautiful, ruined city and ended up with a brutal and nail-bitingly tense combat sequence against a group of scavengers inside an abandoned hotel. The game’s Uncharted heritage is clearly on display, but the combat has been totally retooled and the presence of your young companion changes things up significantly. It got an immense response from the audience, and rightly so – it’s one of the most exciting things we’ve seen at the show so far.

Beyond: Two Souls drew heavy applause.

Those two made solid slices of bread for either side of Sony’s presentation sandwich, but the filling was a bit more questionable in places. PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale looks absolutely fine, and it’s clearly a perfectly well-executed clone of the Smash Brothers formula – double-edged praise, certainly, but ripping off Nintendo isn’t an easy task and they’ve done it well. God of War Ascension also looked perfectly well-executed and fan pleasing, but in an E3 which has been dominated so far by updates to very lengthy action franchises, it was a little hard to get truly excited about it. Then there was Wonderbook, an EyeToy and Move title which builds on the EyePet idea by making storybooks interactive. It’s one for the kids, and the incredibly long demo was probably misjudged given E3′s audience, but JK Rowling’s involvement with the first book in the series, The Book Of Spells, probably guarantees that it’ll sell by the cartload this Christmas – by which stage the team will hopefully have tweaked the technology, which looked a bit shonky and temperamental in the demo.

Those five titles completed Sony’s first-party line-up – not disappointing by any means, but perhaps a bit leaner than we’d expected. Some kind of update on The Last Guardian (even a bit of reassurance that the apparently troubled game is still coming along) would have been nice, but more importantly, some more new titles would have filled out the event. To its credit, Sony did highlight some of the innovative indie titles it’s releasing, like recent bestseller Journey and Unfinished Swan, but didn’t demonstrate them. It was left to third-parties to fill in the gaps with four titles – mostly Ubisoft, with whom Sony seems to have a budding romance and who provided three of the four games.

Note the glaring, howling omission from the first-party line-up, though. Aside from a mention that PlayStation All-Stars will be coming to Vita as well as PS3, Sony had no new software to announce for its new handheld – which seems like a fairly shocking omission given the ongoing worries about weak sales of the hardware. The third-party game line-up was at least a bit more impressive, with Ubisoft showing Assassin’s Creed Liberation and Activision announcing Call of Duty Black Ops Declassified, both due before the end of the year – but the Vita felt like the elephant in the room for much of the conference. Few of us expected a price-cut (for reasons related to financial regulations, that’s often the kind of announcement made to shareholders and investors in Tokyo, not to gaming media in Los Angeles), but some hint of how Sony plans to pull its arm out of the fire would have helped a lot.

… perhaps not as much as The Last of Us.

We did get technology announcements, which the company kept mercifully brief. PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale provided an opportunity to talk about cross-platform play between Vita and PS3, and the ability to use Vita as a controller for the PS3 – Sony’s answer, essentially, to the Wii U controller and Microsoft’s SmartGlass tech alike. The “second screen” is definitely the theme of this year’s E3, but Sony was bright enough to announce it, show it off quickly, and move on without making too many big promises it won’t be able to keep. Also announced for Vita owners was the availability of PS1 classics for the system, although while welcome, since that’s already possible on the venerable PSP, it’s more of an “about time” announcement than anything else.

Sony’s conference raises a conflicted mixture of reactions. It’s great that it was focused almost entirely on games – that’s what E3 is meant to be about, after all – and the company is brave to aim squarely at big new IP rather than playing it safe with nothing but sequels at this late stage in the console cycle. Nobody could call E3 2012 a damp squib for Sony after seeing the footage of The Last of Us and Beyond. Yet the million dollar question before this conference was “what will they do about Vita?”, and nobody was willing to offer an answer. PS3 owners will be pretty happy with what they saw – but if you’re a new Vita owner, you’d be forgiven for feeling like Sony hung you out to dry this week.

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37 Comments

  1. loveaya

    That’s why i won’t buy a VITA for now.

    I can see nothing which SONY should provide to us.

    As a PS3 owner, i’m so happy with the games showed on E3 but i was so disppointed of the future VITA games.

    Even if AC3 Liberation could be a great game.

    #1 3 years ago
  2. Gekidami

    …Sony have been flooding the news for the past 3 weeks with Vita stuff. It seems unfair to say they’ve got nothing planned. Just click on ‘Vita’ in “Posted in” at the bottom there and check the first three pages.

    #2 3 years ago
  3. Dimaco

    @2 + 1
    That’s what I thought, too

    #3 3 years ago
  4. loveaya

    @3 +10086

    Resident Evil for PSV, New MGS for PSV, GTA5 for PSV, MOH for PSV…

    But where are they?

    #4 3 years ago
  5. zantoplisek

    Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified wasn’t shown either, what the hell? I’m no CoD fan, but I know that would help sell at least a few Vitas.

    They might be saving the price cut announcement for gamescom, while they try out the temporary one in France.

    A big disappointment as far as Vita is concerned.

    #5 3 years ago
  6. KAP

    @4

    CoD is out this year.
    ACL is out this year.
    ZOE is out this year.
    MGS collectins is out this year.
    Gravity Daze is again.. out this year.
    Soundshapes is out this year.
    Sly racoon out this year.
    Battle Royal out this year.
    Not to mention the games thats gonna be announced for GDC and TGS.

    I think your being a little unfair when Vita had one of the best launch line up ever. Next your gonna tell me you own every game thats ever been released thus far tight? Thats what most people do on the internet right?

    #6 3 years ago
  7. TD_Monstrous69

    My guess is they might be holding back on more Vita stuff, as well as other stuff that was rumored for GamesCom in August. Or that they really are relying on 3rd party developers to help sell the Vita. A risky strategy indeed, but you know, I honestly think it’ll pay off this fall when 2 of the franchises they hope will help sell Vita’s are Call of Duty and Assassins Creed, 2 franchises that rake in gangbusters numbers in sales every year. Though I will say, it’s great they’ve announced all this stuff coming for Vita, they still could’ve shown off a little more stuff for it (also, no relation to Vita thoughts, but…. WHERE THE FUCK’S The Last Guardian at!?). For now though, I’d put Sony as the 2nd best E3 press event for E3 2012 so far (the best being Ubisoft’s).

    #7 3 years ago
  8. Erthazus

    I’m selling my Vita.

    VITA has no games. They even FAILED to show Call Of Duty:Deshitsified trailer.

    There are no games. If you think that Soul Sacrifice is a true AAA game for the Vita then LOL. Oh, Liberation. WHAT? Last Assassins Creed PSP game was crap.

    Everything else is a port. P O R T.

    They failed with the software. There are no games at all. There are more games on the 3DS or iPad. Sony should go away from the portble device entertainment, they really failed with it right now. More then with original PSP.

    #8 3 years ago
  9. manamana

    @7 +1 especially the part: where the fuck is The Last Guardian?! Really, they must have screwed up royally.

    #9 3 years ago
  10. Erthazus

    @9, i think at TGS. Maybe.

    I’m not sure why you expected TLG at E3.

    #10 3 years ago
  11. zantoplisek

    @7 I doubt they are holding off on stuff for gamescom. I’m sure they showed everything they had now before the Summer holidays start when people buy handhelds to kill time when travelling.

    If the price cut in France does really well, then we’ll see that turn into a permanent worldwide price cut in August, probably at gamescom.

    #11 3 years ago
  12. manamana

    Skylanders Giants is coming to every handheld, console, smartphone and their mother but guess on which platform its absent….

    #12 3 years ago
  13. OrbitMonkey

    I don’t get all the accusations that the Vita has nothing but PORTS, or why that’s a bad thing?

    Wasn’t that the whole point of the Vita? To play console games on your handheld? Of course it’s gonna have ports… Of console games… To play on your handheld…. Which you’ve never been able to do before now.

    #13 3 years ago
  14. Erthazus

    That’s not the whole point and ports was the reason why PSP failed to sell software.

    But there is another problem and i never thought that i would say that but… Vita does not even have ENOUGH ports to begin with…

    I’m selling my device for sure and i won’t wait for TGS or Gamescom because “We have Call Of Duty:Declasified and no trailer” and one Liberation from crappy developer with small trailer and after that speaking about shitty J.Roling book that no one gives a fuck about is disturbing.

    PS3 on the other hand offers some solid games. QD new game, TLOU, GoW:Ascension

    #14 3 years ago
  15. Pytox

    @12 glad it’s not on pc lol

    #15 3 years ago
  16. loveaya

    @6, ok, you gonna buy the games mentioned by u. But look at that, COD with no trailer and AC3L? Just think of the sale of FIFA on Vita. U think COD could save Vita? Why FIFA could not?

    The others games are either remaster or Japan-style or SCE-style games.

    So clearly, u r just a maniac SONY supporter, not a real gamer.

    #16 3 years ago
  17. Pytox

    so were is the rumour that sony was going to buy cloud gaming service now :D

    #17 3 years ago
  18. polygem

    i am not selling my vita. cannot wait for sly 4. will definiteley buy the vita version. same goes for all stars. this stuff is just awesome on a handheld. preordered gravity rush long ago. burning skies was exactly what sony should avoid though. i love resistance. nihilistic messed it up totally. it´s sad. cod i will prolly only buy for vita and play halo 4 on the 360 as my competitive mp of choice. cannot wait for soundshapes and the next drinkbox game.
    i was hoping for more vita at sony presser too though. more remote play. jak daxter ratchet for the vita…i was hoping for this.
    i also really start to hate sony for not making another medievil game!!! this is a crime sony! shame on you!

    #18 3 years ago
  19. Erthazus

    @polygem, buy Sly4 for the PS3. It’s going to be in HD in better quality then on the small screen. You should not limit yourself really.

    #19 3 years ago
  20. polygem

    i do not see it as a limitation. i love to play games on a handheld. for some games it is just more fun. platformers are great for a handheld system. you can lie on the couch with your vita and play a game like this. even in a hotel room. i love that. you know i even ride a 3 gear brompton folding bike much more often for my every day commute than my bilenky cargo bike or a mountain bike i own…it is smaller, doesn´t have that many gears but still it is much more fun to ride. fun is what it´s all about in gaming. everything else doesn´t count.

    #20 3 years ago
  21. DrDamn

    @2 +1

    @8 Good does that mean you’ll STFU – also see @2.

    #21 3 years ago
  22. Pytox

    Erthazus always trolls anything Sony afaik

    #22 3 years ago
  23. Gekidami

    I’d be interested in hearing what VG247 thinks happened to this Cloud purchase news, seeing as this was the site that pretty much launched the rumour in the first place.

    #23 3 years ago
  24. DrDamn

    @23
    Good point. Perhaps it is a PS4 thing and getting the info just before E3 caused a bit of a 2+2=5-Ing. Though there is a separate presentation by the streaming company isn’t there?

    #24 3 years ago
  25. Johnny Cullen

    Gaikai’s holding a thing tonight, yeah.

    #25 3 years ago
  26. Gekidami

    ^ Good point. But seeing as there was no mention of it in the Sony conference, i’m assuming it was bought up by Sony, but isnt going to be involved with SCE.

    Maybe SOE then.

    For those that dont know, SOE & SCE are two VERY different things.

    #26 3 years ago
  27. DrDamn

    Could be that for now they are buying in tech and patents to improve and implement Vita remote play features. (wishful thinking)

    #27 3 years ago
  28. Dragon246

    Something is really missing, of 15 first party studios ,only 2 (or 3 if superbot is included) showed their games. What about the rest of them? Okay some of them may be working on next-gen games, but 13 of them? Either Sony is planning something big in the next 2 months (maybe gamescom) or they are selling off all of them.
    WTF SONY??@?!@?!@!?@?!@?!

    #28 3 years ago
  29. AHA-Lambda

    so what happened with the playstation plus revamp and the gaikai deal? O_o

    #29 3 years ago
  30. Moonwalker1982

    @6

    Yeah, great another CoD game, what about the folks who are beyond tired of CoD? ACL could be a great game, it can also dissappoint bigtime, but ok..this is a new one. ZOE? Please….oh right, another HD collection, MGS..another HD collection full of old games. Gravity Rush this month, but we’ve known that since….PSV’s announcement. Soundshapes is not for everyone…Sly Racoon, new one? Or a port? And Battle Royale, that horrible horrible Smash Bros. Ripoff is also a port.

    Really starting to regret my Vita purchase. I’ve been hoping for some great new EXLCUSIVE to Vita RPG’s and maybe a third person shooter like a Syphon Filter or something. They talk about Vita during their conference, yet they only showed one game in trailer form.

    #30 3 years ago
  31. humanfish

    Every year gaming websites seem to claim ‘sources’ with news. Who are these sources that the gaming press use? Is it one bloke sat in his allotment shed in staines, spouting bullshit to the same sites, at the same time every year? Are these ‘sources’ and stories properly checked out? Games media is still such a hobbiest press in so many ways.

    #31 3 years ago
  32. DrDamn

    @30
    A game is not a port when it comes out at the same time, it’s called a version.

    What about Kickbeat, When Vikings Attack, Soul Sacrifice, Really Big Sky sequel, Nippon Ichis Second anniversary title, LBP Vita, Guacamelee, Spy Hunter reboot, New Little Kings Story? All that was from a search on here looking at a weeks worth of news about a week ago when Erth was whining about a YouTube app.

    No doubt you will come back with a list of reasons why these aren’t for you, and it’s still all Sony’s fault you bought one. Not yours, oh no.

    #32 3 years ago
  33. Moonwalker1982

    @ 32

    Sigh….

    Smash bros. Oh i’m sorry..Battle Royale is no doubt gonna be exactly like the PS3 version, how great. All those games that you mention, hey cool!!!…but my problem is….WHERE the fuck were they? They were more busy with bullshit crap like Book of Spells and what not and didn’t show a single Vita game. So yeah, it’s cool about those games coming to Vita and how this has been covered on this site, but again, where were they? Why couldn’t Sony show us a few gameplay demonstrations? That’s my biggest gripe of them all. Soul Sacrifice, awesome…really interesting title, where was it?

    E3 used to be a time where they showed gameplay demonstrations, like last year where they showed Uncharted on Vita, there wasn’t a single gameplay demonstration of a Vita game. Oh wait..that Battle royale game that is also coming to PS3. Not the reason i bought a Vita. GC or TGS maybe then? sigh….

    #33 3 years ago
  34. DrDamn

    @33
    Call me old fashioned but I thought it was the games that mattered not what they chose to show at a games show event. Crazy, silly me.

    #34 3 years ago
  35. Dragon246

    @34,
    Exactly.

    #35 3 years ago
  36. fearmonkey

    As an Xbox-PC gamer, I thought Sony had the best conference overall. Beyond and the Last of us was better than anything shown at MS’s and Nintendo’s conference.
    I want to play those two games more than anything else showed at E3.

    #36 3 years ago
  37. Moonwalker1982

    And here we go…once again showing how Sony either doesn’t have a clue or simply don’t have their shit together.

    http://gamingeverything.com/22553/sony-not-planning-vita-price-drop/

    THIS:

    Yoshida went on talk about how the company managed the Vita’s presenence at its E3 2012 media briefing. He admitted that Sony “could have spent more time – probably we should – showing off those games coming out this year.”

    Yoshida said:

    “As far as how our conference went – it went as well as we thought it could. I’m getting lots of tweets from people saying, ‘where are PS Vita games?’ That was, in retrospect, our fault – not looking at every angle when we designed the programme for the show. We have 25 new games, Vita titles, playable on the show floor.

    “We could have spent more time – probably we should – showing off those games coming out this year.

    #37 3 years ago

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