E3 2012: Beyond: Two Souls leads Sony conference

By Patrick Garratt
4 June 2012 16:07 GMT

David Cage took the stage at Sony’s E3 2012 press conference to debut paranormal thriller, Beyond: Two Souls, amid an Assassin’s Creed blow out and new footage of Naughty Dog’s anticipated The Last of Us.

Sony E3 2012: At a Glance

Quantic Dream’s new project is called Beyond, the story of a girl in contact with the afterlife.

Nathan Drake and Big Daddy confirmed for PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale, which will sport cross-platform play between PlayStation 3 and Vita.

LittleBigPlanet to receive cross-controller DLC linking the PS3 and Vita versions.

PlayStation Plus to add new games each month; 12 new additions in June beginning tomorrow.

PSOne Classics coming to Vita.

Hulu Plus and Crackle coming to Vita.

Call of Duty: Declassified to launch on Vita during the 2012 holidays.

Assassin’s Creed: Liberation confirmed for Vita release alongside Assassin’s Creed III, with a female assassin and New Orleans setting.

A new Vita bundle will debut the Crystal White console alongside Liberation.

A new PS3 hardware bundle will launch with Assassin’s Creed III, including exclusive DLC.

There will be cross-promotional content unlocks between Assassin’s Creed III and Liberation.

Assassin’s Creed III will have naval battles.

Far Cry 3 will have a four-player co-op campaign, and the PlayStation 3 version will come with free exclusive DLC.

Android platform PlayStation Suite renamed PlayStation Mobile; HTC announced as first third-party partner.

The Wonderbook – an AR experience for PlayStation Move – was announced. The first release is Book of Spells, partially written by Harry Potter author JK Rowling.

New gameplay footage was shown for God of War: Ascension.

The Last of Us was the final live gameplay presentation.

Sony kicked things off with a sizzle montage, mixing Move and casual with core games with core footage, references to PlayStation Plus, and upcoming third-parties including BioShock: Infinite, Assassin’s Creed III and Metal Gear Solid HD Collection for Vita.

“We have the most passionate consumers in the world,” SCEA president and CEO Jack Tretton said. “This is the Superbowl for those of us who live and die in the games industry,” he added, making a sly reference to Sony’s reputation for producing E3 memes.

“It makes hosting this event so fun and relaxing for me,” he joked.

Sony Corporation President and CEO Kazuo Hirai was in attendance, but as befits his new role outside the PlayStation umbrella, he remained off-stage.

When a Heavy Rain image was splashed on the stage backdrop, the audience began to murmur, and David Cage announced Beyond: Twin Souls.

“Death is the biggest mystery of mankind. What happens next, no one knows,”

Beyond will tell the story of a life over 15 years. The character’s names is Jodie Holmes, and she has a connection to the afterlife – and will be played by Academy Award nominee Ellen Page, as rumoured.

A real-time demo was shown of one of the first scenes in the game. In a dingy police office, an adult male officer spoke to the short haired Jodie, who sat silently unresponsive to his gentle questions.

“I found you by the side of the road in the middle of nowhere. Was there an accident? Did someone try to hurt you?” he asked, bringing the audience up to speed.

The demo showed Quantic Dream’s trademark expressiveness as Judy showed a trace of fear in the face of a strange shaking it seemed only she could feel. Things took a turn for the weird when the police man reached to touch a scar on the back of Jodie’s head, somehow triggering a coffee cup to fly across the room and smash.

“I know, they’re coming,” a voiceover said – possibly Jodie’s internal monologue. Special forces burst into the station and seemed hesitant about approaching the office where Jodie was sitting. The officer from earlier opened the door for them but before we saw what was inside, it cut to a montage of explosions, motorcycles, helicopters, flipping cards and even swearing, with an older-looking Jodie promising to “kill everyone” next time she is bothered, and speaking to an invisible companion.

“Beyond will be unlike anything you have ever experienced before,” Cage promised, speaking of the game’s maturity and emotion.

“If you make the right decisions, maybe you will discover what lies beyond.”

Tretton then turned to PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale, calling last year’s Michael video the most successful tech viral effort of 2011. A new trailer showed only characters already confirmed.

Superbot’s Chan Park introduced a team of Superbot staffers playing a match between the melee-focussed Kratos and Fat Princess, the tactical Sweet Tooth, and stealthy Sly Cooper, on the Metropolis level from Ratchet & Clank. A Hydra from God of War burst through the scenery; it can interfere with the match.

Players score by racking up kills over the course of times matches. The game’s focus seems to be focused on the generation and strategic use of supers, played from a 2D perspective across simple multi-level platform stages. Sweet Tooth’s level three super was shown; the killer clown turned into a mecha version of his van and used a chain gun to take out all three rivals, and even dropping Kratos a second time. Fat Princess emerged victorious.

Two new characters were confirmed – Uncharted’s Nathan Drake and BioShock’s Big Daddy, as rumoured. Tretton also confirmed All-Stars will feature cross play between PlayStation 3 and Vita.

The PlayStation Network

On a cross-platform note, LittleBigPlanet is going to receive something called Cross-Controller DLC, which will allow Vita and PlayStation 3 players to play alongside each other, as demonstrated at TGS 2011.

Tretton revealed that 80% of PS3 and Vita consoles are connected to the Internet, that the PSN offers 1,500 downloadable titles, and that Journey is the best-selling PSN game of all time.

On the PlayStation Plus side, 12 new games will arrive over the next month, including LittleBigPlanet, Saints Row 2, and Infamous 2, starting tomorrow.

New offerings will be added each month, and Sony announced a new pricing plan of $5 per month. The audience members were awarded a free year of PSN subscription.

For Vita, PSOne Classics are due to launch this month. Hulu Plus and Crackle are on the way too.

Sticking with the new portable, Sony confirmed Call of Duty: Declassified, promising more information this month ahead of a holiday release.

Assassin’s Creed 3: Liberation was next, confirming a female lead and New Orleans setting. The game will feature some cross-promotion with the PlayStation 3 version of Assassin’s Creed III with multiplayer modes, skins, and single-player upgrades. An Assassin’s Creed Liberation bundle will debut the Crystal White Vita in the west.

The Assassin’s Creed III team turned up to give an all-new look at the game – naval battles. Connor, apparently impersonating an officer, took the helm of the ship, guiding it between rocky atolls to avoid and return cannon fire. Ubisoft noted the sea battle system includes dynamic weather.

Leaving behind the idyllic islands, the frigate headed to open sea where a minor storm more than made up for the lack of obstacles, rocking the boat from side to side in accordance to its angle of approach to the swell. It didn’t make aiming look easy. An enemy ship was sunk, vanishing with ponderous dignity below the waves. Coming alongside the remaining vessel, Connor was shown boarding in trademark Assassin style.

Assassin’s Creed III will launch with a day-one hardware bundle, including exclusive DLC.

Ubisoft stayed on board to talk about Far Cry 3, debuting a dedicated four player co-op campaign. One player asked for and received a boost to health regeneration via a “battle cry”. The team attempted to tale and hold a bridge long enough to bomb it. One character was slowed, carrying the payload, and then the four fled ahead of the explosion, which was celebrated in a brief cinematic. The PlayStation 3 version comes with a free exclusive DLC, too.

PlayStation Move was the next major topic of conversation, with BioShock: Infinite and DUST 514 mentioned as among the 250 games soon to be available for the device.

PlayStation Group president and CEO Andy House turned up to debut something a little unusual; a new kind of augmented reality experience using the PlayStation Eye and a dedicated platen called the Wonderbook.

“Wonderbook puts a physical book in your hands,” House said. “It isn’t limited to just stories. Imagine sailing the seven seas to discover an atlas. Walking with dinosaurs.” House said Sony is working with authors, educators and scientists to create both entertaining and educating Wonderbook titles.

One of the first comes from Moonbot, but everyone instantly forgot about that because the very first is Book of Spells, which was written in part by Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling, as part of Sony’s collaboration with online world Pottermore. A reader demonstrated how the PlayStation Move becomes a magic wand, although it’s not required throughout the whole experience. On screen, a dragon flew out of the pages and circles the living room, setting the book on fire.

The tech behind the Wonderbook seemed quite impressive, with the user able to pick up the platen and wave it around without disrupting the experience, even when a full paper theatre was projected onto it. The book seemed quite detailed and packed full of Harry Potter trivia; no doubt Pottermore fans will get more out of it than the baffled audience.

House moved onto PlayStation Suite, promising to bring the world of PlayStation to Android devices “in a major way”. Sony is partnering strongly with HTC for its first third-party agreement, and for some reason, is renaming the service PlayStation Mobile.

Tretton returned to note that Sony has the largest first-party studio line-up of any platform holder, which was an excuse to introduce Sony Santa Monica for a God of War Ascension blow out.

Tod Pappy presented a live demonstration in which Kratos encountered a dying man on a dock. A horde of goat men of some kind had apparently attacked the city, so Kratos killed them, including dispatching one by the simple expedient of grabbing its horns and yanking its head off. A larger goat man didn’t fare much better; Kratos chopped his feet off and shoved his own sword through his body.

After some sort of giant sea monster damaged the docks, Kratos summoned a green suspension field and used it to repair platforms in order to advance. Having advanced, he killed more goat men, this time with a throwing spear and the suspension field. A quick time event made short work of a tentacle attack, and also finished off some kind of gladiator. After beating up some more things, Kratos beat up an elephant man and some goat men at the same time; the finishing move had Kratos stabbing the mini-boss literally in the brain, before launching himself out at the leviathan.

The theatre was dropped into near dark momentarily, as The Last of Us demo kicked off with no introduction beyond the breathless, panicked voice overs of the main characters.

The gameplay footage was everything you could ask of Naughty Dog; colourful, detailed, and atmospheric. Some of the more amazing scenes included an overgrown atrium, a flooded street, and a broken glass arch.

The presenter controlled Joel while the AI handled Ellie, who traversed the ruined urban environment without assistance form the player. Joel took down an enemy by strangling him, a lengthy process, before looting a gun and triggering a cover shooting sequence. Throughout the battle, Ellie followed behind closely, keeping out of trouble.

Joel punched an enemy into submission then took him hostage, using him as cover to take down another before knocking him out and returning to cover. When Joel ran out of ammo, Ellie threw a rock at an enemy so Joel could take him down with melee. Later, he set a man on fire. Ellie seemed slightly more impressed than the remaining foes. The demo ended with a fierce grapple with one last armed enemy.

Tretton closed the press conference on this high note, calling PlayStation the “epicentre of gaming for 17 years” and promising to do everything in his power to “raise the bar” on gaming in the future.

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