Capcom and Electronic Arts made up the early morning portion of Gamescom, but when Sony took the stage, they stole the entire show. Sony’s press conference at Gamescom certainly bolstered the reputation of the PlayStation Vita, but they also took time to focus on new games coming out for the PlayStation 3, including traditional ones, Wonderbook games, and games that use the PlayStation Move. I am excited to tell you all about Sony’s fantastic press conference, so be prepared Sony fans and read on about how Sony stole the show at Gamescom.
What’s to come
Sony kicked off their presentation with an epic highlight reel of games that are on the way for the PS3 and Vita. This reel showed glimpses of major games coming out for the systems. Games like God of War: Ascension and The Last of Us were shown. Third party releases like Black Ops II and Assassin’s Creed III were also shown during this exciting highlight reel. Sony even had time to squeeze in the PlayStation Move and the Wonderbook. This highlight reel really set the stage of what was to come with the rest of the Sony press conference, and what PlayStation fans have to look forward to until next E3, when the PlayStation 4 is inevitably announced.
Vita Six and the Cross-Buy
The early stages of Sony’s press conference focused entirely on the PlayStation Vita. Realizing the Vita is at a critical juncture, Sony was wise to push the Vita to the moon during Gamescom, where at E3 it was largely ignored. Sony certainly redeemed themselves at Gamescom, and Vita fans have plenty of reasons to get excited.
There were six major games that Sony pushed for the Vita during this part of the press conference. The first game was LittleBigPlanet: PS Vita, which looks incredible. The game is a typical LittleBigPlanet game for the most part, but it uses the unique capabilities of the Vita to enhance the gameplay. The touchscreen is used, the touchpad is used, and motion controls will also be a part of the gameplay. This should add a fresh look at the typical LittleBigPlanet formula. Furthermore, players will be able to take pictures with the Vita and incorporate the pictures into the LittleBigPlanet world. While this is possible in the console versions of LittleBigPlanet as well, the convenience of having cameras built into the actual Vita system will make this functionality used a lot more, I’m certain.
LittleBigPlanet: PS Vita will also feature a brand new storyline and feature new characters. LittleBigPlanet 2 showed that the LBP games can tell stories just fine, and I’m excited to see the story that is told in the latest handheld edition of LittleBigPlanet. Furthermore, it was confirmed that this game will retain the four player online co-op that has made the series such a hit on the PS3. LittleBigPlanet: PS Vita is shaping up to be the Vita’s first killer app.
The next game shown off for the Vita was PlayStation All-Stars: Battle Royale. Sony used this time to confirm three brand new characters for the game. Spike from Ape Escape is now a confirmed character. Ratchet & Clank from the Ratchet & Clank franchise will be in the game as well. Sackboy from LittleBigPlanet will also be a playable fighter. And in a surprise move, the new Dante from the Devil May Cry reboot will also be a playable character! Sony made it a point to mention how the Vita version of the game can cross-play with the console version.
I have expressed concerns in the past that Sony will be competing with themselves by releasing a Vita version and a PS3 version of the same game. However, Sony made me eat my own words because at Gamescom they revealed some incredible news. There will be a new feature called cross-buy, which means that if you buy the PS3 or Vita version of a game, you’ll get the other version of the game free of cost! This is sure to make the interactive community between the PS3 and Vita grow significantly.
Games that are confirmed to support cross-buy for right now are PlayStation All-Stars: Battle Royale, as well as a couple of other games. The upcoming Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time will also support cross-buy, so Sony’s promise of being able to stop playing on console and then take the save on the go will really become a fruitful and not costly thing to do! The final game revealed to support cross-buy right now is Ratchet & Clank: Full Frontal Assault, so now we know that a Vita version of that game is on the way as well.
But moving on, the third game of the “Vita Six” was Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation. Revealed at E3, this game has been pushed heavily by Sony is a major reason to own a Vita. From the new gameplay shown, Sony revealed that blow darts will be a new weapon in the game to take out enemies from a distance. The new female protagonist will have access to all the platforming abilities we’ve come to expect from the AC franchise. Plus, there was a lot of other features confirmed for AC III: Liberation.
For example, the Vita’s touchscreen will be used to mark enemies in a manner similar to the Mark and Execute mechanic first introduced in Splinter Cell: Conviction. Another segment that takes advantage of the Vita’s unique capabilities is canoeing. The protagonist is shown canoeing down a stream toward a waterfall, and the player has to use the touchpad to row.
In this gameplay demo we also saw other mechanics and elements that will be in the game. From alligator wrestling (or riding?) to swimming, there will be a lot to do in Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation. A giant cutlass has been confirmed as a weapon, as well as an Indiana Jones-style whip. Plus, familiar mechanics from the other Assassin’s Creed games will be returning, such as pulling down posters to lower your wanted level. Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation is shaping up to be an excellent entry in the series, and we’ll be able to find out if it succeeds when it releases on October 30th alongside Assassin’s Creed III.
The fourth game of the “Vita Six” is Call of Duty: Black Ops – Declassified. Details have been scarce about this ambitious project, but Gamescom revealed more information. Two multiplayer game modes have been confirmed for the game, which are Team Deathmatch and the popular Kill Confirmed mode that debuted in Modern Warfare 3. The game will feature exclusive maps, and it will also support 4 vs. 4 online multiplayer.
Story-wise, the game will take place between Black Ops and Black Ops II. The main character of the game is still a mystery, but it is very possible that it will be the Mason from the original Black Ops. The single-player campaign will be optimized to take advantage of the unique capabilities of the Vita, such as the touchscreen and other features, and this will be used for gadgets and solving puzzles in the game.
While a solid release date wasn’t pinned down, the game will indeed be available in November, as I predicted. There will even be a special bundle for the game, which is something else I predicated as well! The game will be bundled with the Wi-Fi version of the Vita and and it will come with a limited edition version of the Vita, plus as Black Ops themed carrying case.
The previous four games will all be out by the end of 2012. But wait!–there’s more! The other two of the “Vita Six” are third-party offerings from Electronic Arts. One is Need for Speed: Most Wanted, the Need for Speed reboot from Criterion, the critically acclaimed developers behind the Burnout franchise. The other game is FIFA 13.
If that wasn’t enough, Sony also revealed the date that PSOne Classics will be playable on the Vita. If you’re looking to play classic RPGs like Final Fantasy VII or original platforming adventures such as Tomb Raider, then you won’t have to wait long. August 28th is the date that PSOne Classics will finally be made available on the PlayStation Vita.
Media Molecule debuts new IP — Killzone returns
Media Molecule are the masterminds behind the console LittleBigPlanet games. The original LittleBigPlanet was a massive success, and then they created LittleBigPlanet 2, which was also an incredibly successful title. Over 7 million levels have been created for the games since they released on the PlayStation 3, and their popularity shows no signs of slowing down. While they’re helping with the development of LittleBigPlanet Karting, Media Molecule has also been at work on a brand new IP exclusively for the PS Vita, and it is simply brimming with charm.
The game in question is called Tear Away. The game takes place in a world made entirely out of paper, and looks like a classic adventure/platforming game from the days of Super Mario 64 or something like it. The visual style of paper being the entirely world is ungodly charming and cool. The main character, named Iota, is also very neat looking, and is a part of the visual charm that made Tear Away one of the best new IP I saw at Gamescom.
Of course, Tear Away is also taking advantage of the unique capabilities of the PS Vita. The touchpad was used in the gameplay demo to bounce these drums that Iota was standing on, which in turn launched him to higher ground. The gimmick of the game is that you, the player, are a character — you are essentially “god”, and it’s your duty to help Iota in his quest because he has a message he needs to deliver to you, and he needs to escape this paper world and come out into the real world! This concept is awesome, and there was another example of the player being “god” shown. A large group of enemies swarmed Iota, but by using the touchpad, players are able to poke through fingers into the game work and defeat the enemies. It was nifty.
But before Sony switched the focus away from the Vita, a live-action trailer was shown. The trailer featured military and science-fiction elements, and turned out to be the announcement of the first Vita entry in the Killzone franchise, known as Killzone: Mercenary. Not much is known about the game, except that it is a first-person shooter like the console versions and not in third-person like the PSP game Killzone: Liberation. Don’t expect to hear much more about this game until next E3.
PlayStation Mobile – Assassin’s Creed III is better on PS3
Sony then switched the focus of the show from the Vita to a new functionality known as PlayStation Mobile. This feature will be used on a variety of devices, including the PS3, the Vita, and various phones and tablet devices. PlayStation Mobile is essentially an app store for PlayStation content. Sony has secured exclusivity rights to major apps from popular app developers for the Vita specifically, so fans of iOS and Android style games should have fun with the bite-sized wonders of PlayStation Mobile, which seems to be replacing PlayStation Minis.
In other non-Vita news, Sony confirmed the reports that Assassin’s Creed III on the PlayStation 3 will have exclusive content. There will be exclusive DLC for the PS3 version of the game that will be available when the game launches. This DLC will include four missions that will not be available on the Xbox 360 version, providing over an hour of exclusive content.
Cross-buy was touched upon a bit earlier, but Sony also reiterated the ability to use the PlayStation Vita as a controller for some PS3 games. This will be a functionality for LittleBigPlanet 2 when new DLC releases for the game later this year. However, the Vita will be able to function as much more than just a controller for LBP 2.
The new levels will require a Vita to play, and the levels feature plenty of gimmicks related to the Vita’s hardware. There was a map of the level displayed on the Vita screen as the person controlled Sackboy on the television screen, allowing them to see secrets and dangerous areas that were invisible to the naked eye on the television screen. The Vita is also used for numerous other puzzles, such as pushing objects forward to block lasers, pushing buttons on the touchscreen, and moving the Vita around with the motion controls to scan the level for clues to solving puzzles.
All of these features were immensely impressive, and it looks like Sony will be able to provide a lot of the same functionality of the Wii U with the Vita/PS3 combo. Toward the end of the demo level, there was also a hole that Sackboy could jump down in with a Vita symbol on the wall next to it. When Sackboy jumped into the hole, he left the television screen and popped up on the Vita screen! This tech was very impressive, as I’ve said, and rivals a lot of what we’ve seen from the Wii U. Furthermore, the addition of the Vita will allow up to five players play LittleBigPlanet together on one console instead of only four.
Speaking of cross functionality between the PS3 and Vita, the Vita will soon be receiving its own version of PlayStation Plus. Of course, if you already have PlayStation Plus on your PS3 or PSP, you won’t have to purchase another subscription for the Vita. Sony finished off their PlayStation Plus talk by announcing Red Dead Redemption as a free game for PlayStation Plus subscribers in September. It was confirmed that PlayStation Plus will launch on Vita later this year, but an exact release date was not given at Gamescom.
Sony was criticized at E3 2012 for spending too much time on Wonderbook when they should’ve spent more time on the Vita. I think that Wonderbook was done much better at Gamescom because it didn’t take up a huge chunk of time, and there was actually cool content shown off for Sony’s latest peripheral.
Firstly, Book of Spells was shown. Book of Spells was revealed at E3, and it is a major game for Wonderbook considering it contains brand new content from J.K. Rowling. Harry Potter fanatics will definitely love Book of Spells, but the more I see it, the less I am impressed by it. After seeing the cool Vita and PS3 cross-functionality, Book of Spells and Wonderbook came across as supremely underwhelming.
However, the next Wonderbook game that was shown off was a lot more impressive. That game was called Diggs: Nightcrawler. Briefly mentioned at E3, this game is being developed by a studio that has experience making interactive books for iOS devices and other systems. The game itself had very good graphics and sports an interesting premise. Classic fairy tales are combined with crime noir to result in a really unique charm and look. In the trailer, it showed the child playing the game moving the Wonderbook and being able to see the game world from a different perspective. Diggs is looking to provide a fun, more sophisticated Wonderbook experience.
The final game announced for Wonderbook is based off BBC’s Walking with Dinosaurs. It seemed to be a largely educational game, with information about dinosaurs popping up all over the screen. The person playing the game in the trailer was able to choose a dig site from a holographic world map, and then dig for dinosaur bones by swinging the PlayStation Move controller like a hammer. He was also able to interact with the dinosaurs in other ways, such as feeding them grass by holding the Move controller in the direction of the dinosaurs.
Walking with Dinosaurs may not be a compelling video game in the end, but as a learning tool, it just might succeed. These three Wonderbook games are pushing the early stages of Sony’s new peripheral, but we’ll have to wait and see if Wonderbook takes off.
I like to Move it, Move it
Sony’s other peripheral for the PS3, the Move controller, was also given time at Gamescom that it wasn’t given at E3. Sony used to be hugely behind the Move, but support for the device has waned until now. EA Sports took to the stage to show FIFA 13′s Move capabilities that looked genuinely fun. But then Sony definitely took over and stole Gamescom with my game of the show, and the game that just may convince me to throw down the cash for a PlayStation Move controller.
The game I am talking about is Until Dawn, and it looks awesome. The game is based on the teen horror genre and follows a familiar premise. Seven teens stay at a cabin in the mountains, and are then terrorized and killed off one by one. I wasn’t sure if the enemy in the game is supernatural or a crazed lunatic, but there is a glimpse of a man with a burlap sack on his head like Jason from Friday the 13th Part 2.
The trailer was filled with cool moments that showed how the PlayStation Move will enhanced the horror experience. With cheesy dialogue but genuinely spooky moments shown, Until Dawn could turn out to be the hit that the PlayStation Move needs to put itself ahead of the Kinect. Plus, I love how apparently the different characters can wind up dead throughout the game based on your success, which sounds like a lot of replayability, and a lot like Heavy Rain. I came away impressed, and the live audience at Gamescom also enjoyed the footage. Will it convince to buy a Move? Just maybe.
Sony’s Japan Studio is one of its most celebrated developing teams. Japan Studio has created two classic games for Sony, ICO and Shadow of the Colossus. They’ve been working on The Last Guardian for years now, but Sony has apparently told them to put that game on the backburner while they work on two new games, both apparently to be released through the PlayStation Network on the PS3.
The first game was an atmospheric game called Rain, which Sony stressed was its tentative title. Rain showed a little invisible boy or girl running through the streets in a downpour. When rain touched them, they were visible, as were the monsters chasing them. However, when running around an umbrella or out of the rain, they would become instantly invisible. There was one cool moment in the trailer when the invisible person was invisible and knocked over garbage cans. This game looks incredibly atmospheric and a lot like the content that Japan Studio has traditionally released.
The other game shown off coming from Japan Studio was called Puppeteer. What confused me about the game is that it was introduced by the Japan Studio’s director…who is evidently an English-speaking white guy. At any rate, I was also very impressed with Puppeteer. The game featured a lot of charm and a cool atmosphere. It was about a puppet that steals scissors from some horrifying tiger man, and then wreaked havoc on the theater-based world he inhabits. I’m not sure when the games are coming out, but hopefully they release much sooner than The Last Guardian.
And two more things…
Sony left us with two more things: The Last of Us and Black Ops – Declassified. The Last of Us trailer didn’t really show anything new, except that it reiterated the incredible amount of polish going into the game to make the characters as excellent as possible and the atmosphere as chilling and gritty as any game has ever been able to do.
And before Sony’s press conference at Gamescom ended, we finally got to see the first footage of Black Ops – Declassified. This footage revealed quite a bit. For one, the game is not very graphically impressive, but it retains a lot of popular elements from the Call of Duty universe. The game will feature throwing knives, familiar weaponry, and the fast-paced Call of Duty gameplay we’ve all come to expect.
Sony mentioned earlier that the game will feature brand new maps, which I suppose is true, but the map that made me excited was the confirmation of a returning map from the original Black Ops. The map in question is Nuketown, which I ranked as the #1 Call of Duty multiplayer map of all time in my recent editorial.
Can Black Ops – Declassified give the Vita the extra push it needs to become a must-have handheld device? Or has Sony put its eggs in the wrong basket? One thing’s for sure, after Gamescom 2012, now’s the perfect time to be a Vita owner.
Sony’s press conference was easily the most impressive out of the three. Now there’s only one more Gamescom press conference, and it’s from the folks at Ubisoft and takes place on August 15th. Of course, I will watch the live stream and cover all of the news that comes out of Ubisoft’s press conference. Also look forward to a complete Gamescom recap that will reiterate the major talking points out of the four major press conferences, as well as cover information that wasn’t shown during the press conferences, but rather came out of the show floor. Stay tuned.