It was a late start for Sony today - one wag on Twitter suggested they were perhaps downloading and installing a conferencing update. On top of that, their live streaming was a bit laggy. But listen to this, gamers – by the time you've taken in all they had to offer, you're going to want a PS4.
Wow, eh? But let's not get ahead of ourselves here. Should we even just be talking about the PS4? Microsoft made a point of talking about the 360's remaining development cycle. Surely the PS3 should get the same treatment? And what of the Vita? Well, read on...
SCEA President and CEO. Jack Tretton, had a lot to smile about. And smile he did as, just like Microsoft, he allowed the older generation of machines their moment in the sun before bringing out his big PS4 guns. The Vita – hardly really 'last gen' seeing as it's only about a year old – is getting a new episode of the Walking Dead coming to, along with exclusive bonus content. It's a solid choice of title to keep the hardware going due to its rampant popularity, but the Sony Vita love doesn't end there. The Vita is going to be a companion device for the PS4, with software crossing between the platforms. No doubt we'll be hearing more in depth on this soon.
But on to the games. A huge montage of fine games from throughout the years appeared on the gigantic monitors in the auditorium, and there, in pride of place, was James Pond II: Robocod. So awesome. Whoever put that image together deserves a pat on the back for his respect for the old school classics. As for games releasing in the near future, we saw a little more of The Last of Us, coming of course to the PS3 soon, and the pretty and imaginative Rain, which will release this Autumn. Beyond: Two Souls seems to be shaping up nicely, with a great-looking action and a solid story on which to hang the game. Gran Turismo 6 has a new physics engine, and even new tyre and suspension models. The new graphics engine makes everything look damn pretty for what we're going to inevitably start calling last-gen tech, but that's what you get with GT – beautiful graphics. Jack Tretton certainly seemed to like it, still grinning away, bless him.
And here it is! The new Batman game we're all waiting for. Arkham Origins. The villainous Black Mask has posted a 50 million dollar bounty on Batman's pointy-eared head, so everyone's gunning for him even more than usual. Some of the detective mode and fighting stuff from the previous games is back, of course. Oh, and so is the Joker, naturally. Arkham Origins will hit the PS3 on the 25th of October this year. Playstation 4 fans will have access to the classic 1960s Batman TV show character skin, and I'm not ashamed to say it gave me nerd-wood.
Everybody already knows that GTA V will be out on the PS3 as well, and that sort of rounded up the final basket of goodies for the old faithful. So long, PS3! We loved you! But now, on to the PS4.
And just look at the beast! It is a pretty nice design - like the kind of games consoles the bad guys in Dishonoured might have. It also looks a little slanted, A bit shiny, a bit matt... and there are perhaps a few similarities with the new Xbox One. If you get both, make sure to stick labels on them to tell them apart.
Sony Entertainment Network is the non-gaming side of it all. Music Unlimited and Video Unlimited will offer all manner of clever streaming tools from Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Flixster and so on. It seems that they've really cashed in on the fact that, well, you know – they're Sony. And they can do this sort of thing, and partner with pretty much whoever they like.
But let's get on with the games! Of the 20 games Sony Worldwide Studios are putting out in the first year of the PS4's life, 12 are new IPs. That's a healthy proportion of new ideas coming to the PS4 in the near future, and it's an exciting example of what Sony are aiming to do.
The successful developers over at Ready at Dawn studios are the first to debut a new game, named The Order – 1886. Set in a reimagined Victorian London, it has a strong visual aesthetic vaguely reminiscent of Dishonored (I wonder if they all have PS4s?). Cool weapons, vaguely-discernable enemies, and a steampunk feel round out the rest of the trailer, which doesn't have any gameplay footage but gives you a pretty good idea of what to expect.
Next, it's a couple of updates for titles we already knew were in development. The first couple of short trailers were a bit lukewarm, to be honest. Killzone: Shadow Fall, it must be said, is looking like a pretty straight up and down shooter, and the Driveclub demo shows you pretty much nothing beyond - guess what? It's a driving game. Both will be released with the PS4 launch.
inFAMOUS: Second Son is a tale about brotherly rivalry set in a futuristic Seattle. The polish that we're coming to expect from the next-gen is visible. And for a game about edgy characters changing the world in Seattle, you'd really rather expect a Nirvana soundtrack, wouldn't you? Infamous will release in Q1 2014.
Next, Knack looks like a relatively straightforward 3D platformer, if you discount the giant monsters. Actually, most 3D platformers have those too, these days. Once again, it'll release with the PS4.
Supergiant Games, who brought you the huge hit Bastion, have a new game out for the PS4, named Transistor. It comes out early next year. It appears to be an isometric and sometimes 2D platformer that's big on creative style. It's all up at E3 this year too, so no doubt we'll hear more about it tomorrow. Sony aren't hogging all the action, though – Indie developers will be able to self-publish content for PS4 as well. Sony's new thing is to be the most open and welcoming console. I'm feeling all fuzzy! But in all seriousness, they really do seem to mean it this time, as you'll see later.
There are some other indie titles appearing, a goodly number of which found happy homes on the PC. Clay Entertainment are bringing Don't Starve to the PS4, Young Horses will port Octodad over as well. And Switchblade Monkeys have Secret Ponchos. I know, that's just a brilliantly strange-sounding sentence, isn't it?
Square Enix, though. I mean, wow. They stole the show for me game-wise, with Final Fantasy. Now the naming's all got a bit confusing: What used to be Final Fantasy Versus XIII has been renamed Final Fantasy XV. And it looks amazing. Really incredible. Now that is how you showcase a game, my friends. The main character is so lifelike, it's hard to wrap your head around. It's about as big a jump from the last gen as I've seen so far.
Square Enix also showed us Kingdom Hearts II, the weird Janese-Disneyland mashup that shouldn't work but does. While not the quantum leap that we saw in FFXV, it's still a pretty enough looking platformer.
Now let's all have a look at Assassin's Creed: Black Flag again, shall we? Aveline, from Assassin's Creed III: Liveration on the Vita, is now a playable character in Black Flag on the PS4. The actual gameplay footage we saw was the usual incredible, inspiring stuff we've come to expect from Black Flag, and AC games in general, really. Set in the year 1717, the action takes place on land and at sea, stealthily and in an action sequence, and it all blends together flawlessly. This is one anyone who's ever worn a tricorner hat is going to want to pick up, for sure.
Next, Jonathan Morin trots out on the stage. Who? Well, he's only the Creative Director for Watch Dogs, and therefore one of the most important people in gaming at the moment. It looks like he's going to tell us how to define next gen at first, but no – actually, he's just going to tell us that there are countless ways to define it. Which is the same as not actually saying anything, really. But who cares? All we're really interested in is game footage. The Chicago PD are closing in on our hero, but he's not sweating it – he's cruising the streets in a fancy sedan. The radio chatter is reminiscent of GTA's cops, however there seems to be more of a stealth-driving approach. Hiding his car in a disused lot, he creeps out through a coffee shop. The trailer is filled with the usual wonderful tech-wizadry that is making this still, a year after it was first announced, one of the most eagerly anticipated upcoming titles. And the PS4 gets an additional hour of exclusive gameplay and extra togs for the protagonist Aiden Pearce.
On to sports, and while the name NBA2K14 looks like a really secure password, the game itself looks pretty tight. Is it better-looking than NBA Live 14? Well, you'll have to look at them yourself and decide. It's a tough call.
Bethesda's Elder Scrolls Online is coming to the PS4, too, in Spring 2014. The PS4 is getting the exclusive beta for Elder Scrolls online! That's going to ruffle some feathers in the PC camp, no doubt, but it's just another part of the red carpet treatment it's beginning to feel like Sony are giving their fans.
Next, it's a world premier of a new Mad Max game. The demo doesn't really give a lot away, but it does suggest a certain sense of humour. None of it is in-game footage, so we're not really sure what to actually expect from the game itself.
The last game we got to see was Destiny from Bungie and Activision. While the rusty, abandoned future-Earth of the game looks prettier at a distance than it does up-close, it does look amazing at long distance. The lighting is fabulous, the level design looks incredibly complicated, and the Fallen, the inevitable bad guys, look like some kind of instectoid supervillains, complete with capes. It all feels like it's been influenced slightly by Warhammer 40,000. At the end of the trailer, far off, in the distance, some masonry crumbles in an epic manner, thus proving once and for all that it's a next-gen title. It's out some time in 2014.
There are over 140 titles in development for the PS4, and more than 100 will have a release date in the first 12 months. And the Playstation 4 supports used games! It shouldn't be a big announcement, but it is. The audience went wild at this announcement. It's good to see the businessmen and the gamers seeing eye-to-eye. This is a popular move - let's hope it lasts. PS4 CD-based games don't need an internet connection to play single-player. It's a pretty open policy, like they claimed earlier. Good on them. PS4 is serious about cloud-based gaming as well, unsurprisingly. The cloud gaming service will provide PS3, PS4 and Vita fans with a huge catalogue of PS3 games that are streamed from the cloud.
And last, but not least, the all-important number: $399.00 for the PS4 in the USA, and 399.00 Euros or 349.00 GBP in the Olde Worlde. Which, as I'm sure you've already noticed, is a lot less than Microsoft want for their console.
The first round has well and truly gone to Sony in this battle. What a great show!