E3: Sony's PS4 Console Puts Gamers First
LOS ANGELES — After Microsoft’s press conference at E3 garnered a lukewarm response from gamers, all eyes fell to Sony to “win” the event by default. Sony did more than meet game enthusiasts halfway — it went above and beyond to provide the strongest showing of E3’s first day.
The event began with Sony reaffirming its commitment to the PlayStation 3 console and PlayStation Vita handheld. With anticipated titles like “The Last of Us” bound for the PS3 and the popular “The Walking Dead” series making its way to the Vita, existing Sony users should have enough to tide them over until the PlayStation 4 is released during 2013’s holiday season.
Unlike Microsoft, Sony took some time to discuss the PS4’s media options outside of just games. The console will offer both “Music Unlimited” and “Video Unlimited” services. These will allow users to stream content through their PS4s, Vitas, and Android or iOS devices. “Music Unlimited” costs between $4.99 and $9.99 per month, and “Video Unlimited” offers video rentals and purchases à la carte.
Like the PS3, the PS4 will also give users access to Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Instant Video and a host of other media channels. Sony’s new console will also grant access to pay-per-view programs, such as boxing matches and concerts, for the first time through its “Live Events” feature.
The gaming portion of the show began with “The Order: 1886,” a new title that piqued interest both in the audience and on Twitter almost instantly. The game’s trailer portrayed four nobles in Victorian London with “steampunk” technology (period-appropriate sci-fi weaponry and gadgets, like elaborate zeppelins and primitive grenade launchers). Shadowy monsters have invaded the dangerous Whitechapel district, and players will go up against them as they drink in the dark, atmospheric setting.
Sony’s next preview provided updates on first-person shooter “Killzone: Shadow Fall,” racing simulator “Drive Club,” open-world action game “inFamous: Second Son,” and kids’ action game “Knack.” These four titles debuted at Sony’s PS4 reveal event back in February, and all seem much further along now.
Quantic Dream is best known for its offbeat, cinematic titles like the upcoming “Beyond: Two Souls,” debuted a trailer of its first PS4 game, “The Dark Sorcerer.” Based on the brief trailer, it's hard to tell if the game casts the player as a grim mage, or if it's a parody of well-worn high fantasy tropes. But either way, the lifelike facial features and smooth animation are impressive.
The best news was for small-budget but often brilliant indie games: Sony will allow independent developers to self-publish games for the PS4. This means that they will not have to go through the expensive, cumbersome process of getting Sony to look over their shoulder every step of the way, reducing the time, cost and difficulty of releasing a small, cheap game to consoles. [See also: 10 Great Games You're Missing]
Sony discussed nine indie titles right off the bat, including “Transistor” from Supergiant Games (a follow-up to the massively popular action/role-playing game “Bastion”), “Secret Ponchos” (a spaghetti Western that’s half shooter and half fighting game) and “Outlast” (a minimalist horror game where your agility and wits are your only hope against grotesque monsters). All will release close to the PS4’s launch date.
Sony also took time to discuss games from other major developers, such as “Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag” and “Watch Dogs” from Ubisoft. Square Enix, the Japanese role-playing giant announced both “Final Fantasy XV” and “Kingdom Hearts III:” long-awaited entries in its most popular and beloved series.
By far, Sony’s most popular announcement of the night was that the PS4 will support used games unconditionally, and would not require an online connection or check-ins for single-player content. That's a stark contrast to Microsoft’s restrictive policies for used games on Xbox One.
The final game of the night was “Destiny,” a new creation from former “Halo” developer Bungie. Like “Halo,” Destiny is a first-person shooter with a focus on multiplayer, but the game is hardly a retread. Players take the role of a scavenger on a ruined, future Earth as they collect guns and level up their skills to fight of a race of alien occupiers.
The PS4 will retail for $399 (a cool $100 less than the Xbox One). Retailers like Gamestop and Amazon already have the system available for pre-order, so if the system piques your interest, it’s probably best to put some money down sooner rather than later.