Sony kicked of its 2011 presentation with yet another apology to PSN members and third parties for the recent down time. However, it wasn’t long before Sony Computer Entertainment of America President Jack Tretton got down to the business of spruiking new hardware and software.
Six months after unveiling its ambitious PSP successor, Sony has settled on a final name for the product. Provisionally known as the Next Generation Portable (NGP), the new unit will launch as the PlayStation Vita (PSVita). Though there has been no word as yet on an Australian release date, Sony has indicated that it will be released in some territories towards the end of the year. Aside from the change in branding, the device looks identical to its earlier incarnation. With its powerful graphics processor, twin thumb sticks, front and rear touch pads and multiple motion sensors and cameras, the PSVita appears to offer something for everyone.
Sony’s San Diego Studios is collaborating with Idol Minds on arguably the most intriguing project announced to date for the handheld. Ruin (working title) is a colourful fantasy dungeon crawler in the Diablo mould and, at first glance, it doesn’t appear to offer much in the way of innovation. However, the game does boast one rather interesting feature. Players will be able to save their progress to the cloud and transfer the action to their home consoles. Ruin will apparently look, feel and play identically on both the PSVita and PS3. If this title is a success, we’ll no doubt see this form of seamless cross platform connectivity become commonplace in the years to come.
Throughout the PSP era, Sony has been criticised for bringing games best suited to a traditional controller to the handheld space. Now that it has a portable with even more control options than the Dual Shock 3, it certainly isn’t about to back away from this strategy. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the announcement of a new Irrational Games developed BioShock title for the PSVita. If it is anything like its FPS predecessors, the new game will benefit enormously from the presence of two thumbsticks and high resolution graphics. While few details were offered about the game (none actually), its pedigree marks it as one to watch.
Sony has revealed that Capcom’s previously announced fighting mash-up Street Fighter X Tekken will also be coming to the device. Furthermore, fan favourite inFAMOUS protagonist Cole MacGrath will be an exclusive addition to the PSVita version. Convention goers have also been afforded a brief glimpse of an Uncharted: Golden Abyss demo. The first handheld version of the popular action adventure franchise will incorporate touch pad and motion control options. Resistance: Retribution developer Sony Bend has been entrusted with this visually impressive project.
While few would bet on any of the above titles being available on day one, Sony has told players to expect a healthy range of software for the debut of the console. Sequels and spinoffs dominate the list of confirmed offerings, with new editions of Hot Shots Golf, Hustle Kings, ModNation Racers, Super Stardust and Wipeout all expected at launch. While the final line-up is yet to be confirmed, AR Reality Fighter will join music based platformer Sound Shapes in flying the flag for original IP.
Though the official unveiling of the PSVita was largely successful, the announcement that Sony would be partnering exclusively with AT&T for the 3G version of the system in the United States drew groans from the audience.
One of the more interesting announcements of the press conference involved a game that has already been in development for the best part of two years. Hilmar Pétursson, of Icelandic developer CCP, appeared on stage to confirm that first person shooter Dust 514 will be a PS3 exclusive. The sci-fi game will offer an impressive degree of connectivity with CCP’s cult hit MMO Eve Online. Dust 514 players will embark on ground missions that may have serious repercussions for players in the space faring PC game. Pétursson has also suggested that CCP will look at “extending the experience” to the PSVita, however the form that this will take remains unclear.
At last year’s event, Sony focused heavily on the emerging phenomenon of 3D gaming and this year has been no different. The platform holder has unveiled a PlayStation branded television and associated active glasses. Interestingly, two players facing the same screen will be able to perceive two separate and unique images, an innovation that could well have positive implications for cooperative and adversarial multiplayer.
The next twelve months looks reasonably promising for 3D enthusiasts, with a range of high profile software set to hit the market. After drawing rave reviews on the PSP, Ready at Dawn’s God of War titles Chains of Olympus and Ghost of Sparta are being polished and bundled in a single package for the PS3. God of War: Origins will be the first game in the franchise to boast 3D support. Team ICO’s acclaimed PS2 adventures Ico and Shadow of the Colossus will receive the same treatment. Both collections will arrive on store shelves in September. In terms of original 3D content, gamers can look forward to cheeky platformer Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time arriving in 2012, while Naughty Dog’s much hyped action adventure Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception will hit stores this November. The latter, was the subject of a demo set on a stricken ocean liner and it looks to be shaping up nicely.
PlayStation Move also received its share of attention, with games such as DanceStar Party and Carnival Island in the works and compatibility patches on the way for existing titles inFAMOUS 2 and LittleBigPlanet 2.
Sony has confirmed that several games will simultaneously support both 3D and Move, including alien invasion sequel Resistance 3 (due in September) and steampunk drama BioShock Infinite (2012). Sports Champions developer Zindagi Games is working on another. Notwithstanding its title, Medieval Moves: Dedmund’s Quest is an original IP. With its lively mix of archery, swordplay and puzzle solving, this fantasy romp promises to offer greater freedom of movement than players have come to expect from motion titles. Look for it in October.
The platform holder also took the opportunity to remind players about forthcoming PS3 exclusives Twisted Metal and Starhawk. The former is due in October, the latter in 2012. Players would be forgiven for wondering whether these will be the last games to emerge from Sony with neither 3D nor Move logos featured prominently on the box.
Can’t wait to get your hands on a PSVita? Annoyed that you’ll be receiving repackaged PSP titles instead of God of War 4? Let us know what you think of Sony’s announcements at this year’s show.