Sony’s Gamescom conference win: everything you need to know
Ever intrepid, I have just this moment returned from Sony’s Cologne media preview – filled with bartenders who refused to serve me drinks and an extremely intimidating lady-voice over the Tannoy – and shall now distil that action-packed (or ‘people taking pictures on their iPads-packed’) ninety-minutes into a fistful of information that you must know. In an order no more particular than when they pop into my head, here are the five highlights of what Sony had up its sleeve.
Sony are focusing on PS Vita
It’s clear that Sony want to restore faith in its handheld. The PS Vita is a quality piece of kit, and the launch line-up was solid, but since then things have been quieter than watching a silent movie in a vacuum. Particularly worrying for consumers was the absence of focus that the handheld received at E3, where we were given little more than logos for Assassin’s Creed 3: Liberation and Call Of Duty: Black Ops: Declassified – and even the latter of those had been announced a year previously.
Not so here, with almost half the show focusing on the handheld and why owners should be happy and non-owners should take the plunge. We saw a gameplay trailer for Liberation – all haystack jumping and touchscreen killing – as well as longer looks at LittleBigPlanet PS Vita (due out September 21st) and PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royal. We also saw Black Ops: Declassified in action, but more on that later.
What really excited though was a pair of new IPs. One was Killzone: Mercenary, for which there was a live-action trailer and a brief glimpse of gameplay. It’s been built for Vita so touchscreen controls are prominent – swiping to do melee kills and suchlike – and gameplay looks more bitesize, featuring missions in which you have to track down targets for money.
But the highlight of the entire conference was the new game from LittleBigPlanet creator Media Molecule. Known as Tearaway, this looks like it has the potential to be the bespoke piece of brilliance that Vita is in need of. Although the words “inspired by paper” sound about as exciting as an evening spent watching a Bette Midler retrospective, this is Media Molecule at its creative best.
A paper character, Iota, has a message for you, but he’s trapped inside the Vita’s paper world, and you have to get him out. An adventure game and buddy movie starring you and your pulp chum, it’s full of the studio’s signature charm as well as innovative control schemes. The paper landscape can be shifted, folded, and collapsed with a flick of the screen. Paper bad guys can be scared away by poking your fingers into the game world via the rear touchpad. You can even scare the game’s paper inhabitants by screaming at your machine (and looking like a mad person who carries stray cats around in a plastic bag as you do it). The message here is clear : the PS Vita is far from dead, and some of Sony’s most talented developers are going to show the world why.
In with the new
But Vita didn’t hog all the new announcements – Sony announced no fewer than five new IPs, appealing to everyone from pretentious, beard-stroking Journey lovers (like myself) to teen horror fans with shelves full of Twilight rip-offs. The first one shown was Until Dawn – which falls firmly into the latter character, but managed to look surprisingly compelling and appealing different nonetheless. Very much falling into the popular B-horror genre – think I Know What You Did Last Summer and, more recently, Cabin In The Woods – it features seven playable characters and is only for use with Move.
It’s schlocky, but the key thing is that it knows it is: the dialogue is cheesy, the cast is beautiful and it’s clichéd up the wazoo, but not in a way that’s off-putting. You’ll use your Move as a flashlight, a gun, a shovel, to solve puzzles, even (sound the bugles) to try and get your sexytime on. Cynicism be damned (and heaven knows I’m full of it) – this looks like it could be good, foolish fun.
And now (*puts on reading glasses, gently swills brandy snifter) for the more arty side of things. The first of two new games from Japan Studios, Rain looks like the next step in the Flower, Journey, Unfinished Swan path that Sony is boldly treading. The trailer was in equal parts beautiful and mysterious, but what we know is this: you play an invisible boy who can only be seen via splashes of rain – either those that land on him, producing an outline, or those caused by his movements. You’re on the case of a similarly ethereal girl, and will have to traverse platforms and cobbled streets to get to her. It’s coming to PSN – although the game seems very much at the concept stage, so we’d guess not for a while – and really is gorgeous.
Finally, there’s Puppeteer which, frankly, looks madder than a tombola full of weasels. Gavin Moore, the game director, said he came up with it from “the need to reawaken my own son’s imagination”. Personally if I was shown this at a young age I’d probably be gently rocking in the corner of a sanitarium by now, but that’s by the by. It has a ‘craft’-style visual that recalls both LBP and Stacking, and stars a hero without a head – or at least, an interchangeable head. Having stolen the magic scissors of the land’s evil king in order to get back your soul, you then have to use them across a series of platforming levels, tackling all sorts of inventive and hodgepodge beasties along the way. Wacky, weird, but definitely one to watch.