The most exciting part of E3 is now over. Each of the major players has hosted a conference, giving everyone a look at their gaming line-up over the coming months. Here we look at what we saw and rate each of them out of 10. How did Sony perform?
Sony did some things right and other things very, very wrong. We were left with some great looking PS3 exclusives, but where the hell was the PS Vita? If I'll remember one thing from Sony's E3 2012 conference, it was the constant feeling of hope that a Vita exclusive was around the corner, only for next to nothing to materialise.
The good stuff was both new and exciting. Beyond, the highly anticipated game from David Cage, does indeed look great, and the casting of Ellen Page is surely going to pay off when it comes to marketing the game to the masses. God of War Ascension impressed visually, but the area seen in the demo didn't make for the most interesting slice of gameplay - even so, I'm very excited about this more than I probably should be. And The Last of Us, despite looking a lot like a violent Uncharted, was very impressive. I'm not totally hyped for it like a lot of others are, but I can't deny it looks like a quality product.
That lot make for a great looking 2013 for the PS3, but what of this year? The holiday line-up is looking slight when it comes to high-profile first-party titles, with Sly Cooper, PlayStation All-Stars and LittleBigPlanet Karting flying the flag. Not terrible, but hardly Halo 4 and Forza is it?
As far as I'm concerned Sony is getting it all wrong with PS Vita. From their point of view Vita owners are getting some PS3-quality games this year from Sony, but they are just PS3 games. I've got a PS3 to play PS3 games, so don't really care about Sly Cooper and PlayStation All-Stars arriving on the handheld. Assassin's Creed Liberation might be good (although the PSP Assassin's Creed leaves me uncertain), and CoD Black Ops Declassified is coming (although we've only seen its logo), but where are the new games from Sony? I've been quite pro Vita, but seriously, this was the biggest gaming event of the year and Sony didn't announce a single new first-party Vita game that isn't already on PS3.
So, Sony showed off its games well, certainly better than Microsoft did, but those games don't excite me like Microsoft's do. They are also further away, leaving this year's line-up looking rather poor in comparison. And Vita needs something to happen very soon. Still, PS Plus looks more appealing now, and Sony's probably saving its Vita games for GamesCom, I hope.
I always love the Sony E3 conference - and though 2012 was only my second time seeing it in person, it's actually been one of my show highlights for a good few years. As someone fortunate enough to sit in the LA Memorial Arena yesterday, to me it felt like catching up with an old friend who understands me. Though in this instance the old friend is a largely faceless corporation currently suffering from a severe financial quandary. But that's besides the point. The reason I always like Sony's conference is because I can never really tell what the publisher is thinking.
This year the publisher caused a stir with a brutal demonstration of The Last of Us, which received the loudest (but that may have been because of sheer number of attendees rather than genuine hypexcitement) American whoopy cheer of the show so far, gave everyone a sort of lukewarm reaction to PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale and God of War: Ascension, and left everyone feeling a little perplexed over what exactly David Cage's latest movie-with-button-prompts Beyond actually was.
Let's be honest: from a conventional wisdom standpoint, you could park a Metal Gear in the gaps in this line-up. Is Sony's biggest multiplayer offering at E3 this year really God of War: Ascension? Is there really no racing game? And I couldn't believe Sony wasn't working on at least one first-person shooter - doesn't the games industry have rules to prevent all this, or something? You just need a quick glance at Microsoft's proficient but creatively static line-up to see how different the two first-party publishers currently are. And the less said about the Nintendo conference the better.
Or compare and contrast Sony's creative and unpredictable line-up with that of EA. In my opinion, EA is still pound-for-pound the best games publisher in the world, and their product line-up was as expertly selected as it was slightly wearying. You've got three first-person shooters, two set in modern times (check check) the other in the future (check), a third-person action game, three different sports games (check check check), an arcade racer (check), a social Facebook strategy game (cha-ching) and its big brother PC counterpart (check?).
With the exception of God of War: Ascension and All-Stars, there's an unpredictable sense of creative bravery to Sony's output. Consider the way it's aiming to keep the monsters in the periphery of show-stopper title The Last of Us, where most publishers would try and ram the nasties into our faces at earliest opportunity: even 2K has commissioned a series of videos to highlight the enemies of BioShock Infinite, for instance.
While we're on the subject of 2K, I did laugh when Sony presented the iconic Big Daddy alongside Nathan Drake as the new combatants in All-Stars. Really, Sony? You think the Big Daddy represents the PlayStation? Let's not forget that BioShock was ported to PS3 a long time after its 360 and PC debut - or is that the kind of PlayStation reality Sony's looking to remind us about? I'd have just chosen Cloud or Solid Snake.
As for Beyond, well, I'm not really sure what to think - but I kind of get the impression that's the point? And, even though I can't quite work out where in Beyond you're supposed to press any buttons, that's all quite refreshing from an industry that goes to great lengths to reduce everything into known (read: marketable) quantities. Even Wonderbook, which looks decidedly wonky, looks like it's been grown from a fundamentally interesting concept.
A bold and unpredictable line-up, then, though it must be said the Vita looks like it's really struggling - its only ray of hope coming from an Assassin's Creed spin-off, the still-unknown Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified (awful title, by the way) and the promise of cross-play between All-Stars Battle Royale. You'll excuse me if I'm not exactly brimming with confidence.
Even Sony's jumped ship on Vita, it seems. Where were the games? Why wasn't Call of Duty shown running? And does anybody care about a handheld port of wonky-looking Smash Bros. rip-off PlayStation All-Stars? Certainly not me.
But while my Vita remains sitting in my bedside drawer slowly running out of juice, things are looking slightly more upbeat for PS3. When it comes to current-gen HD consoles, Sony clearly has the better first-party line-up than Microsoft. God of War: Ascension seemed like typical God of War fare, but hey, there's nothing particularly wrong with that. The Last of Us, too, and its distressingly violent hobo-beating looks like it could be a highlight of the entire generation.
Beyond: Two Souls, however, left me perplexed. My attention was drawn to it simply for being a David Cage title, and its movie-inspired marketing and performance from Ellen Page certainly makes it one of the most interesting 'games' I've ever seen in production. But Sony chose an obscure way of revealing it. Why announce your Hollywood talent via a scene in which she plays a shaven-haired mute? And where's the actual 'game' behind it? It strikes me as the kind of game that Cage has always wanted to make, with top-tier Hollywood talent and blockbuster values, but I sincerely hope he doesn't lose focus of the medium he's actually dealing in.
Given the hype behind it, the PlayStation Plus deal, however, seemed somewhat an anti-climax. You can't snub the gesture of free games, of course, but after the rumours of streaming PS1 & 2 games, I walked away fairly disappointed. I think we'd all rather have a library of PS2 classics at our disposal than a free copy of Space Marine. And talking of streaming, what ever happened to that widely-reported Sony/Gaikai deal? It just goes to show that you shouldn't believe everything you read in the papers. Or, er, games websites.
Sony's biggest hit, however, could be the one that bored us all to tears. If it markets Wonderbook correctly Sony could have already won the battle for holiday superiority.