Friday 18 May 2007
This week, Sony Computer Entertainment of America flew a small army of journalists down to its headquarters in San Diego for its Gamer's Day, a pre-E3 sneak peek at games set to arrive on its PlayStation 3, PlayStation 2 and PSP platforms. Featuring dozens of games from Sony and third-party publishers, several of which were unveiled and/or made playable for the first time, the event was a staggering look at a swarm of top-tier titles due out over the next year.
In fact, due to the sheer volume of titles at the event and our short deadline, what follows is only a partial rundown of what was on display, which we'll be updating periodically over the next few days. Be sure to check back soon, as we'll be adding to this list with more games and links to full previews as they're available.
LittleBigPlanet | TBA | Summary | Preview | Screens | Trailer
We don't know what's more surprising: that we've been able to play this adorable marvel so soon after its thunderous debut at the Game Developers Conference in March, or that it was every bit as cool and fun as it looked. Sadly, we didn't get a chance to try out its wealth of customization options, but we did get a crack at its ubercute, four-player, platform-hopping ragdoll gameplay. Granted, hopping around on platforms is nothing new, but what makes LittleBigPlanet especially cool is that you can literally tear the environments apart by grabbing hold of the scenery and tugging away, which sometimes gives you an advantage and sometimes ruins things for everyone else. It's also easy to wave to the camera or slap other players, although you'll be able to perform different actions depending on your ragdoll's facial expression, which you can control using the d-pad. "Slap" at another player while you're happy and they're sad, and you'll give them a hug instead. Awww.
PAIN | TBA | Summary | Screens | Trailer
This is a long-overdue game, mainly because it should have made the second so-called "ragdoll physics" were invented. The concept of Pain is simple: as a complete idiot with no sense of self-preservation, it's your job to launch yourself out of a giant damn ballista and destroy as many things as possible, including yourself. Points are awarded depending on how many things you can smash your body into, and if you can start a chain reaction by slamming feet-first into explosives or grabbing and hurling bystanders into the mostly wreckable environment. Extra points if you get run over by cars, especially if those cars then flip over and go flying into buildings. The dynamic environment, ability to change your pose mid-flight and a bunch of competitive game modes should keep this from getting stale. And if Sony can just make each impact more of a sickening crunch and less of a cartoonish bounce, it should be awesome.
The Eye of Judgment | Fall | Summary | Screens
The rules of this collectible-card game take forever to explain, but all you really need to know is that the PlayStation Eye camera will turn your special, store-bought cards (the game comes with around 45 to start with, but after that you'll have to buy them) into monsters onscreen. These monsters will then attack each other across a nine-square grid, and you win the game when your cards occupy five spaces on the grid. Interestingly, each card only attacks in certain directions, and its orientation when you slap it down on the board actually determines which enemies it'll be able to fight. You'll also need to worry about picking a square with terrain that's friendly to your monster. Intense wow-factor aside, the card-battle system's been designed by the brains at Hasbro, so fans of Yu-Gi-Oh! and Magic: The Gathering should love it.
Uncharted: Drake's Fortune | Winter | Summary | Preview | Screens | Trailer
A brilliant-looking adventure from the minds behind Jak & Daxter. Heavily inspired by 1930s pulp fiction, it stars Nathan Drake, who's basically what Lara Croft would be if she were a dude wearing a perpetual expression of naked terror. Also, lots and lots of pirates get shot in a lush, ruin-filled jungle setting. Check out the preview for the full hands-on details.
SOCOM: Confrontation | November | Summary | Preview | Screens
So far, the only things we know about this are that it'll focus heavily on multiplayer, with tons of options for customizing your commandos and clans, and that it looks amazing. Check the preview for more details.
Folklore | TBA | Summary | Screens
A beautiful, deeply engrossing action-RPG from the makers of the Genji games, Folklore features two heroes - a journalist named Keats and a young girl named Ellen - who venture into the lands of the dead to fight monsters. It's a lot less morbid than it sounds, though; the netherworlds we explored included a "Faery Realm" and a warrior's paradise called Warcadia, both of which were populated by weird-but-friendly elf-looking creatures. The actual game revolves around capturing the souls of defeated monsters, which you can then assign to buttons and use as attacks. Capturing these souls can be an ordeal, and it frequently takes some serious Sixaxis shaking to reel in the big ones (the rest are captured with a simple tug). Expect a full preview of this one real soon.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix | Fall | Summary | Preview | Screens
Finally, fans of the Boy Who Lived will be able to freely explore his school in all its ridiculously detailed glory. Even when you're just wandering, you'll need to bust out the wand to repair random objects scattered around the school to gain experience; luckily, spells can be performed either with twitches of an analog stick or by just jerking the Sixaxis controller around. The characters' staring, unblinking eyes kind of sketched us out a little, but other than that this looks fantastic.
Heavenly Sword | TBA | Summary | Preview | Screens | Trailer
This God of War-esque fighter promises to eventually feature epic battles against thousands of opponents, but so far all we've seen are intimate arena fights, and the new demo we played was no exception. More or less the same sequence you might have caught a glimpse of on the TV show Heroes, the new level introduced us to one of heroine Nuriko's weirdo friends, hurled us into a quicktime sequence where we ran along giant cables as they were cut one by one, and then made us fight a bunch of guys in an enclosed space. This was followed by a bunch of guys getting crushed by a giant pillar, after which we fought more guys in an enclosed space. Still, the beautiful, flowing animation and rapid switching between three distinct fighting styles (more if you pick up someone else's weapon) kept us riveted throughout the carnage.
Home | Fall | Summary | Preview | Screens | Trailer
This 3D social network was a little more sedate and boring than we expected it to be, but to be fair, it's still far from finished. And it looks great, with crisply detailed avatars that are fully and instantly customizable, from their genders and clothing to the 3D crow's feet on their faces. Interacting with fellow Home users is as easy as typing messages (with a real keyboard or an onscreen one), although you'll be able to use a USB headset if you'd rather just talk, and each character comes with a fairly broad set of actions, all of which are easy to activate and most of which revolve around dancing. There's also plenty of game-within-game goodness scattered around, with players able to wander around and jump into bowling or pool matches with others. It's got tons of potential, anyway.
Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction | TBA | Summary | Preview | Screens | Trailer
From what we've seen, this PS3 sequel seems to play a lot like the original Ratchet & Clank games with a coat of next-gen gloss - and that's far from being a bad thing. Ratchet & Clank Future is visually stunning, and it's filled with cool moments like a boss battle that ping-pongs between upside-down and rightside-up perspectives, thanks to the magic of gravity boots. Plus, you'll have all kinds of badass new weapons at your disposal, including the Groovitron a disco-ball horror that forces everything on screen to dance to the catchy opening strains of Stayin' Alive. If that's not enough, you'll be able to use the Combustor to light the ground on fire, and the motion-controlled Dizzicopter to remotely rain death on the baddies. We know we can't wait to get our hands on this one.
High Velocity Bowling | TBA | Summary | Trailer
Sony's deceptively fun answer to Wii Sports, High Velocity Bowling is a PlayStation network download that enables players to hurl balls down hardwood lanes as one of 10 distinct bowlers, all using the Sixaxis motion controls. Swinging the Sixaxis pad to toss a ball feels surprisingly natural, so we're actually looking forward to this one's release.
SingStar | Fall | Summary | Screens | Trailer
The ability to sing karaoke with downloadable songs on your PS3 is nothing compared to being able to record video of your friends singing pop hits using the PlayStation Eye, saving the footage to your hard drive and using it to blackmail them in 20 years when they run for president.
God of War: Chains of Olympus | TBA | Summary | Screens | Trailer
What we saw of this prequel to the original God of War was short, sweet and uncannily like its PS2 cousins. Created by the same studio responsible for the excellent Daxter, Chains of Olympus chronicles the 10 years between Kratos' fateful murder of his family and his decision to rebel against the gods. In the opening level we saw, Kratos unleashed the Blades of Chaos on a bunch of hapless Persians who'd had the nerve to invade Attica, something the Greek gods didn't much approve of. Kratos was sent in as a shock troop to rout the invaders and destroy their ultimate weapon, which turned out to be a giant, dragon-like creature. Before that showdown, though, the level was filled with button-mashing "quicktime" sequences, a quick duel with a Cyclopes and a Persian warship getting torn apart by a ballista courtesy of Kratos. While we haven't yet played it, and therefore can't comment on whether the all-important "flow" of the combat matches that of earlier titles, this already looks to be a worthy chapter in the God of War series.
Syphon Filter: Logan's Shadow | TBA | Summary | Screens
The sequel to last year's stellar Dark Mirror, Logan's Shadow once again focuses on gadget-centric shooting action as secret agent Gabe Logan. This time, Logan spends the game trying to track down his mysteriously missing partner, Lian Xing (who's "shadowed" Logan throughout all his adventures), by delving into her past. While the basic action hasn't changed much since Dark Mirror, this is more than just a new story; expect an all-new underwater combat system, new weapons and the ability to grab your enemies for use as human shields. Judging by what we've played, Logan's Shadow should be another strong hit of awesome for PSP tactical-espionage fans.
SOCOM: Tactical Strike | TBA | Summary | Screens
The other SOCOM to be created by new developer Slant Six, Tactical Strike is a dramatic departure from the tactical-shooting action of Fireteam Bravo. Sort of a real-time Full Spectrum Warrior, Tactical Strike is a strategy game that puts players in charge of a full fireteam at once, enabling you to move and attack as a single unit, or act through the eyes of one man at a time. You're not limited to playing as Americans, either, and you'll be able to play as Special Forces teams including the SEALs, the British SAS, the Spanish UOE and six others. Regardless of whom you pick, you'll be able to customize your characters' equipment and abilities, and take them into four-player team-vs-team matches. It also looks fantastic by PSP standards, and was easily one of the most impressive titles shown for the handheld at the event.
Pursuit Force: Extreme Justice | TBA | Summary | Preview | Screens
As the original Pursuit Force illustrated, jacking cars that aren't moving is for wimps; real men do it at high speed on the freeway, leaping from car to car like some doomed extra from a Mad Max movie. Extreme Justice continues the tradition of insane high-speed law enforcement, only now, your anti-gang officer will have even more going on to worry about. One boss encounter with a massive tank, for example, forced us to get close a few times, so that our new partner could leap out and plant explosives on it. After that, we had to walk around on top of the thing as it barreled toward its destination, blowing up gun emplacements and taking potshots at the tank's commander as we went. The first game was a lot of fun, so while this sequel isn't a dramatic departure, we're looking forward to seeing more.