TIME e3 2014

Sony’s E3 PlayStation Event Sees Microsoft’s Hand and Antes Up

Like Microsoft's E3 presser, Sony's was laser-focused on content, but with several unexpected -- and unexpectedly eclectic -- surprises.

Bathed in vaporous electric blue lights and the low frequency thump of placeless dance music, Sony’s PlayStation press event at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena on Monday night was, like Microsoft’s Xbox One show earlier in the day, a paean to the company’s shift from hawking hardware to touting games, games and more games for the PS4.

Using a gargantuan wraparound screen — initially inhabited by the company’s trademark whirling squares and triangles, X’s and O’s — Sony opened with an event-exclusive look at one of the year’s most anticipated multi-platform launches, Bungie’s Destiny, rolling a trailer that highlighted the game’s folklorish sci-fi mythology before teasing quick clips of characters doing impossible things. In all, Bungie’s impressively choreographed montage seemed a carnival of sights and sounds, and Sony capped the sequence by teasing both PS4-exclusive game content and a new ivory PS4 bundled with Destiny that’ll be available when the game ships on September 9, 2014.

That focus on visual fidelity and content as well as IP exclusivity set the tone for the rest of the event, which turned into an all-out, software-driven assault on the company’s nearest competitor. Echoing ex-Sony honcho Jack Tretton’s slap at Microsoft last year, Sony Computer Entertainment president and group CEO Andrew House took more than one shot at the Xbox One, claiming that among other things, gaming on the PlayStation 4 “means the highest visual quality” and that games “look better” on the PS4 — a reference to the Xbox One’s tendency to run certain multi-platform games at lower resolutions.

And then the company did what I’d hoped Microsoft might (but didn’t) this morning and foregrounded not just new games, but some totally off the wall ones. Third in line (after a quick new look at Sony’s alternate history action-adventure The Order: 1886), Entwined turned out to be fledgling Sony studio Pixel Opus’s debut game, an adventure of sorts about two souls in love — represented as origami-like creatures in the trailer — that you guide through obstacles (and lifetimes) to bring together, painting the sky and generating your own sculptures in the process. Rounding out the surprise reveal, Sony says the game is available now on the PlayStation Store for $9.99.

After a nod to a new (and unexpectedly standalone) DLC adventure set in Infamous: Second Son‘s universe, Sony unveiled LittleBigPlanet 3, the next chapter in its whimsical puzzle-platformer, only with three new characters — each with unique and complementary abilities that look to broaden the sophistication of the environmental challenges players (and level designers) will face. Sony Worldwide Studios president Shuhei Yoshida took the stage to announce that players had created and shared some 8.7 million levels, cumulatively, across the last two installments, and that they’ll all be playable with improved graphics when the game arrives this November.

We also had our first look at From Software’s new game, the one rumors placed as “Project Beast” before the show, but here titled Bloodborne. The trailer was gory and predictably hair-raising, as well as short on gameplay particulars, but at least we know it exists, and under the direction of Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls esteemed creative lead Hidetaka Miyazaki.

Known multi-platform up-and-comers like Far Cry 4, Dead Island 2, Diablo 3, Metal Gear Solid V, Mortal Kombat X, Batman: Arkham Knight and Battlefield Hardline took their bows, sometimes with nods to bits of exclusive content. Unexpected surprises popped up here and there, like news that Tim Schaefer’s Grim Fandango — arguably one of the finest adventure games yet made — is being remastered exclusively for PS4 and PS Vita. We caught a thrilling glimpse of Giant Squid’s new PS4-only project, dubbed Abzû, an underwater exploration game from Matt Nava (Journey‘s art director) with music by grammy-nominated composer Austin Wintory expected in 2016. And there was confirmation, at last, that Grand Theft Auto V is coming to the PS4 (and Xbox One and Windows) this fall. (I got the latter reveal dead wrong, incidentally.)

The most arresting PS4 exclusive, and this is in line with my point earlier about Sony’s highlighting a number of sui generis games here, was probably No Man’s Sky. We previously saw this game — by indie newcomer Hello Games and then unnamed — at VGX 2013. It’s a sandbox sci-fi whatchamacallit (because who knows what the heck to call it) where you can run around on a planet and do things like classify new species, then get in a spaceship and fly up off-world (continuously, without a loading screen), zip around the galaxy, then zoom down onto other planets. Hello Games took the stage to explain that the game’s universe is procedurally generated, and thus in theory infinite. It sounds and looks magnificent, though there’s the question of whether all that vastness is going to feel like empty sprawl. We’ll see.

There were a few hardware components trotted out during the backend of the show, at least one of them potentially huge: PlayStation TV, the Vita-like micro-console previously available only in Japan, is coming to North American and Europe this fall for $100 (or bundled with a DualShock 3 controller for $130). It’ll let you play Vita games as well as original PlayStation classics, let you stream games from your PS4 to a second TV and offer access to PlayStation Now, Sony’s PS3 games-streaming service, which Sony says will be available in open beta on the PS4 in the U.S. and Canada beginning July 31. Sony also revealed that the first of its original programming efforts, a series based on Brian Michael Bendis’ Powers comic series, will debut this December: PlayStation Network users can watch the first episode free, while PlayStation Plus members get the whole enchilada.

Last up, we had our first look at Naughty Dog’s Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End (absent some of the series’ departed creative leads). The game looks as stunning as you’d expect it to, but we weren’t shown actual gameplay, leaving us guessing. But it was what the audience wanted to see, and in the end, that’s how you score points, and with all the diversity on parade here, Sony may have scored across the board.

TIME e3 2014

WATCH: The Division Has You Fighting on Deserted New York City Streets

E3 attendees got a look at the much-anticipated video game Monday, but The Division itself is still a long way aways

As with many Ubisoft titles The Division might be delayed. Reports say that its 2015 release date might be optimistic. But attendees at the E3 gaming conference on Monday got another look into what this ambitious title will look like. The gameplay trailer pops us into another post-apocalyptic envisioning of New York City, but this rendition of the city is lush with all the small details that make you feel like you’re really there.

Check out the footage above.

TIME e3 2014

Watch: LIVE PlayStation Conference at E3

Let the games begin!

The annual Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) at the Los Angeles Convention Center is fast approaching. Thousands are expected to attend the over-the-top three-day convention to see the latest games and announcements from the gaming industry.

Watch here for PlayStation’s LIVE conference at Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena from 6:00 to 8:00PM PT.

TIME e3 2014

WATCH: XBox’s Sunset Overdrive Appeals to the 90’s Grunge Rocker in Us All

It's time to shoo the mutants away with our grunge rock sensibility.

Attendees at Monday’s E3 gaming conference got a look at what Microsoft’s new title, Sunset Overdrive, will actually look like. The trailer put us into the shoes of someone who appears to be a kind of 90’s grunge rocker. With his anti-establishment sensibilities, your protagonist must save Sunset City from people who have been turned into mutants by an energy drink.

Check out the footage above.

TIME e3 2014

Microsoft at E3: Lots of Games, Little Vision

Microsoft's Xbox One game lineup impresses, but it's short on new ways to play.

Phil Spencer, Microsoft’s head of Xbox, made it clear at the start of the company’s E3 press conference: This one was going to be all about games.

Over the next hour and a half, we saw a parade of games to come, many of which will be exclusive on the Xbox One. We got a glimpse of Halo: The Master Chief Collection–a repackaging of every major Halo release to date–and saw a new trailer for Halo 5: Guardians, which is coming next year. We heard more about Forza Horizon 2 and watched samplings of Sunset Overdrive and Fable: Legends.

Microsoft also brought out its fair share of third-party publishers, with promises to release additional content first on the Xbox One. This included some looks at cooperative play in Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed: Unity and The Division, a mission full of room-rumbling sci-fi action in Activision’s Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, and a quick teaser for EA’s Dragon Age: Inquisition.

We even got a few surprises: There’s a new Tomb Raider game (Rise of Tomb Raider) coming late next year, and Microsoft is bringing back a cult classic in Phantom Dust. Another forgotten Xbox franchise, Crackdown, appears to be getting the reboot treatment as well. Microsoft even showed off an eccentric side with games like Inside and Ori and the Blind Forest.

If you’re into games, and felt uneasy about how focused on entertainment Microsoft seemed to be in the past, you could easily be fired up by Microsoft’s E3 2014 showing. Clearly, Microsoft has realized that gamers must carry the Xbox One–at least for its first few years–and there was an air of crowd service in this year’s presentation.

But if appeasing core gamers is the goal, it was hard to tell if Microsoft has any strategy for the Xbox beyond locking up as much exclusive material as it can.

Unlike rival Sony, Microsoft hasn’t done anything with cloud-based gaming or in-home streaming, so Xbox games are still chained to the big box in your living room. There was no talk of virtual reality, even as Sony and Oculus prepare to establish a new frontier for gaming.

Cross-platform play also remains just a blip on Microsoft’s radar, with only a small number of games that work across the Xbox One, phones and tablets, and no new announcements at the press conference. Microsoft’s SmartGlass app, which is supposed to extend touchscreen features to console games, also remains a bundle of wasted potential, and Microsoft said nothing about making it better.

And then we have Windows. For over a year now, Microsoft has been paying lip service to PC gaming, and how it’s working on new initiatives to replace its disastrous (and now defunct) Games for Windows service. So far, Microsoft’s promises have produced nothing. PC gaming was once again neglected at E3, even though a unified Xbox-PC ecosystem is more practical now than it’s ever been before.

What makes all of this especially disappointing is that Microsoft is supposed to be a more unified company now. But despite CEO Satya Nadella’s “mobile first, cloud first” mantra, gaming doesn’t seem to be part of that vision. Even as Microsoft’s rivals dream up new ways to play, Xbox in 2014 remains just a box in your living room with a bunch of games that don’t exist on other boxes.

But hey, at least those games look pretty good.

TIME e3 2014

Watch: LIVE Ubisoft Conference at E3

Let the games begin!

The annual Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) at the Los Angeles Convention Center is fast approaching. Thousands are expected to attend the over-the-top three-day convention to see the latest games and announcements from the gaming industry.

Watch here for Ubisoft’s LIVE conference from 3:00 to 5:00PM PT.

 

 

TIME e3 2014

WATCH: EA Gives Star Wars Battlefront Sneak Peek

E3 attendees got a look at the much-anticipated videogame Monday

Electronic Arts’ much-anticipated Star Wars: Battlefront isn’t dropping until sometime in late 2015 (just before the theatrical release of Star Wars: Episode VII) but gamers got a sneak peek at the game’s progress Monday during EA’s E3 event.

Check out the footage above.

TIME e3 2014

WATCH: EA Gives an Inside Look at Mirror’s Edge Prequel

Electronic Arts offered a look at the development of the Mirror’s Edge sequel at its E3 press conference Monday. The game is still in its early stages, but it looks to expand on the free-running action present in the first game on Xbox 360 and PS3.

The new Mirror’s Edge, a prequel to the original game, will be released for Xbox One, PS4 and the PC, but EA didn’t offer a release window for the title.

TIME e3 2014

WATCH: Battlefield Hardline Beta Out Today for PlayStation 4, PC

EA shocked gamers when it announced at E3 Monday that a beta version of its new Battlefield Hardline game is now available.

Battlefield Hardline takes place in modern Los Angeles and transforms the series’ well-worn first-person shooter military gameplay into an enormous game of cops and robbers. A long video of gameplay footage showed players holding pitched shootouts in skyscrapers, ziplining across rooftops and even commandeering a helicopter.

To sign up for the PlayStation 4 and PC beta, visit battlefield.com/beta.

The final game will be released for PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One and the PC on October 21.

 

TIME e3 2014

WATCH: FIFA 15 to Give Players More Real-Life Emotion

FIFA 15 trailer highlights a more realistic gaming experience

FIFA 15, the next version of Electronic Arts’ popular soccer video game, will feature players who show more emotions and goalposts that shake when struck, among other lifelike visual upgrades.

EA previewed the game’s upgrades on Monday at E3. The trailer—”feel the game,” it says—demonstrates the improved gameplay experience, with cleats leaving imprints on the grass and players shoving and tugging shirts as they fight for the ball. Notably, FIFA 15 will introduce a focus on player emotion, with players having “memories” allowing them to cheer when scoring a goal, or fall to the pitch when missing.

Check out the official E3 gameplay trailer above. No release date is set yet for the game.

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