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Thursday July 12, 2007 1:26 am

E3 2007: Sony’s Press Conference Recap And Impressions

PlayStation Portable redesign box

I’m going to come right out and say it: I’m coming away from Sony’s presentation more impressed than I was either Nintendo’s or Microsoft’s. They were very straightforward and showed exactly what we all wanted to see: the games.

In fact, this was one of the more impressive E3 press conferences in recent memory – check inside to find out why.

Prior to the start, an announcement was made that no RF transmitters were allowed in. I don’t know if there’s a legitimate reason behind this, or if it’s just a joke about how much tremendously better 1080p is than the old RF hook-up.

Jack Tretton appears on-screen in the form of his HOME avatar, as he does a voice-over for his digital self. He eventually comes out on stage himself – nervous as hell, by his own admission.

The PS2 has a very brief showing, with a few numbers thrown around: 160 games this year and 10 million more systems are expected to be sold in 2007.

PSP’s turn, as a plethora of trailers are shown for various games, including SOCOM Tactical Strike, NBA 08, Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles, The Sims 2: Castaway, Silent Hill Origins, God of War: Chains of Olympus, Patapon, SWAT: Target Liberty, and more.

We see Jack in HOME once again, this time joined by Kaz Hirai. Jack pulls a Riiiiiiidge Racer joke, followed by Kaz appearing on stage.

Kaz shows off the newly redesigned PSP, which appears to be exactly the same. Apparently it’s lighter and thinner, sporting the same UMD support and screen as the original. The battery is now more efficient – thank you very much, Sony – and the big new feature is the ability to output the PSP’s video to a TV. In other words, you now have a home UMD player, sorta, and can look at your pictures, watch videos and play games on your TV using your PSP. Very cool.

We’ve got new PSP colors – silver, which will be bundled with a copy of Daxter, a 1GB Pro Duo Memory Stick, and the Family Guy Freakin’ Sweet Collection for $199.99.

Now at this point, things are going smoothly for the most part. It’s been straight up business talk, followed by lots of game trailers. Suddenly, though, we get Star Wars music and Chewbacca comes on stage. He hugs Jack, and shows off the new Star Wars PSP, which seems to be nothing more than a silver or white PSP with Darth Vader’s helmet appearing on the back. It’ll come bundled with Star Wars Battlefront for PSP, which features the ability to customize your character. Chewie leaves the stage after protesting that he wants to keep the PSP he’s holding. Or at least that’s what Jack would lead us to believe, as he is apparently capable of understanding Chewbacca. Shyriiwook FTW!

Phil Harrison comes on stage to talk about PlayStation Network, and takes a few quick jabs at Xbox Live Arcade and its file size limit, and the fact that not all 360s have hard drives. More than 80 games are coming for the platform by the end of the financial year (something we heard frequently throughout the conference) – meaning by the end of March ’08.

Five PSN games are demoed: the first is echochrome, which is actually coming out for PSN and PSP. It’s hard to explain, but it seems to be a bit like Crush in that you need to manipulate the environment by moving the camera to make your way through the level. Very cool looking, very simple. (Phil says it has the “least graphics” and most gameplay of any game on show at E3.)

Next up for PSN are Wipeout HD and Pain, which we’ve seen before. Then we see Warhawk and SOCOM Confrontation, which will be released on both PSN and in retail.

Back onto the subject of HOME, Phil Harrison shows that he has it running (albeit not in its full 3D self) on his mobile phone (a Sony, natch). He takes a picture of some audience members and puts the phone away. The main hub in Home has changed from the mall-like setting we saw at GDC, and has been replaced with a more summer-oriented outdoor environment.

We get a Singstar trailer, which likens the game to iTunes crossed with MySpace. You’ll be able to download songs you want to play through the PlayStation Store.

Now we see a framed picture in Phil’s apartment which has in it the photo he took a few minutes prior on his phone. He goes on to explain that you can output your going-ons and photos from HOME onto a web page – think 360 Voice, but much more fleshed out and feature-rich.

Any game can be launched from the HOME interface. To demo this, Phil fires up a multiplayer game of MotorStorm while standing in a room in HOME. And he’s playing on a new map, to boot. (It’ll be available next month.) He starts out doing well, but then gets obliterated and gives up.

Jack Tretton comes back to talk about the PlayStation 3, and he discusses both the new 80GB SKU and the price drop. He mentions the leak regarding the latter.

NCsoft (PC guys behind Lineage and Guild Wars) is going to be working on developing games for the PS3, apparently with existing IPs and new ones. Guild Wars is simple enough that it could work on a system, so that certainly seems like a strong possibility, and the free online play fits right in with the PlayStation Network’s philosophy.

Sony announces a deal to work with Epic so that the Unreal Engine 3 works well on the PS3. Unreal Tournament 3 is exclusive to the PS3 (well, the PC version is still coming, of course), and it will feature mod downloads that can be transferred over from the PC world.

Lots of trailers, many of which we saw at Microsoft’s conference. Call of Duty 4, Assassin’s Creed, Madden 08, Guitar Hero III, Medal of Honor Airborne, Burnout Paradise, Rock Band, and Resident Evil 5.

Jack says that Metal Gear Solid 4 is only on PlayStation 3 (at the moment that’s true, but we’ll see what happens) and introduces Hideo Kojima. He claims that he’s done working on the Metal Gear Solid series, which seems like a bodily function for him. Hideo says all of the storylines are going to be wrapped up, and implies this is the end of MGS. Maybe that’s true, but the Portable Ops, Acids and company are sure to continue.

Real time Metal Gear Solid 4 trailer shown. It’s gorgeous. Apparently Snake is being tasked with eliminating Liquid. Raiden is shown as a complete badass, the voice acting is fantastic… if this somehow manages to stay as a PS3 exclusive, this is going to be a real system seller – I don’t care what anyone says. This looks absolutely INCREDIBLE.

First-party games are now being shown off by Phil Harrison. Rachet & Clank, Folklore, Heavenly Sword, NBA 08, LittleBigPlanet, Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, Infamous, and Gran Turismo Prologue. They all look great, perhaps with the exception of NBA 08, but apparently that will again be running at 60 FPS and 1080p.

Now it’s Killzone 2’s turn. The trailer is in real-time, and looks fantastic. We then see some actual gameplay, which looks equally awesome. There’s some slowdown, but hopefully that will be ironed out in due time. But this is truly drool-worthy stuff. Halo killer? It’s too early to tell, but it looks like it’s possible.

Great showing, that’s all I can say. Most everything looked phenomenal, and the Sony execs seemed a bit humbler, and as I said earlier, showed us just what we wanted to see in the games.

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Comments:

You’re right, Sony is better at announcements than actually making good on those announcements. As for features, I think if the ability to upload photos from within HOME is any indication, it sounds like there’s a lot of potential there—I love 360voice, but the fact that it’s not something that’s literally implemented within Xbox Live means it’s at a disadvantage. This HOME blogging service has no limitations in that regard.


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