E3 2009: Sony Announces ‘Assassin’s Creed 2’, PSP Go, a ‘Wiimote That Works’ and More

e3_logo_medium1Following Nintendo’s Wii Sports Resort and Mario filled press events, Sony Computer Entertainment of America’s CEO and President Jack Trentton took the stage. Jack said that despite numerous press leaks, Sony still had some tricks up their sleeve. He was proud to announce Sony would be releasing 364 games this year before pointing out that Sony was the only company currently running three separate systems at the same time (which isn’t entirely true as Nintendo has the Wii, DS and DSi, which has some different games not available to the DS). After giving some projected sales figures for the Playstation 3, he applauded the success of Infamous, calling it the first successful summer blockbuster game with ratings averaging over 90%.

The first new title shown, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, was presented by Evan Wells, CEO of developer Naughty Dog. The single player gameplay footage showed Drake and a female companion climbing across rooftops when they were attacked by a helicopter. Running toward the copter and then through a building dispatching enemies on the way, the game looked beautiful.

The backgrounds expanded in the distance as the town Drake is adventuring in is burning in certain spots. In addition to the ability to kick over furniture to create cover, the demo ended with a great scene of the building you are in toppling over with furniture crashing all around you before a harrowing escape.  Jack Trentton made sure to add that Uncharted 2 is a PS3 exclusive as it was something that “could only be done on the Playstation 3.” This turned out to be the “phrase of the day” for the Sony representative.

Up next cam MAG, which undertook the impressive feat of the first ever 256 player multi-player experience, outside of an MMORPG, ever on a console.  With an experience system similar to Call of Duty 4: Modern Combat, the game has added depth with a command hierarchy with commanders picking objectives that reward players with bonus experience for participating in the team effort, instead of taking a lone wolf approach. The explosion effects were not spectacular however and despite the number of players who were playing, only a small group was ever actually seen at the same time as the battle was being fought on multiple fronts.

Sony also focused a large portion of their conference on portables as Trentton noted upcoming PSP bundles with Rock Band, Assassin’s Creed: Bloodlines, and one that will sure to be a favorite of The Flickcast’s Matt Raub, a lilac colored PSP bundled with Hannah Montana available in July. From there, Trentton welcomed Sony Computer Entertainment Chairman Kaz Hirai to officially announce the next evolution of the PSP with the PSP Go. The PSP Go is 50% smaller and 40% thinner than the original PSP with a much larger screen that also features touch screen capabilities. The screen slides up to reveal the D-Pad, analog stick and buttons.

This UMD-less device features a 16 GB internal memory as well as expandable memory, in the new N2 format media port, and integrated Bluetooth. Kaz made sure to point out that all games will be available both in UMD format for the current PSP and available for download for the PSP Go. PSP Go will be available October 1st in both North America for $249.99 and Europe for €249.99. It will be available in Japan on November 1st.

The first PSP game shown was Gran Turismo which was regarded as a full Grand Turismo experience with 800 cars, 35 tracks and 60 barrier layouts for the tracks. The game would feature sharing between garages between players and an ad hock mode allowing four simultaneous players. The video shown looked like one of the high quality Playstation 2 racing games, definitely an improvement from the expected power of a portable system.

Hideo Kojima, still coming off the big announcement of the Metal Gear Solid franchise making its way to the XBox 360, came out and announced the next Metal Gear coming to the PSP, Peace Walker. Setting Snake in an environment ten years after the events of MGS 3 in the 1970s, Peace Walker sticks to the series roots of infiltration and subtlety rather than a run and gun style. Kojima said that the game was a true sequel to the Metal Gear Solid series, not a spinoff, and would personally be involved in the process both scripting and producing the game along with other members of the MGS 4 development team.

The game looked like it would feature four player gameplay and would also bring back the infamous cardboard box, which multiple snakes could share as a hiding place. The graphics were definitely lacking on this one, especially following how nice Gran Turismo had just looked only moments earlier.

After a quick announcement that Resident Evil would be making its PSP debut soon, a video montage came up displaying the following upcoming PSP games: Little Big Planet, Motorstorm Arctic Edge, Monster Hunter Freedom Unit, Harry Potter, Soul Caliber, Tiger Woods, NCAA Football, SoCom Fire Team Bravo 3, Madden and Rock Band. They also made sure to note that developer toolsets costs were reduced by 80% to encourage developers to come to the platform.

Also announced today was that Final Fantasy VII, a Playstation classic, would be available today for download from the Playstation Online Store. Playstation Home was discussed and lauded as a success despite the critical pan it has received. With supposedly 6.5 million users, 85% of those being return users, Home features hundreds of new items being added every month, including Street Fighter and Resident Evil based clothing items which have sold in the 100,000 range. They also applauded over 1.5 million engagements at the recently unveiled EA Sports Complex.

Up next came the Playstation 3 with another video montage including Ghostbusters, Ninja Gaiden 2 Sigma, and Bioshock 2. This was followed by the announcement of the new Rockstar game which they expect to have similar impact of Grand Theft Auto, a PS3 exclusive called Agent. Agent didn’t come with much information other than taking place in the 1970s and being an espionage and assassination focus.

Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed II took center stage with gameplay footage with returning protagonist in the modern age Desmond using the animus machine to take him back to one of his other ancestors, Ezio Auditore da Firenze, in the Italian Renaissance. The Renaissance was chosen to give believable crowds and open, dangerous cities for a character who is learning to become an assassin as the game progresses.

One of Ezio’s associates will be Leonardo Di Vinci whose inventions would be included in the game, with the Flying Machine being seen in the demo. There will also be more assassination techniques, such as the dive off a pillar in to the kill and the double spike strike to two enemies throats. The game will feature 30 weapons, with 6 additional available to players hooking in their PSP Assassin’s Creed Bloodlines in as well. Scheduled for holiday season 2009, the game would also feature new techniques such as disarming an opponent and turning their own weapon against them and use of smoke bombs.

After showing another Final Fantasy XIII trailer filled with beautiful cut scenes, Trentton made sure to announce a new Playstation Exclusive with accompanied video, Final Fantasy XIV Online coming in 2010. One leak that never made it out was Playstation 3’s second attempt at motion control gaming, a much improved version of the “Wiimote” in essence. Using the Visoncam and a glowing head prototype controller, the PS3 was able to sense 3D motion in sub-millimeter detail. The fast motion tracking was shown through tech demos for first person shooting, writing, RTS selection, swinging a mace, a whip, throwing and archery that used two controllers to aim the bow with one hand and pull back on the arrow with the other.

Team Ico, creators of Shadow of the Colossus, revealed the trailer that had been leaked by Playstationlifestyle.net early last week with The Last Guardian. The strange art style of the game showed a young boy being saved by a large creature that looked like a griffin mixed with Falcor from The Never Ending Story. Fitting in with the outside the box style of Team Ico, this may be another of the underappreciated titles of the PS3 if they maintain the same quality of their previous games.

Gran Turismo 5 was shown off with a trailer that may have lost impact after yesterday’s reveal of Forza 3 by Microsoft. While the game looked spectacular, there wasn’t as much reaction to the game as would be expected from the live audience. That could also be because the conference had been going on for two hours at this point.

Finally, the game every Playstation fanboy was waiting for, God of War III was shown with the first few minutes of gameplay. The combination of button mashing fight action and quicktime event kills, the game looked beautiful and gory both at the same time. Including a battle with a centaur which ended with Kratos disemboweling the enemy as well as Kratos stabbing a manticore in the face with its own horn, the visuals stood out over most other games shown today.

Even as Kratos battled the centaur, Helios fought a gigantic lava titan in the background giving a living environment to fight through instead of stale and static levels. Unfortunately as time was running low, the demo was cutoff with the promise of the full twenty additional minutes of gameplay being available on the show floor all week long.

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