Sony’s 2012 Holiday Preview Event

Every year, we’re treated to a holiday preview event by each of the big three gaming companies. We attended Sony’s event a few nights ago, and what they had on display for their portable and home consoles – the Vita and PlayStation 3, respectively – was quite impressive.

Assassin’s Creed III was on display as it launches in just a few short weeks on October 30th. We’d be hard-pressed to find a better looking game on the market right now, on any console, including the PC. The in-game graphics on ACIII are nothing short of beautiful, and with quite a bit of action going on at once, the framerate didn’t seem to slow down at all. It is very clear that developers have become close to fully harnessing the power of Sony’s console, and the games we’re about to see churned out of triple-A studios like Ubisoft are going to blow you away.

Injustice: Gods Among Us is another title on the floor that blew us away. We weren’t really expecting to fall in love with the game, but with the environments being as beautiful as they were, and the incredible character models, shading, and fabric physics, we couldn’t help but feel our inner-superheroes getting excited. Our only issue with the game from the two levels and eight characters we saw and played was that everything seemed very grey and washed out. It is clearly a game that is taking a darker tone in terms of design, but it seems like one or two artists got a bit heavy-handed with that contrast slider. Either way, we’re more than excited to get our hands on the game.

Another title that piqued our interest was Kojima Productions’ Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. While this game is clearly rooted in similar design aesthetics as previous entries in the series, the game moves a lot faster than we’ve seen from any Metal Gear game in the past. The environments are richly textured and greyed-out (that seems to be a theme at this event), and the user interface moves ever so slightly as the character does, adding just a bit of dynamism to the gameplay from what would otherwise be a pretty standard UI overlay. It is more of a beautiful touch than you might realize until you actually get your hands on the game and see it for yourself.

Hitman: Absolution is another title in a storied franchise that knocked our socks off. The design language for the series has remained relatively constant over the past decade or so, and it looks like Absolution is poised to change that. The menu system is probably one of the most beautiful things we’ve seen in a game, and the only way to do justice to the visuals are to liken them to a Hollywood movie. This is some incredible work from the team behind Hitman, it’s clear, and we’re once again excited about the reboot of this series.

Beyond these franchises that we’ve all played before were a few new titles on display, both first- and third-party, that got us excited about Sony’s platforms.

On the PlayStation Vita front, we saw new iterations in the Assassin’s Creed and Call of Duty franchises, with Liberation and Black Ops: Declassified, respectively. We’ll be writing our impressions of these games as they near launch, but they are worth mentioning now.

In entirely new franchises, the Vita is abuzz with Sound Shapes, a title we first peeked at Sony’s Spring Showcase, and PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale, which is getting a PlayStation 3 counterpart. We won’t go into too much depth with Sound Shapes, although the game we saw at this holiday event has clearly been in development a lot longer than the previous versions we saw. The menu system has been overhauled and the levels are just beaming with more colour and seem to be more responsive than the slower gameplay we spied last time we saw the game.

PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale is a very unique title in that it is Sony’s first entry in their CrossBuy platform. What that means is that when a gamer plops down the cash for the PlayStation 3 version of the game, they instantly get the Vita version for free. This is an incredible model, and one that we’ve talked about before, whereby it gets users into the habit of playing their games on the go and on the console, but also removes one of the big barriers to entry: buying essentially the same game twice. The game itself is very fluid and handles very well. The controls are more complex than the game’s obvious comparison, Super Smash Bros., but there seem to be more combos and attacks you can use. All this adds up to a more immersive experience and lets you feel like you’re playing an entirely new game.

The Unfinished Swan is a title that we first got a peek at in Los Angeles at E3 this year. This game is the epitome of creative thinking, as it is built on a first-person shooter engine with no guns, enemies, or even environments. Not until you paint them, anyway. You begin the game in a completely white environment, and with your Move controller, you need to throw balls of paint around the level to show you where to go. The concept is a bit confusing on paper, so take a look at this trailer to get your head wrapped around the idea of the game.

This is the perfect example of how games need to evolve and developers need to craft new experiences for its users. The team behind The Unfinished Swan needs to be applauded in taking a risk by producing a game that has literally nothing similar in existence. There is a huge trend of games in serene environments or with very obscure goals and fundamentals – games like Fl0w, Flower, and Journey – that all have sparked quite a revolution in the gaming space. It looks like The Unfinished Swan is going to continue this trend.

All in all, we saw close to two dozen games on display, if not more, but this is the rundown of the biggest set. We also saw God of War: Ascension looking as good as we remember it at E3, as well as Lego: The Lord of the Rings which was frustratingly specific in how certain things were to be done, but fun nonetheless. After all, Gimli and Lego are a perfect match.

Sony has quite a few heavy hitters launching this holiday season, and while most of them are multi-platform, there are more than a few compelling reasons to pick up a Vita and PlayStation 3 if you don’t already have either.