Sony started off the night with a long apology for the PSN debacle, and then promptly moved on to business.
The show really started off when Uncharted 3 came up on the 70-foot screen, in glorious 3D HD. And it looked fantastic. Uncharted 3 takes the grandiose flair of theatricality one step further, this time by showing us a boat, rocking in a violent sea. Nathan Drake constantly stumbles along, losing his balance when the deck rocks to awkward angles. Stunning weather effects abound in the thunderstorm above, the precursor to the treat below. As Drake stealthily takes out enemies using a variety of new stealth kills, including a neat whip-around and smacking one poor guy's head in a wall, he gets himself into yet another tricky situation. This of course leads to a car exploding into the side of the ship, which promptly starts to flood. When's the last time you've seen this in a realistic-looking video game? Probably never, but Uncharted manages to render fluids and particle effects like never before seen in video games. Fan-freaking-tastic.
Uncharted would be setting the pace for the first half of this conference. Game after game was announced, and shown, in 3D. Now I'm not normally a fan of 3D -- it messes with my brain -- but either the games or the tech is getting better because this was sweet indeed. Resistance 3; a remastered God of War series and ico/Shadow of the Colossus remastered combo, both in 3D HD; and over 100 other titles are now supporting 3D.
Since Sony realizes 3D is not within everybody's price range, they took it upon itself to make the technology more affordable. Yeah, they have an HD 3D display for $499 USD and they sell the glasses for $70 USD a piece, but why not throw in some additional coolness? "Sure," they say, "easy peasy. We've got some frames to spare and glasses to selectively shut them out, so we're going to blow all your minds and reinvent the whole side-by-side multiplayer experience." Gone is the split screen and the easy cheating. With this technology, each player sees their own view on the same screen. Consider our minds blown.
Not to be outdone by all the hubbub of the motion technology, Sony is also pushing the PSMove. It's not as revolutionary as the Kinect or as accessible as the Wii, but it's there for those who fancy that kind of thing. Support for the PSMove is also increasing, with games like NBA 2K12, Medieval Moves, InFamous 2, LittleBigPlanet 2, and a new Sly Cooper title. The point's been made, so they move right along...
New titles announced include BioShock Infinite, apparently set in a macabre amusement park, and a new Star Trek game following the J. J. Abrams reboot storyline. Both will support the PSMove, with a phaser-shaped PSMove for all you trekkies. Other interesting exclusives include 7 supercars for Need for Speed: The Run exclusive to PS3, and Battlefield 1943 is included for free on the Battlefield 3 disk.
After a brief tangent about the PlayStation suite invading Android tablets everywhere, the announcement everybody expected became official: the NGP is named PlayStation Vita (PSVita). It's got dual analog sticks, a multi-touch screen, a backtouch panel, gyroscopic motion sensors, front and rear cameras, Wi-Fi networking and optional 3G connectivity. Much to the dismay of everyone, the 3G is exclusive to AT&T for now.
We were taken straight into a demo of Uncharted: Golden Abyss on the PSVita. It's not quite as crisp as the PS3 versions, but it's a damn good approximation. The graphics engine supports the fanciest of shaders and algorithms, so developers are free to maintain their graphical creations on the handheld. The gameplay, at least in Uncharted, uses a mix of analog stick, SIXAXIS and touchscreen controls. The player is not locked in to any of those: you may jump using X or the tap the ledge on the touch screen, or shove the whole handheld to the side. Using the touchscreen highlights 'action' points, serving as a visual indicator that your touch command was acknowledged. A new version (read: not a port) of ModNation Racers also showed innovative use of the backscreen, using it to grow mountains and using the forescreen to dig valleys.
Using new title RUIN and ModNation Racers, we learned that the PSVita has a feature called "crossplay," which allows saving progress to the cloud for interchangeability between the console and handheld experiences. That means that a single experience can continue on either platform, provided you own both versions of a title.
Over 80 titles are now in development for the PSVita, including a StreetFighter X Tekken title and a version of LittleBigPlanet that will introduce all new mechanics with the new controls. The PSVita hits stores in time for the 2011 holidays. The Wi-Fi only will retail for $249 USD, while the 3G is $299 USD.
Who won this year's round of announcements? You be the judge.