Playstation 3 at E3 2006
|Event:||Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3)|
|Author:||James Barlow (Malis)|
Perhaps one of the most hyped consoles for years, everyone has been wondering just how Sony will use their positions as console leaders, how they will respond to the positive and successful early launch of the Xbox 360 by Microsoft. E3 2006 was to be Sony's year, their time to take the gaming world by storm with their future-spec console. While many thought they already knew most of the hardware side to the PS3, and were hoping for a games-fest to enjoy, what we were shown was a real shock.
Gone is the boomerang shaped controller that was shown off last year, and in comes…well it's a DualShock isn't it? Yes and no. While the PS3 controller certainly looks like the popular PS2 device, in both button layout and design, there are some important differences. Firstly, it's now wireless. The controller features a USB mini-B connector terminal at the top of the controller for charging the internal battery through USB, and also to allow for wired play if you should so wish. The controller now features six degrees of movement, via motion sensors. The cynical among you may wonder if this is due to the bombshell of a controller that is the Wii remote - apparently developers were only informed of the new controller design a week for E3 started. The controller has had rumble feature removed, as it is meant to interfere with the motion sensors. So a DualShock in looks, but not feel.
Playstation 3 Controller
But there were bigger shocks to come, as Sony moved onto the console itself. Sony announced the pricing of its system. The price of the PlayStation 3 was announced €499 (about £350) for a 20GB model and €599 (about £410) for a 60GB model. While many expected the price to be high, this is a good £70 more expensive than the price of the Xbox 360 at launch. Not mentioned, but included in the E3 press release, was the fact that the cheaper model will be missing several core features. Not only will you have less storage place, but the 20Gb model comes without HDMI, memory card support and built-in WiFi. Sony confirmed after the conference that all these features will be upgradeable, except HDMI input. This of course renders the cheaper machine utterly useless as a true HD movie player if content providers ever implement HDCP (High definition content protection), if that does happen and most people seem to think it's inevitable, the crippled PS3 will down-sample the image to a standard definition resolution.
Playstation 3 Console
The new online shop that comes with the PS3 was also shown-off. A very impressive and stylish interface. This will be used for downloading add-ons patches and other content for games. In fact this will work very much like Xbox Live. The basic PS3 interface will be the same as the PSP one, simple and sleek.
Last year at E3 Sony provided us with a ton of CGI movies promoting their much anticipated PlayStation 3. So how did the games fare this year? In truth we have little to go on. Sony claim to be aiming for a November 2006 release for their console, but with so little games on show it's hard to be optimistic.
Virtua Fighter 5
The big guns of Metal Gear Solid 4 and Final Fantasy XIII were undoubtedly the jewels in Sony's crown. Both were only around in trailer form though. MGS4 was comprised of what looked to be cut scenes, and while impressive to see (featuring the return of nearly all the main characters from the series so far), there was no indication of how the game would play. The entire FFXIII trailer was rendered in-game according to the press-release, and it looked gorgeous. There were some brief glimpses of the combat system, which seems dynamic and action orientated, with a combo system of some sort. Looking at the pedigree it's easy to assume these two games will be excellent, but these flagship titles were non-playable.
Similarly, Gran Turismo, always the most technically gorgeous of PlayStation games, was significantly under whelming. GT HD was playable, but looked quite sloppy, especially on details such as crowd members. Indeed, there are strong but un-substantiated rumours that GT HD was running on a PC during E3. In fact GT HD just uses assets from the PS2 game, and pumping it up to a HD 1080p image. There will be a 'next-gen' GT game, but some said it would not arrive until 18 months after PS3 launch. Further trailers of Tekken 6 and Virtua Fighter 5 again looked impressive, but they were just trailers.
Perhaps the two most impressive titles were Assassin's Creed and Heavenly Sword. Assassin's Creed is a stealth/assassination game from Ubisoft, that looks crisp and clear. The game will apparently feature sandbox-style game-play similar to the Grand theft Auto series. The player will control Altair - an assassin, armed with a wrist blade, an unconcealed sword at his side, and his trusty crossbow. More impressive is the bustling city atmosphere in the game. Packed with people, crowds and guards will respond and notice you by how hard you push through them. Definitely a game to watch.
Heavenly Sword is a third-person action game from Ninja Theory. Again this was beautiful to watch - there is no doubt that the PS3 will be able to deliver on the graphical front. At times the animation and fluidity of the game reminded me of something out of House of Flying Daggers or similar films. Essentially a fast-paced mass combat game, this impressed as it was indeed playable. Are either of these games system-sellers, like Zelda will be for Wii? At this point it's hard to tell, but Sony seemed to have their work cut-out for a system supposedly live by November 2006. Where was the Unreal 2007 demo, or Killzone? These games were big at the last show but barely got a mention this year.
It's hard to know what to think of the PS3 at E3 2006. Although technically impressive, it will, without a doubt be pricey. The lack of HDMI input on the 20GB model will effectively mean that the much touted HD Blu-Ray discs that the PS3 is centred around, will be downgraded to a lower resolution video. With no opportunity to upgrade this feature, owners of the 20GB model will be stuck with an expensive gaming machine. While Xbox 360 seems to give the consumer choice of when to enter the next-gen world, Sony are seemingly thrusting it upon the gamer - with a hefty price tag. On top of that, an online shop akin to Xbox Live and a motion sensor controller that sniffs of the Wii remote (both Sony innovations unheard of until a few months ago) both seem to be cashing in on Nintendo and Microsoft's ideas. Perhaps Sony could have got away with all this if there had been games to talk and drool over. But with the big guns of MGS4, FFXIII, Tekken 6, and GT, all at trailer stage, there was a real sense of disappointment. Heavenly Sword and Assassin's Creed both looked good and indeed by all reports played well (but are they really anything the 360 can't do?), it's hard to imagine these games alone will persuade people to buy a PS3.
So PS3 out this year, and shifting the six million units anticipated? We'll see. E3 2006 will go down as a missed opportunity and unfortunatley a public relations nightmare for Sony. But despite how much Sony seem intent on shooting themselves in the foot recently, the Playstation 3 will still no doubt be a very fine games machine and very successful.
Playstation 3 Screenshots From E3
Metal Gear Solid 4
Resistance: Fall of Man