E3 2004: SONY

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            The excitement, the wonder, the flashing lights… the mad rush to find out what’s new and shiny in the mad world of Sony-that is E3. The biggest games exhibition on Earth, confined to two little characters – and a wealth of speculation. We here at Electronic Theatre have separated the wheat from the chaff, the hardware and software gems from the wishful thinking – so you don’t have to! This is how Sony’s future began to look after the dust had settled…

            The pre-E3 press conference began with the traditional video reel, lots of flashing lights and loud music, as well as Kaz Hirai of SCE (Sony Computer Entertainment). After catching some insanely fast-paced imagery of cars, PlayStation2 control pads, Jak and footballers, we came to the very first stop on Sony’s E3 highway, Metal Gear Solid 3:  Snake Eater, a visually stunning title shown on the first video reel and later playable at the show. Snake Eater sees Solid Snake on an early mission and features a neat arena-specific combat system. The video featured a knife and pistol in a close-quarter combat system that allows Snake to attack and disarm enemies, as well as revealing Ocelot with his twin six-shooters.

            Also shown on the video reel was the next instalment in the Ratchet & Clank franchise, Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal. Both Ratchet and Clank and Metal Gear Solid 3 were blessed with the first mention of their online play, although to what degree is not known for either title. This does, however, seem to tie-in nicely with Sony’s plans for the Eye-Toy and the much neglected Webcam applications announced prior to the peripherals’ launch. Online games have been on the shelves for a while now, only time will tell…

            Following the exciting footage came the boring “we’re better than everybody else” financial gubbings. Hirai discussed Sony’s history in the industry, and their current standings with more than 170 million units of hardware and nearly 1.5 billion software units shipped worldwide. From this, Sony dropped a bombshell. As of June, 2004, US gamers can purchase a PlayStation2 console, ATV Offroad Fury 2 and a PlayStation2 Network Adapter for $149. No confirmation of a UK price-drop has been given, but we’d expect Europe to follow suit. A PlayStation2 with a sub-£100 price-tag come Christmas 2004 may not be too big a dream.

            After this came the big one. Three little letters… P… S… P… Now, for those of you who are getting way too excited at this point, we have to say CALM DOWN! Unfortunately, the PlayStation Pocket was not playable, but a video reel ran showing many, many titles in development for Sony’s forthcoming handheld, featuring many familiar franchises. The video reel included footage of: Metal Gear Acid, Spider-Man, Dynasty Warriors, NFL Street, NBA Street, Tiger Woods PGA Tour, Gran Tourismo, ATV Offroad Fury, SOCOM: US Navy Seals and Twisted Metal. If you’ve been following the press releases over the last the last few months, you’ll know that the PSP not only plays games, but also films and music. Also, the system also features wireless connectivity and net access, if you take some time and realise this is the PlayStation Pocket, you may begin to wonder about the systems relationship with the Eye-Toy…

            And finally, Sony decided to ridicule its audience. They offered us cake, and then took it away. The PlayStation3 (GASP!) was discussed… kind of, briefly. The little known “cell” processing architecture developed by Sony, as revealed in the Electronic Theatre Forum back in August 2003, will be used within the PlayStation3, but also will feature in other devices. No video, no artist renditions, just to let us know that it is ready, and we’ll start seeing the technology in other devices come the end of the year. Great.

So there we have it, PS2 is getting close to “middle age” and is beginning to see the life extending benefits of online features. The PSP, the plucky young one, is not threatening to take its crown, but serves as a gentle reminder of miniaturisation and the games, well, the games will always win. I know the shiny new one is a versatile piece of kit, but remember the raison d’etre of a console.




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