LOS ANGELES — If 2007 was the year the PlayStation 3 got sand kicked in its face, the conventional wisdom has been that 2008 gives the system a chance for revenge.
So it was no surprise that a showcase of the biggest upcoming Sony-published 2008 PS3 games in Los Angeles late last week was full of impressive games and ... interactive art?
Anyone who bought a PlayStation 3 and was still wondering what it's good for would have found playable answers on the top floor of the Roosevelt Hotel. They were a reminder that perhaps no other publisher presents as diverse a gaming lineup as Sony.
"Little Big Planet," the cheerful opposite of so much of what Sony has impressed gamers with in the past, was one star of the show. The side-scrolling action game is cute and colorful, an image of modern-day "Super Mario Bros." that distinguishes itself by making every element subject to user creation and manipulation. The October game is being pushed not as the definitive expression of developer Media Molecule's level design but of the definitive canvas upon which gamers can create their own video game objects and levels — and then share them. (Read more about just how far we learned "LBP" will let gamers go here.)
Media Molecule's game is a clear front-runner for all kinds of gaming awards, but for those who prefer their PS3 games to be darker, more aggressive and, oh yeah, in three dimensions, Sony showed its two marquee first-person shooters: "Killzone 2" and "Resistance 2." The former was shown in single-player and looks as good as the allegedly smoke-and-mirrors concept trailer shown at E3 in 2005. It's a very gray game that takes place in a game world that looks as grittily detailed and well-animated as last fall's benchmark "Call of Duty 4." But the game has been a long time in the making and has been pushed to a February 2009 release, clearing the way for "Resistance 2."
"Resistance 2" is a fairly gray post-World War II humans vs. aliens shooter that was being showcased for its multiplayer features. The game will let 60 players compete against each other, dividing them into squads of about six and setting pairs of squads into rivalries. Developers at Insomniac Games were on hand to explain how it works and to attest to how much more they need to tweak things before the game's fall release. But the basic flow of the 60-player sessions will involve the squads achieving the same objective — capturing territory, reinforcing some other group of players on the map — and then competing to complete the goal. Multiplayer "Resistance 2" didn't exhibit the graphical detail or polish of "Killzone 2," but the ambition of 60-player matches went over well with the reporters in attendance.
Sony showed good range, demonstrating the PS3 version of the big-in-Europe game-show game "Buzz." The new version comes with wireless game-show buzzers and will allow players to compete online as well as write their own quizzes. The quiz question that popped up during an MTV News demo of the game was all about "Zelda" — you know, the Nintendo-made series Sony has nothing to do with. Not far from "Buzz" was "MotorStorm: Pacific Rim," a sequel to the original PS3 off-road racing game, now featuring monster trucks as an option against dune buggies, motorcycles and tractor-trailer cabs.
But that's not really showing range. Showing range is having a back room that has 1) a piece of seven-minute interactive art called "Linger in Shadows" that allegedly brings the PS3 to its knees with its real-time fur-rendering and other advanced effects; 2) the first chapter of a downloadable episodic horror game called "Siren: Blood Curse"; and 3) an unassuming but mobbed game station running a summer title called "PixelJunk Eden." That last game is a 2D game that allows up to three players to hop little characters up a forest of slowly growing trees. It's all rendered in a techno style. The trees sprout neon stalks; music thumps. And the characters can extend little strands of webbing so they can twirl around and hop to the next safe landing. Gameplay involves trying to trigger more branch-sprouting and leaping higher and higher. MTV News wasn't the only outlet to go back to play seconds.
The L.A. lineup of PS3 games also included September's multiplayer-only "SOCOM: Confrontation." It did not include any third-party games like the PS3 June exclusive "Metal Gear Solid 4" from Konami, nor did it include "NBA 09" for PS3, even though the game was included in press materials as a fall system exclusive.
Barring any surprises — and assuming there will be few if "Killzone 2" has already been pushed to 2009 — the PlayStation 3's lineup for the second half of 2008 appears to be strong, diverse and quite possibly possessing a "little big" hit in the making.
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