SCEA Summer Preview: Batman, Pets, and More
Today, Sony Computer Entertainment (the folks behind the Playstation 3 and Playstation Portable) held a preview event, showcasing their upcoming titles for the rest of the year. The 2009 holiday season will be good for gamers, but multimedia buffs don't have a whole lot to look forward to that isn't Beatles-related.
The Playstation 3 is a multimedia beast, with Blu-ray Disc playback and an extensive library of downloadable SD and HD movies over the Playstation Network. On the plus side, that's not changing any time soon. On the minus side, that's not changing any time soon. The PS3 still lacks Netflix support, a rather significant content hole that its competitor, the Blu-ray Disc-less Xbox 360, filled over a year ago. Unfortunately, Sony still has no plans to add Netflix playback in the foreseeable future. If you don't mind paying per film, the Playstation Network will still add movies to its library on a weekly basis.
Among the 20-plus upcoming games SCEA showed off, The Beatles Rock Band was the big one for audiophiles to look forward to. Sony set aside an entire floor for the game, so I'm going to set aside an entire blog post for it. In the mean time, here are the highlights of SCEA's upcoming titles.
Batman: Arkham Asylum stood out to me, because of its top-notch cast and interesting gameplay. I've played the game's combat demo before, but this was the first chance I had to try the game's stealthy "predator mode," where Batman slinks along rafters to pick off enemies one by one. I could easily use Batman's signature grappling hook to leap and swing from ledge to gargoyle, perching in the shadows and watching criminals walk by. Attacks are varied, from simple swooping kicks to silent grabs to explosive traps. It played well, and convinced me that Arkham Asylum won't just be some Batman-themed brawler. Fans of the 1990's cartoon should take note: Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill, and Arleen Sorkin are reprising their roles as Batman, the Joker, and Harley Quinn for the game. Awesome.
EyePet also stood out, thanks to its combination of creativity and creepiness. The game uses the Playstation Eye camera accessory to make a cute, fuzzy animal appear on your own furniture (on-screen). You can pet the animal, play with it, give it toys, and just watch it scamper around your coffee table. A "magic card" lets you access the game's menu and the pet's various accessories by waving it and your hands in front of the camera in a control scheme that seems oddly similar to the hand-waving navigation in Minority Report. It's an extremely creative way to use the Playstation Eye, but it's also really, really creepy. The pet they showed off looked like a mutant monkey-dog as rendered by Pixar. It moved smoothly, looked adorable, and wierded me out to no end.
Brutal Legend was also on display, and it looks pretty darn metal. While EA's yet to show off the game's much-anticipated epic battles of the bands, what it has shown off looks good. Roadie-turned-metal-barbarian-hero Eddie runs around, hacks up cultists with his (literal) axe, uses a variety of elemental spells by wailing on his (figurative) axe, and cruises around on a souped up demonic hot rod. It's still in early stages and probably won't hit shelves this year, but it's certainly a title to look forward to.
SCEA had some other titles on display, but these were the ones that wowed. Keep an eye on Bitstream for a hands-on account of my time with The Beatles: Rock Band.
— Will Greenwald