Why Sony Won E3 2012

New projects from familiar developers helped Sony steal the show.

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Sony wasn't afraid to open its E3 2012 press conference with a 20-minute game demo completely devoid of loud noises, flashing lights, explosions, shooting, sniping, platforming, dancing, singing, or any kind of throat stabbing.

Our first look at David Cage's new title Beyond was deliberately slow-paced. It was a bold move for Sony, but one that paid off.

David Cage has taken a lot of flack since the release of 2010's Heavy Rain. But his highbrow aspirations for his games and the future of video game development should be welcome at a time when change and diversity are impacting the future of the industry. Beyond is a step in that direction. Much like with Heavy Rain, the game's emphasis seems to be on empathy and the human need to understand the world around us. While Heavy Rain was criticized for what some saw as unimaginative gameplay, it seems Cage has taken this criticism to heart--from what we've seen so far, Beyond will move at a faster pace, incorporate more action, and give players a more satisfying way to engage with the game's characters and environments.

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From one atmospheric PS3-exclusive to the next, Naughty Dog's new IP, The Last of Us, also helped Sony stand out from the other publishers at this year's E3. The game, a postapocalyptic survival adventure, proved that it is possible to construct a meaningful relationship between two protagonists that can grow organically as the game progresses without sacrificing fluid and immersive gameplay. While the demo of Last of Us focused on an action sequence, Naughty Dog stressed that the game will aim to combine exploration and environmental puzzle-solving with the action to allow the relationship between the two characters to develop. It was refreshing to see game protagonists who reacted realistically to their environment and circumstances, displaying both visual and audible distress after an encounter with an enemy while engaging in contextual, intelligent, and natural dialogue.

Now to the less impressive stuff--while God of War: Ascension blazed onto the stage with impressing bravado, it was nothing we haven't seen before. The first God of War had unrestrained flair: a flawed hero in a mythical setting battling some truly awe-inspiring enemies. The over-the-top violence was one of its defining characteristics--nothing was more satisfying than watching Kratos tear into these fantastical creatures, ripping out heads, eyeballs, and innards like it was going out of fashion. It was fun. It worked. Subsequent God of War games mimicked the formula to varying degrees of success. Sure enough, Ascension looks visually impressive and gives Kratos some new toys to play with, but the formula feels tired, like Sony is trying to recapture a magic that has long dried up.

Speaking of magic, what the hell was Wonderbook about? No one knows, so let's move on.

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Assassin's Creed: Liberation, Assassin's Creed III, and Far Cry 3 each impressed in their respective demos, from the introduction of an established franchise's first female protagonist, to a sneak peek at some truly awesome naval warfare, to a fast-paced action sequence involving bows and arrows, grenades, shotguns, and a dead tiger. (Still not sure about that last one.)

While it didn't hit a home run, Sony put its heart into its E3 presentation this year. It took risks, went hard, and, most importantly, put on a good show. Which, after all, is what we're all here to see.

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