While fans of Microsoft's Xbox 360 and Nintendo's Wii will probably disagree, Sony and its PlayStation 3 made the biggest news among console systems at last week's Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles.
Sony, which desperately needed a strong showing, delivered by unveiling a killer lineup of games, including a couple of huge exclusives from key, third-party publishers. Such exclusives, which invariably drive system sales and helped to make the PlayStation 2 dominant in the last console generation, have been notably missing from the library of the PlayStation 3.
At E3, Sony gained immediate cred with the announcement that espionage adventure Agent, an entirely new franchise from Grand Theft Auto creator Rockstar Games, would roll out as a PS3 exclusive. Also coming only to Sony's pricey console is Final Fantasy XIV, an online role-playing game. Old-school Final Fantasy fans were also cheered by the news that PS2 classic Final Fantasy VII is now available for the PS3 via download from Sony's online store.
In addition, Sony showed off an impressive lineup of in-house titles, including The Last Guardian, which completes the Ico adventure trilogy; action-oriented Uncharted 2: Among Thieves; the eye-popping God of War III, and MAG, an online modern combat game that allows up to 256 players to do battle in real time. I also was wowed by Mod Nation Racers, a kart game with a heavy emphasis on user-created content in the vein of 2008 PS3 hit Little Big Planet.
In addition to a top-flight slate of games, Sony unveiled a prototype of a new motion controller. Working in coordination with its PlayStation Eye camera, the as-yet-unnamed device will allow players to control in-game objects such as swords and tennis rackets. The controller, which Sony promised to release next year, was so precise that it could even be used for writing and drawing.
A pair of rumored PS3 developments unfortunately failed to happen. Many observers were hoping for a price cut on the console. They were disappointed, as were those who hoped to hear some word of a slimmed-down PS3 form factor.
While I wait for Sony's impressive E3 lineup of games to launch, I've been keeping my PS3 warmed up with inFAMOUS, a terrific action-adventure developed by Sucker Punch. With a comic-book feel, the game plays much like a superhero adventure.
As inFAMOUS begins, Empire City bike messenger Cole MacGrath is caught in a huge explosion. He not only survives, but also develops the power to harness electricity and use it as both a tool and a weapon. With Empire City cut off from the rest of the country by government quarantine, evildoers run rampant and order breaks down. Amidst the chaos, the player must decide whether Cole will be a hero or villain. These choices present themselves at various points in the game and allow the player to put his or her own stamp on the adventure.
inFAMOUS features the kind of go-anywhere, open world play pioneered by games like Grand Theft Auto. While the story is essentially mission-driven, Cole is free to explore the gritty, 3-D world of Empire City. In addition to his electrical powers, Cole can climb any building, scurry from rooftop to rooftop along connecting cables, make incredible jumps, and even fall long distances without injury. He is not immune from attacks by enemies, however; these are immensely challenging at times.
In addition to terrific game play, inFAMOUS benefits from a clever script and complex cast of characters. Cole's girlfriend, for example, begins to hate him in the mistaken belief that he is responsible for the death of her sister. Cole's best friend is a bit of a rogue. A shadowy female FBI agent directs Cole's quest to save Empire City while a mysterious pirate TV commentator spews anti-Cole propaganda to Empire City's wary populace.
The bottom line on inFAMOUS? It's one of the best PS3 exclusives to date. While it may not justify buying a PS3 all by itself, if you've got one you'll want to have this game.
Sony. PlayStation 3.
Rating: T (13 and older)
On the Web: www.us.playstation.com