A Storm, for Better or Worse: A Year in Review of Sony 2011

“Will the Play Station Move continue to struggle and boggle down Sony’s progress? Or was 2010 simply a relapse year before the PS3 gets ready to blow our minds again? Only time will tell.” -Me, Last year.

Well, the time has come. After a pretty uneventful 2010, with God of War 3 and Heavy Rain as the only two exclusives of note, 2011 appeared to be much more encompassing. Sony had a new exclusive scheduled for just about every other month and it seemed the company was well on its way to having what could be its greatest year yet. Now, did it actually turn out that way?

Upon reflection, 2010 now feels like it was the calm before the storm. 2011 certainly was a busy year, though I suppose with as much as they had on their plate, it would be foolish to expect everything to turn out perfect. So let’s take a closer look.

The Greats

LBP Toy Story 580x245 A Storm, for Better or Worse: A Year in Review of Sony 2011
“To Craftworld and beyond!”

 

Sony began the year with Little Big Planet 2, the follow-up to Media Molecule’s groundbreaking platformer/level making toybox. Sack Person returned to us with a brand new adventure. He’s on a mission to rescue Craftworld from the Negativatron with the help of Sackbots, Cakeinators, Cyborg Camels that spit lasers, and a guy with the coolest name in the entire world: Avalon Centrifuge. Here’s a game that I can never humanly tire from, as there is always new content online from its dedicated community day and night.

And if that weren’t enough, Media Molecule released new bonus content in the form of Toy Story themed level and costume kits. I can honestly say, no matter how hard I try, I cannot possibly think of a franchise that translates to Craft-form as seamless and wonderfully as Toy Story. The levels themselves make whimsical additions to the already diverse world that surrounds our little Sack Hero, not to mention quite challenging. I still have yet to defeat the final boss against Dr. Pork Chop.

We then started our Summer Vacations with our second outing with Cole “Electric Man” McGrath in InFamous 2. Not only did this game improve on the original by overhauling the graphics, giving us a bigger more varied world to explore, and revamping the annoying sidekick character to be an actually useful and all-around more likeable guy, but it also delivered an excellent capper to the story arc they began in the first game. Too often do we see 2’s in the gaming universe finishing their games open ended, or worse, with a flat-out cliffhanger to pave way for an obvious third installment (Halo and God of War being probably the two biggest culprits of all). InFamous 2 did not play that card. At the end of the first game, we were told the big fight was coming. In the second game, it came, and regardless of whether you went good or evil, we finished that fight to the very bitter end, closing up the storyline permanently.

Cole and Zeke 580x292 A Storm, for Better or Worse: A Year in Review of Sony 2011
“Remember when you turned into a vampire? I love that part.”

 

That’s not to say that Sucker Punch is out of ideas for the franchise, oh no. This Halloween, we received InFamous Festival of Blood, a short downloadable game that couldn’t give a flying crap where it’s suppose to fit within the continuity of the storyline, existing simply as an excuse to let us play as Count Cole McGrath with the power to morph into a horde of bats, and I couldn’t love it more for it.

Keeping with the trend of the God of War and Sly Collections last year (I did mention the Sly Cooper Trilogy this year though), Sony rereleased a few more of their classics including God of War Origins (which I very much enjoyed), comprising the two PSP God of War titles by Ready At Dawn, and even more exciting, Ico and Shadow of the Colossus. What’s great is that the only small complaint people really had about SotC was that the PS2’s limited horsepower couldn’t keep up with the game’s outlandish visuals. With this HD remake, that gets fixed up no problem.

As far as third installments go, both of Sony’s exclusive FPS franchises, Killzone 3 and Resistance 3, rounded up their storylines this year, and they did not disappoint. Resistance particularly had the challenge of developing a completely different main character for their third installment, seeing as the protagonist of the first two games was now KIA. Yet Insomniac managed to pull it off, as I never doubted they would.

 

Uncharted 3 Cast 580x291 A Storm, for Better or Worse: A Year in Review of Sony 2011
Yet another photo finish for the treasure-hunting trio.

 

There is also something that bears repeating in regards to Uncharted 3 Drakes Deception. While it may not have succeeded in exceeding the expectations left by its 35 Game-of-the-Year Award Winning predecessor, it was still a fun game in its own right. Given Naughtydog’s patterns with their franchises in the past, if this truly is the final Uncharted game they ever work on, than it was quite a ride and I pray that any and all companies that take on this franchise in the future (I’m looking at you Bend Studio) approach it with the effort and resolve it rightfully deserves.

All those exclusives alone would be more than enough to keep any PS3 owner’s thumbs busy and wallets empty for the whole year, but it just so happens Sony was just as blessed with amazing third party support as ever. Portal 2, Batman Arkham City, and Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim are not only the top games of the year and will certainly win numerous Game of the Year Awards between the three of them, but they are some of the greatest titles of this entire console generation. Me personally, I was much more anxious for to the return of a classic platforming icon in Rayman Origins. After mourning that I missed a chance to play the game upon its release, I finally managed to get a hold of it during the holiday rush. Guess what? It’s awesome.

Rayman Origins 580x326 A Storm, for Better or Worse: A Year in Review of Sony 2011
This game is eye candy to its finest.

 

The Not-so-Great

Okay, so this year was certainly not without its serious financial and critical flops for Sony. For starters, there was the PSN Blackout back in April that shut out the entire online community for weeks. This was one of the biggest pandemics in the gaming community that made the company desperately scramble to consolidate their user basis.

For someone like me who rarely plays online, I almost completely forgot it ever happened several months after the fact, and the free games Sony provided once back online were much appreciated.

No, what I’m more concerned about is the Play Station Move. It’s already been out for over a year now, and it’s still not selling. Why is it not selling? Well, unlike the 360’s Kinect, which has titles like Dance Central and Disney Adventures that sell it as a legit new peripheral, there is still nothing available on the Move that is really worth the hundred dollar price of admission. That’s not to say Sony hasn’t tried, god no. Their two big FPS franchises I mentioned above, Killzone 3 and Resistance 3, both have Move Support, and from what I’ve heard, they play great with it. But no matter how well these titles may use that peripheral, if they play just fine with a regular controller that gamers are already accustomed to, that will indefinably be their default play style of choice. It’s cheaper and less work.

And don’t get me started on games made for the Move from ground up. PlayStation Move Heroes was something that when I first saw last years E3, looked like a dream come true. The poster boys of Naughtydog, Insomniac, and Sucker Punch, all rolled up into one game. In a perfect world, this would be the crossover platforming adventure I’ve been waiting an entire console generation for, with diverse worlds, intriguing plot twists, and hilarious writing that each of these three franchises is known for. I may just get teary-eyed thinking about the possibilities.

Oh what’s that? It’s another bland, uninspired waggle fest with repetitive minigames and an embarrassing plot that is not intriguing, funny, or holds a candle to any of these characters’ solo adventures in the slightest?

Playstation Move Heroes 580x326 A Storm, for Better or Worse: A Year in Review of Sony 2011
This is not a perfect world, and this does make me want to cry.

 

On a slightly lighter note, I have heard that Medieval Moves: Deadmund’s Quest did turn out to be pretty awesome. Still, one good game is not enough to sell the whole peripheral for me.

My final word: On the grounds of games alone, Sony was a definite juggernaut this year. Lots of big franchises getting sequels, and not just sequels, but cappers to what were once brand new IP’s at the beginning of this Console Generation. Along with that, some nice new PS2/PSP collections, great downloadable content, and some of the best third party support to date. From a business model standpoint, they are far from ideal, thanks to Network fiascoes like the Blackout, and the Move still failing to provide us anything worthwhile. So, better but not perfect. I give them a B.

Coming Soon

Twisted Metal 580x326 A Storm, for Better or Worse: A Year in Review of Sony 2011
What may very well be the best Single Awareness Day ever.

 

February 14th (which is some holiday, I forget what) sees the beloved return Sony’s longest running exclusive franchise ever. Twisted Metal kicks the adrenaline meter to the curb with all the best kinds of Rush Hour Road Rage, Road Kill, and what have you. Oh yeah, and ice-cream trucks that transform into Decepticons.

Also in February, we get the Jak and Daxter Collection, the HD rerelease of Naughtydog’s second hit trilogy, which at this point may as well be titled, Roger Gus Townson’s Money Dispenser Collection.

Again in February (busy month) on the 22nd, we see the American release (Japan released it last Saturday) of Sony’s next generation portable, the Play Station Vita. I am pleased to say the launch lineup this time around is looking very good, with titles like Gravity Rush, Little Deviants, and of course Uncharted Golden Abyss which, as I hinted earlier, will prove if new developers are capable of handling this property properly.

In a later quarter, The Cooper Gang returns to work after a six-year hiatus in Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time. While not being developed by the original creator, Sucker Punch, would normally concern me, given the trailers and gameplay footage we’ve seen at E3, Sanzaru appears to have a very good grasp on the franchise, so I’m excited.

I would like to believe Team Ico’s The Last Guardian is finally going to come out by the end of this year, given how much it’s already been pushed back, but at this point I don’t want to make any more promises.

On the third party side, we have Mass Effect 3 and Bioshock Infinite, both set to be surefire winners. Here’s also high hopes we hear more about Insomniac’s newest title, Overstrike.

All right, let’s talk a bit about Naughtydog’s next project, which debuted during the VGA’s. The Last of Us.

The Last of US 580x326 A Storm, for Better or Worse: A Year in Review of Sony 2011
The girl from Juno and Inception in a survival action game? Alright, you got my curiosity.

So apparently, a handful of guys, after completing Uncharted 2, shifted their attention to this while others worked on Uncharted 3, so it’s already been in the works for a while now. That said, it still looks like a very rough draft of what the final product will look like, and I won’t be surprised if it’s not ready by the end of the year.

Concept wise, while I personally wish Naughtydog would return to form from the PS1/PS2 eras and make something more colorful and fantasy like, they did bring on the lead designer of Enslaved: Odyssey to the West (a niche game from 2010 I enjoyed a lot) to work with them, so I am intrigued.

Yeah, I know everyone’s already made the joke that the girl looks exactly like a younger Ellen Page (the character is even named Ellie), but hey, Nathan Drake was first based on Nathan Fillion, so this ain’t too farfetched for them.

 

And here I thought that 2012 would be another relapse year like 2010. It might still be, as everything looks more exciting from afar. However, the arrival of the Play Station Vita could keep the company and their customers busy for some time now. Good luck.

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