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The Globe and Mail

Muted Sony E3 event highlights sequels, new handheld

Despite an elaborate stage, fresh details on an upcoming handheld console, and a guest appearance by basketball legend Kobe Bryant to promote the PlayStation 3 edition of 2K Sports' NBA 2K12, Sony's E3 presser at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena Monday evening was low key and a little bit scattered.

It began with a sober acknowledgment by SCEA President and CEO Jack Tretton regarding the PlayStation Network debacle. He said network usage is only at 90 per cent of what it was prior to the outage, and that Sony takes this very seriously.

However, he went on to say that PlayStation 3 sales are up 27 per cent over last year, and that PlayStation 3 owners tend to be avid users of the console's online features - apparently 30 per cent of all Netflix streaming takes place via PlayStation 3 consoles.

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Then, it was on to games. Sony showed off an impressive group of upcoming PlayStation 3 exclusives, including this fall's Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception (a graphically gorgeous level set on a sinking cruise ship may have made it my most anticipated game this fall), a cartoonish and playful looking new entry in the family-oriented Sly Cooper franchise dubbed Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time, and, of course, Resistance 3, the latest entry in Insomniac`s alternative history sci-fi shooter series.

These and several other games shown take full advantage of the PlayStation 3's support for stereoscopic play. Attendees were handed 3-D glasses as they walked into the arena to let them see 3-D effects in games projected on a theatre-sized screen.

However, in what could be interpreted as an acknowledgment of consumers' sluggish adoption of 3-D technology, Sony announced a new display bundle intended as a way for hesitant consumers to get in on 3-D gaming on the cheap. The 24-inch Sony-branded 1080p 3-D screen will cost $499 and come with 3-D glasses, an HDMI cable, and a copy of Resistance 3. It will ship this fall. This level of co-operation between Sony's gaming and television units is unprecedented - and long overdue, in my opinion.

Sony also spent considerable time promoting the PlayStation Move. Plenty of traditional games - including Resistance 3 - feature Move support, but the most prominent Move-centric title shown was Medieval Moves: Deadmund`s Quest, a fantasy action game designed around Sony's motion controller and made by the same team that delivered Sports Champions, arguably the best Move-focused game to date. However, the Move game whet my appetite most was Star Trek, a game based on J.J. Abrams recent film that will come with an optional - and lovely looking - phaser attachment inside which the Move wand will rest.

The final third of the briefing was devoted to Sony's upcoming handheld system, now officially named the PlayStation Vita (pronounced as you would the "Vida" part of Living La Vida Loca). The device, which sports a five-inch touchscreen, dual thumbsticks, gyroscopic control, and a rear touch pad, will sell for $249 for the WiFi model, $299 for the WiFi plus 3G edition. Confirmation that 3G service in the U.S. will be provided exclusively by AT&T didn't sit particularly well with the mostly American audience.

Attendees were also provided a lengthy look at a few of the more than 80 games in development for the system, which is set to launch this fall. Chief among them was Uncharted: Golden Abyss, which, from where I sat, looked pretty much like an Uncharted game running on PlayStation 3 (yes, that good), save that players have the option of using Vita-exclusive functionality, like tapping the screen to make Drake jump from ledge to ledge.

Other Vita games showcased included ModNation Racers and LittleBigPlanet - both of which allow players to create levels by drawing elements onscreen - as well as an action RPG tentatively titled Ruin that shows off the Vita's connectivity capabilities by allowing players to access their saved games and continue playing on the PlayStation 3.

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Sadly, the post-event line-up to enter the Vita arcade and get a little hands-on time with the device was a little too long for this tired reporter. I hope to get see it up close when I visit Sony's booth later this week.

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