Sony Rolls Out Heavy Hitters like Heavy Rain for E3 2009

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Despite Sony’s market position well behind Nintendo in both the home and portable console markets at the moment, the company had no problem drawing crowds at this year’s E3, where a full deck of high-profile titles made its booth one of the busiest at the show. We headed upstairs for a tour of the latest with developers on hand to explain.

After debuting at last year’s E3, Fat Princess for PS3 was playable and looking fully developed this year, giving us a chance to sit down and rescue some overweight royalty. The game challenges two teams to capture their own fat princesses (who have been force fed too much cake) back from the opposing team in the same way you ordinarily might in a game of capture-the-flag. But instead of darting back with a flag in hand, players hobble back under her weight. The top-down cartoon action plays fast and loose, making it quick to pick up and difficult to put down after mastering the basics.

Heavy Rain stood out as one of the most graphically intricate and innovative titles on display. It offers players a chance to basically partake in a crime movie, controlling four characters (any of which can die without ending the game) as they try to unravel the mystery of the so-called Origami Killer. A series of difficult moral choices shape the game as it goes, meaning that every player will hypothetically create his or her own storyline on the fly. In the demo we saw, a drug-addicted detective sniffed out clues for his case at a local junkyard, only to arouse the attention of the yard’s angry owner, resulting in a hand-to-hand combat and eventually, a frantic escape from a car about to be fed into a crusher. The game relies on contextual controls – icons on the screen that tell you which buttons to jam at any given moment, like pressing right to dodge a punch. Depending on whether you’re able to execute them or not, the game changes: While we were busy chatting up our demonstrator, the car got sucked into the crusher and our detective was no more. The next screen over, players managed to escape.

Any discussion of Sony at this year’s E3 would also be remiss without God of War III, which garnered a line that snaked through the booth and outside it just to play. The key to gamer’s hearts: More of the same from a franchise that has already been a hot seller once and twice around, with just enough extras like skyscraper-sized monsters to make it feel new again.

Finally, things have come a long way since the days this writer can remember playing a bootleg version of Gran Turismo on a TI-89 in math class in high school – the version of Gran Turismo now available for PSP offers over 800 cars, 30 tracks, and runs at a consistent 60 frames per second, making the play experience buttery smooth. It will come out on October 1 here in North America.