Knack is a simple platformer that has you playing as a creature called...well, Knack, which can make itself bigger and stronger from the pieces that fall off of things it destroys. When you take damage, those pieces fall off of you until you are left defenseless and die. You can also choose to voluntarily leave your hard shell on the floor while you go through small holes and other areas you can't enter as your bigger, armored self; you can reassemble your armor later without penalty when you choose to leave it.
I admit I wasn't that excited to play the Knack demo at first, even though I love platformers; it just seemed like a generic launch title that Sony had been pushing way too hard. This initial opinion was reinforced when I found I only had two buttons at my disposal during the first part of the demo: square for attack and X for jump. However, almost against my will, I started to enjoy the demo the longer I played it. While the gameplay is very simple, even with the introduction of the before mentioned leaving and picking up your armor at will during the second part of the demo (activated with the triangle button), there's something charming about the game. In the third part of the demo, which took place in a glacier, Knack built his armor out of ice instead of metallic parts from cars and other things that were in the city. The last part of the demo had you play as a giant-sized Knack, capable of picking up whole cars with the O button and throwing them at planes and helicopters, and somewhere along the way I found myself smiling and enjoying myself more than I thought I could have. I'm still not convinced it will be worth a full $60 when it comes out (it's actually supposed to be a free pack-in title for Japan's release), but it's an enjoyable, solid game, which is better than what can be said of most systems' launch titles.
Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag (PS4/Xbox One/PS3/360)
I don't feel like I need to explain the Assassin's Creed series to anyone at this point, especially with it being in its 4th numbered iteration now (not including the various mobile spin-offs and un-numbered entries over the years), so I'll jump right into the demo. First of all, it was less than 10 minutes (with an over 2 hour wait), so my impressions will be brief.
It immediately dropped you into captaining your ship as you sacked a British fortress on an island. The controls for the ship (which was first introduced as a psuedo mini-game in Assassin's Creed 3) are more refined than before, and I found them easier to use, especially the main cannons which were quick to aim and see where they would hit. After taking out two ships in the water and two battlements on the fortress, you pulled your ship into the dock and jumped off to invade on foot. Combat was smooth, and played pretty much the same as the rest of the series, with an attack, counter, and guard button. You also had a pistol at your disposal for long-range attacks. I did think that the wall-climbing and platforming seemed smoother and faster than previous entries in the series, but whether that was owing more to the graphical advancements or my exhaustion at that point is hard to say. Speaking of the graphics though, they were gorgeous. The ocean water was especially pretty, which is nice as this is a pirate game on the high seas. Also impressive were the facial expressions of the characters during in-game cutscenes. As there didn't appear to be an Assassin's Creed 4 demo for PS3 at the show, I wasn't able to compare the two, but at least the PS4 version was impressive visually, especially when compared to Assassin's Creed 3. It looks like it will be a great game, but as I killed the fortress captain within 5 minutes and ended the demo, I don't have anything else I can say about it at the moment.
Killzone: Shadow Fall
Before I say anything about Killzone, I have to preface it with the side-note that I waited two and a half hours in line to play this. I don't care if the PS4 spat money at me afterwards, there was no way I was going to completely enjoy this game after standing in line that long. That being said, Shadow Fall looks absolutely gorgeous, and being as it's a launch title, it's going to be really interesting to see what developers will get out of the PS4 a few years into its life.
Having played and enjoyed all the previous games in the Killzone series, I have to say that this is hands-down the hardest entry yet. What makes this Killzone so much more difficult than previous ones? Well, first off, the AI of the Helghan opponents is vastly improved. They aren't just coming at you in waves like moths to a flame. Instead, one Helghan will come directly at you while the rest quickly come around and outflank you. Additionally, as seen in the E3 trailer, these Helgan have a Star Trek style transporter/cloaker that allows them to literally disappear in front of you and then suddenly reappear in a completely different place. Last, but not least, the newly added gameplay device of the OWL (your own personal attack/support drone) has a pretty steep learning curve, at least in the demo, which is further complicated by its dual-shock 4 touch pad control scheme. All in all, I did like Killzone: Shadow Fall, but for me personally, I feel the Killzone series lost its 'spark' when the character of Scolar Viscari (voiced by the brilliant Brian Cox) was killed off in Killzone 2. I've found myself enjoying each subsequent entry a little less without that character's presence, and Shadow Fall, despite its gorgeous graphics, is no exception.
The Playroom is a free pack-in title for the Sony PlayStation 4 camera (which will retail at around $60 from what we were told at the booth) which had three playable games available to demo, although whether more will be available at launch remains to be seen. All the 'games' use some form of AR, although to be fair two are less of a game and more of an interactive activity. This is the same game we saw Yoshida demo during the PlayStation keynote speech yesterday.
The first thing we played was called 'Play with Asobi', who is a cute flying robot you can summon from inside your dual-shock 4 controller by using the touch-panel. He basically just flies around, and you can pet him or whap him; if you abuse him too much, he'll get angry and attack your image on the TV (shown through the PlayStation camera). In our instance, he electrocuted one of us, but with other people he set their hair on fire (our image, mind you, not actually us obviously). It's a cute little interactive activity, as is the next game we played, called 'AR Bots'. In this demo, before we summoned the little robots, we could actually view them living inside the controller. Pushing various buttons on the controller first made them stare up at the light coming through their 'ceiling', but then caused them to start dancing, which was cute. You could also tilt the controller or shake it to make them fly about and fall down. After messing with them inside the controller for a bit, we flicked them all out onto the main screen in front of us by using the touch panel. If you waved into the camera, they would wave back, and you could swipe at them with your hand and send them flying. We were then handed a tablet pc with the PlayStation App running on it, and asked to draw something. We drew a heart and an apple, then Star Trek flicked it from the tablet where it magically materialized on the TV screen for the little robots to love and play with. It was adorable, and I admit I probably enjoyed this way more than I really should have. The last thing we played was the only thing which could be called an actual game: AR Hockey. This game was basically air hockey mixed with pong, with a bit of a twist. Using the dual-shock 4 controllers, you can twist, shake, expand and contract the air hockey table while you play as you try to mess up the other player; the paddle movement is controlled by moving your finger up and down on the touch pad. This was really a blast, and all in all, for a free pack-in game, I have to say The Playroom was really enjoyable.