Monday, 10 June 2013

EA E3 conference review

So, EA at E3...I never thought I'd be saying this, but well done EA. You actually managed to push away my doubts and engage me as a gamer rather than just a walking (rather small, admittedly) pile of cash. I know it won't stick but for now, lets talk about the good, the bad, the great and the grim parts of EA's E3 conference.

Starting with the good, this conference on an overall level felt more relaxed than the Microsoft conference. I didn't talk about it so much in the last review, but the people on stage were quite nervous and I can understand why, but didn't really cotton on to it as I didn't have a frame of reference. The people on the EA stage came on, knew what they were talking about, made jokes, were really enthusiastic about their product (in the case of Dana White, UFC president, perhaps too enthusiastic! but we'll let that slide) and it didn't feel at all cagey or defensive like the Microsoft conference. The games on display all looked to be cutting edge titles, the sports games in particular constantly drove home the advanced capabilities of EA's new Ignite game engine, going on and on about how virtual players react better, look better, move better in general, and if (as EA claim) that all the videos shown at the conference were actual videos of real-time game-play footage, then the new generation will finally be at the point where sports games become true sports simulations rather than arcade imitations.

Similarly, other titles in EA's portfolio have been given a new engine, this one supplied by Dice, and the frostbite 3 is spectacular. I'll go into it in a bit more detail when I'm talking about the "great" portion of the conference, but for now lets look at Need for Speed Rivals. One of the more worrying aspects of EA lately has been their intention to shoehorn multi-player sections into what are ostensibly single player games. Which is why we got a versus mode in Dead Space 2 and co-op as well in 3, a horde mode in Mass Effect 3, etc. etc. it's not been universally acclaimed to say the least. That's not to say the modes aren't fun, they are, but they've never really added anything to the single player game and some would argue that they have in fact detracted from that experience. Need for Speed Rivals is the first title, I would argue, that gets it right. In NFSR, a person playing single player can have his or her game become a multi-player mode, without even knowing, as a "rival" can join in their race as a cop pursuing the initial player. This, to be fair, has been tried before, with (off the top of my head, I'm sure there may be others) Resident Evil 6. But where as that was a specific mode that had to be picked, this is the blending of two modes in a sense, a game can start off single player and end up multi-player, without having to go back to a main menu or a pause in game-play, and if that doesn't excite you, then sir, you are not all that into gaming.

Now, for the bad side of the conference. This is going to be an admittedly small section, there wasn't really anything bad about the show, it was actually surprisingly done. Having celebrities come in on the EA Sports section just to introduce the titles (Drake likes FIFA I guess...lets get him in to stroke our egos! or something) was a little bit laughable for the most part, and on a personal level I would have liked to have heard more about Battlefront (they announced Battlefront! BATTLEFRONT! I felt a disturbance in the force, as though millions of voices cried out in joy and then were no more details were divulged....) and Peggle 2, but yeah, just announcing them was enough at this point.

Okay, now for the great. Battlefield 4.If you are reading this and you have not seen the game-play footage of BF4, you stop reading this, now, and you go search for it and watch it....because I hated Battlefield 3. I really did, it was very Call of Duty like, it was far more restricted in play-style compared to Bad Company 2, it just wasn't...its own game in a sense. Now, large scale destructible levels are back, more players in multi-player, back to a tactical battle-field (moving away from the CoD run and gun twitchy style of game-play). The game engine looks amazing, graphics are literally awesome (i.e. actually inspiring feelings of awe), with realistic physics, impressive details of characters and environments and of changes in those environments. Speaking of Frostbite 3, one other game it's being used on is the (oft rumoured, but now confirmed) Mirror's Edge was more of a tease than an actual trailer (as it said on the trailer "Coming out....when it's ready") but what a tease and speaking of tease, Dragon Age: Inquisition. The news that has been pushed back by a year was actually met with cheers. That shows how poorly received its predecessor was and how vital people believe more time developing is to the game (Dragon Age 2 had a notoriously short development time, especially for an RPG title). It looks very interesting, so hopefully we won't be disappointed...   

And then this leads to the matter how good the conference was (and it was really rather good, in my opinion) in the back of the mind is still the fact that it is EA behind all of this, and that it'd be daft to believe them entirely, to deliver what they are promising, based on their track record...but hey, hope springs eternal right. Overall, it was a fantastic conference, and I hope the rest of E3 at least maintains this quality. Ubisoft up next, lets see how that one goes.

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