E3 2013: Electronic Arts

Was there more to appreciate here than just EA Sports?

First thing to address, before I talk about Electronic Arts’ conference, is that the sound management for the streaming was pretty bad. Maybe it’s my stream but, throughout the event, I could hear people talking over it and it got annoying fast. It’s probably the backstage staff, whose microphones accidentally connected to the stream, if I were to guess.

Moving on, EA’s E3 conference, to me anyway, was the most predictable and unsurprising when it came to the games. There was the usual sports titles, your Need for Speed, your first-person shooter, and something from Maxim. Although, since this is the next generation, maybe they have something new and surprising to offer this year.

It started off by showing what seemed to be the trailer for Battlefield 4, from the distorted theme song to the static visual style, until the word “brains” got blurted out. The first game to be revealed was Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare, the title being a nod to the Modern Warfare strand of Call of Duty. It looks like a departure from the tower defence gameplay that Plants vs. Zombies is known for, and instead goes with a third-person cooperative shooter. EA did show a good amount of gameplay and it looks pretty fun. The co-op reminded me a lot of Mass Effect 3’s multiplayer as the objective is to kill wave after wave of enemies, with bosses dropping in from time to time. There are also different playable characters to choose from, each with their own unique abilities.

Titanfall came next with an “inside-look” trailer, showing the development team talking about what the game is like, and bragging why its so good. Titanfall is one of the most impressive games they’ve shown in the E3, so it was nice to see developer insight and more gameplay footage.

The rest of the set involved showing off their next generation engines; Frostbite 3 and EA Sports Ignite. They teased a trailer for Star Wars: Battlefront, which is going to be developed by DICE, appropriately, seeing that the gameplay of the previous Battlefront entries involved multiple player teamwork. DICE are experts at this.

Need for Speed: Rivals was a very interesting demonstration, revealing a feature called the “All Drive”, which mixes the gameplay of single-player and multiplayer together. This means that, if you start a single-player campaign as a racer for example, a friend may enter your session with no announcement, and will try to chase you down as a cop. I think it’s a very cool idea as it actually evolves the single-player experience, and will give provide a boost of excitement when a buddy unexpectedly pops in. Of course, this may get annoying if you don’t want any of your friends dropping in to piss you off, but thankfully, it can be turned off.

Continuing with Need for Speed, they also announced a film adaptation of the series, with Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul starring in the lead role. He came on stage, looking all cool, saying that he’s a gamer and bragging about what cars he has driven. A behind-the-scenes peek at the film was then shown, and from that point, I completely lost interest. Knowing the reputation of films based on games, and the fact that this is a conference about games and not films, I don’t really care. Let’s be hopeful about it, though, since Paul is an amazing actor, yet the track record for this sort of project isn’t good.

The next game was a trailer for the third in the Dragon Age series, which is called Inquisition. This preview is a particularly exciting one as my favourite character from Dragon Age: Origins, Morrigan, returns. With her return, I would speculate that it will go back to the Grey Warden storyline from DA: O.

Of course, it wouldn’t be an Electronic Arts conference without EA Sports, a segment I have little interest in as they do nothing for me. The games they showcased are just the same titles from last year, but with slight changes in graphics and physics. Every new sports game from now on will run on the Ignite engine, which they claim will make them feel more “alive.” As with every single EA Sports segment in an EA conference, they always focus on how realistic they can make them, and they brought in big name athletes to represent the appropriate sport. From what I saw, the games were just tech demos for the engine, and the speakers mostly talked and bragged about how lifelike the animation is, and how precise they are. It does looks very impressive in terms of graphics and the precision of the physics, but as far as I’m concerned, I don’t think anyone will care about it when they actually play the game. Also, the Drake appearance was pretty pointless.

After twenty minutes of EA Sports, they finally showcased Battlefield 4. When it was announced and revealed its first gameplay footage, I became a bit sceptical, even though I loved Battlefield 3. I thought it was a bit too early, and the changes made from the previous title were unnoticeable. Of course, it is only a first impression from single-player footage. They did show off more campaign footage in the Microsoft conference, but I was still divided since it looked like your average military first-person shooter. The thing that I want from Battlefield 4, and the only thing that people care about, is the multiplayer. Fortunately, this conference also pimped it out in a very spectacular fashion, and it was, in my opinion, the highlight of the conference. My scepticism disappeared after I saw a well-organised and just overall brilliant multiplayer demonstration. There were players on the stage; I’m guessing about 64, and each with their own screen and controller. What I loved about this set-up is that it made the multiplayer seem incredibly authentic, and fully shows the capabilities of the Frostbite 3 engine, from environment destruction to character animations. There are some very nice changes to the multiplayer, too, such as having five in a squad instead of four, and the return of the Commander Mode from Battlefield 2, which makes the multiplayer look bigger, more intense and a lot more tactical.

After finishing an incredible multiplayer demo from Battlefield 4, DICE dropped in a surprise reveal and the last game to be shown, which turned out to be a new Mirror’s Edge. I wasn’t very impressed with this one because the original game makes me nauseous. and I can’t get through two hours without feeling sick. That said, it is a very cool trailer that highlights the lighting and reflection effects of the Frostbite 3 engine.

In conclusion, this was a very enjoyable press conference, despite the audio problems in the video stream. I was a bit disappointed that they didn’t showcase other EA titles like The Sims 4 or a brand new Mass Effect, but overall, they showed a fair amount of interesting games (EA Sports aside), and their demonstrations were really good, especially the multiplayer for Battlefield 4. While the sports games were to be expected, this conference had some pleasant surprises, even if they were speculated, such as a new Star Wars: Battlefront and Dragon Age III. Since the next generation of gaming has started, I hope EA has more new surprises in store for the future and hope that they resist from being their predictable selves.

R.G. Villanueva

Contributing game and film writer for SquabbleBox. Occasional DJ and instrumentalist, amateur programmer, all-around lazy guy.

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