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EA @ E3 2017 : The 6 best things EA delivered

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So E3 is in full swing and EA have delivered their usual presentation at EA Play. But what did I think of it?

First of all, before I jump headlong into the games and what they mean to me, I have to talk about the presentation of the whole thing. I’ve seen more convincing delivery of lines and a better emotional range at my 6 year old son’s Nativity. I’m not sure who the YouTubers were that they were rolling out, but it just goes to show that when you have unlimited time to put your videos together, it’s a lot easier than trying to do it live. I’ve not seen so many fluffed lines, awkward pauses and pauses in the wrong places since my best man’s speech, many years ago.

First up is the traditional giveaway that we’ve come to expect, and this time it came in the form of free access to the EA Access vault. Yes, between now and June 18th, the Vault is free for everyone to have a gander at. We’re talking access to Plants Vs Zombies Garden Warfare 2, Star Wars Battlefront, Dragon Age Inquisition and Need for Speed, to name but a few. So if you’ve ever wanted to play any of these games but haven’t until now, this is the perfect time to download them and see if you like them.

And with EA Access being as cheap as it is, there’s not much penalty if you want to keep access to the games beyond the 18th. What are you waiting for? Get on it! The EA CEO, Andrew Wilson, said this was in thanks for the generosity shown by gamers to three inclusion charities, which have split $1,000,000 between them thanks to the EA Play To Give charity drive. So well done EA for delivering a great result for these charities, and the important anti bullying and inclusion work they do – things which I think we can all agree are very important.

So, having established that the performance wasn’t that great, how about the games they revealed? Well, there was a mixed bag. The usual yearly update to the ball franchises were wheeled out, there was a hint of something new, and of course there was Star Wars. Here’s my rundown of the games we saw, my impressions and excitement levels. Obviously this is based on my own personal opinion…

The various incarnations of the EA Sports games

Fifa, NBA Live, Madden. They all collectively fail to light my fire, I’m afraid. The new iterations all look very nice indeed, with Cristiano Ronaldo drafted in to run about in a mo-cap suit to enable the footballers to look more realistic and life-like than ever before. They also played up the eSports part of FIFA, with the FUT World Cup getting a lot of attention. NBA Live has also undergone a revamp, with the new “Be the One” story mode that was revealed. Add to this the news that there will be a free demo to play in August, and excitement was raised for this game. Last, and not least considering that it was shown on a Scorpio Dev Kit build, was the new Madden game. The graphics looked absolutely stunning, as you’d imagine, with the weave of the player’s uniform clearly visible as it panned around. If this is the power of Scorpio then sign me up please!

There was more talk about eSports again with the Madden game, and all in all it looked like it’s going to be a big deal, at least for our American friends. To me it still looks like Rugby for people afraid of getting hurt. But what do I know?

Battlefield 1

It would appear that there is a ton of content coming to this game in the near future. First up, we are going to see night time missions introduced, which will certainly introduce a new spin on the game.

Then, on September 8th, In the Name of the Tsar will be released, which is the latest in the DLC stream for this title. Taking the action out east, this expansion will bring in the feared Russian Womens Battalion of Death, which is by far the coolest name for a regiment I’ve ever heard. There will be new maps, more vehicles and more weapons in addition to the aforementioned ladies, and also an expansion to the fan favourite Operations mode.

Just when we thought that things couldn’t get any better, Patrick Soderlund announced that there is a new mode coming to the game, that is geared more towards eSports again. He didn’t give any more details about what this new mode may be, except for saying it’s tighter and more focused, which usually means smaller maps if my DICE/English translation skills are still up to scratch. This mode will be revealed at Gamescom, so it shouldn’t be much longer before we know all about it.

Need for Speed Payback

The latest entry into the Need for Speed franchise looks to have a much more involved story than is usual for these titles, where the story has tended to be “you are here, drive to there!”.

In a first for the franchise, there will be multiple protagonists, and one is a lady. Yes, Tyler, Jess and Mac will all be playable characters, and from the gameplay that they showed, it appears that you’ll use different people in the same mission, which looked like a great idea. The game was described as an “action driving fantasy” and it certainly looked the part. Tyler and Jess were trying to take down “The House”, a cartel that is the enemy in the game. As the gameplay demo started, our two heroes were in a souped up Mustang, chasing down a truck that had a Koeniggsegg sports car in the back. The idea being that Tyler drives the Mustang close to the truck, and Jess would do the actual car theft. Of course, it was never going to be that easy, and The House had various enforcers that you had to crash into, taking them out, Chase HQ style.

Having disposed of the first lot of baddies, Tyler pulls up to the back of the truck which promptly slams its anchors on, causing him to slam into the back. This must be the fantasy part of the game they were referring to, as instead of having a red hot V8 sat on their knees, Tyler and Jess are able to drive the Mustang with nary a dent into another wave of bad guys. When they are gone, Jess climbs into the truck and slams a million dollar sports car out of the back, and onto the road from 10 feet up, again with no damage. Now, I’m no material scientist, but even I know that a car made of carbon fibre doesn’t fall that far, or drive through truck doors without shattering. However, as the car landed, Jess was able to rev it up and peel out. As she did, the point of view then changed to the high powered driver seat as she tried to escape.

The game certainly looks the part, being very cinematic, with the multiple car crashes looking awesome in slow motion as the camera pans around. With promised customisation, both visual and performance, promised to be deeper than ever, a return to the glory days of Underground could be on the cards. In addition to cars that can be bought, there are what amounts to “Barn Finds” to be located and sorted out, so this will be another departure from the established formula. There was a definite Burnout vibe as well that permeated the video, with the “Takedowns” looking just like they did in the seminal driving series. I’m cautiously excited for this one, but I’ve still not forgiven EA for the fiasco that was The Run. . .

Anthem

This was a small trailer shown to the baying audiences, with more to be shown at Microsoft’s briefing. However it looked stunning, and came complete with a Destiny kind of vibe that I know I’m going to be all over.

The fact that it’s from Bioware, and I’ve yet to meet a Bioware game I don’t like means I’ll certainly be tuning in to see more of this one!

A Way Out

Coming from the EA Originals section, which brought us the amazing Unravel, is the new game from Josef Fares, the director and creator of Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons.

His new studio, Hazelight has teamed up with EA to bring this co-op adventure to life. And when Josef says co-op, he means co-op; he wants to make it impossible to play this game alone. Luckily, this can be online co-op, as no-one in my house cares about the same games I do, but he’s nailed his flag firmly to the mast of “Shared Sofa” co-op.

Actually, here I have to stop and pay tribute to Mr Fares, as he was the only person on the whole stream that actually sounded passionate, that sounded like he believed in his product and was desperate for us to know it. It’s great to see this level of passion, and it really gives me faith that there are people out there making games because it is their dream, not that they are just watching the bottom line.

Set in a prison, the game follows the exploits of Leo and Vincent, two people who find themselves in prison and drawn together by a shared desire to escape. One player will control Leo, the other Vince, and in the beginning it appears that the players will overlap, see each other as cutscenes play out for instance. What looked cool was that one player was active and doing stuff, while the other player saw what was happening as a cut scene, so only able to spectate.

It is promised that there will be driving, action sequences, exploration and more in the game, so it definitely doesn’t look like a one trick pony by any manner of means. This is so different from anything else announced at the show, and if the potential and the passion can be followed through, then A Way Out has a real chance of being one the stand out games from EA.

Stars Wars Battlefront 2

As stormtroopers wheeled out onto the stage in a somewhat cheesy parade, Janina Gavankar appeared on stage to talk about the new Battlefront 2. She plays the leader of the Inferno Squad in the campaign section of the game, which had a lot of fans very excited. The campaign was revealed to be set in the era between Return of the Jedi and the Force Awakens, and the biggest advocate of the new campaign was revealed to be none other than John Boyega – Finn in the new series of films.

Battlefront 2 is apparently going to be three times bigger than the original, with more heroes, more vehicles and more planets to play on from all three eras of the franchise. In an effort to tune and improve the multiplayer aspects of the game, it transpired that DICE had flown the best Battlefront players in the world out to their offices in Stockholm to help shape the direction of the game in the future.

There followed a series of interviews with these “Game Changers”, and it can only be to the benefit of the rest of us that DICE is willing to listen and act upon feedback from their players.

The finale of the show was a 30 minute gameplay demo from the  new Assault On Theed mission, which turned out to be a multi stage affair with progress needing to be made to move to the next phase.

Starting out in the wide open streets of the city, the droids and Clone Troopers went to war, showcasing new features like a class based system, more like Battlefield, with classes like Heavy who get a shield, and the new officer class who can buff troops near them to help bolster defences. Every action that the players performed netted them Battle Points, which can be spent on different characters, weapons, vehicles and can even allow you to spawn in as a hero. We saw Darth Maul, Rae and Boba Fett in action, with Maul in particular looking amazing with his double ended lightsaber, mincing any foes that came near him. John Boyega also popped up to reveal that Finn will be a playable character in a free update that is scheduled for the holiday season, later this year.

The way the mission played out was reminiscent of Operations mode in Battlefield 1, with the first stage being city streets, which then funnels down into a single building with a rabbit warren of corridors and pinch points. Finally the mission draws down into a single room, allowing for some crazy intense firefights. Stage one saw some interesting vehicles being deployed, a Vulture droid and Jedi Starfighter dogfighting in the skies above the battle, strafing the baddies below and ultimately colliding as they got too close.

Staying on the ground, a giant tank had two firing modes, either mobile but not too damaging, or it could go into siege mode, being stationary but now firing projectiles with huge AoE shells that wrecked anything in the vicinity. On the Clone Troopers side, they had little bipedal vehicles called AT/RTs, which looked like a lot of fun scooting about the place. As you sit on them rather than in them, you’re still pretty vulnerable to a well placed shot!

The droid side can also spawn in as the mighty V2 battle droids, which are a lot stronger than the regular droids and were really kicking buttocks and taking names in the demo.

The graphics on this section looked absolutely amazing, with a real film look and feel to them. Buildings crumbled, shots took out enemies and fire rained from the sky, with no hint of slowdown, lag or even a frame rate drop. Now, it appeared that they were playing on PCs for the demo, and they probably aren’t going to be anything less then top-of-the-range specials, but the graphics really did look like they’ve taken a large step forward. The sound too was awesome, recognisable weapon sounds and voices were all around.

Last but not least, in a little throwaway comment, it was revealed that all DLC in the future for Battlefront 2 will be free, for all players. They don’t want to split the playerbase by having some people with different content, and so no charges will be levied. Add to this the promise of a beta for people who pre-order, in addition to the Yoda Light Saber skill card as a bonus, and the future does look bright for this game.

In conclusion then, there’s a lot to be excited about from this year’s show. Yearly sports franchises will be available, which really wasn’t a surprise to anyone, Need for Speed looks promising and a diversion from the tired old formula. A Way Out and Star Wars have the potential to be massive, and if Anthem is half the game that the trailer made it out to be then it’s going to be huge.

If only they could work on their stage presence…

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stylon (Steve)
stylon (Steve)
7 years ago

NFS looks brilliant, a real return to form that I’ve not seen for years. Looks like they’ve taken a lot of inspiration from the Fast and Furious movies which is no bad thing in my book. Looking like a day 1 purchase for me.

An then there’s Anthem… this was possibly the most impressive looking game I saw during the whole of Xbox E3 stream, simply awesome looking. I just hope it’s go a lot more story to it than Destiny because I need more than just bullet sponges to keep me interested in a game… fingers crossed. Also… damn shame it wasn’t an Xbox One X exclusive… looks like a definite system seller.

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