E3 2014: EA Conference Review
First off, let me preface this summary of the 2014 EA E3 show by saying that I don’t really like EA. Sure, they’ve had a hand in the realization of some of my favorite game franchises, Dead Space and Mass Effect especially, but those games really had more to do with the developers, Visceral and Bioware. In fact, the bigger those franchises became, the more interference EA seemed to have in their production and the more they seemed to suffer. From day one DLC to microtransaction stores and every evil in between, EA seem to have at least a mildly corrupting influence on everything they touch. So with that prejudice in mind, let’s talk about the conference shall we?
Dragon Age Inquisition
The first new title to be shown off was the upcoming fantasy RPG from Bioware. The bulk of the ‘demonstration’ was just a few sweeping shots of admittedly impressive vistas and character models. Bioware was obviously aiming to show off the technical prowess rather than story spoilers, although the trend of pretty pictures and no actual content is one that cropped up often across the rest of the show. What gameplay was shown was rather impressive though, giving an overview of both the intense real time combat elements, and the more sedately paced turn-based strategy option. The voiceovers were suitably stirring and the character intros were somewhat intriguing, if a little overwrought. Overall, not too bad really. It certainly gets worse.
In a move that surprised no one, there was an announcement of a brand new Mass Effect title coming at some point before the stars burn out. Again, scenery was on full display here, an admittedly impressive look at some dynamic cloud cover and a day/night cycle. There were a few talking head speeches from senior Bioware staff about what’s to come, but really it all boiled down to buzzwords and a few unfinished screen shots. Nothing more than a place holder announcement really; just fire up the rumor mills again.
The Sims 4
This title at least came with some actual visuals and gameplay mechanics in action. EA is promising ‘smarter Sims’ and ‘revealed’ a whole host of features that will be present in the newest incarnation of the world’s premiere life simulator including customizable personalities and physical attributes. The Sims has never been a franchise I’ve had much interest in, so I thought that the features all sounded perfectly fine and dandy. However, I was watching the conference with someone who knows an awful lot about the Sims and was therefore informed that the only new feature is the way in which a Sim’s mood can spread to the others around it (i.e. one Sim at a party in a bad mood will ruin it for all of them). This is either a case of confusing explanation or vastly hyperbolic description of ‘new’ features and either way it doesn’t make EA look particularly good.
This is the section where I lost most of what little interest I had. I’m sure for some people this will have been the highlight of their E3. I am not one of those people. So here’s my brief breakdown of all of the upcoming EA sports titles.
UFC: You can play as Bruce Lee now. Also, the improved realism of the models means that the homoerotic tension is more palpable than ever.
NHL 15: It’s hockey like you’ve never seen it before! Unless you have seen it in person, in which case it’s not quite that good.
PGA Tour: It’s a golf game rendered in the frostbite 3 engine, which allows the player to explore every inch of the course. I thought the point of golf was to explore as little as possible of the course, but whatever works.
Madden NFL 15: They improved the defensive modes in this version of HandEggBall. This means literally nothing to me so I hope someone else understood it.
FIFA 15: Actual football, now even more realistic than ever probably!
Snuck in with these games was an announcement of a new driving game by Criterion games. It didn’t have a title, release date, or any footage beyond wireframe models, but apparently that’s all it takes.
One of the newest entries into the MOBA/DOTA genre, Dawngate promises a flexible meta game that will provide a greater level of ease for new players as well as different strategies that can be used by advanced players to ensure that ‘every game is different’. It’s also already out, so go and play it now if you’re into that sort of thing.
Mirror’s Edge 2
A long-awaited sequel to the original first-person free running game. There was a very limited amount of actual gameplay on show, although what was present was fast and frenetic and looked pretty satisfying to take part in. Not many details revealed for now, but it could be something very exciting in the future.
This was probably the ‘jewel’ in EA’s crown, the reveal of Battlefield Hardline. The massive multiplayer military shooter has been refitted into a high stakes Cops and Robbers deathmatch where one team of criminals attempts to accomplish a goal and the team of cops attempts to stop them. One full match’s worth of gameplay was shown off, demonstrating the only revealed mode, Heist. The robbing of the armored truck didn’t actually take very long. What followed was the frenetic attempts by the criminal team members to escape with the loot while being pursued by the police. There were vehicle chases, plenty of gun battles, and even some visually impressive building destruction. All standard Battlefield trappings wrapped in a shiny new format. I’ll admit it looked quite impressive, although since the beta launched shortly after the EA presentation finished I’ll wait and see if it lives up to what was essentially an overlong, in-engine trailer.
So that was the EA conference in a nutshell. I wasn’t expecting much and I wasn’t disappointed. I’d rather have seen more from Bioware and even Dice, rather than sit through all the sports trailers, but honestly, given the real lack of anything cogent, concrete, and exciting, without the iterative sports franchises to pad it out it probably would have taken 20 minutes. Those overly enamored with the Battlefield franchise would probably be wetting themselves with glee, but there was precious little in the way of meaningful content for the rest of us. Hopefully Ubisoft can manage something more impressive later tonight.