There was an initial worry that EA would have had their thunder stolen by the Microsoft conference mere hours before, with their big titles already being announced. Instead EA used this as an opportunity to expand on what had been dropped, and managed to get a few surprises in there
What started as a predictable move with EA leading with Battlefield 4, turned hilariously into a reveal for Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare. Separate from the recently revealed Plants vs Zombies 2, Garden Warfare is a Frostbite 3 powered class based third person action game, which is a selection of words I would never have imagined I would use to describe a title from the Plants vs. Zombies franchise. Coming for Xbox 360 and Xbox One, this looks legitimately fun and would be one to watch.
Oh, and Peggle 2. The dude on stage was really excited about that.
EA then moved onto Titanfall, which the rightfully put forward as their big next gen title. From the ex-Infinity Ward developers, this sci-fi shooter manages to incorporate a single player experience into multiplayer, via characters, scripted sequences and a narrative woven through the games. Players have a lot more manoeuvrability than are normally afforded to FPS avatars, with jet packs and wall running combining together to allow characters to travel much more fluidly than expected from the genre. Taking the best parts of Battlefield, Call of Duty and big stompy mechs, this game looks extraordinary and could finally provide some real competition in a genre that is currently a one horse race.
The first surprise from EA came and went very quickly, with the announcement that Star Wars: Battlefront is still alive, against all media predictions. A great surprise trailer showed enough Hoth and Snowspeeder action to excite everyone who needed to be excited, and showed that EA might actually be listening to what gamers are looking for
Need for Speed is always a staple at EA press events, and this year is no exception. Need for Speed: Rivals showed the second of the next gen driving games, looking as detailed and smooth as it should. They also pitched the merging of separate peoples single player experiences into a single multiplayer event, though they were short with details on how that will work.
After a brief mention of the Need for Speed movie (starring Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul), EA then dropped details on the next in the Dragon Age franchise. The trailer appealed to fans, with multiple returning characters and races giving way to the usual RPG claims of your choices having influence of the world. Time shall tell when Dragon Age is let out in Fall 2014
EA then started their annual sports run down, with lots of digital basketballmen, footballmen, soccermen and UFC…men. EA are currently winning the award for most incredibly stupid names for proprietary tech. NBA Live 14 has BounceTek, Madden 25 has True Step Locomotion, Fifa had too many to name. To add to the surreal nature of the sports section, EA brought out a lot of celebrity sports names which were subject to a barrage of uncomfortable questions from the hosts. Someone actually stood on stage and asked Kyle Irving to explain to the audience “why dribbling is important to basketball”. We also received the revelation that Drake (yes, the Drake) is a fan of Fifa. Thanks for that one EA.
Joking aside, the EA Sports Ignite engine looks to be a great foundation for EA Sports to bring all of their sports titles to the next generation. Fantastic levels of fidelity in the visuals, and the physics systems they are talking about look like they could really change the way these games play.
Battlefield 4 was next up, with a great 64 person live demo of a multiplayer match. Veterans of the series will be glad to see a return of the Commander mode, with the added ability to pass out orders to your team from a tablet. Again, the Frostbite 3 engine looks great, with destructible environments back in force. The map that was being played on looked expansive, with lots of verticality as well as vastness. All in all, this is a return to form for Battlefield.
Finally, EA rounded off by announcing Mirrors Edge 2 to resounding applause. This game has been rumoured for years now, with information coming out that it had been canned over and over again. The in-engine footage that was shown looked stunning running on next gen hardware. Personally, being a massive fan of the first game, I cannot wait to play this.
All in all, despite the flirting with levels of awkwardness only seen in Ubisoft press events with the celebrity endorsements and gimmicky stage shows, EA had a reasonably strong showing. Titanfall looks like it could pull some people away from Call of Duty, Battlefield did the impossible and made me care about it again, and Mirrors Edge 2 and Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare were truly great surprises.