It was strictly business for EA at their showcase. No frills, no surprises, and nothing new to particularly cheer for. Battlefield Premium had been blown wide open long before this week, Dead Space 3 and Criterion's efforts were known about well in advance, and the rest were simple reminders of existence through new trailers.
We were treated to half an hour of shooters that brought nothing more to the table than we'd seen a couple of months back at EA's showcase. Everything got dumbed down and breezed through speedily with only two things really worthy of note.
The first is more interesting due to what it might mean for a different publisher entirely. The capture of the UFC licence is a big one, particularly in the US, and with confirmation of THQ having laid off their UFC team, it's yet another indication of Brian Farrell's company ruthlessly streamlining.
The other was Dead Space 3, which looked both unfamiliar and distressingly like something we'd seen before. It was weird to see Isaac with a similarly dressed chum, odd to witness him stumbling around open spaces, and frankly the gameplay footage reminded me more of a Lost Planet-Mass Effect mashup than either of the two previous games in the series. What was with the careless bullet-spraying? Does Dead Space really need co-op? Why is Isaac fighting a thresher maw?
Dead Space was a fantastically focused slice of space-based horror. Its sequel upped the action, whilst still retaining moments that would relief one's bowels of their contents. But this? This looks like Visceral's Resident Evil 5, make of that what you will.
They had so much to prove, and yet the whole thing felt underwhelming once the presser was over. Nothing surprising made its way onto the stage with the exception of the UFC license deal. Dead Space looked more action than horror, SimCity looked like more of the (admittedly interesting) same, and Crysis didn’t fare much better. Need For Speed was almost certainly the best thing to emerge from the presser, continuing to implement more of Burnout into the series, which is always a good thing in my mind.
The no-show of Overstrike was disappointing, if a little optimistic, and while the reveal of new content for The Old Republic shows BioWare’s commitment to the game, I’m not so sure it will be enough to keep its fanbase, and more importantly bring in new customers (with the exception of the HK-51 companion. That might do it, just about. Maybe. Possibly. Meh.) Overall, EA dropped the ball when they should have unleashed some seriously big guns.
It was difficult to get too excited about any of the 'revelations' coming out of the Electronic Arts camp at this year's expo, due in no small part to the fact that many of the announcements had either been trailed or leaked in the weeks prior to the event.
That said, Dead Space 3 kicked things off with a brief look at some of the heavily rumoured (and now officially confirmed) co-op gameplay. It's clear that Visceral have all but abandoned any semblance of horror that may once have been associated with the franchise; the only genre staple arrived in the form of a 'gross-out' trip into the belly of a rather sizeable Arctic beast towards the end of the demonstration. It was a competent enough showing from what will undoubtedly be a competent enough game, but it's a little disappointing to see a series once heralded as the saviour of survival-horror slotting itself into the already overcrowded third-person shooter market.
Criterion provided a personal highlight in the form of Need for Speed: Most Wanted, a reimagining of the 2005 title of the same name, this time in the volatile hands of the Burnout team, and it looks every bit as good as that sounds.
Crysis 3 looked pretty as a peach, but I fear that like Crysis 2 before it, Crytek's latest effort may be more style than substance. The dialogue was bland and clichéd, the corridor shooting even moreso, but the outdoor environments were brought to life beautifully by the CryENGINE.
Unfortunately though, none of these glimpses of greatness were enough to elevate EA's E3 2012 conference above anything other than 'mediocre'.
Well, another year, another no show for Mirror’s Edge 2. On the plus side, Criterion are back behind the wheels of something much closer to Burnout, namely Need for Speed: Most Wanted. The open-world approach could be the kick up the arse that the series needs, as long as Criterion populate it with a host of collectables and activities. I’m a little concerned that the game will suffer from the same leaden handling that the series can’t shake, but fingers crossed.
The rest of EA’s showcase seemed a little lacklustre to be honest. Medal of Honor: Warfighter looks like it will be an enjoyable shooter even if you’ve played every inch of it before. While I’m not a fan of the UFC games I can appreciate that EA getting the license from THQ is a big coup, hopefully THQ will pull themselves out of the slump they’re currently in.
Dead Space 3 gets my prize for the second best of EA’s bunch, although it’s clearly been heavily (overly?) influenced by Lost Planet and even Red Faction: Armageddon. Survival horror elements seem to have been completely ditched in favour of co-op and cover shooting. It still looks like a fun game to play, but it’s not Dead Space.