EA basically just had to show up to beat last year's terrible press conference, and to their credit, they brought plenty of games to show this time. Though sports and mobile featured heavily, they opened and closed the show with the Sci-Fi juggernauts of Mass Effect and Star Wars, while providing some interesting tidbits in between. Also, Pelé was there.
It was an... interesting... experience. The three of us put our heads together to try and make some sense out of it.
Mass Effect Andromeda kicked things off in a short and sweet fashion. Yes, there was no real gameplay, but we now have an official title and confirmed focus on exploration. Yes. Please.
While I’m not that fussed about Need For Speed, it’s hard not to be impressed by the scale of the reboot. That said, I thought the transition from cheesy live video to in-game customisation was really slick, and the open world gameplay with its combos does look rather fun. Whether I’ll get involved is another thing, though. One thing I almost certainly will get involved with is the upcoming SWTOR expansion. Yes, I still rate it despite its shortcomings before it went free to play. Knights of the Fallen’s focus on story and choices has me very intrigued, and the fact BioWare will be giving it away for free to subscribers is a testimony to their commitment to the MMORPG.
Unravel came across as a rather charming platformer, and a very different direction to most EA titles these days. The excitable presence of its developer on stage was rather infectious, and I look forward to seeing more of Unravel in the coming months. As for Plants Vs Zombies: Garden Warfare 2, its new classes certainly add a new yet familiar flavour to the nix, but I honestly wasn’t that enthralled by it all, even with the addition of solo play. Perhaps that will change once I get hands-on.
Then the sports happened. While I really have no investment in any of the EA Sports titles, I appreciate that the Ultimate Team improvements will make all titles under the brand a better experience for everyone. The animation enhancements of Live Motion looked impressive as well, but that’s to be expected of EA Sport titles – they always look the business. Plus, the use of Pele on-stage was a powerful endorsement of the next FIFA title (which, considering recent events, was sorely needed.) However, I am at least more interested in the sports titles than I am the mobile efforts that they decided to show off afterwards. Ugh.
Thankfully, we were eventually graced with the presence of Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst. Learning about the open world nature of the game, and how there are no levels, was music to my ears. As someone who really enjoyed the original game I am more than ready to learn more about the world in which Faith belongs, as well as her origin story. February 2016 cannot come soon enough.
It wasn’t too surprising that EA would save the big guns for last with Star Wars: Battlefront, which not only looked fantastic but could have easily been mistaken for a CGI sequence from the films. Everything, from the vehicles, to the explosions creating holes in the snow, was amazing to see in action, and I personally cannot wait to fly in a Snowspeeder and bring down an AT-AT.
Ultimately though, I felt the EA conference could have delivered more whilst being a hell of a lot tighter. Perhaps a lot of that is down to not being particularly enthused by EA Sports titles and NFS, but I was left wanting more from the other titles on show. Ah well, at least it was better than last year’s showing.
Boy do EA know how to bundle a gameplay reveal. After an uncomfortable preamble about becoming an icon, we finally get to see a bloody race in action in the latest delinquent racing title that is all but Need for Speed Underground 3. Need for Speed is very impressive graphically, but a few things stand out as potentially annoying. Completing a drift challenge interrupts the race with a text message notification and XP update, which could have waited until the end of the race (and maybe it will in the final game). The night-setting may be a necessity for the theme of the game (driving like a cock at night), but it also makes it difficult to navigate some of the poorly lit corners or spot traffic. The way the camera zooms into the rear of the car when sliding around corners could prove distracting too. It's great to see customisation comes back to the series after an annoying absence.
Unravel was a very unexpected reveal and a clear highlight of the day so far. This 2D platformer stars, Yarny, a tiny little fellow made of red yarn. It seems that he's unravelling as he makes his way through a multiple of hazards. We saw him scramble through forests, be dragged across a pond on his little wooden raft with the help of a fish and wince as he steps between the wheels of oncoming traffic. The graphical style seemed to be aiming for a realistic vibe and the detail was very impressive and Yarny is already an adorable little star and if TV's Dexter ever returns, he can certainly help him set up those red spatter lines at crime scenes. Now there's some DLC content for you, EA.
The main point of interest during the sports part of the presentation for FIFA, NBA Live, NHL and Madden is the new training options that will go into great detail on how to improve minute details like timing and positioning, which could be a godsend for lapsed players or anyone wanting to dive into a new sports genre.
It was great to finally see Mirror's Edge: Catalyst in action. There was a bit too much story exposition over gameplay on show for my liking, but the free-running scenes looked very impressive as did the huge city environment. Rumours of an open-world city to explore were confirmed and there will be no loading screens at all. Having a huge playground to explore with Faith's skillset sounds like a fantastic way to expand on the ideas of the under-rated original title. The release date is way sooner than I expected too, February 23rd next year, which is hopefully a quiet period as I'd hate to see the game drowned out by any other big releases.
The Star Wars: Battlefront finale impressed by finally showing us gameplay with the infamous battle on the planet Hoth. We wanted it to look like wqe were playing through the movie and it certainly does with a multiple of different roles displayed both on the ground, walkers and aerial battle over the planes or through narrow canyons. I can take or leave Star Wars nowadays, but this looks like buckets of fun. count me in.
Overall, EA? Some solid displays for the likes of Star Wars: Battlefront, and Mirror's Edge: Catalyst. The usual pace-murdering sports showings and mobile garbage after a slightly underwhelming Need for Speed spot. The highlight, it has to be Yarney in Unravel.
EA's press conference was a total shambles. Half of it was incredible, yet the other half was so awful that I could barely stay awake through all of it.
We saw barely anything about the new Mass Effect, but EA were content to spend ages showing us Minions Paradise and the frankly embarrassing Plants vs Zombies: A Completely Unnecessary Sequel To A Spinoff With Characters That Are Irritating Instead Of Charming. FIFA, Madden, NHL and NBA Live (haha, good luck measuring up to NBA 2K this year) all turned off huge swathes of the viewership. An audience with Pele was interesting, yet almost completely irrelevant and decidedly overlong. More than anything, it proved that EA Sports deserves its own press conference or even pre-recorded livestreams for FIFA and Madden to avoid boring audiences on different sides of the Atlantic.
Seriously, can we do this next year, EA?
It's annoying, because half of it was pure gold and EA could have easily thrown a much tighter and more effective show. I was transfixed by a nice chap with a cute doll showing off his lovely indie game. Mass Effect 4 looked great, what little they deigned to show. Need For Speed finally delivered the gameplay goods after far too much buildup. Mirror's Edge looks promising, the tiny slice we saw. And Battlefront? Wow. It really does look like a class act and exactly what we want from the license.
So good on you, EA. It was a mess, but at least the slender payoff made it worth watching. To be honest, I can't wait to see more of that Swedish lad and his string.