The EA Conference – Just Add DLC

Will co-op provide the same level of fear?

After witnessing new concepts, fresh takes on old franchises, my writing idols and an impromptu performance from Usher at the Microsoft conference, I was looking forward to a more straight-faced presentation from EA. They may be one of the biggest publishers around, but they’re also not one for surprises; since the launch of Dead Space and Mirror’s Edge, they’ve gone back to concentrating on franchises rather than attempting anything new, and I expected this conference to be no different. Soon, the lights began to dim, names of upcoming titles were flashed, and the event was underway. John Riccitiello stepped out and told us all that several years ago, “the game you bought was the game you got”, and once the experience was over that was it. However, with the advent of DLC and systems like Autolog, you can prolong the experience for many months after the game’s original release, and this is something EA are keen to capitalise on.

The game that kicked off the proceedings was the latest in the prolific horror franchise Dead Space, which now touts a new co-operative mode that allows John Carver to join the reluctant hero Isaac Clarke as they crash-land onto a planet that may be the cause of all this necromorph nonsense. Additionally, the co-op is drop in/drop out, which means you aren’t tied in for the long haul if you don’t want to be. Admittedly, I didn’t find myself impressed with Dead Space 3; horror is difficult to pull off with just one player, let alone two, but this series is one of the few to manage it. I still can’t play the original Dead Space for more than half an hour without getting too scared, yet if the rest of the game is anything like the footage they showed then I could probably get to the end of Dead Space 3 without even jumping. Ammo didn’t seem scarce, the enemies were dispatched without much effort and the only tense factor was the sheer amount of them, rather than their design. I’m hoping that I’ll be proven wrong, but so far I wouldn’t be surprised if this game is, to the Dead Space series, as 5 was to the Resident Evil franchise. Still, it’s out in a slowly overcrowded February 2013.

If there are two things that EA have down to a fine art it’s yearly releases and sports games, which was proven yet again by the changes to the latest Madden. Yeah, I don’t play it either, but those who do will potentially find plenty to be excited about with the raft of changes they’ve introduced. One of these is the new Infinity Engine, which makes the physical attributes and momentum of all the players matter, meaning an end to the days of pre-determined outcomes. Much like the Microsoft conference, a big name in American Football came out and started singing the praises of the new Madden title as they began to look at the changes to the career mode.

There’s more of an RPG element to the proceedings this time around, with mini-challenges and goals granting the players more experience points with which to upgrade their characters. There’s also a more definitive world to exist in as well, with a virtual Twitter feed commenting on the actions of you or other players in the Madden world, and news headlines providing a more cohesive meta-narrative. Plus, if you get to the point where you’re no longer happy with your current player, you can retire them, start a new character and exist within the same world as your predecessors.

The American Football guy leaves and is replaced by Lucy Bradshaw of Maxis fame, who delivers new information on not one, but two new SimCity titles. The first of which is SimCity Social, a Facebook game much like Sims Social last year, but this time they’re going for Zynga’s crown as they attempt to re-establish dominance in the city-building arena. If it’s anything like Sims Social then I’ll get about three days in before I’m unable to progress without spamming the shit out of my rapidly-dwindling friends list. Their second title, SimCity 5, is a much more welcome announcement, with the series delving into multiplayer for the first time, and both competitive and co-operative modes available. Either way you’ll have to think carefully about each decision you make, as the consequences won’t just affect you, but could potentially affect everyone around you, whether friend or foe.

Like B3 or not, fifteen million players is impressive

Whether you were on the side of EA or Activision last holiday season, it’s hard not to be impressed by the fact that Battlefield 3 boasts over fifteen million players. The more cynical of you may not be impressed by the constant nickel and diming of those fifteen million, however, as, since release, EA have charged for online passes (okay, fair enough), the ability to rent servers (I guess I can understand that) and a patch to unlock everything in the multiplayer for £26.50 (fuck off). Those cynics may start puking blood at the Battlefield Premium service, which will set you back the princely sum of $50 (or about £32.40 based on the current exchange rate),  and will give you early access to all of the upcoming expansion packs, though word isn’t out yet on whether you’ll be able to keep playing them if you cancel the service later on. The aforementioned expansion packs include the imminent Close-Quarters, August’s Armoured Kill, the holiday season’s Aftermath and Q1 2013′s End Game.

Next up is Dr Ray of BioWare fame, who wasn’t there to pander to those dissatisfied with the ending of Mass Effect 3, but talk about upcoming Old Republic content. The Star Wars MMO boasted the greatest amount of day one subscribers in the genre ever, and the sci-fi masters want to keep those players hooked with plenty of new content on top of the previous Legacy expansion. As such, the future will see a whole new planet, more story content and additional companions, including a HK-51 assassin droid. And for those who haven’t subscribed yet? In lieu of some Jedi persuasion they’re simply letting people play for free until level 15, come July. If that’s not cause to head down to your local cantina and celebrate, then I don’t know what is.

Don’t be fooled by the plethora of Battlefield content on the horizon, there’s still some fresh shooting action hitting your screens from EA this year… well, fresher. The Medal of Honor reboot will see a sequel hitting later this year, subtitled Warfighter, and will be further showcasing that beautiful Frostbite 2 engine. Every mission will have a connection to real life events or places, with the live demo utilising Somalia for the shooting action taking place. While the game looked very pretty (blatantly running off a PC version), the action really didn’t look any different from any other top-market shooter; even the breaching mechanic was just a more stylised version of what was present in Modern Warfare 2′s Spec-Ops mode. I remember something else about a mode where you could play as various regions’ equivalent of Tier-1 soldiers, but I started fanboying over the Linkin Park snippet and the fact that there was a gaming trailer without dubstep for once. I get the feeling that in the long term Medal of Honor is going to be what Black Ops is to the Call of Duty franchise: a meaty experience which serves to keep the consumers going until the bigger shooter comes along.

Much like the Microsoft conference before it, awkward silence fell when FIFA arrived; it’s almost as if Americans care about it as much as I do or so something. As the speaker enthused about the Man City versus QPR match that helped the former win the title on May 13th, I could almost hear Richie screaming in anger. Apparently it was one of the most legendary matches of all time, and has been recreated in FIFA ’12 millions of time since. As for FIFA ’13, it’ll also be coming out on iOS devices, and any experience players have picked up during ’12 will carry over to ’13. For the cover player, EA have opted for Lionel Messi, who they claim encapsulates everything that ’13 stands for. Along with the bog standard ‘engine changes’ that every iteration of the franchise seems to have, EA promise that the game will ‘attack with creativity’ – something the company had failed to do so far in their conference.

That was until the next announcement, revealing that EA and the UFC have finally allied, meaning that EA are now the sole producers of MMA fighting games. Weirdly, Dana White’s positive comments about EA seemed incredibly hollow after he threatened to blacklist any fighter who loaned their likeness to the EA MMA games back when THQ still held the UFC license. Still, I guess if I was being paid millions for something I owned, I too would compromise all my morals at the drop of a top hat.

After the bombshell of a new license for EA to play with, the positive momentum began to build with a live demo of Criterion’s new take on a beloved Need for Speed title: Most Wanted. Much like Hot Pursuit before it, you can tell that a lot of love has gone into the game, with a whole open world to explore and participate in on your journey to the top of the most wanted list. Autolog makes a welcome return with a new twist: everyone is ranked by their total amount of speed points, which you’ll get not only from races, but from multiple challenges, such as boosting past a speed camera at an outrageous pace. Hot Pursuit was the most enjoyable racing game I’ve played in years, and if the rest of Most Wanted is even a fraction as good as the live demo was, then it just might be the best racer around come October 30th.

Finally, the conference drew to a close, but not before giving us a sneak peek at Crysis 3, which is also doing its part to help make Q1 2013 busier than Christmas. Supposedly taking place sometime after Crysis 2, the third in the series is seemingly trying to combine the tropical locales of the first game with the gorgeous backdrops of the second to massage your eyeballs with graphical-based love. It’s also boasting an open-world adventure and some awesome new tricks to help keep the action fresh and exciting, along with a new arsenal of weapons which includes a bow and arrows. Talking about how amazing Crysis looks is so common it’s almost obligatory at this point, but Crysis 3 is so graphically glorious that I actually found myself reaching out at the footage in order to stroke it affectionately.

With that, another conference was down, and it wasn’t long to go until Sony revealed their hand for the upcoming year, but I left EA a great deal less hesitant than I did Microsoft. Sure, the line-up is so unoriginal that they’re almost making Nintendo look good, but many of the games coming out are offering fresh new takes or alterations to the franchise which, for the most part, seem promising, rather than nightmarish. Whether they’ll stay that way by release day is anyone’s guess, but if there’s one thing we can count on, it’s that EA will probably squeeze as much money out of us as they can legally get away with. Just in case, I’d check the terms and conditions before you go near Origin anytime soon.

Last five articles by Edward



  1. Rook says:

    I was watching EA’s press conference for Most Wanted. A game I enjoyed so much I played it on both the original Xbox and again on 360. And now it has Criterion making it so that can keep me entertained until the get the finger out and make the next great Burnout game.

    I was also glad to hear about Dead Space 3. Dead Space 2 is infiintely better than the original so I’m hoping 3 is even better again.

  2. Richie rich says:

    The UFC thing was huge. I was very surprised by that.

    The rest of it was a bit meh. Medal of Honor looked more epic than CockFlops but still as boring as the sex Chris Martin must have with whoever that fucking actress is.

    What I didn’t like was all this iPAD + FIFA crossover shit. FIFA12 practically needs a fucking honours degree in menu navigation if you want to do ANYTHING so adding app shit all over it can fuck it’s mum right in the kisser.

  3. Chris Toffer says:

    More than confident that Dead Space 3 will be fine if you play it solo.

  4. Lorna Lorna says:

    Shame that there was no Mirror’s Edge 2 announcement yet again :( Also, no new IP. However, what happened to that game announced by EA last year, Overstrike? New IP, looked promising, and absolutely nothing more heard about it.

    It sounds like EA did marginally better than Microsoft then, but no new IP and the usual sports stuff is a big let down. Most Wanted sounds pretty good though… probably the closest thing we’ll get to another Burnout Paradise type game in a while.

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