Electronic Arts walked into E3 2013 following some tumultuous times; once the biggest publisher in the business based on dollars earned, EA has thinned it’s massive lineup of console games to just a few releases a year. After shifting its focus to Facebook and the micro-transaction-rich market of iOS, they’ve once again changed direction by replacing CEO John Riccitiello and walking away from Facebook. All the while, its console game sales continue to dwindle.
The company remains devoted to a more efficient console operation and the mobile market, but Monday’s E3 press conference still went big with game announcements for Xbox One and PlayStation 4 – 11 games in all according to company COO Peter Moore. Here’s the rundown:
Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare – EA’s first game rolled out, looking like a CGI cartoon from the early ‘00s; Jimmy Neutron with more environmental detail. Super pretty, super fun. It’s the third-person shooter action game PopCap’s been rumored to be making for nearly a year, out on Xbox One first, then Xbox 360. Creative director Justin Wiebe demoed a co-op level with the “Peashooter” character and some others. Some tower defense style play is preserved in the game to show off its series roots. It’s very much a Plants Vs. Zombies version of Double Fine’s Iron Brigade – a class-based, multiplayer blend of tower defense and familiar third-person shooting. It’s not exactly an Xbox One showcase, but it does look fine.
Titanfall – Respawn’s Vince Zampella, one of the key minds behind the Call of Duty series, came back out to discuss his studio’s new sci-fi shooter that debuted during Microsoft’s Xbox One presentation on Monday morning. To the studio’s credit, its EA presentation included a little ‘making of’ featurette with the team behind the game. They discussed the desire to make the game feel different from the glut of military shooters they helped create, but also to make an all-multiplayer game feel like it’s still driven by story. The “Titan” mech suits are described as a realistic evolution of modern day exoskeleton research. They also showed a lot more footage of the game, showing large city environments as well as the forested area showed during Microsoft’s presentation. Like Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare, it’s Xbox-only.
Star Wars: Battlefront – EA wanted to silence the haters who have been disgruntled over its exclusive hold on the Star Wars license. It did so by resurrecting Star Wars: Battlefront and Battlefield creator DICE is making it. Not much to see beyond a vicious tease of snowspeader-versus-AT-AT Hoth battling.
Need For Speed: Rivals – Another Frostbite 3 engine-based game, but it’s not nearly as fine looking as other games like Battlefield 4 using the technology. Need For Speed: Rivals seems to turn away from the pure-gameplay of Criterion’s entries like Need For Speed: Most Wanted for a more story-based presentation, a la Need For Speed: Underground. Like Criterion’s game, though, Rivals will be open world. The game is pretty, but in the brief demo shown it doesn’t look demonstrably different than even contemporary racers. It was also difficult to tell how EA’s touted social features, with the game pulling your “rivals” from your console’s friend list, will feel in practice. They also showed a little bit of the Need For Speed movie due out in 2014.
Dragon Age: Inquisition – BioWare dropped the numbering from its medieval role-playing game series. Due out in the fall of 2014, the open-world game does, as rumored, run on Frostbite 3. The trailer showed characters as desperate and miserable, fighting impossible odds as they tend to in BioWare’s games. While it was very cinematic, it also made nothing about the game clear. Morrigan from Dragon Age: Origins returns.
NBA Live 14 – EA spent some time introducing the sports engine fueling its line up for next-gen consoles. NBA Live was the first game shown. On one side of the stage was Kryie Irving of the Cleveland Cavaliers dribbling the ball on film; on the side was a digital representation of Irving doing the same. They looked remarkably similar. Irving then came out to discuss how NBA Live 2014 will have “bounceTek,” a new engine meant to replicate the real physics and creativity of dribbling the ball. It’s the sort of physics computation that helped give FIFA Soccer such a differeny feel in recent years. It will be fascinating to see how NBA Live fares after four years, during which the NBA 2K series became the dominant game in the space. The trailer for the game looks good, but who knows how it feels?
Madden 25 – EA Tiburon’s Cam Weber showed off the very first footage of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One version of Madden NFL 25, the anniversary edition of the perennial football series. Madden NFL’s last generational leap, Madden NFL 2006 for Xbox 360, was disappointing; while Madden NFL 25 looks good, it doesn’t look like it’s truly pushing the hardware yet. EA promised new features like Player Sense, which touts enhancements to player AI, but like NBA Live, who knows how the game actually feels at this point? We’ll have to wait until late this fall to see if next-gen Madden is anything revolutionary. Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings graces the cover.
FIFA Soccer 2014 – Lionel Messi was trotted out on video to introduce the world’s most popular sports video game on Xbox One and PlayStation 4. The demo footage of the game was remarkably well animated and elegant, but was not representative of what the game looks like in play. The hip hop star Drake, oddly enough, then came on stage to discuss FIFA 14 with the creative team general manager. Crowd AI was the big selling point during the following presentation. Bullet points like “Precision Movement” and “Elite Technique” were used to explain how the handling has been touched up in the new game, but clarity remained elusive. We’ll know more once we get our hands on the playable version at the show.
EA Sports UFC – EA’s acquisition of the UFC license in 2013 is a coup for the company. UFC champs Benson Henderson and Jon Jones were brought out to discuss the game. EA’s first attempt at an unbranded MMA game wasn’t particularly well received, but if the cheering during the announcement here at E3 was any indication, there’s genuine excitement around this up-coming version. As with the other EA Sports titles, the new AI in the game was talked up, but not demonstrated in an actual game demo. The game won’t be available until spring 2014.
Battlefield 4 – The very first Xbox One and PlayStation 4 game EA debuted earlier this year, Battlefield 4 made its second appearance at the E3 press conferences. Microsoft’s press conference included the announcement that Xbox One would receive DLC before PlayStation 4. The big feature discussed at EA’s presentation was Command Mode, a feature that lets players command a squad in the field, viewing a full map. They can even used “Battle Log,” a command app for tablets and smartphones. A full lineup of 64 players were brought on stage to play a full scale live battle. The demo took place in an enormous replication of Shanghai. It showed off how impressive the Frostbite 3 engine is in practice, a far cry from earlier demos like Need For Speed. While the play itself looks like the same old shooting only with more terrain destruction, military shooter fans will likely be satisfied with the first next-gen outing from DICE. The series’ token vehicular combat looked especially fine, with jetskis and boats available in the city harbor. For those terribly bored of the genre, though, this pretty face may not be a convincing lure.
Mirror’s Edge 2 – Five years after DICE branched out with the weirdest first-person game ever, Mirror’s Edge 2 finally debuted. It looked spectacular on the Frostbite Engine, but it was impossible to tell if this was just trailer theatrics or the way the game actually looks. No mention of platform, either.