Electronics Arts Touts New Titles at E3

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Electronic Arts is the world’s largest video game publisher, and it showed in the company’s announcements and demonstrations at this year’s scaled-back E3 Expo in Santa Monica. EA’s pending titles span a wide variety of styles and genres, and leave no franchise—and no gaming platform—untapped.

First up, Electronic Arts plans to capitalize on the success of the Guitar Hero franchise with Rock Band, a new game targeting the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Developed by game studio Harmonix—who also build Guitar HeroRock Band will let players take on the roles of singers, bassists, drummers, singers, and (yes) even six-string guitar gods either as a solo act or as part of a hard-working, hard-rocking band. In keeping with the Guitar Hero tradition, the game will feature a soundtrack spanning decades of rock classics (with Steven Van Zandt (a.ka.a Little Steven) chairing the games music advisory board) and sport custom controllers, with the guitar/bass controller based on the classic Fender Stratocaster electric guitar, along with a sit-down electronic drum kit controller and/or a handheld microphone. And to keep the expected Rock Band juggernaut rolling, the game levels will feature multiple tracks from the hard rock band Metallica, and the game will become the first to offer digitally-distributed game levels based on full-length albums: the first offering will be based on the 1971 classic Who’s Next by The Who. Rock Band will, of course, be available at retailers in time for the end-of-year holiday season.

Electronics Arts also showcased Army of Two, what the company is describing as a third person strategic co-op shooter which is definitely geared to appeal to the hard-core combat gaming audience. The game focuses on a two-man military team—either played by two people or by one person in conjunction with an AI partner—as they take on increasingly complex missions using (of course) a plethora of customizable weapons, vehicles, and tactics. Army of Two will ship for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.

Also sure to appeal to the combat gamers, Medal of Honor Airborne will drop players into combat anywhere on a WWII battlefield, forcing them to adapt to new tactics, attack routes, and strategic opportunities. The game is schedule to ship in late August for Xbox 360 and PC, and in November for the PlayStation 3. If the black-and-white lines of WWII are too simple, Mercenaries 2: World in Flames promises to make everything grey, putting players in the role of a mercenary trying to find the upside when a tyrant tries to take over Venezuela’s oil fields. Expect lots of vehicles, weapons, and explosions on the PS2, PS3, Xbox 360, and PC later this year.

Like action, but not so much the shooting? EA’s Need for Speed ProStreet takes the racing game global, enabling players to take on the best street racers from around the world, all leading up to a gladiatorial bout called the Show Down. ProStreet should hit retailers on Halloween, 2007, and you won’t have an excuse for not playing: EA plans to ship versions for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 2, Nintendo Wii, Playstation Portable, Nintendo DS, mobile phones, and PCs. If that’s not aggressive enough, Burnout Paradise promises to leverage Xbox 360 and PlayStation technology to create the most explosive driving pileups and crashes in the series’ history, offering the "fastest and most destructive racing experience ever seen."

A little too real? EA is also planning to ship Hellgate: London, which offers a view of London in 2038…as it’s being torn apart by demons. The action RPG game offers a story-driven experience which lets players create their own unique heros and try to eliminate the demon threat. No word yet on platform support and ship dates, but it’s from the same team which developed Diablo, and the studio plans to offer ongoing content to game subscribers. And let’s not forget Crysis, EA’s PC-only title in which mysterious artifact sets off a confrontation between the U.S. and North Korea—and players must utilize a Nanosuit and unique zero-G tactics to stave off an alien invasion—and it’s all powered by the stunning Crytek CryEngine 2. Can’t make this stuff up, folks.

A little too unreal? Boarders might opt for Skate, which lets plays find and ride the hottest skate spots in the fictional San Vanelona and enter contests—including the X Games. Players can interact with legends like Danny Way and Mark Gonzales and capture footage of their righteous feats. Skate features innovative use of dual analog joystick controls, and will ship in September for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.

Sports fans will appreciate that EA also plans to bring its Madden NFL franchise to the Nintendo Wii as well as to mobile phones, with the Wii version offering a new Party Mode where players can take on trivia or engage in 22 mini-games. Similarly, the company will be bringing NBA Live 08 to the Wii and mobile platforms, with the mobile version featuring color commentary by Marv Albert. Tiger Woods PGA Tour 08 will also hit the Xbox 360 and PS3, with an emphasis on user-created content, including characters, highlights, and playable scenarios.

These just touch the surface of EA’s forthcoming titles: the company will also be updating its Simpsons, Harry Potter,The Sims,Bejeweled, and Sim City franchises, offer The Orange Box combining five Half Life games, take on karaoke with the Boogie song-and-dance title for the Wii. When you’re the biggest studio in town, you probably have the longest list of titles in development. And we didn’t even mention those alphabet-soup Spielberg games which should make it to market someday.

Gaming