E3: EA Conference 2016

Posted on 13 Jun 2016 by
L Coulsen

So it’s E3, in case you didn’t know. And EA kicked off the event in a, frankly, barely lukewarm manner. In the sixty minute run time, there were certainly a lot of words, but very little actually said. It wasn’t what one would call a terrible presentation, but it was most decidedly underwhelming. Falling short on anything that anyone would genuinely care about. It actually felt more like a lot of teasing, which may not be a terrible idea, all things considered, because at least there’s nothing begging up to fall flat on its butt.

A significant chunk of the talk was allocated to e-sports and EA’s charity work. The former is most definitely a huge deal in the gaming world, and pulls in a massive amount of both views and revenue. But for some reason, EA spent more time talking about the players than the games. They seemed to take a back seat, with some broad statements about the upcoming Madden and Fifa titles. Both of which are promising a lot, but what that is…there was, again, a lack of substance. Though EA also stated they would be donating a million dollars spread between several charities. Including Special Effect, who do some truly amazing work.

The things we really care about, Mass Effect Andromeda, Star Wars, Titanfall 2 and Battlefield 1 were equally lacklustre. With the exception of the latter, which has a separate, entire hour of multiplayer gameplay you can find below.

Mass Effect mostly consisted of reiterating and reshowing what we were already familiar with. Which was a little disappointing considering the game has already been delayed a few times. We’re told that the new game will take us to the Andromeda galaxy, a little over 2.5 million light years from our own Milky Way, where we will be the alien. But all we really saw was some Asari, Korgans and a few hulking alien creatures that were, well, kinda’ bland for Mass Effect. Okay, perhaps not bland, but nothing really new either. They looked like a cross between the new Mancubus and the DOOM 3 pinky to be honest.

The Star Wars segment told us even less. Consisting of several brief statements from multiple studios within the EA umbrella. The primary focus being on Battlefront and Battlefront 2, which makes sense with the first getting a lot of content this year, and the latter arriving next year. Actually, all three of EA’s primary Star Wars games, The Old Republic, Galaxy of Heroes (for mobile) and Battlefront will be getting a lot of new content across the next twelve months. The rest of what we saw was some very broad promises that every Star Wars fan will, ultimately, be able to walk away saying “I didn’t expect to get my perfect Star Wars game.” Which is guaranteed to leave me out, ‘cause there was a brief shot of a Star Destroyer reflected in a Stockholm skyscraper, and we know that isn’t going to happen. Sadface.

Titanfall 2 was a little more interesting, though still fell a bit flat. The snippets of gameplay shown were pretty good, clearly building on the first game and adding in a rather nifty looking grappling line to swing from buildings. But the biggest part was the single player campaign, which had been leaked several hours earlier, but now we saw some bits and pieces. Mostly a series of scripted events, which looked pretty good, don’t get me wrong. The coolest part about it was learning that each Titan actually has its own AI. That reminded me very much of the film Gunhead.

Battlefield 1, at least during the conference, was filled with promises of dynamic weather, innovative experiences and a unique take on the First World War. But it mostly boiled down to more PR talk. The multiplayer stream was far more informative. Raw gameplay has a habit of doing that. The largest complaint is the focus on automatic weapons. They make sense from a gameplay perspective, but are a tad inaccurate for the setting. They existed, certainly, but were uncommon.

The coolest part of the whole event though. Origin Access is free for a week. Yeah, you heard that right, you, free. At present, the website is still asking for a £3.99 payment, so it’s unclear when that will take effect. But even so, there are more than twenty games in there now, so it’s well worth looking at regardless.

Overall though, the running theme here…it was okay. Nothing special, just okay.

Well, actually, there was one thing that stood out. A small Swedish studio popped in during a section about EA partnering with, uhm, small studios. Something akin to Fox Searchlight, focused on bringing content you wouldn’t normally see. Like a published independent system…thing. Called EA Originals, and following on from the success of Unravel. This new title, Fe, promises a world without words, but where all the creatures have a language of their own. The opening interested me more than the latter parts, which started to show gameplay mechanics like showing items that felt a bit too gamey, so to speak, but it’s a visually intriguing world if nothing else. And EA making an effort to promote more small, start-up companies without interfering in the creative process, now that’s something I can get behind.

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