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Electronic Arts' Pre-E3 2011 Media Briefing Summary

by Thomas Wilde on June 7, 2011 @ 3:19 a.m. PDT

During EA's Pre-E3 2011 Media Briefing, it presented new coverage for Battlefield 3, FIFA 12, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, Mass Effect 3, Madden 2012, Need for Speed: The Run and Star Wars: The Old Republic.

June 6, 2011, 12:00 PM
Orpheum Theater, 615 S. Broadway, Los Angeles, CA

The last couple of years have had a few surprises in store, but EA's announced lineup at E3 2011 seems like a throwback to the conservative, risk-averse company of the past. Everything leans heavily on sequels and franchises, so while EA is obviously going to walk away with a lot of money, there's also an unavoidable air of been there, done that. It's difficult to get excited before an EA show.

12:31 PM
The show begins with a video of the Reapers attacking Earth in Mass Effect 3, accompanied by an international crew of frightened newscasters.

12:32 PM
Casey Hudson comes out on stage; "Mass Effect was designed to be a trilogy." On Mar. 6, 2012, the war with the Reapers will begin. "All the choices that [the players] have made along the way" will play into Mass Effect 3.

12:33 PM
They show off a gameplay sample where Shepard (here shown as the big, stubbly Canadian "generic" Shepard), attacking a Reaper base with the Normandy overhead, sets up a missile strike by opening a blast shield and "painting" the target for a shot from the Normandy. Shepard is within range of the blast and falls off the walkway just in time to watch a massive war machine pop out of the hole. The base isn't a base; it's an actual Reaper, and Shepard jumps into a tracked turret to both return fire and retreat while calling in an orbital strike.

Shepard still has some of his Renegade scarring from the second game, and Liara and Joker are both on hand to help him. Garrus is also shown in several of the press kit screenshots.

12:36 PM
The battles, Hudson says, are scaled up, and choices will play a big role in a story of sacrifice. origin.com has even more information.

12:37 PM
It's the premiere of ME3's "The Fall of Earth" trailer. Shepard has his grenades back, and his omni-tool apparently has a sharp bit on the end now. He's shown using it to finish off a grounded opponent a couple of times.

12:38 PM
Welcome to "EA's Game Changers," courtesy of John Riccitiello, CEO of EA. "We don't build ... stages and invite random celebrities," he says. More shilling of origin.com.

12:39 PM
Jason DeLong, executive producer on NFS: The Run, comes out to talk about BlackBox's work on "an all-new racing experience." The titular run is an illicit, marathon race from San Francisco to New York. The last NFS had 40.6 million hours played, and now, Autolog is expanded to track every second of the race to New York.

For the first time, you can actually get out of the car in NFS for some of the action.

12:41 PM
They show a gameplay demo with a leg of the race in Chicago, with players sideswiping one another through the streets and off the track.

At one point, the player's car crashes and the driver — a generic white guy in a black leather jacket — gets to run from the cops on foot, jumping from rooftop to rooftop and outrunning a helicopter, complete with a large, slow-motion dive across an alley, sliding down a corrugated-steel roof via a Quick Time Event (QTE) to survive a fall down a fire escape. Then the driver actually decks a cop in a QTE fight, steals the police car, and drives like hell to get out of Chicago while under machine-gun fire from the pursuing helicopter.

I think cops in the Need for Speed universe must have been imported directly from Jet Set Radio, as they're blowing up other, presumably innocent drivers just to get to the player.

The driver crashes the car, and when he comes to, he's inside the wrecked cop car, dangling upside down, and the player can free him with a little stick-waggling. Unfortunately, he's trapped inside the car and a train's bearing down on him. The driver barely manages to escape before the crash. Most of the action on-screen when you're not actually driving seems to be done entirely through QTEs, which I could see getting old pretty fast.

12:45 PM
The "Star Wars" theme blares over the loudspeakers as Dr. Greg Zeschuk, general manager of BioWare Austin and co-founder of BioWare, takes the stage. He name-drops some of their past games; "we've never done anything this big." They're slightly intimidated by working with the most demanding audience in the world: Star Wars fans.

"The Old Republic represents years of my life... huge devotion, and sacrifice, and it's been absolutely worth it." They're showing off raids, high-level boss battles, Tattooine, and more at E3 this year, with hands-on gameplay.

12:47 PM
A new Old Republic trailer, presented from the dual perspectives of the Republic and Sith. Scenes from the past trailers are woven into the mix, like the Sith vs. Jedi trailer LucasArts showed two years ago. Actually, I'm not sure there's much new footage in the trailer at all.

Apparently you can get a cowboy hat. For me, this is perhaps the most relevant detail in the whole trailer.

12:50 PM
They're filling the theater with blue smoke as an image of backlit mountains appears on-screen. The lightshow picks up a bit, and I have to imagine this is SSX ...  yep.

The trailer segues from the usual tricks and downhill slaloms into the two snowboarders escaping an avalanche. The guy leaps for a helicopter and hooks onto one of the landing struts, while the girl simply pulls a zip cord and parachutes back to the snow.

Tagline: Defy Reality. January 2012.

12:52 PM
Hey, it's Peter Moore, here to wish us a good afternoon. "We're reinventing the ... franchise," he says, "through gameplay and a massive open world." They used NASA satellite data to create the racetracks in every major mountain range on the planet. "Race it, trick it, and survive it."

SSX's "unique characters," including longtime fan favorite Kaori, are being profiled on the SSX Facebook page and on origin.com.

12:54 PM
"Quality, authenticity, and connectivity" define FIFA, the biggest sports franchise in the world, with 42 million consumers playing it on all four major platforms, iPad, Facebook, and smartphones. "FIFA is, quite simply, the world's game."

12:55 PM
Matt Bilbey, Vice President & GM at EA Sports, comes onstage to introduce FIFA 12, "the most authentic FIFA ever." All-new tactical defending, "where timing and tactics are crucial"; precision dribbling; and the "player impact engine," which delivers "real-world physicality to every interaction." The players can push and pull one another as they go after the ball.

12:56 PM
They play one of those EA trailers showing people from all over the world professing their love for FIFA, including quite a few professional soccer players and, inexplicably, Li'l Wayne.

EA: The celebrities are not random. They are carefully chosen, dammit.

12:58 PM
Bilbey introduces the EA Sports Football Club, about "Live Service that is fresh and new all the time," introducing developments from real soccer into the video game; connection and competition with players from around the world; and deepening fans' connection to their favorite football clubs.

While in Football Club, you can connect and compete by picking your favorite international football team and tracking your friends' progress; you can also do things like replay real-world matches in an attempt to redress controversial losses or even the score between two rival teams.

FIFA 12 is "the next-generation sports game."

1:01 PM
It's Madden time. "It's waiting for you."

A couple of football players come onstage to talk about how victory is waiting for them. I'd apparently recognize them if I followed football, judging from the applause. They're here to tell me how Madden 12 is "true to the game."

Oh, thanks for the introductions, Peter Moore. They're Peyton Hillis (who the fans chose as the cover boy for Madden 12), Ray Lewis and Clay Matthews. Matthews has a trophy with him, which brings up the question of whether he just brings that with him everywhere. I mean, I would.

1:05 PM
Peter Moore's bantering with the football players. There's a new collision system, but more importantly, Madden 12 is "built by the fans, for the fans." The word "authentic" keeps coming up over and over again. There's a lot of marketing speak being slung around but not a lot of actual facts.

Then again, it's Madden. Moore could've just calmly admitted it causes brain cancer, and it would still sell 12 billion units. I'm not entirely sure why they bother hyping it up at all.

1:06 PM
The CEO Ritticiolli goes onstage again to announce The Sims Social for Facebook, while taking a shot at Farmville. You play Sims Social with your friends; "it's alive."

Apparently you can use your Sims to go on "dates" through Facebook or just build your own friends. The trailer shows somebody asking a suddenly single Facebook friend on a "date" through the game, involving their Sims watching a movie, cooking tapas and having an encounter in a shower that I refuse to refer to as "steamy" because I am sure that was what they intended I do.

1:07 PM
One Sims-loving FB friend to another, in the Sims Social trailer:

"Why can't I find a man like that?"
"If you can't, just go ahead and build him!"

EA, we are now getting into a very weird area.

1:08 PM
Right about now my computer decides it really wants to shut down. So that's fun.

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning is apparently a collaboration between Todd McFarlane, R.A. Salvatore, and one of the lead designers for Morrowind and Oblivion. The trailer shows a bloody, visceral fantasy action game, and the speech describes it as a game where your choices can affect the fate of every character as well as the world itself. The combat involves a lot of impaling and bloodshed; the magical attacks are flashy and loud. Imagine Oblivion if it were considerably less restrained.

1:12 PM
The next person on stage is Ted Price, the founder and CEO of Insomniac, here to announce his company's next game. Unusually for them, it's cross-platform, and is coming to the Xbox as well as the PS3.

It's called OverStrike, and like most Insomniac games, it seems like sort of an action-comedy. Four mercenaries — Dalton Brooks, a mercenary with a big chin, a personal force shield and a penchant for punching guys; Jacob Kimble, a detective who wields some kind of taser crossbow and is described, as he's shooting four guards, as a "pacifist"; Naya Deveraux, a thief with a personal cloaking device; and Isabella Sinclair, a scientist whose primary weapon is some kind of rapidly expanding foam, kind of like that one weapon in Shadow Complex — are on a mission to save the world.

The trailer's one long cut scene, played as somebody debriefing a hungover Dalton, so it's hard to say what the gameplay's going to be like, but it gives the impression of a multiplayer action game with a heavy focus on cooperative attacks. At one point, Jacob uses his crossbow to ignite and explode Isabella's foam, which inflicts damage on an enemy that had shrugged off attacks from Naya and Dalton.

1:15 PM
Battlefield 3 is the closing act. Karl Magnus Troedsson, the general manager of DICE, comes onstage to say it's "the game we always wanted to make." The new Frostbite 2 engine provides a much greater sense of scale, with cinematic-quality renders and high-fidelity audio. In Battlefield 3, you can blow up just about anything, and we're shown gameplay samples of somebody with a grenade launcher making a real mess in the middle of Paris.

The new "battlelogue" system provides a great deal of instant connectivity with friends and tracks your stats for you, among other things, and will always be absolutely free. The open beta for Battlefield 3 is coming this September, and the multiplayer trailer is already up on origin.com.

A long live demo closes out the briefing. It's a level set in the Kavir Desert with the player as Jono Miller, a tank driver in the U.S. military.

The entire stage is spent in the tank's cockpit as Miller, along with the rest of his armored column, engages and destroys a number of enemy tanks. (The identity of the enemy in this scenario isn't really mentioned.) Thermal imaging is used at one point to pick enemy tanks out of the dust and smoke, and Miller is able to use a satellite video link to paint a target for an airstrike.

The column drives toward an enemy facility, rockets roaring in on all sides —this game is loud as hell — as Miller mows down several foot soldiers with the tank's mounted .50 caliber machine gun.

Battlefield 3 is out on Oc. 25, 2011, and apparently you'll be able to download it for free from origin.com. EA's really shilling the site.

That concludes the press briefing.

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