June 9, 2014, 1:00 PM
It's hard to imagine that EA has too many surprises when it comes to this year's media briefing, given how much is already known and how much has already been leaked. The main games that everyone is looking forward to are Dragon Age: Inquisition and Star Wars: Battlefront, but EA is certainly not without a slew of other strong titles that it wants to show off. We got a front-row seat to see all that EA had to offer for this year's gathering.
The event started with a bang, as Star Wars: Battlefront had a few more details and footage shown. The developer DICE visited the LucasArts archive to go over the props used in the original films, and some of the props, like the standard Stormtrooper helmet, looked damn impressive when re-created in the game's engine. The development team also traveled to the original movie filming locations to re-create the locations in the game, and the early footage looked impressive. Snowspeeders skimmed across snowy landscapes on Hoth, while speeder bikes zipped through the forests of Endor. There was no real gameplay shown, but they seem to be at least pushing in the right direction so far when it comes to staying true to the source material.
The next game that they showed off was Dragon Age: Inquisition. A live cellist played the soundtrack to accompany the trailer, which showed off the myriad environments that players should expect to explore in the new game. Snow-caked castles to mossy fields were shown, as were a series of other environments. The game is set to have expansive open-world gameplay, with an emphasis on player choice in how to proceed. You can choose to directly control characters in your party, as shown with a prerecorded fight against a dragon. The different party members fought the dragon by targeting different parts of the dragon's body, shooting arrows and flinging magic at the massive beast. The game can also be played in a tactical mode, with a top-down view where the game can be paused for you to give orders. However, this mode was only glossed over before the conference moved on. The character list includes new faces and some returning favorites. Mercenaries, elves, mages, and wardens are standing together as the Inquisition, with the tag line of "lead them or fall." The game comes out Oct. 7.
It was announced that Bioware is working on a pair of new games, one of which is an entry in the Mass Effect franchise. The game will take place in a whole new region of space, and it is said that fans will be surprised at how far they are going with the series. However, details beyond that were scarce. Another team at Bioware is making an entirely new IP, but it didn't give any details about what it might be.
The Sims 4 was the next game to get its own featurette during the briefing. For the first time, you can control your Sims' hearts in addition to their actions and bodies. Neighborhoods were featured in the opening video for the segment, with lots of Sims engaging with one another. One in particular took a trip to the gym, a hothead who is angry due to events from the night before. He recited some poetry to his neighbor, who hated it so much that the elderly lady beat him up. This put him in a mood that haunted him until the next day's party. At this point, the gallery feature was shown, which lets you share and download other players' content from buildings to Sims complete with their personalities. A party animal named Angel was downloaded into the game, which made the poor Sim so happy that he laughed himself to death.
The next segment started with a video of Bruce Lee, leading into a new UFC game announcement. Bruce Lee will feature as a playable fighter in the game, which looked a little weird. Brian Hayes, the game's creative director, narrated a fight between Bruce Lee and BJ Penn. The segment was in a later round of an ongoing fight, with both fighters still inflicting some massive hits. The welts on Lee were apparent when Penn took him to ground, but Lee got out of it and later leapt off the cage wall and nailed him with a kick. The graphics looked solid, but it was hard to get much of a feel of the gameplay before the conference moved on yet again.
The next few games flew by much in the same vein, with short featurettes that were lacking in real details. NHL 15 is getting a lot of changes when it comes to the Xbox One and PS4. Physics are being added to all 12 players and the puck, while the games take place in the most detailed re-creations of the arenas to date. From the prerecorded gameplay video, the player collisions and fights looked pretty true to life, but there weren't many details to be had beyond that.
Criterion Games is coming out with a new game, which was shown in a very early state. ATVs, helicopters, wing suits, and parachutes were all mentioned, as well as planes, jetskis and generally anything that goes fast. The game takes place in the first-person perspective, so you get the viewpoint true to your character as you leap from a low-flying helicopter and onto a rolling ATV. There wasn't even a name given to the game, but it could be interesting, given the developer behind it.
Frostbite 3 is being used for a sports game for the first time in the form of a golfing title. The new PGA Tour only had a brief snippet of a trailer, with one part showing the ball being hit off the tee. The next snippet showed that fanciful courses can be part of the game, like hitting the ball over the destroyer as in runs aground in the Battlefield 4 map, only to land on the green on the other side.
The new Madden has some new features. Defenders how have some control when wrapped up with a lineman, and they're able to push them into running lanes or disrupt the pocket. Tackling adds tackle cones, which give you a little more control over how you bring down the ball carrier. The game is set to launch on Aug. 26.
The MOBA genre is getting another entry. Dawngate had a trailer that talked a lot about making a new game in the genre versus cloning what has already been done. Characters will have story arcs and their own purposes for being in the battles. Beyond that, a lot remains to be seen about the game, as the trailer held no details and featured little in the way of gameplay footage.
The new Mirror's Edge drew some cheers from the crowd, with the return of Faith from the original game. As with the original, the game is heavily based on free running and parkour, and it showed off some new moves that Faith can use to navigate the environment. Combat is also more varied, with Faith able to use her velocity to take out goons as she leaps from balconies and runs along walls. The gameplay footage was clearly early footage, but it is nice to see the series get a new release and retain what made the original fun.
FIFA 15 is the newest game in the football series, with the trailer showing player details in the new release of the game. Slides tear the pitch, running players kick dew off the grass, and the roar of the stadium is said to re-create the best theaters of sports.
The leaked trailer for Battlefield: Hardline was the same that EA showed for its press briefing, taking the series into a direction that's more about cops and robbers than of battlefields in distant countries. This game focuses on the war of the streets, with an emphasis on new weapons and new ways to play. It's a bold direction for the franchise, and thankfully, they had some more details about what the game would be like. The team behind the game is new to the franchise, with this being Visceral's first game in the series. The footage was a 32-player multiplayer heist, with cops versus criminals.
A news report showed armored cars crashing off bridges due to the actions of the robbers, while the cops arrived in armored cars and motorcycles. The gameplay looks a lot like what you'd expect from a Battlefield game, with a healthy dose of Payday 2 for good measure. The robbers were running down the street near an overpass, causing hell for advancing patrol cars, and blowing up an overpass so robbers could ramp up on their motorcycles. Meanwhile, a police chopper rained fire from above, while a player in a getaway car shot out the front windshield. Robbers delivered fire support while a booby-trapped fuel truck rolled up and blew up some police defenses. Later, a crane fell and took out a massive chunk of a skyscraper, while the robbers used the concealment to their advantage to scale an overpass and take out a cop with a baseball bat.
With the combat now indoors, the firefights became awfully close quarters. Snipers on nearby rooftops provided covering fire for their respective forces, while the robbers continued to make their way to the roof to reach the the escape helicopter. One of the robbers wasn't so lucky and parachuted out of a helicopter only to get arrested when he hit the ground. The beta for Battlefield: Hardline launches today, for PC and PS4, but it is unsure as to how long it will last. Meanwhile, the game launches on Oct. 21.
I got a brief chance at some hands-on time with Battlefield: Hardline, as a curtain widened to show 64 PS4s running the game. I spawned in as a cop, running toward the scene of the heist while robbers were busy securing the loot. The control and overall mechanics felt very familiar to that of Battlefield 4, albeit with slower movement speed. Robbers commandeered civilian vehicles and took cover behind a parked bus, and I flanked one to dispatch them, only to take a burst of fire that took me out along with a chunk of the pillar that I was using as cover. I respawned directly into a police cruiser, driving in both first- and third-person view as I picked up a teammate. We chased down one of the enemy loot carriers, with my passenger firing his assault rifle through the windshield. The robber's teammates were close by and took out my passenger after he tried to chase the looter on foot. Then they took me down when I tried to peel out of there. The game seemed like it could be a ton of fun, but my playtime was only measured in a couple of minutes before I had to hand it over to the next person in line.
Overall, EA has a really strong lineup for the coming months and, in some cases, years. Mirror's Edge looks to be making a glorious return, while games like The Sims 4 continue to evolve from their previous offerings. It's no surprise that a lot of people are looking forward to Dragon Age: Inquisition, and the game will be an absolute juggernaut against your free time when it releases. As for me, I'm probably most excited about Battlefield: Hardline. Yes, it's a violent spectacle of the collateral damage when cops take on robbers who have more armament than small nations, but it's also a scaled-up version of the cops and robbers games we played as kids. We'll have more information on EA's games after we take a deeper look this week during E3 2014.