Right, we're in the swing of things now. EA's 2015 E3 press conference will be going live this afternoon, at 1PM PT / 4PM ET / 9PM BST.
We've seen Bethesda and by the time this goes conference goes live we'll have had a peek at Microsoft's wares, but now it's time to check out what good old Electronic Arts has up its sleeve. The two-time champion of 'Worst Company in America', EA's been on the road to redemption as of late, so expect some blockbuster reveals and plenty of Star Wars Battlefront.
E3 2015 represents the biggest showcase possible for EA to demonstrate its upcoming roster of titles, and we're expecting some absolutely massive blowouts on Star Wars Battlefront, Need For Speed and Mirror's Edge Catalyst. Elsewhere, we know there'll be a mountain of sports games, as well sequels for Mass Effect and Plants vs Zombies. Perhaps most intriguingly of all, we have two new, untitled Star Wars games in the works from Bioware and Visceral Games, and we could well get our first look at them in the next few hours.
Despite E3 press conference audiences being notoriously quick to whoop and holler at the slightest thing, EA's representative during the Microsoft conference got barely a squeak from the great unwashed. Obviously, his unwillingness to give out plastic toys to the audience counted against him. But let's see what the divisive publishers can pull out of their hats for the 2015 conference...
Mass Effect Andromeda
EA start off their show by showing us an alien selecting a planet to decimate like we'd select a new Angry Birds game from our mobile phones. Wait, no it's not! Suddenly we see that familiar N7 logo... and immediately we know that Mass Effect is back! mass Effect Andromeda will be with us Christmas 2016. It's a good start for the show.
Why exactly CEOs need to talk endless guff about mission statements and connecting people with play, or yadda yadda yadda. It's of no interest to anyone. I think it's just how CEOs are trained to speak.
Need for Speed
Need for Speed kicks off the conference's proper showcases. Need for Speed is, of course, almost as much of a given as FIFA and Madden. I'd not be surprised if they started numbering them Need for Speed 2015 or whatever. But not this time. It's just Need for Speed. No fancy name. It sounds like they're trying to pull everything together for the 'definitive' Need for Speed game. Until next year, naturally.
It'll be twice the size of Rivals, though, and makes a big deal of the Frostbite engine that underpins it all. The story's going to have five overlapping narratives. Oh, and it's a fully open world, too, which should be interesting. Apparently, we're going to get the chance to become the ultimate icon. Which is obviously meaningless corporate drivel. Let's hope the game lives up to the hype. We're treated to an impressive array of customisation options for boy racers... I was a little worried about the lack of neon underlighting of 'Pixar Cars eyes' though.
The driving itself looks pretty good but I've got to wonder why they're showing a night level, when daytime would give them more chance to show off graphical innovation. Still, if it really is a full open world, then it’s visually quite impressive.
Star Wars: The Old Republic
Star Wars - the Old Republic has had its ups and downs over the last few years. Now we're promised something new though. "A player driven arc where choices matter" The new expansion, "Knights of the Fallen Empire” will give us new worlds, companions and choices to make to affect the story. It's going to be free to all subscribers. Will it be enough to get The Old Republic back on track?
This story seems to focus around two little Jedi tots who not-so-subtly dress one in black and t'other in white, and end up fighting each other. This expansion will make planetfall on October 27, 2015
Next, we're shown a completely new IP: a puzzle platformer where you play a character made of "unravelling yarn which represents love. You are the red thread that runs through someone's life and you get to put their lives back together," Martin Sahlin of Swedish-based Coldwood tells us. This main character, Yarny, has something of the Sackboy about him, and the gameplay is all physics based. You can swing across a gap using your yarn, and you can look back and see where you've been, leaving a web of yarn behind you. It’s all very metaphorical, but looks pretty. The main character seems acrobatic and graceful and it's hard not to get a kind of Samorost-meets-Mark-of-the-Ninja feel from it all. Gameplay and cutscenes seem to meld into one another seamlessly.
Plants Versus Zombies Garden Warfare 2
Plants Versus Zombies Garden Warfare 2 was mentioned during the Microsoft conference, but Jeremy Vanhoozer has plenty more to tell us. Now the world has been overrun by the zombies, and the plants are on the attack for a change. There are six new character classes from the past, present and future to choose from. In fact, many of the new levels seem to borrow the time travel vibe from PvZ2, as EA showcase ancient Egypt as well as what looks like Rome or Greece.
Gameplay, however, seems mostly unchanged. New classes include the imp, a zombie who can jetpack around and is the smallest and fastest zombie in the game, but with access to a mech suit, because why not?
Also, there is Super Brains, the superhero zombie melee class guy and Cap'n Deadbeard, a zombie sniper who can hide himself in a barrel with dynamite on top - it will probably make sense once the game's out. Or perhaps not.
One new gameplay mode that is shown is Graveyard Ops, a co-op defensive mode that seems to have maybe taken something from Orcs Must Die-style tower defense games that themselves borrowed from the original Plants Versus Zombies... it's all very meta.
Speaking of meta, most of your unlocks from GW1 will be transferred to GW2 automatically. So if you’ve ploughed far too many hours into the first one, you can do the same with the second without having to unlock everything all over again.
PvZ: GW2 comes Spring 2016. Free content updates are promised “long after launch”, and the PvZ team have been pretty good at this in the past so let’s give them the benefit of the doubt.
EA Sports Part I
And now, it's time for the obligatory EA Sports bit. First up is NHL 16. I'm not afraid to admit I know next to nothing about the noble art of icehockeying, and only the barest of minimums about basketball, so please bear with me.
Oddly, the first sports game to use the Frostbite engine is going to be golf. We’re assured there’ll be no load time between holes now, and that’ll save you 15 minutes per round. It’s the videogame equivalent of getting a golf cart. Also on offer as usual are “Stunning real world courses and epic fantasy”.
Sean O'Brien NBA Live Executive Producer is banging on about self expression. Which seems strange for a sports franchise like NBA 16. But you can customise all your players, with an app that will generate a scan of your face to put you personally into the game. So yeah, I guess that counts. Gameface HD is probably going to be in all sports games soon.
As for self expression on the court, there's a new physics-based Live Motion system that keeps you in control so you don't feel like you're in a scripted event when you tackle or dodge. You can choose for your defender to roll, pop or slip. Whatever the heck that means. There's a new shot system so you get full control to release the ball whenever you want.
Mobile is apparently the single biggest gaming platform in the world. Who knew, eh? Now, with Need For Speed No Limits for phones and tablets, and a Squad Builder and Auctions system for sports games that can be accessed from your mobile watch, there is now literally no time you need to not be gaming. A new CCG RPG based on the Star Wars universe called Galaxy of Heroes is on its way too. EA’s Samantha Ryan tells us that it’s a “Massive CCG that spans the entire Star Wars universe”, but I guess we’ll have to wait a bit for more concrete details on this.
Something else new, this appears to be a builder game that stars Phil, one of the minions from Despicable Me (although this is a new character for the game. Although they all look practically identical. But whatever). He seems like a pretty fun guy, but then I could just sit and watch the minions being stupid for hours regardless of the gameplay. Expect to be building weird tiki bars and water slides for the minions later this year.
EA Sports Part II
That's it, now. They're bringing out Pele! They're not going to be able to do celebrities again for FIFA. Who is a bigger name than Pele? As usual, though, it's all just flair really. Not really anything to do with FIFA the game beyond a nice moment, really. But who can begrudge the Jesus of Football his moment on the EA stage? It was inevitable really.
When EA’s spokesman finally cuts to the chase though, "Better defensive shape on the pitch". "Interception Intelligence" and "Passing with Purpose to allow a more considered buildup through the midfield” seem to be the buzzwords, along with “No-touch dribbling to create separation to blow by your defender”, and “Clinical finishing” to help you to score with panache. None of this really means much without a sit-down at the game, really, though. Oh, but women's teams are in the game. This isn’t exactly news, as we knew this before the show. Again, we'll probably see this in all sports games very soon.
Mirrors Edge Catalyst
The Mirror's Edge sequel has been in people's minds recently, so it's good to get to see some actual footage. EA’s Sara Jansson brings some big, gravity-laden questions about privacy and control, although we all know that Mirror's Edge: Catalyst is actually just going to be Faith bunging herself around the place with leet parkour skillz. "She doesn't need any guns", we're told, much to the relief of all fans. We're back to a city ruled by corporations under the control of Gabriel Kruger. Fluidity and freedom seem to be the catchphrases here, and we're promised no loading screens or levels, as the entire game is one fluid, unbroken stream.
Sadly, the gameplay demo is still interspersed in large part with cinematic cutscene stuff, but martial arts in particular seems to work smoothly and impressively even in the first person view.
Mirror’s Edge Catalyst is due out February 23, 2016
EA Sports: Part Trois
Why they stuck Mirror's Edge into the middle of the EA Sports section I don't know, but that's probably why I'm not the boss of EA. Okay, there may be some other reasons as well. Either way, Madden seems to be moving toward fantasy football with Madden Draft Champions. You draft your teams and then play with your teams solo or online. It's like Fantasy Football that you actually play, and I'm surprised it's never really been done before in Madden.
EA’s Seann Graddy assures us that new body relative throws mean you can hit your tall receivers to beat shorter defenders in the next Madden game. There are three new catch types, as well: Possession catch, Run-after catch and Aggressive catch. Whatever that all means. Still, any new features are fun and interesting. So hang on to your hot dogs for that one.
Star Wars: Battlefront
Oh yeah, it’s Star Wars Battlefront time! And frankly, if JJ does as good a job with the movie as it looks like Dice is doing with this game, we’ll all be happy little ewoks.
It’s looking not only stunning, but also immensely enjoyable. The news that there will be Star Wars Battlefront single-player missions, with co-op as well, is certainly a welcome cherry on the force-sensitive cake.
The gameplay footage shows Walker Assault mode, inspired (naturally) by the Battle of Hoth. The good guys need to escort AT-ST's to the base, and the Rebels need to stop them. Assuming, of course, that like me, you see the Imperials as the good guys, upholding law and order in a galaxy gone mad.
The footage is from the PS4 engine, and is looking really slick and faithful to the movies. A rebel trooper dashes through the hangar of Echo Base and spots an Imperial Walker through some incredibly well-done macrobinoculars, perfectly evoking those used in the movies.
The whole thing looks fantastic. Gameplay perhaps does have a little of Battlefield about it, but suddenly all thought s of any other games else are burned from my brain by shots taken from an AT-AT’s perspective. And whether all the spoken dialogue heard in the demo is just random or player controlled remains to be seen. Watching the use of Force powers, the TIEs shooting through canyons in pursuit of X-Wings, furious battle... It looks fabulous. We can't wait.
Battlefront will arrive on November 17th 2015.