Electronic Arts took a streamlined approach to its E3 2012 press conference on Monday, cutting out fluff and getting straight to the games, just how we like it. When EA CEO John Riccitiello opened the show, he explained that it would be handled in a slightly more unique format than other press conferences.
"It will be less like the Oscars, and more like Sundance, with 10 developers taking the stage to talk about new games from 10 different franchises."
Two reps from Visceral Games started things off with a presentation of Dead Space 3 and its brand new co-op mode that has been making the rounds in news stories for a few weeks now. The co-op, which stars a new character named John Carver (in addition to series protagonist Isaac Clarke) will be drop-in/drop-out, so players can go from single player to co-op multiplayer on the fly. After opening with a cinematic in which we see Isaac become separated from pilot Ellie Langford -- whom Isaac befriends in Dead Space 2 -- during a crash landing, the Visceral reps proceeded to play through a co-op demo.
The gameplay appeared to be as terrifying as that of the last two entries in the series, and it was refreshing to see that despite the fact that it was co-op, there weren't any really forced or non-organic teamwork scenarios (see: Resident Evil 5, which had plenty of moments in which one character had to do something like turn a wheel while the other stood guard and fought off enemies). The demo ended, naturally, with a cliff hanger, as Isaac was swallowed whole by a gigantic Necromorph and found himself struggling through the alien's intestines in an attempt to find a way out. We'll just have to wait until February 2013 to find out what happens.
Members of DICE also made an appearance to discuss the details of the Battlefield 3 Premium, which was leaked a couple weeks back. Essentially an attempt to match Activision's Call of Duty Elite service, Battlefield Premium gives players access to new weapons, vehicles, dog tags, modes, and assignments; it's aptly summarized in the service's trailer, which ends with the tag, "Own more."
The Premium service also offers early access to certain maps and upcoming content, like the game's four themed expansion packs that will be released over the course of the next nine months. These include Close Quarters, which focuses on infantry combat; Armored Kill, which has maps focusing on vehicle combat; Aftermath, which features a narrative in which soldiers are trapped in the crumbling remains of an Middle Eastern city following an earthquake; and End Game. Unfortunately, little information was revealed about End Game, except for one key fact: it will feature the debut of motorcycles!
The Battlefield 3 Premium service is available now for $49.99. The Close Quarters expansion is also available now, but only to PS3 players. It will be coming to Xbox and PC next week.
In the same vein, a Medal of Honor: Warfighter gameplay demo was also shown off. Before playing, one of the reps explained, "Every mission in the game has a dotted line to a real world event or hot spot." So we were then treated to a brief demo in which some Tier One fighters launched an attack on a pirate enclave in Somalia. It was pretty standard fare, including the use of the now ubiquitous remote control drone, though there was one element -- that sadly went unexplained -- that stood out. At one point, the player breached a door an entered a room with four enemies, and four little skull icons at the bottom of the screen popped up. I'm not exactly sure what they were for, as he killed all four of them and only one of the icons turned into a red X, so perhaps this is still an unpolished or incomplete gameplay mechanic.
Also mentioned was the game's multiplayer, which will be titled "Global Warfighters." Instead of just the same riff on the two Allied/Axis team formula, players will be able to play as any one of 10 Tier One soldiers from around the world. So your choices include elite forces like SEALs, SAS, Spetsnaz, SFOD-D, etc. Medal of Honor Warfighter will be released on October 23.
EA's flagship MMO, Star Wars: The Old Republic got some love too, with a Bioware rep announcing that the game's next update will bring new loads of new content. Though he did not provide a release date for the next update, he did reveal that it will include a new mission called "Space Station Assault," a new operation, "Terror From Beyond," and a new companion, HK-51, which, from the looks of it in the trailer, could be a callback to the beloved HK-47 character from Knights of the Old Republic. Other new features include a new character race option (Cathar), a higher level cap, new combat abilities, a new PvP warzone (Ancient Hypergates), and a new planet to explore, Makeb.
Next up was the new Need For Speed title, which is curiously titled Need For Speed: Most Wanted, despite there being an earlier entry in the series released back in 2005 that goes by the same name. This entry, however, is being handled by Criterion Games, so it's essentially a reboot of the first Most Wanted with a different developer.
"We loved the first Need For Speed: Most Wanted and the gameplay idea of trying to become the 'Most Wanted'." said the Criterion rep who took the stage to demo the title. "So we wanted to create an open-world driving game, where players can race, chase, and explore, competing to become the Most Wanted among their friends. We're integrating friends into a game more deeply than ever before."
Players of recent Criterion Need For Speed games, like Hot Pursuit, will recognize Most Wanted's use of the Speed Wall, which essentially shows your friends' high scores, fastest times, etc. In addition, the rep explained that there will be many more stats for you to compete against your friends in aside from the fastest race time, like the furthest jump, the fastest pursuits, etc. Also, completing certain challenges and races give you "Speed Points" that drive you up the Most Wanted list (essentially a leaderboard) as you compete with your friends.
The demo itself was impressive, as it really did feel like an open-world racing game in the sense that while there were roads and race tracks to speak of, they didn't always need to be followed. At some points, the rep playing the demo would go off road and enter areas like construction sites in which he would whip around and drive in the opposite direction in an attempt to either wreck or shake off a pursuer. Through the course of the demo, we saw him bust through many a gate and fence, weave through alleys, and even drive up a flight of stairs to take his car on a different road from his opponents. Players will have their shot at becoming the Most Wanted on October 30.
Closing the show was a demo of the recently announced Crysis 3. Before kicking it off, however, the rep explained that the game would feature seven different "wonders" or worlds, including the areas like canyons, swamps, and rivers. "Our goal is to create a sort of urban rainforest," he said.
And indeed, that was absolutely the stylistic feel that you get from watching the game in motion. The world around the player seems like this odd sort of synthesis of nature and metal and man-made structures. It's peculiar, but it's a unique setting that you can't help but like, as the appeal of dusty beige surroundings has really run its course. Gameplay itself, however, was a little more on the vanilla side, though I'll admit that the bow and arrow that's so prevalent in the game's advertising is incredibly badass.
Also shown off during the press conference were new entries to the EA Sports lineup, with a special focus given to FIFA 13 and Madden 13, complete with an appearance by Michael Irvin; Sim City Social (for Facebook) and the new Sim City, and a new UFC game, also featuring a "celebrity" appearance by UFC President Dana White to announce a new multi-year, multi-product relationship between EA and UFC.
In all, it's difficult to deny that EA has quite the formidable lineup for the next year or so, though they may not all end up being knockout hits; I would venture to say that Medal of Honor: Warfighter has the most to prove after the colossal flop of 2010's Medal of Honor. But regardless of how all of the games fare or how it all plays out, rest assured that there will be no shortage of news regarding these major titles over the course of the coming months.
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