Electronic Arts are simply one of those publishers who often fall into one of two categories. They’re either sitting at the top of the game and doing really well, sales wise, or they’re being perceived so poorly that they’re literally voted as the worst company of America. I can’t say I agree with the latter, but I can still appreciate why people have been unhappy with them, and I’m not talking about the ending of Mass Effect 3. I’m talking extorted DLC, micro-transactions, tacked-on multiplayer, and, of course, crippling bugs and server problems. Honestly, though, EA has that much talent under their belt, and with an all-new (Australian) CEO leading, I went in with high hopes.
Last year, riding the wake of their infamous award, EA managed to deliver a surprisingly solid press conference. Starting with a play on Battlefield, but instead announcing Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare, it got off to a great start. They had ten games to show us, and they didn’t waste any time. They were bringing back Dragon Age, they were bringing back Battlefront, and most surprisingly, they were bringing back Mirrors Edge. These were three core announcements I didn’t expect, and it certainly helped to balance their sports and shooters. This year, I went in expecting a similar approach, which it sort of was; sadly, however, this was not the conference I was looking for.
Just as the show was about to begin, I honestly went in feeling very optimistic about their setup. I really liked the round table approach with the audience; as if everyone were attending a fancy dinner. It had a certain “class” to it… Or as close as it gets, anyway. I also appreciated that EA immediately stepped into a developer diary for Star Wars Battlefront, which is arguably their most anticipated game. It’s clear they’re aiming high, and while there wasn’t enough to show a full preview just yet; what we did see was absolutely mind blowing. I thought it was a good way to address a game that probably wasn’t ready, and I appreciated the idea; well, the first time, anyway.
It was off to a good start, and things continued to go well as Andrew Wilson (tacky suit jacket aside) walked on stage to deliver what I considered to be a reasonably good pro-gamer speech. Afterward, the lights went dark as we had a live musical performance for Dragon Age: Inquisition, which was followed by a live gameplay demo, and wrapped up with a great character focused trailer. The game looked fantastic, and it was great to see the developers on stage clarifying the different combat modes; catering to the more tactical players, as well. This was the pinnacle of the show, however. Everything went downhill from here, and mostly due to lack of things to show.
It was almost time for Bioware to take the stage, which, of course, is usually something to be very excited about. But wait. Another developer diary? Okay, I guess, one more won’t hurt… Oh, more concept footage? No name for the game? Wait… Okay, now they’re talking about another unnamed game, which is inspired by real life? – here, look at some pretty grass. Litterally, that sums up what Bioware had to show. It was painfully confusing, and honestly, I can’t really hold it against EA entirely. It’s not their fault they didn’t have enough to show this year; it’s clear they’re working on several massive projects, and, unfortunately, it was simply a time where their biggest games weren’t ready to show. In fact, I actually respect that they didn’t string us along with yet another CGI teaser.
Now, you’ll have to excuse my enthusiasm from this point onward. While I’m a fan of sports, I am not a big fan of sports games; which made up the majority of the show from this point onward. UFC, NHL, PGA, Madden, and, of course, FIFA. Every annual franchise got shown again, most without any sort of demo, and it was so unnecessary. I know they sell big, but I’m not so sure they each needed an individual segment in an E3 conference. Although, in saying that, with a lack of games to show, I guess they didn’t really have a choice? To surmise, they all looked great; as does anything running on the Frostbite 3 engine. In fact, I have to admit the battleship crashing through the PGA course peeked my attention. Overall, I assume this was great for sports game fans, and I can appreciate that.
Of course, we got to see more Sims 4, which I had already seen covered a lot already in the past 12 months. It was one of the few games to actually show footage, and despite this fact, what was shown was just too much. Great for Sims fans, but it dragged for the rest of us. What did surprise me was the announce of a MOBA-styled game called Dawngate. I thought it was an unusual choice for EA, and out of everything they had announced so far, which was practically nothing, I respected the approach; covering for yet another developer diary, which was from Criterion Games this time. What was shown was interesting, but it was mostly alpha footage for an extreme-sports game that also didn’t receive any sort of title, either. If you’re counting, that’s three untitled games, so far…
While Mirrors Edge, arguably the most anticipated game of the show, also started with a developer diary, I was happy that we at least got to see a fully working concept that actually resembled last year’s CGI trailer. It was probably the stand-out of the show, which says a lot. Of course, it wouldn’t be an EA showing without a big stage demo of the latest Battlefield game, and, unfortunately, this was all but old news due to a lot of leaks prior to E3. If not for this, I think they would have ended on a higher note, but it was still cool they demonstrated a 32-player match, announced a beta which could be signed up for straight away, and ended with a fire show which seemed just a bit over the top. Personally, I thought there was probably a little too much “Levolution” in what was, essentially, a “Cops & Robbers” game. However, it still appeared to hit home well with the core fan base at least.
Overall, I don’t think EA did the worst job when you consider what they actually had to work with this year. Although, with that being said, unless you’re a fan of sports games or just really enjoy watching developer diaries, it was likely you were going to walk away disappointed. I went in expecting six new games to be announced, as promised, and to be honest, I’m not even sure what they are as three of them didn’t even have a name. Honestly, I think the attitude of the company was still in a better place, it was presented decently, and the new CEO, despite startling resemblance to Handsome Jack from the Borderlands series, appears to be doing a good job. It might have been a dry showing for 2014, but I genuinely believe they have the potential to do well next year. Grade: C-