It’s the most wonderful time of the year! No, not Christmas. E3!
Our very own gaming editor, Elizabeth, will be bringing you all the highlights you need for this year’s conference.
2017’s solo press conferences were kicked off by EA yesterday, and boy did they come ready to rumble this year. While public opinion on EA as a company is divisive at best, they are still one of the largest video game publishers in the world, and home to many beloved franchises and studios. Without further ado, let’s get into the juicy details from this year’s presentation.
Old Favorites Return
Being voted as the Worst Company in America for several years in a row recently seems to have put some things in perspective for our old friend EA. I think they’re aware that their long-standing franchises, especially their sports titles, are long overdue for some major changes. Review scores and sales have been down for several years running now. Whether or not they understand what kind of changes they need to be making, however, is debatable.
I will say this though: at least they’re willing to try some new things.
Madden 18 (August 2017): The Madden NFL football series has maintained its quality and fandom far better than EA’s other major league titles, especially in the last few years, but EA Sports has a terrible habit of prioritizing the wrong sort of changes. I’m sure I’m not the only one who would love to never hear the word “Frostbite” ever again, but EA seems to be married to this game engine for now. So much so that they’ve committed their flagship franchise, Madden, to the Frostbite engine family.
How well this will work out is very difficult to predict. Frostbite is a notoriously fussy engine to deal with, with some seriously limited specialties. It produces beautiful games, but beauty is only skin deep; you need to have quality content underneath that layer of gorgeous 4K paint.
For reasons that are a little bit baffling but not necessarily unwelcome, EA decided to answer the call for more story-driven, single-player experiences by adding a new campaign mode called Longshot to Madden 18. Moonlight star Mahershala Ali stars as a young football player rising through the ranks of the league. If you were a fan of the show Friday Night Lights, this new addition to the franchise might be precisely your cup of tea.
FIFA 18 (September 2017): For those of you who are more interested in the other kind of football, FIFA 18 is also looking to make some changes. If you can manage to find a Nintendo Switch, FIFA 18 will be making its debut on it in September of this year with plenty of Switch-exclusive features. While I personally don’t care for the gimmicky Nintendo control schemes, it seems like EA has devoted some time to making the most of them in FIFA 18.
The Switch version of FIFA 18 is not built on the Frostbite engine, though its other console brethren seem to be. EA has always been more willing than other publishers to bend over backwards to accommodate Nintendo’s console quirks. Whether or not this extra effort is worth the trouble remains to be seen, however.
NBA Live 18 (TBA, Demo out in August): The NBA Live franchise took a much needed break last year to get its head on straight, but its making its return this season. Like it’s brother Madden, NBA Live will be getting a facelift, new story modes, and hopefully a functional control scheme. It’s still too early to tell whether or not the changes are enough to revive the franchise, but with a hefty gameplay demo due out in August, we won’t have to wait long.
Need for Speed: Payback (TBA): It seems that EA has taken more inspiration than usual from the Fast and the Furious series for its newest entry in the Need for Speed franchise. In the gameplay preview, a mission called “Highway Heist” was highlighted, featuring a high speed chase after a guarded semi truck. While they didn’t show us any cars dropping out of planes (yet), Need for Speed: Payback is clearly aiming to capture the summer blockbuster feel of the Fast and the Furious franchise. This will be one to keep an eye on going forward.
Trying Something New
It wasn’t just old favorites on EA’s mainstage this year.
A Way Out (Early 2018): The creator of Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is bringing us a brand new co-op experience, titled A Way Out. The game will follow the story of two inmates, Leo and Vincent, as they attempt to make their escape from prison. The game was originally announced several years back at 2014’s E3 conference, but hasn’t received a solid release window or a detailed trailer until this year.
As focus on online multiplayer in games increases exponentially each year, fans of traditional co-op experiences are often left wanting. A prison break is the perfect kind of story to do as a co-op experience, so A Way Out will hopefully be a solid entry to this content-starved genre.
Anthem (TBA): It was no secret that BioWare was going to finally reveal its new franchise this year, but the early reception of this announcement has been extremely divisive, to put it mildly. EA’s stage presentation featured only a single, short teaser trailer for BioWare’s new juggernaut, but more information on the title will be revealed during Microsoft’s presentation on Sunday afternoon. Come back around tomorrow for more details!
The Belle of the Ball
While the Star Wars franchise has seen resounding success with its return to film in the past few years, it’s been far too long since gamers have gotten a solid new title to tide them over between movie releases. EA’s last venture into the Star Wars universe, Star Wars Battlefront, was plagued by online-only gameplay and precious little substance. However, it appears that EA is determined to do better this time around, and even opened their presentation of their new Battlefront title with a discussion of the player feedback that went into the development process for this title. All we want is for you to listen to us a little, EA. That wasn’t so hard, was it?
Anyway, onto Star Wars Battlefront II, with open beta beginning this fall. If you haven’t seen the trailers yet for this game, just stop reading and watch this right now. You may want to hold a hand under your jaw so it doesn’t smack the floor.
It appears that photorealism is finally within our reach. While there are some small moments where character movements are a wee bit off, the game looks unbelievably real, almost indistinguishable from its live action big brothers. It seems the hype around the potential of the Frostbite engine wasn’t all hot air after all. If this is what we’re doing with it now, I can’t imagine what we’re going to be doing with it across the next three to five years.
Content-wise, EA and Dice are looking to avoid the mistakes they made with the first entry in the series. All DLC and additional content for the title will be free. The title will also feature a desperately needed single-player campaign mode, which follows the events between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. That faint buzzing noise you hear is me vibrating in my chair in excitement.
The multiplayer mode is set to feature 20-on-20 battles between players. Many new franchise favorites will be appearing as special characters, such as Bobba Fett, Rey, and Darth Maul.
I know that expectation management is important when it comes to new video games, especially in the past few years, but it is damn hard to not get embarrassingly excited when you hear that overture and watch these trailers. I have every hope that this is going to be the title that puts Star Wars video games back on the map.
Wrapping It Up
A lot of the negative opinion of EA revolves around their digital distribution service, which all their games require, and their intense focus on DLC content and online multiplayer. EA has been making several concentrated efforts to improve Origin’s content, and I will say that the current build of Origin is far, far better than you’d expect from EA. In celebration of E3, several titles have been made available for free, so if you haven’t checked Origin’s selection lately, you’ll want to do that in the next few days.
It seems like EA is determined to improve the public’s perception of the company. They’re putting their money where their mouth is when it comes to listening to consumer feedback.While you can’t completely judge a game by its trailer, 2017’s collection has been EA’s strongest showing in years. I have high hopes that these titles will live up to expectations.
EA Press Conference Final Grade: A
Jaw dropping Star Wars Battlefront II trailers and some much needed changes to the EA Sports franchises give EA one hell of an opening press conference for E3 2017.