EA Dazzles with Innovative Sequels and Cherished Revivals
"Mirror's Edge" was one of the long-dormant titles to get a revival.
CREDIT: Electronic Arts
Electronic Arts has had a rocky first half of 2013, but its lineup for the second half of the year looks much more promising. While EA had only a few real surprises on display, even its sequels to familiar and well-worn franchises boast some impressive new technology.
Casual games developer PopCap presented first, and focused its attention on its blockbuster “Plants vs. Zombies” series. While the game’s sequel, “It’s About Time,” is still primed and ready for a July 18 release, an unexpected entry took center stage.
“Garden Warfare” is a squad-based, multiplayer third-person shooter where players choose different plant avatars and collaborate against hordes of zombies, who attack in increasingly difficult waves. Each plant suits a different play style: Pea-shooters are jacks-of-all-trades, cacti specialize in ranged attacks and bok choys can get up close and personal.
One of EA’s few new franchises on display was “Titanfall.” This multiplayer third-person shooter takes place in a future where jetpack-wearing soldiers command enormous, anthropomorphic mechanical armor suits (“mechs”) and vie for supremacy.
Although the game is a multiplayer affair, developer Respawn Entertainment hopes to imbue the proceedings with story, graphics and level of design worthy of a meticulously crafted single-player campaign. Players can summon mechs at any time or fight on foot, and the game appears to balance the two experiences very carefully.
EA devoted a huge chunk of its presentation to sports games, but the bottom line is that there’s a realistic new graphics engine called Ignite, and EA will use it to power next year’s games. "NBA Live 14," "FIFA 14" and a new UFC game are on the way. The big news, though, was "Madden 25": the quarter-century anniversary of the most popular football game on the market.
EA’s most popular announcement, by far, had to do with its recent acquisition of the “Star Wars” license. While the trailer was short and contained no gameplay footage, a teaser for “Star Wars: Battlefront” garnered raucous applause from the audience.
“Battlefront” was a popular multiplayer shooter where players took on the roles of storm troopers, battle droids and Jedi Knights from the “Star Wars” films. The series has been dormant for eight years. [See also: 5 Top 'Star Wars' Video Games of All Time]
EA also revealed the long-rumored “Mirror’s Edge 2.” Although the original “Mirror’s Edge” received mixed reviews for its bare-bones story and nausea-inducing first-person acrobatics, gamers held a soft spot for its creative ideas and Asian female protagonist (a rarity in games from the West).
No E3 news conference would be complete without a realistic racing simulator, and EA delivered that in the form of “Need for Speed: Rivals.” The latest installment in this franchise plays a very high-stakes version of “cops and robbers,” where another player can join your game midrace and take the role of a policeman trying to stop you cold. [See also: 10 'Star Wars' EA Games That Would Merit Our Forgiveness]
Role-playing game fans got something to look forward to in “Dragon Age: Inquisition,” the third entry in the “Dragon Age” series from BioWare. Like previous entries, “Inquisition” will tell the tale of a customizable protagonist who can either save or doom a troubled country while grappling with political intrigue, ancient spells and mighty dragons.
“Battlefield 4,” EA’s modern military first-person shooter, elicited big cheers when the curtain drew back to reveal 64 simultaneous players. This game will allow for enormous multiplayer matches complete with controllable helicopters, speedboats and Jet Skis.
In one particularly striking sequence, a squadron of soldiers parachuted out of a building under siege by tanks. The building proceeded to collapse. This was not a pre-scripted event, but rather served to show how many options players will have available to them.
Although EA still has a lot of work to do to fix its financial outlook, its E3 lineup is a good start. These games hardly reinvent the wheel, but they do make the wheel much shinier.