As I'm typing this, I'm sitting in the historic Orpheum theatre, waiting for the newly christened "worst company in America" to begin their press conference. I don't know exactly what history took place in this theatre, but it sure seems rustic and historic. I also don't know what EA did exactly to be named the worst company in America over such contenders like Haliburton, Wal-Mart, or the Bank of America. I mean come on, EA was generous enough to give hungry journalists attending the press conference their selection of "fun size" candy bars right in time for lunch. Is that the kind of thing the worst company in America would do? I think not. Since I haven't eaten since 7 am today, the three handfuls of mini Crunch bars I swiped from the press gallery are sure hitting the blood sugar spot.
Journalists, media, and nerds of all stripes are running to and fro, parking their sizeable butts in the creaky red seats, a big blue EA logo staring us in the face from the giant screen behind the stage, while the admittedly awesome Foster the People blares on a set of overpowered speakers.
We're told that we should locate the closest emergency exit and keep the aisles clear, because obviously, EA decided to host their press conference in an airplane this year. I choose to ignore these warnings, considering that it took an hour in line to get in, in case of an emergency, I'm much more likely to survive if I stay right where I am.
The lights dim, and the conference is under way. Only five seconds in, I'm reminded about Origin. Then I'm shown reboots of Medal of Honor, Need for Speed Most Wanted, SimCity, along with sequels like Dead Space 3, and several games that are already out. Oh yeah, there seems to be some new sports division from EA, that is putting out a bunch of sports games I've never heard of.
Like every year, John Riccitello takes the stage. He claims that this show will be "Less like the Oscars, more like Sundance." At least he didn't promise no celebrities like he did before last year's parade of celebrities. He talks about how games are evolving from the disc you buy to the game you end up with.
Booya! Dead Space is the first game they show. I can leave after this one, this is the one I care about most. Looks like it's going more to the action side of things instead of the creepy atmosphere that made the first one so great. Frozen planet and outer space settings combined with drop in drop out co-op. That means you can kiss creepy lonely atmosphere goodbye. Player 2 plays as a guy creatively named Carver. The co-op looks intense, but I can't shake the feeling that this is a Resident Evil 5 experience all over again. It does really look like a fully fledged cover shooter now. Way more Gears of War than Silent Hill in Space. The demo ends with you getting swallowed alive by a giant praying mantis like creature. The crowd applauds approvingly to the February 2013 release date.
Next game up is Madden. It's football, now with Kinect audible play calling. We're promised new "gamechanging" features. We're told about the infinity engine for more realistic physics. No two plays will ever look or feel the same. We'll see how much of a "gamechanger" this really is. They also talk up a connected career mode that includes social integration. Then the presenter introduces Michael Irvin, who apparently has had a good career in the NFL, and even made the hall of fame. Being Canadian and not much of a football fan, I wouldn't know. He talks abouthow making the NFL is tough, and to do it you have to "take little bites like making the team, and making a few wins." It's all about climbing the mountain and staying on top of it, according to him. The 32 player league looks fun. You can play as a coach, player, or franchise. Lots of XP and RPG-like elements to upgrade abilities. There's even a story mode with a fake Twitter feed. That's good for a chuckle. It's all socially connected in case you're so ridiculously obsessed that can't wait until you get home and must edit every aspect of your team on your phone.
Lucy Bradshaw, GM of Maxis is out next to talk about SimCity. SimCity Social for Facebook is the first one out. You can invite your friends to come and live in your city. Gotta say, as far as Facebook games go, this one looks pretty damn fun. The New SimCity uses what's called a Glass Box Simulation. The graphics look great, with an actual buzzing metropolis with people walking to and fro, individual cars of traffic, and specializations like staidums and airports that are all individually animated. You can even play multiplayer with neighbouring cities and challenges, much like a Springfield vs. Shelbyville vibe. Choices affect surrounding cities as well as your own city. Can't wait for this one. February 2013 can't come soon enough.
Jason West and Vince Zampella are given an ovation from the crowd after being introduced by Riccitello. I guess because they haven't had multi-million dollar disputes with EA.
Next up is Patrick Bach, Executive Producer of Battlefield 3 and Peter Moore, talking about how popular Battlefield 3. Newsflash, it's very popular. They're announcing Battlefield 3 premium. It's basically Call of Duty Elite, including exclusive expansion packs. If you're really into Battlefield, go nuts. Debut of motorcycles seemed pretty cool. Peter Moore says its hundreds of hours, and it's an "amazing value of $49.99" as of right now. If by amazing value, you mean the cost of a brand new game, then sure. I'll pass, thanks.
Ray Muzuka of Bioware takes to the stage to talk about how popular Old Republic is. Lots of people are spending tons of time playing the game lots. They're adding more pvp warzones and higher level content. They're also adding nightmare mode and new playable species and group finders, increased level caps, and a new planet and storylines. You can now play the game up to level 15 for free. That's bad news for a game addict like me that manages to avoid MMOs. Best of all, you can get an HK-51 companion droid, which if he's anything as cool as the HK-47 from KOTOR, I'm sold.
Greg Goodrich, the Executive Producer of Medal of Honor Warfighter is out next. Appanretly every mission in this game has a "dotted line to a real world hotspot or mission." You'd be forgiven for thinking that this is a Call of Duty clone, because that's exactly what it looks like, or even worse, a Battlefield clone. I have to wonder why EA would compete against themselves by making another Frostbite 2 enabled modern warfare title, especially when they introduced the Battlefield 3 premium model just minutes before. Graphics sure are pretty though, Frostbite engine is awesome, can't wait to see what other genres look like with it, especially the destructible environments. The multiplayer features tier one units from 12 countries. Finally you can play as elite Canadian or Polish elites, as well as U.S. Navy Seals, British SAS, Spetznaz, and more. . The gameplay sure doesn't look all that different from other shooters of its ilk though.
More talk about EA Sports. Apparently EA's goal is to connect every game you play with every platform you use. There's a new Madden NFL social, which allows you start on Facebook and conclude on your phone. He mentions the explosive new skating engine in NHL, which remains to be seen. NBA Live is mentioned including an "aggressive return to hoops this year." All of their major sports titles are coming back with varying levels of connectivity and changes to the games.
They jump into more detail of Fifa 13, which makes sense considering it's the most popular sports game in the world. Fifa is "football's social network". The football club has 11 million people that goes from Fifa game to the next. They have four big announcements today. All Fifa 12 levels will carry over into 13. Returning players will receive special bonuses and in game currency for jerseys and uniforms. Fifa 13 on iOS and Android will be connected on Fifa 13 too. There's also an iPhone app coming. There's a complete dribbling engine and attacking AI, which I'm not convinced is the total game changer they insist it is, but a more hardcore football fan will likely be a better judge than I am.
Huge news next! Looks like a return to MMA, but not only that, EA is now the owners the UFC license. I guess THQ lost the licence (Edit: THQ sold it off to EA to stay solvent). Dana White came out to discuss a multi year agreement for UFC and EA Sports. I guess all the smack that Dana White used to talk towards EA Sports is water under the bridge. Money talks doesn't it? I can't help but feel bad for THQ, especially since they put out a good product with UFC Undisputed.
The next awesome announcement is that Criterion is back behind the wheel of the Need for Speed franchise, this time with a reboot of Most Wanted. The arcade action looks spectacular and explosive, like every criterion game does. If it's half as good as Hot Pursuit was, I'm sold. The game comes out in 2012. They talk autolog, which is kind of old news. New stats are tracked like longest jumps and highest speed achieved. It's about becoming Most Wanted amongst your friends apparently. With such a focus on friends, it would be a shame if they left out split screen again. The game will be out in October.
Cevat Yerli comes out next to talk about Crytek engine and Crysis 3. The game uses 7 different environments in a more open world environment than the second title, in an attempt to create what Yerli called "an urban rainforest". Taking a look at the awesome environemtns that mix urban destruction with convincing foliage, I'd say it's mission accomplished. The bow and arrow mixed with the invisibility looks ultra bad ass I must say. Considering the second title was one of the best shooters of last year, this is definitely one to watch. The demo ends with an exploding dam that has some of the best water effects seen yet. The game releases February 2013.
Riccitello comes out to congratulate the ten developers showing the ten games of the show. A bit of an anti-climax I guess. I don't know what I was expecting, but overall, it was quite a good presentation by EA, with a good mix of supporting past titles with new titles to get excited over. Other publishers certainly have their work cut out to match EA's diverse line-up that serves nearly every taste on every conceivable platform.