The Best and Not-So-Brilliant Bits of the EA Play Conference at E3 2016
We sat through EA's E3 presentation so you didn't have to. Here's what happened, mostly.
EA Play at E3 2016: it's a whole bunch of games, announced, on a stage, in Los Angeles. I mean, that's it. It's fancy advertising. That's really it. You might be excited, and good for you. Battlefield in World War I, yeah, because that's a good idea and not at all distasteful, and so on, and so forth. Mass Effect, with the aliens and the guns and the funny-shaped penises in the oddly contoured holes. FIFA, with all the balls. But really, honestly, come on now, it's just a bunch of advertising. Advertising that played out roughly in the order below.
This shit should be starting right now. Right now. Why isn't it? If the first announcement isn't Skate 4, I'm going home (via the free mini-burgers, obviously). That or Mass Effect. I'm okay with Mass Effect.
Come on, seriously. This is my first E3 conference presentation thing of 2016 and after a monumental kerfuffle of wristband and lanyard confusion, which meant going through security screening twice and losing a perfectly good can of fizzy lemonade pop (sorry, lemon and lime, that one, you know the one), I am in no mood to be kept waiting.
It's started. And it's loud. We were not given warning that it would be loud. This loud. They do that in the cinema, and rock shows and all that. My ears are the only ears I'll ever have. Fucking hell EA. Have some health and safety respect.
Andrew Wilson is talking. Who's Andrew Wilson? I can't tell you, on account of missing the caption in the massive screens I am sat far too close to. (He's this guy.) He wants feedback on the games – just as long as we play them. Which seems reasonable but, then again, Games Journalism, right?
We're live via satellite or whatever with London's EA Play event. Big whoop? What is: Wilson's confirmation of new Star Wars and Mass Effect coming up. Which is fairly hype – some people whoop. And then there's the stuff that we all knew about: Titanfall 2, Battlefield 1 (there's some match on it (with it?) happening, too), and those sports games you buy every year through habit. This Madden has Really Much Better Grass Probably. And that's reason enough to drop another £50 on it.
Here's Vince Zampella from Respawn to talk about Titanfall 2. It's on PlayStation this time. That gets a round of applause. If only every piece of common sense business received such a reaction. There's a loud trailer with robots and people shooting at people and robots and I'm sure it's fantastic if you're 12. Wait. What's that? Shit, guys. Titanfall 2 has a GRAPPLING HOOK. Cancel the cynicism. Grappling hooks FTW. The guy used the grappling hook to hook another guy and then the first guy kicked the other guy in that other guy's face and, like, wow. Right?
"A deep progression system," is promised. Sounds sexy. There'll be a multiplayer test which you – yes, you – can register for, probably on the game's official website or by sending a stamped and self-addressed envelope to a PO Box. Vince confirms the single-player mode, useable offline, for anyone who didn't already catch the leak from earlier. So many leaks this E3. Why am I even here? (Oh yeah, mini-burgers.) Titanfall 2 is out on October the 28th this year.
Madden's on. Some people like Madden games. I had the first one, way back when on the Mega Drive. Haven't played one since. I think you need to be American to get it? Yeah, that'll be it. Looks shiny all the same. Men in shiny helmets, running around some lines. Shiny helmets. So many shiny helmets. It'll feature "new ways to play," apparently. Part of that is eSports, which EA is quite into. Somehow we've got onto a pro-gamer chat. Peter Moore in London is very keen to stress that competitive play in EA games is for everyone, whatever their level. Which is poppycock of course, but the rhetoric is admirably rudimentary.
Madden's still on. Eight elite players of the game are brought out on stage. One has his arm in a sling. "Serious Moe" is his name. Don't suppose he'll be winning the $50,000 competition coming up at EA Play, running throughout the E3 period.
Mass Effect: Andromeda is getting the sales patter. "You must be courageous, daring," because where we're going in this game, humanity is the alien race. "More freedom than we've ever given players," all powered by the Frostbite engine. And if that makes sense to you, you know to be excited. A new trailer shows pretty pictures of galaxies and that, and some people drawing them. There's a Mako, Mako confirmed. Protagonist character depicted as female. News!
Play To Give gets announced by Wilson – this is play with charitable donations attached. There's the UN's HeForShe campaign, CODE, CODE2040, Special Effect and the National Centre for Women and Information Technology. The donation on one imminent event will result in a million dollars being given to charity. Which is nice, isn't it?
FIFA 17 looks like FIFA, alright. Ball. Check. Feet. Check. It's in Frostbite, too. "Alex Hunter" is on stage in London. He's the star of the game's new "The Journey" mode – FIFA's fantasy football story mode. The cutscenes actually looks pretty ropey, all stiff limbs and oddly oversized heads. (We've a more in-depth piece on "The Journey" either coming up or already online – check here. (Okay, so said piece will be live at around 18:00 PDT, sorry about that.)
Premier League managers are in the game. So presumably Southampton's bench features an empty seat. José Mourino is on the London stage with Peter. He should stick to tactics and leave the footballer-does-acting lark to that old hard-tackling Wimbledon midfielder. You know. Alan Cork. The banter between the two is palpably painful. But yeah. Managers. There are further details about how the gameplay itself has been tweaked – naturally, to the producers, these are "massive changes". I heard it's a right bastard to take a corner now.
It's still no PES though, is it?
Patrick Söderlund, executive vice president of EA Studios, is talking about the surprise that was Unravel last year. Here, in LA, he's again discussing more personal projects, and the EA Originals programme. This means: unique experiences made by smaller teams, benefitting from the support EA can offer through marketing, funding, security and publishing. All the profit from the games is said to go back to the developers. And the first beneficiaries of this project is Zoink!, a Swedish studio, with their game Fe, "a personal narrative about our relationship with nature," according to CEO Klaus Lyngeled. Fe looks fairly Ori, aesthetically, albeit 3D, at first impression; but the main mechanic here appears to be sound based, with every lifeform in the game's forest setting having a "song" to be learned. There are nasties to contend with, too, the Silent Ones. The chirps the creatures make in the trailer have something of the Journeys about them.
Jade Raymond is here to tell the LA about EA's new Star Wars games. (Look, some footage, just up there.) Coming up in 2018 is a new Star Wars game from Visceral being made with ex-Uncharted director Amy Hennig at the helm – all new characters and stories in this one. Respawn, meanwhile, the Titanfall lot, are making a third-person game that leans on other areas of what's going on in the whole Star Wars lore. Did you see that? Tie-Fighting in PSVR. That I can vibe with.
I don't know. Too many Star Wars games spoils the Wookie. Or something to that effect. Anyway, Battlefield 1 is getting its time in the spotlight now. There's talk about "creative risks". And about being "sceptical" about the concept of doing World War I, or rather a "very unique take" on it. "The risks were worth it," we're told. And here's a snippet from a new trailer with shitty pistols and dodgy tanks. And dogfighting. "No battle is ever the same." You see how these soundbites say everything, and totally nothing, simultaneously. Right after the presentation, there'll be a live stream of competitive play. Today, of all days, a mass-murder-fest. Sounds good, can't wait!
"Squad up in epic multiplayer matches with up to 64 players." "Let's start by talking destruction." Battlefield 1 has "intuitive" destruction. And unpredictable weather. And lots of weapons. And gigantic vehicles. Which are sort of being glamorised here, these terrible war machines, albeit with no sort of about it. "War has never felt so epic." This game can comprehensively go and fuck itself.
The rain in the game does look really rainy, mind.
Everyone files out. Xbox's Phil Spencer walks past me, all smiles, without a care in the world about the earlier Xbox One S(lim) leak. Probably did a silent one as he passed by the PlayStation lot. Conference, done. Beer?