Games have evolved from a product we purchase, to a “place we go”, estimates Electronic Arts’ John Riccitiello.
The publisher’s CEO outlined what he believes is the future of the medium – persistent services, and cross-media integration. Showcasing some of these concepts in practice, and outlining the highlights from EA’s catalogue over the next eight months were 10 games from 10 developers.
The worst-kept secret in the business, EA began with Visceral’s Dead Space 3. The publisher touts new locations, such as a frozen planet, another character named John Carter, and live co-op.
The brief passage of co-op gameplay shown suggests that Dead Space 3 marks a change in trajectory for the series. The two player characters trade clichéd space combatant banter, and throw themselves into boss fights wherein they must discover a weakness – for example an exposed heart – and pump it full of lead in the small window available.
The small passage of action gameplay provided no frights, and suggested that suspense and atmosphere have been put aside for spectacle – more Lost Planet and Gears of War than Dead Space.
SimCity and SimCity Social more clearly demonstrated EA’s vision of cross-media connectivity and digital living. Pitched as a direct competitor to Zynga’s catalogue of Facebook games, Social offers a pared back version of the classic, wrapped up in a playful package.
EA also sought to highlight the connected features of SimCity, particularly that a player’s city can be affected by approximate cities built by others.
Battlefield 3’s new Elite-alike, called Battlefield Premium, was also unveiled. Much like Activision’s Call of Duty social service, Premium will offer subscribers a range of downloadable content ahead of the wider market, in addition to some more superfluous features such as custom dog tags.
For US $49.95, players get five expansions, Close Quarters, Armored Kill, Back to Karkland, Aftermath and End Game. Altogether, Battlefield Premium offers 20 new maps and several new modes.
EA also wished to draw media attention to the ongoing content being added to its MMO, Star Wars: The Old Republic. BioWare has scheduled more PvP warzones, a new instance difficulty called Nightmare, a new level cap, and a new Hutt-run planet called Makeb.
A new level of Medal of Honor: Warfighter took attendees to a Somali pirate enclave. The highly scripted gameplay looks spectacular on DICE’s Frostbite 2.0. While most of the features highlighted at the press conference have already been covered, of particular interest was that spec op forces from 10 countries, including Australia, will be used as avatars in multiplayer.
FIFA 13 wishes to bring more drama and unpredictability to the series, states EA. To do so, EA Sports is adding several new systems. The first is Complete Dribbling, based on the footwork of Argentinian Lionel Messi. Players will now be able to control and manipulate the ball with more physical authenticity. The next generation of the player impact engine, to be unveiled with 13, also bolsters that system. Finally, first-touch control adds more realism and unpredictability to players’ initial contact with the ball.
Perhaps the most surprising announcement at EA’s conference was that it has secured the license for UFC in a multiyear agreement. However, no details were forthcoming on the game.
EA went to great lengths to let it be known that Criterion is developing this year’s Need For Speed, subtitled Most Wanted. EA Black Box’s NFS: The Run underperformed critically, and it’s clear the publisher wishes to disassociate this year’s title from last year’s.
Finally, Crytek demonstrated Crysis 3 and its rainforested take on on post-apocaltyptic New York. While it’s apparent that the limitations of consoles and the narrow demographics of the hardcore PC have meant Crytek will no longer be responsible for melting GPUs, the game – particularly the water – does look spectacular.
In spite of acknowledging ex-Infinity Ward-now Respawn developers Vince Zampella and Jason West, no announcements were forthcoming. Where 2011 brought us many high profile titles from EA, 2012 appears to be comparatively quieter. We’ll preview EA’s line-up over the days ahead.