EA Press Conference: Mirror’s Edge 2, New Star Wars Battlefront
Konami jumped the gun and had its press conference the week before E3. Microsoft got things going in earnest this morning with a bevy of games and a reveal of the Xbox One’s $499 price point. Now, it’s EA’s turn. We can expect to see stalwarts like Battlefield, FIFA, and Dragon Age, along with some surprises and hopefully even some information about new Star Wars games based on the mega-publisher’s fancy new licensing deal with Disney.
The conference begins at 4 p.m. EDT/ 1 p.m. PST. Please keep refreshing this page for updates and screenshots, during and after the event.
The big news from the conference came right at the end: EA and DICE are teaming up for Mirror’s Edge 2. It’s not the most surprising move, considering the cult following the game has, particularly among gaming journalists. To really make it a success, though, the Swedish developers will have to iron out the many problems that plagued the first game.
Mirror’s Edge aside, let’s begin at the beginning: the requisite blast of loud music. EA seems to be trying out a new, blue-heavy color scheme at this E3, and it shows. Chief Operating Officer Peter Moore took the stage to introduce what he’s calling “Download” — some sort of branding name for the press conference itself. EA showed off 11 new games from EA today — all “brand new code” — which “define gaming on the new consoles.”
Plants Vs. Zombies kicked things off with a mock-serious opening that quickly devolved into a pre-rendered cutscene with lots of jokes and Rockabilly. Turns out that the new Plants Vs. Zombies title, “Garden Warfare,” is a 4-player, 3rd-person action title. It’s basically Horde Mode — fend off zombies while controlling plants. Turning a popular casual game into an action-heavy frag-fest is exactly the sort of behavior that earns EA a bad reputation.
Next were the team behind Titanfall, which had already been teased at Microsoft. Lots of talk from Respawn Entertainment developers about various game design challenges — how to get the mood, pace, and emotions right. How to design environments that worked for both big mechs and normal sized pilots. How to make people feel the right feelings when they see a bipedal mech in an action video game — I’m guessing they’re shooting for “cool,” and not “I’ve seen this a thousand times before.”
On to EA honcho Frank Gibeau, who talks up EA’s investments in two engine technologies — Frostbite 3 and EA Sports Ignite — which will power a new suite of EA games on PS4 and Xbox One. As he explains, the games that follow are all based on these new engines. He plays a teaser reel. And we have our first big news! A new Star Wars: Battlefront is announced, via a brief shot of an AT-AT’s foot crashing down onto the snowy surface of Hoth.
Moving on to the Frostbite 3-powered Need 4 Speed, the producers showed off a complicated online mode involving a tablet. Then Breaking Bad actor Aaron Paul made a brief appearance onstage with a custom Ford Mustang, which he will drive in the Need 4 Speed movie, coming in 2014. Go figure.
Dragon Age then appeared, sporting a new subtitle — “Inquisition” for its third installment. The BioWare dev on hand made vague promises about an “open world,” which can be altered by the player through decision making. The fall 2014 title then moved on to a very somber trailer featuring somber Qunari, fire raining from the sky, and returning characters Varric Thethras (from Dragon Age II) and the witch Morrigan (from Dragon Age: Origins).
Then it was off to the land of EA Sports. President Frank Gibeau returned and began by describing the common elements of new EA Sports titles powered by the Ignite engine: Human Intelligence (better AI), True Player Motion (better animations), and Living Worlds (more automatic updates full of real-world statistics and results).
NBA Live 14 was first up, starting with an eloquent slam poet monologuing about dribbling, followed by Cleveland Cavaliers star Kyrie Irving talking awkwardly about his personal bag of tricks. At least the new dribbling technology was cool — the ball will achieve true, physics-powered separation from a player’s hand every time he dribbles in NBA Live 14, which allows for a lot more creativity when driving to the hoop. In a more general way, it will be interesting if EA Sports can bring their basketball franchise back from the dead after so many delays and false starts.
No celebrity for Madden 25 — just improved animations, better player AI, and better line play. Adrian Peterson will appear on an alternate cover design. FIFA 14, too, was a little understated, although Drake showed up to MC, putting his stint acting on Canadian after-school television to good use. The new features mostly conformed to the theme of the night: animations and AI, although a new emphasis on depicting realistic crowds should come in handy.
Next up: the Octagon, with Bruce Buffer announcing his lungs out and UFC founder Dana White flanked by fighters Jon Jones and Benson Henderson. White is a natural raconteur, and he waxed excited about the partnership with EA Sports in specific and the global appeal of combat sports in general. Jones and Henderson — who are both surprisingly meek-sounding — explained how Animation and AI features in this brand new title will capture both the brutality and subtle mind-games that define the UFC circuit.
After being exposed to a fair amount of singleplayer action, Battlefield fans were no doubt excited to see Battlefield 4′s multiplayer in action. According to DICE CEO Patrick Söderlund, the focus is on “emotion, immersion, and being connected,” this time around. They also focused on destructible level design — a process called “Levelution.”
The lights came up on 64 live players on-stage — sort of a neat gimmick, and then the demo began, with troops entering a large city (later revealed to be Shanghai) via helicopter. The scale was appropriately massive, with towering skyscrapers and distant scenery. The destructibility was certainly not exaggerated, either. First, the demonstrating developers collapsed a column in a subway station to create an alternate route to the street above. Later, they barely escaped a collapsing building, destroyed in its entirety by the rival team, which bombarded it with tanks from ground level.
Those tanks were quickly dispatched by a player in “Commander Mode,” who can use a tablet-based interface to call in airstrikes and direct combat squads, even if he’s, say, commuting to work. During the EA event, he proved to be one of the most polite military leaders ever, asking his soldiers to “please capture Point B.”
The conference then wrapped with the surprise announcement of Mirror’s Edge 2, discussed above. Stay tuned for the rest of Game Front’s E3 coverage, which will be going on all week!