Thursday, June 7, 2012

My Thoughts on EA's 2012 E3 Press Conference

Irate gamers across the internet have often described Electronic Arts as the Evil Empire of Gaming. They’ve criticized EA left and right for swallowing up independent studios, stifling innovation, and filling their games with obstructive DRM. Heck, the game publisher even won The Consumerist’s yearly award for most evil company in America.That’s quite the achievement given the countless banks, oil companies, and weapons manufacturers vying for the title. Whether or not there is any truth behind these acquisitions, big companies like EA are always the perfect targets for criticism. After the company’s E3 event this year, gamers certainly won’t be lacking ammunition to take aim with.

E3 is meant to be a showcase of the video game industry’s progress and innovation. We’re supposed to see the latest, most exciting games and have our appetites stroked for the coming year’s releases. Progress and Innovation how aren't exactly EA's strengths. The company instead devoted a good portion of their convention time to updates for two already released titles, Battlefield 3 and The Old Republic. Now the content itself, 5 full expansion packs for Battlefield 3 and a slew of updates and added content for TOR, was certainly a healthy offering. It’s great that EA is providing robust post-release support for their titles. However, while these announcements may pump life into old titles, they lacked the excitement of all out new games. We already know what Battlefield 3 and TOR have to offer and these new additions are merely icing on cake’s whose tastes we already know. They aren’t an entirely new and delicious experience.

And now I’ll be craving bakery sweets as I type the rest of this article…

As far as delivering actual new games, EA’s lineup appears, at least at first, to have blockbuster potential. Dead Space 3 started the presentation off with a bang and it wasn’t the only highly anticipated sequel on display. After years of spinoffs, a new full-blown Sim City game is on the way. Both of these games had been known to the public before the event, so their E3 debuts weren’t the hype-inducing bombshells they could’ve been. In fact, surprises were almost completely absent from EA’s press conference. Every single title was an entry in a long running established series. New Madden and FIFA games are routine and Medal of Honor is such an underdog franchise, it’s hard tell how EA expects it to standout from the competition.


Sim City

2003 was the last time simulation fans enjoyed a full-scale numbered Sim City game. Thankfully, they’ll all soon have a new opportunity to take on the role of mayor. While you can’t fully judge a simulation game without experiencing its mechanics firsthand, it is easy to tell that the new Sim City’s presentation will be top notch. The colorful scenes of rising cityscapes on display were enough to make potential mayors drool.

EA announced that online interaction will be a major selling point for the Sim City revival. I couldn’t help but feel déjà vu when I heard this announcement. Another city-building game, Cities XL, already tried to adapt the city building genre to multiplayer. The results were less than stellar, very few users signed up for the online features and the game’s poor sales forced developer Monte Cristo out of business. Hopefully the Sim city brand will be enough for Maxis to avoid this unfortunate fate.  

Crysis 3

Anyone familiar with Crytek’s pedigree shouldn’t be surprised that their next title is an absolute graphical marvel. Gamers will once again squeeze into invincible nano-suits as they slaughter enemies throughout gorgeously detailed environments.

Need For Speed Most Wanted

Most Wanted is an open world driving game focused on competing with other players for top scores. The driving section shown off was filled with cars plowing down the streets, causing mayhem along the way. Sleek action packed races and automobile destruction should make the latest Need For Speed an intense affair.

Low points

Dead Space 3

As a huge fan of the first Dead Space game, it is disappointing to see the series’ turn into a generic action shooter. This was my impression from seeing Dead Space 3’s fast-paced, coop-focused demonstration. Hopefully the pure action trailer was simply to appeal to action junkies and that it isn't a full indication of the final product's overall pace. If not, then the survival horror genre has lost yet another series to the mainstream action crowd 

SimCity Social

Facebook games have their place in the gaming landscape, but that place isn’t at an E3 press conference. SimCity Social appears to be nothing more than a watered down version of Sim City 4. Move along city building fans, move along.

My final grade for EA is a C+

The publisher simply didn't have any groundbreaking announcements this year. Because of this, its lineup felt stale and devoid of creativity. It was disappointing to see the publisher bastardize Dead Space and even the prospect of a new Sim City game is hampered by the fact it will probably be loaded with invasive DRM.

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