A Strain of Influencers: EA Play at E3 2017

Around this time every year, EA likes to remind us that it does things differently to the rest of the industry; just look at last year’s Los Angeles-London show and the developer-centric show from years before. This time around, EA continued to defy expectation with its EA Play event, and like last year it was a combination of promising and punishing.

Where EA has previously been very friendly with influencers and content creators, this year saw EA entirely embracing them. Not only did CEO Andrew Wilson’s opening speech give plenty of lip service to the greater community, content creators were a major theme of the event. This was an event where a DICE LA producer uttered the words “Creative Cave” without irony as he talked about upcoming updates to Battlefield 1.

This went both ways. Having podcasters like Men in Blazers talking FIFA 18 came across well, with plenty of charisma and entertainment. This wasn’t the case with PrankVsPrank’s Jesse Wellens. His introduction for Need for Speed Payback made for E3 2017’s first moment of pure cringe. I’m still not sure what was worse: Jesse Wellens or EA boasting about bringing in players for Star Wars Battlefront II playtesting and dubbing them the Game Changers.

Speaking of, Star Wars Battlefront II saw the bulk of EA’s press conference. It was one of the few bright spots of the event, heightened by the presence of actor Janina Gavankar (The League, Far Cry 4), who plays Commander Iden Versio in the single player campaign.

Gavankar’s charismatic performance and passion for games (if her Twitter account is any indication) was on show as she announced Battlefront II’s approach to DLC. The game will feature themed seasonal content, with heroes, maps and modes added for free. The first season was confirmed to focus around The Last Jedi, with actor John Boyega making a surprise appearance to confirm Finn and Captain Phasma will be in Battlefront II.

Passion was what drove Josef Fares, creator of Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, to establish Hazelight, a studio dedicated to telling stories whilst also pushing the boundaries of gameplay. After being teased at The Game Awards back in 2014, Fares formally announced A Way Out, the second title published under the EA Originals label. The first EA Original, Fe, didn’t receive any updates this year.

A Way Out is a co-op game featuring two prisoners, Leo and Vincent, aiming to escape captivity, re-enter the world and follow up on some loose ends. Fares intends for players to experience this game in person, though online play was confirmed. As far as the co-op goes, both characters will have different perspectives and objectives; one scenario saw Vincent prisoner playing distration whilst Leo stole a laundry cart.

Unlike last year, the EA Originals game wasn’t the only new game to debut at EA’s press conference. EA Vice President Patrick Söderlund took the stage to talk about EA’s future. He first announced the Search For Extraordinary Experiences Division, or SEED, a forward thinking team at EA looking at concepts like machine learning or AI to enhance its games. Then out of nowhere, Söderlund surprised everyone with a teaser for Bioware’s newest IP,  Anthem. With more set to be a part of Microsoft’s press conference, it looks unlike anything Bioware has done to date.

EA’s roster of sporting titles is getting a major single-player push. Following in the footsteps of last year’s FIFA, Madden 18 will feature a story mode called “The Longshot”. FIFA 18 will continue the story of Alex Hunter in “The Journey: Hunter Returns”. NBA Live 18 will feature The One, a career mode where you define your legacy across street basketball, pro-am and eventually the NBA.

After its reveal a few weeks ago, Need for Speed: Payback saw its first gameplay footage, with executive producer Marcus Nilsson describing it as an action driving fantasy. We saw a set piece involving a dramatic truck chase that concluded with the players cornered by the police. While the game looked fine enough, it’s hard to watch the crashes and takedowns without thinking of a certain scrapped EA racing franchise…

EA kicked off E3 2017 with a more daring presentation than last year. Anthem and A Way Out look set to be fascinating games to watch, and the doubling down on single player modes in its sports games is an interesting approach. My one suggestion for next year would be to feature less influencers and lessen their prominence. If it means more interesting announcements, then it would be an acceptable sacrifice.

Second Movement: Sony's E3 2016 Press Conference

Sony Playstation E3 2016 Horizon Zero Dawn

Sony had an absolute blinder of a conference last year; on the back of three major game reveals that absolutely nobody saw coming it hands down dominated the show. This year the audience went in knowing there was no possible way they could match that show, but boy did Sony still try.

The show opened with an epic sounding symphonic score and low guttural choir, culminating in the reveal of the next God Of War. Bringing with it a new over-the-shoulder perspective instead of the fixed camera angles of past games, it introduces Kratos as an amusingly bad parent with a young protege in a new Norse setting, with shades of The Last Of Us in the action.

After a cinematic trailer for new survival franchise Days Gone (we’ll get to that later), last year’s opening hit The Last Guardian received a new trailer and — finally — a release date: October 25 this year, at once sooner than expected and about damn time.

Next up was a gameplay demo of Horizon: Zero Dawn, another game that impressed last year. As what seems like a hybrid of Fallout and Skyrim, the game showed off Aloy’s hunting and gathering skills, and the ability to tame the wild robotic animals of the game world. This was interrupted by a set piece, showing off the game’s Mass Effect-style conversation engine, and a boss fight against a fast-moving robotic ‘demon’ entity, seen turning the native animals feral somehow, teasing at the game’s overall narrative perhaps.

After last year’s debut of Detroit: Become Human, we were given a better idea of how the game would be structured. We got a look at Connor, an android police officer and detective, called into a hostage situation involving another android. Tidbits of detective gameplay were shown of Connor investigating crime scenes and questioning people, building up to a dramatic standoff on a balcony, showing off the game’s branching narrative. Again, a very impressive looking title.

This was followed up by a moody, gritty horror title, opening with a man exploring an abandoned house, followed by clips of in-game death and decay. It wasn’t until the title card that we learned we were actually looking at Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, marking a great departure from the corny, arcadey narrative style of past games. The game left an impression that’ll remain until it launches next year, complete with PlayStation VR compatibility.

Sony’s foray into VR will start on 13 October, promising 50 games before the end of the year, including Farpoint, Star Wars Battlefront: X-Wing VR Mission, Batman Arkham VR, and Final Fantasy XV: VR Experience where VR players will taking the role of sidekick Prompto.

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare flew onto stage boasting its newfound spacefaring gameplay. Combat takes place in traditional boots-on-ground environments, zero-gravity settings where navigation is by grappling hook, and in aerial and space fighters, allowing for deployment to enemy positions. The gameplay itself looked very far removed from past Call of Duty games, to the point that it was barely recognisable until the logo appeared.

Then came something of a major surprise: Crash Bandicoot will return to the Playstation after a long absence. Remasters of the first three Crash titles from the original Playstation were announced, coming some time after Crash returns as part of Skylanders: Imaginators, which itself promised a new level of creativity.

Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens boasted the Lego games’ typical quirky sense of humour. It also featured the franchise’s new cover-based shooting mechanics, which alienated at least this particular viewer.

Hideo Kojima then walked on stage with the sort of entrance reserved for one of EA’s super sports guest stars and to a reception from the crowd like the next coming of the messiah. Kojima unveiled his first project from his new development house: A strange trailer titled Death Stranding featuring naked former PT star Norman Reedus. It’s hard to tell what sort of game we saw, and it’s likely at a very early stage, so who knows when we’ll see everything else.

We then received confirmation of rumours that Insomniac Games and Marvel are getting together to create a Spider-Man game. Visually, the game seems to draw inspiration from Marvel’s cinematic universe, but what gameplay snippets were shown demonstrated what could be the best attempt at capturing the essence of Spider-Man in game form yet, something that’s been tricky for most developers.

The conference closed with a gameplay demo of Days Gone. The cinematic trailer earlier showed off a world decimated by an apocalyptic attack of some kind, putting the player in the shoes of a biker turned bounty hunter and mercenary, focused on survival. In action the game has something of a Last Of Us vibe, with the player scavenging ruins for gear, adapting for instance an old car part as a makeshift silencer for his gun. The apocalyptic menace is later confirmed to be zombies which, in a unique twist, are the World War Z-style fast-and-agile variety.

This year’s Sony press conference came much, much closer to topping last year’s phenomenal effort than I’d dared dream, only falling just short. Bucking Sony’s usual trend of favouring games not expected for years, a number of the bigger titles this year, like The Last Guardian and Final Fantasy XV, are relatively close at hand. Ultimately, there was still a lingering impression that something was missing. Maybe it was the lack of indie titles, maybe it was the absence of the PlayStation Neo so soon after Microsoft showed us Project Scorpio; Sony needed just one more knockout punch title. Despite that, it was still a fantastic outing for Sony fans, who have a lot to look forward to in the coming year.

Don't Stop Believin': Nintendo Direct 02/04/15

Xenoblade Chronicles 3D isn’t the only major Nintendo thing that happened today. Yesterday, the company announced that they’ll be holding a Nintendo Direct the following day, and it was another entertaining and informative special.  Continue reading Don't Stop Believin': Nintendo Direct 02/04/15

Hands On: The Bureau: XCOM Declassified

The XCOM series has seen a recent resurgence, buoThe-Bureau-XCOM-Declassified-logoyed largely by the success of Firaxis’ brilliant XCOM: Enemy Unknown. The mix of turn based squad tactics and resource management worked superbly to immerse you in the universe that XCOM takes place in, and the permanent death of your squadmates added to the gravity of your tactical decisions.

2K’s other offering in the XCOM world is The Bureau: XCOM Declassified, which started its life as a first person shooter, but now takes the form of a squad based third person shooter. Now, before the collective eye roll, it’s important to note that, while there are definite similarities to the main TPS series doing the rounds, The Bureau easily feels like a valid part of the XCOM series.

 

Continue reading Hands On: The Bureau: XCOM Declassified

Win a Tabletop Arcade Machine, thanks to Bumper Action Amusements and New Game Plus!

This is our biggest contest ever, and all it takes is for you guys to be creative! Make a picture, a video, a game, a painting, get a tattoo. We don’t mind. Just make it good, and referencing New Game Plus and Bumper Action Amusements! Oh yeah, and like both our Facebook pages. Entries close 15th Feb at 5pm AEDST! Hit the link for terms and conditions.NGP_PrizePoster_v3 Continue reading Win a Tabletop Arcade Machine, thanks to Bumper Action Amusements and New Game Plus!