E3 2008: The EA Press Conference

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Why EA were so special and had to have their press conference before E3 technically started we never know, but they did and via a few methods, namely G4TV's laggy footage, Gametrailer's new EA E3 conference vids and Kotaku's Live Blog we kept track of what was going on. While it wasn't as inspiring as the Microsoft conference and failed to really break anything substantial, it did have its moments.

The conference kicked off with EA's leading franchise, of course, we're talking about their hugely successful Sim franchise. The audience got a good chance to look at new IP SimAnimals and the upcoming sequel to the box office smash title The Sims, yes, I'm talking about The Sims 3. Whilst The Sims 3 looked hugely detailed and impressive, our attention wasn't really grabbed (because we were after some true 360 action) until it was Dead Space's time in the spotlight.

Glen Schofield, executive producer at EA Redwood Shores studio, entered the stage to introduce the title and what we should expect. In a short but very sweet intro, Schofield points out that the game will in fact feature zero gravity just like in space and there will be no HUD for the title to make it more "immersive". Schofield placed emphasis on the core gameplay mechanic, strategic dismemberment being your key to success and as the lights dimmed, we got to see the title in action.
The demonstration takes place about half way through the game, Isaac's health bar on his back and his ammo counter on his gun just go to show the innovative ways the team avoided using a HUD. Isaac encounters a huge looking alien merely minutes in to the demo as he is constantly trying to sever off limbs to slow it down and kill it. As he takes it down, Isaac advances using his torch to lighten the way before his leg is grabbed and he is pulled to his untimely death (we think) as he fail to defeat the beast to free himself. Dead Space will be available on October 21st. The showcase for Dead Space ended with a mature trailer that was made up entirely of gameplay with an eerie version of twinkle, twinkle little star playing out in the background. Check it out.
Next up, Mirror's Edge.

Patrick Soderlund, Head of EA Games European Studios took the lead on this title. Without much of a delay, the presentation jumped straight in to the in game demonstration. Mirror’s Edge is described as a “first person action adventure” title that features “intense combat”, “fast paced chases” and “challenging puzzles”.

Soderlund is early to point out the “runner vision” that features in the title that highlight objects red to indicate the path that Faith should be taking. After seeing footage we’ve previously seen, we are shown the first puzzle of the title which is incredibly simple. After "solving" it and being spotted, Faith is then chased and at this point another nifty feature is unveiled, “reaction time” which essentially slows down time which allows Faith to make big jumps from building to building or  when used in combat, allows Faith to exercise more advanced moves. We are informed again of the achievement we mentioned earlier on in the week which is to complete the game without firing a bullet. At this point, Faith gives a package to another runner, Celeste and the demo ends with Faith making a leap of faith grabbing on to a nearby helicopter. The presentation ends with this trailer below.

Next up was the hugely popular Spore but that’s PC so we’ll skip over that and on to the EA Sports showcase, headed up by Peter Moore but not as we know him... He was tattoo free! The presentation was very amusing throughout with Bill Whalton making a cameo appearance but the fundamental unveiling here was NBA Live 09’s “dynamic DNA”.
This feature works in three main areas; player tendencies, player DNA (how a player scores) and team DNA (how they play together as a unit, specifically citing Garnett and Allen as a great example of this). Dynamic DNA is “powered with the real world data and analytics used by the NBA teams themselves” and does a fantastic job of “capturing actual behaviour of each and every player and team in the league”. The best thing about this is according to the NBA Live 09 team, is that you are kept up to date with daily updates, so “what you see on the court in the real NBA is what you’re going to see and feel in your virtual experience”. The saying “made fresh daily, all season long” was one that seemed to stick with me. It seems like a promising feature for a game that needed a little kick in the ass.
Following this there was a small Wii presentation and some interactivity presentation between games and such *yawn* before we finally got on to the juicy part. Bioware and Valve... Mmmm.
Greg Zeschuk, Bioware co-founder led the Bioware showcase where Dragon Age Origins was presented but the specific focus here was on PC gaming with it coming to consoles “in the future”. Dragon Age Origins is the sequel to fans favourite Baldur’s Gate where you “travel and battle” choosing whether you become a “hero, martyr or tyrant”. In the trailer an army of undead soldiers stood toe to toe with fearless warriors as they ripped each other limb from limb in a short but sweet intro to the title.

As soon as the trailer finished, Valve's Gabe Newell came to the stage and gave us an intro to their upcoming survival, horror co-operative title, Left 4 Dead. He filled us in on what we already knew before letting us take a good look at the title. Newell claims that Valve tried to take the narrative and emotional impact of Half Life and combine it with the social features of Counter-Strike and throw in some unique co-op gameplay (both splitscreen and 4 player online). The Director code is highlighted in the showcase that is a big chunk of AI code that gives you a different play experience every time and it reacts to how you play the game. There is a perfect example of the Director code in use and it looks an impressive bit of code that reacts to how your team is in terms of health, ammo, how accurate you’ve been and such to determine what sort of opposition you will encounter. Left 4 Dead is certainly looking impressive and will be touching down on November 4th for the 360 and PC.
The EA press conference also saw the announcement that Id software (you know, the Doom , Quake, Wolfenstein folk) would be starting a partnership with EA after leaving their Activision relationship behind. We are informed that Activision will be publishing the new Wolfenstein title still but Id's newest title, Rage was announced to be an EA title yesterday.
The EA press conference for a lot of people was a tad underwhelming. Yes Dead Space, Left 4 Dead and Mirror’s Edge look even better with every new bit of footage we see, but the distinct lack of really incredible new IP’s or even old IP’s resurrected  was disappointing and  where the hell was Mercenaries 2. Ok, they gave us Rage and the Id partnership, but still we were underwhelmed. Oh well, we can’t win them all. Look out for our write ups on other major publisher showcases. Hopefully they can step up to the plate a little bit more.


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