EA has one of the best games line-ups of E3 and while their conference was light on new material, it did deliver with some of the most scintillating games footage of day one. A panicked montage of news reports from around the world flashed across the screen to begin. London’s invaded, San Francisco is aflame and Earth itself is glowing red with global destruction. Mass Effect 3 is all-out galactic war.
BioWare brought along a bit more gameplay footage than was shown in the Microsoft conference and it’s clear that the scale of the sequel dwarfs that of its predecessor. The slick-looking action saw Sheppard quickly dispatching guards, firing his rifle and stabbing them in brutal fashion with his concealed blade. The biggest surprise came with the appearance of one of the skyscraper-sized Reavers (the civilisation-destroying bad guys of the series) rising in front of Sheppard left the audience in awe. Sheppard jumps into a turret and gets on the move, peppering the Reaver with bullets. He takes it down in a cloud of dust, only for the hulking creature to rise again before the demo finished with our hero in jeopardy. It’s a heart-stopping encounter that reinforces the sheer colossal scale of the sequel.
The fast-paced action continued with Need for Speed: The Run. A massive adrenaline rush that takes the positive leaps of its predecessor Hot Pursuit and adds a little Hollywood magic to the formula. The racing is everything you would expect from the successful series, as the main character tries to get from San Francisco to New York while being chased by the mob.
It’s an adrenaline-charged racer with an eye for cinematic visuals and it looks to deliver a decent level of level high-octane thrills throughout. But the action doesn’t stop in the car this car this time. The player gets out of the driving seat and hits the streets in one of the many sequences where you have to run from the bad guys. It does look like a rather stylised QTE sequence but as it ended with the old stuck-in-a-car-on-train-tracks-as-train-approaches shtick it did finish on an impressive note.
While the Microsoft event had the mixed-bag Star Wars Kinect, EA had BioWare’s Star Wars: Old Republic. While BioWare has dabbled in Lucas’ sci-fi universe before this is still new territory for the masters of RPG, as they take the series online for a MMO. Considering how long the game has been in development there was a disappointing lack of gameplay footage – that said, we’ve been told we’ll be getting hands-on this week. The CG trailer more than made up for it, with Jedi armies in sprawling lightsabre fights, huge space battles and bounty hunters flying around blasting people – it was some of the most astonishing Star Wars visuals ever seen.
SSX had a tough gig to follow and didn’t quite manage it as the funky snowboarding title showed off some new footage. While not quite the same jovial little jaunt down the mountainside you remember from your youth, the new game looks to have a lot of potential, as we see snowboarders jumping off cliffs, escaping avalanches and clinging onto helicopters. NASA technology has been used to accurately replicate several mountains across the world – great news for anyone who fancies taking a ride down Mount Fiji without the hassle of spending hundreds of pounds on kit and looking like a tit.
FIFA and Madden got another brief look-in and The Sims Social takes the popular life-controlling game onto Facebook, aiming to take out the ubiquitous Farmville in terms of online time-wasters. Another sports star arrived in the form of ex-NBL player and now game studio head Curt Schilling, showing off his first game Kingdoms of Amular: Reckoning. Looking a lot like Fable, but the pedigree behind this title inspires some confidence with RA Salvatore and Todd McFarlane working on the game.
The one new announcement came from the usually PlayStation-only developers, Insomniac Games, presenting Overstrike to the crowd. You play as a team of mercenary types with wicked artillery and a sharp sense of humour – in other words, all the hallmarks of a classic Insomniac game. We meet the protagonist Brooks who details his team and gives us a glimpse at the varied action to expect and the awesome-looking weapons (the gun that fires expanding metallic balls was a highlight), but no gameplay footage was screened.
The announcement was overshadowed, though, by an incredible display from the team at DICE, who presented some startling footage of their upcoming first-person shooter Battlefield 3. The new engine looks so sharp, with rich textures and amazing lighting effects that it’s beyond anything you’ve seen before. We get a montage of action, hitting the streets of Paris and into the metro where they’re blasting through waves of enemies. Not exactly a revolution in terms of gameplay but it certainly left the audience picking up their jaws.
Much like Need for Speed’s Autolog, Battlefield 3 will come with a Battlelog that will offer the same sort of social features that are becoming increasingly popular. We’re then treated to an extended demo of a tank-based mission through the desert, which showed off all the subtleties of the game engine magnificently. We’re getting to play this tomorrow, so expect the full low-down then when we’ll find out whether it plays as good as it looks.