Electronic Arts’ stand at E3 tragically had no further information on Mirror’s Edge 2. To make up for that shocking omission, the publisher instead offered hands on time with a number of its upcoming titles and extended previews, revealing more than was shown at the earlier press conference.
Need for Speed: Rivals is the latest in the long-running racing series, and though it bears no direct connection to the upcoming movie, there’s a definite cinematic influence at work. The concept is a glorified cops-versus-robbers scenario, with players driving as either rebel racers or specially equipped police cars. Sticking with the open-world setup of its predecessor, Most Wanted, players can switch between ‘factions’, dropping in and out of races and avoiding police as a rebel or trying to force rebels off the road as a cop, with any successful attack resulting in slow-motion crash porn.
Rather than a straight-up race league, progression is managed through completion of driving objectives. Your successes on either side of the conflict build your score multiplier but, in a neat twist, that score isn’t yours to keep until you find a safehouse to bank points. Doing so resets your multiplier though, leading to a nice level of tension as you gamble your options.
The addition of weapons such as EMP bursts, spike traps and a near-constant supply of nitro make the game feel almost like a realistic kart racer, and overall it seems a lot more arcade inspired than Need for Speed has in a while. It’s tremendous fun though and controls like a dream – potentially a great driving experience for the next generation consoles.
Battlefield 4’s booth presence was entirely multiplayer oriented. After taking part in a 64-player match through the same Siege of Shanghai mission shown at EA’s earlier press conference, it’s clear the game is – visually, at least – a step above the already-impressive Battlefield 3. A Conquest mode map, each team found to gain ground, their deploy points shifting as they edged closer into enemy territory. It’s appropriately huge too, with numerous hidden areas and vantage points to find.
Destructible terrain allows you to create new paths to victory, and there are many ways to achieve core objectives. The fall of the central broadcasting tower that seemed so shocking in the trailers released so far is only one way to end the siege, for instance. Unfortunately, the build we played crashed shortly after we jumped into a gunboat, not only robbing us of impression of vehicle controls but cutting short our overall time with the game.
With the series already one of the top military FPS franchises, developers DICE don’t seem to have done anything to rock the boat though – it plays much like its forebears. If you’re familiar with the gameplay of team-based shooters, you’ll be right at home come the Battlefield 4’s 29 October release.
Disappointingly, Titanfall’s hands-off presentation actually leaves us a tiny bit less interested than we were before. Respawn Entertainment’s debut title is clearly trying to do something different, and no doubt the weight of expectation given studio founders’ Jason West and Vince Zampella’s pedigree on the Modern Warfare titles weighs heavy. However, the more we see, the more the game seems like just another sci-fi first person shooter, albeit one where the Titan mechs provide a size-changing mechanic.
Promisingly, it does seem to provide varied approaches to the action. Human-scale combat might feel suicidal with giant robots stomping around but the level design appears to provide incentive to switch between on-foot and in-mech sections. Importantly, the Titans aren’t horrifically over-powered, with soldiers able to leap up onto the chassis and disable weak points. In mech-on-mech combat, a particularly gruesome melee move involves tearing the enemy pilot out of their cockpit and flinging them to their doom.
Once you’re in command of one of the signature Titan mechs, combat appears pleasingly fast – these are advanced war machines, not lumbering upright tanks – but, in the watching at least, doesn’t seem to change what you’re actually doing. The UI differs slightly and more powerful weapons are available but you’re still really just playing an FPS.
There’s no chance we’re willing to write this off entirely though, especially at this early stage and without being allowed to actually play it. Inevitably, hands-on time will shift opinions further. At the moment though, we need convincing that Titanfall can live up to its potential.