E3 2017 Day 1 Recap: EA Stories and Star Wars

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Matt’s Takes:

Lines and Lines and Lines of EA Play:  Just like last year, Electronic Arts kicked off the E3 season with their brand-new presentation format, EA Play.  Unlike last year, they invited way more people than they could actually fit.  Hundreds of people from around the world flocked to the Hollywood Palladium, creating a line that made circles around the entire event area.  Despite many tickets registered and press access received, many members of the gaming community were turned away after waiting in line for countless hours.  Even still, those lucky enough to get in were still forced to wait in more lines just to play the must-see games.  I myself got into the event at 11:30am and was the last person to play Star Wars Battlefront II at 7:45pm, after waiting in line for 3 hours.  EA needs to be more selective in how many people they let into their event, from now on.  While Aaron and I were able to get in, somewhat easily, many others were not as fortunate and will have to wait in line for most of the day, again.

Story and Star Wars Dominate the Press Conference At the conference, itself, EA showed off 8 games, they were really excited for.  What do Battlefield 1: In the Name of the Tsar, Madden NFL 18, FIFA 18, NBA Live 18, Bioware’s New IP Anthem, EA Originals A Way Out, Need for Speed: Payback, and Star Wars: Battlefront II have in common?  They all have a story mode.  After EA’s successful campaign in FIFA 17 and tons of criticism for Star Wars Battlefront, they decided to make story the focal point of this year’s presentation.  The result is Alex Hunter returning to FIFA 17, Oscar-Winning Actor Mahershala Ali coming to Madden NFL 18, Morpheus trying to find The One in NBA Live 18, and Star Wars Battlefront II getting an entire storyline dedicated to bridging the gap between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens.

How the Games Played Once the presentation was over, Aaron and I made a point to play as many of the games on hand as quickly as we could.  That was until we saw that EA had paid food trucks to give the attendees free food.  After gorging ourselves on Pho King Noodles, Kung Fu Fries, Egg Rolls, and some bomb Tacos, we hit FIFA 17 first.  We would’ve got in line for Star Wars Battlefront II but the line was too long so we went for everything with smaller lines, that were quicker to play.  

FIFA 18 plays really well, even for an Alpha.  The graphics are superb and the movements are very smooth.  There were a lot of latency issues and skips along the way, but it wasn’t enough to make either of us cringe.  EA upped the button sensitivity too, as many balls sailed into the crowd, in an attempt to score on Aaron.  In the end, Aaron’s Bayern Munich was triumphant over my Manchester City club by a score of 1-0.  Despite feeling the sting of the loss, FIFA 18 still felt like the most ready sports game.

Madden

Everyone knows I’m the Madden guy for Cinelinx, so of course we had to play Madden NFL 18.  Aaron and I were just going to play each other, until they needed two players to play in a 3-on-3 Madden Ultimate Team game.  I controlled the offense, on of our new teammates led the defense, and Aaron played Head Coach, which I’m still not 100% what that does.  Together we took down our opponents pretty handily, until a network surge took out every game at EA Play.  That’s right, for about 10 minutes EA Play was down.  Fortunately, they got it back up and running pretty quick.  We played our opponents again and lost in an embarrassing fashion.  Afterward, Aaron and I tried to play each other, but found some pro Madden players to play instead.  

With Madden Champion Dubby dominating opponents next to me, I played one of the up-and-comers in Madden esports and almost beat him 21-14.  Being that close actually had me wanting to play Madden more competitively. Going back to the gameplay, you can tell this game needs a lot of work.  Not all the teams were loaded, playbooks were scarce with good plays, and a lot of mechanics were wonky.  They did add team tendencies to this version.  You can choose an option to make your team more aggressive, balanced, or conservative.  Each came with pros and cons.  This game will be the first to come out in August and is the one that needs the most work.  Get ready Madden fans.

BF2

Shortly after my defeat, I moved on to the Battlefront II line.  After waiting in line for 3 hours, I finally got my chance to play Star Wars Battlefront II and it actually was a lot of fun.  Just like in the trailer, they transport teams of 20 to the city of Theed in Naboo.  It’s the Separatists vs. the Republic.  I played on the Separatists side as we mounted an invasion to take the city.  Before you start playing, you select which player type to play Assault (balanced soldier), Heavy (more powerful, slower), Specialist (Sniper), and Officer (Healer, Buffer).  I opted for Heavy but switched out my cards to have some pretty neat buffs, that were easily accessible in a shield, rail-gun, and the not-so-easy-to-use grenade launcher.  

This mission was set up in 3 phases.  The first saw us taking the city by advancing through the streets of Theed and in the air.  As you killed more troopers, you earn more points for your team.  Points that allow you to use updated droids/troopers, ships, and even heroes like Boba Fett, Darth Maul, Rey, and Han Solo.  While fighting in the streets, I knocked out enough of my opponents to become Boba Fett, when I died, and oh man he’s fun.  It’s obvious he’s got some works to work through, i.e. blasters not hitting targets, lack of targeting for missiles, etc.  but he’s really cool to play with.  Especially when you find Han Solo and you take him down, it’s pretty satisfying.  Phase 2 saw us taking the palace, as the team went from room to room, defeating the Clone troopers to get to the throne room.  Once we got there, I had enough points again to become Darth Maul and I annihilated the throne room.  He’s so much fun.  He uses a field-ranged force choke that kills everyone in his vicinity.  Additionally, he does his patented corkscrew jump from The Phantom Menace to get around very quickly.  With Maul as my character I quickly jumped up the ranks to finish second in the winning team.

I was very impressed with Star Wars Battlefront II’s gameplay, though I would’ve liked to have seen the storyline, as well.  All in all, though, this demo and all the trailers prove just how much EA and DICE are listening to fan feedback.

Matt’s Best in Show: Star Wars Battlefront II

I ended waiting for 3 hours but the wait was worth it.  The entire gameplay experience was fun, challenging, and enriching as a Star Wars fan.  EA burned me with Battlefront I, but they may have won me back with Battlefront II.  Plus, they’re rewarding fan patience by making the season pass entirely free.  All this is a testament to how much EA has learned and how much they are trying to show they care about the fans.  While I felt the presentation and the format for EA Play could’ve been better, I was impressed by how much EA is doing to appease their fans.

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Aaron’s Takes: 

EA’s really pushing individual story-modes in their sports line up, i.e: Madden, FIFA, and NBA Live. To help gage their commitment there’s Oscar Winner Mahershala Ali doing a lead supporting role in “Longshot”,  Madden’s character driven tale of a forgotten Quarterback prospect trying to make his comeback. FIFA 18 is given a similar treatment with its returning protagonist Alex Hunter, but NBA LIVE’s approach is more role playing, “The One” you play as is your creation. 

EA takes fan feedback and criticism into serious consideration. Actions speak louder than words, so, Battlefront II will now boast a fully fledged single player campaign that takes place between the events of Return of The Jedi and The Force Awakens. There also seems to be a lot more customization/class options in multiplayer, and hopefully a more impressive longevity. 

EA isn’t afraid to put serious funding into risky original IP’s under the EA Originals Program. Really that should read “IP” singular, as A Way Out was the only title revealed under the brand. But it’s damn admirable to see a Triple A name fund something this out of the ordinary. It’s a game that, literally, can only be played with a split screen couch co-op partner (no online buds allowed). You can’t play alone. The cooperation is critical to the emotional experience, the gameplay, and your ability to break out of prison. Also, Writer/Director Josef Fares is a charismatic livewire, you can’t help but buy into the unabashed admiration he has for his own creation.

Anthem. All it was was a cutscene, but in EA’s fairly minimalist conference (primarily compensated with by a 30 minute chunk of Battlefront II gameplay), and really, it was a massive deal…I mean, it’s a BIOWARE game, so it’s going to be a big reveal. There’s beasties involved, a wall that protects a community from them, and some sorta armored heroine. It was a short trailer, details are slim, but it ended promising there’d be more at the Microsoft Press Conference. 

Aaron’s Best Of Show: A Way Out

For me, it has to be Josef Fares’s  A Way Out and it’s split screen co-op requirement. It’s a game that challenges unprotested gaming norms and typically untouched mechanics. More impressively, it’s not for the sake of it. It’s all in favor of the story, emotion, and gameplay experience. 

From the two trailers shown  it’s clear that it plays with structure in more ways than its primary concept. Depending on the feel of a scene, the frame splits vertically or horizontally on a dime. Sometimes one player’s in a cutscene, while the other’s in gameplay, with a different perspective on the action. 

I’ve never seen these elements before — I hope it works.