E3 Conference: EA receives lukewarm response, teases next Mass Effect

Industry behemoth Electronic Arts reveals more of the same with little depth, draws some excitement with new Mass Effect, Mirror’s Edge and Star Wars Battlefront titles.

 

Speak with any gamer and you’ll find that EA Games garners a mixed reaction among the community. The biggest company in the industry, EA has many IPs under its belt and several deserving accolades for outstanding titles. However, the company also possesses a fair share of disappointments and flops, with accusations of EA “butchering” or “milking” franchises not unheard of.

Such mixed sentiment was evident in the audience’s reception to yesterday’s conference, where more CGI trailers were shown than actual gameplay footage. Aside from the usual slew of sports games, a few titles did garner interest from conference-goers. Among them, Mass Effect: Andromeda. 

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One of the accolade-winning cornerstones of EA and also one of the best universes I’ve ever experienced, BioWare’s story-rich science fiction franchise was teased at the start of the show.

While Andromeda’s development is in its early-mid stages, the CGI-trailer frames the main character as a maverick lawbringer with the accompanying country song: “Ghost Riders in the Sky” by Johnny Cash. As being a lone maverick is a tough business in a harsh and dangerous galaxy, BioWare hints at the return of a multi-racial team of aliens and humans with an extremely brief cameo of a Krogan trailing the hero as he rushes down the hill against unknown adversaries. (refer to the image above)

Like Commander Shepard before, the protagonist sports N7 armor and will probably be an elite human soldier working for Earth’s Systems Alliance Navy. As a captain of his/her own ship, players would be able to visit a diverse range of environments and solar systems, as exemplified by the faceless protagonist’s browsing through the ship’s navigational interface during the opening moments of the video.

Unfortunately, EA did not have any BioWare representatives on-stage to elaborate more on their latest project despite having stirred anticipation among the masses.

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The return of a “Mako”-like ground transport hints at a stronger exploration focus reminiscent of the very first Mass Effect title, which remains my favorite.

With a no-show from the BioWare developers – who are probably busy working on this title – at EA’s conference this year, it is likely that more information will be revealed in next year’s conference. As BioWare is known for creating extremely-polished RPG experiences, patience will thus be key as its studios need time to work their magic.

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While a detailed demonstration was also lacking with Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, the second story in the innovative, parkour-esque franchise seems darker and grittier, looking more mature compared to the dreamy appearance of the first.

The protagonist, Faith, is also sporting a more mature (and pretty attractive) look with smoky eye make-up and a stylish bob haircut, perhaps a cue towards her growth as a character in accordance to Catalyst’s more serious circumstance.

The trailer reveals that Faith’s personal history will be a significant part of the plot, alongside a major uprising against the totalitarian regime that governs The City – with Faith probably being the central “catalyst” of the movement. While the first game focused mainly on the parkour/free-running aspect, the trailer of the second installment looks more confrontational in that combat is frequently displayed – probably a nod to an improved combat system and a more action-oriented game direction.

A series known for having a distinctively slick visual style and good storytelling, I look forward to what Mirror’s Edge Catalyst has to offer when it releases on 23 February 2016.

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The only blockbuster title with gameplay footage demonstrated to the audience, Star Wars: Battlefront received cheers upon the conclusion of its gameplay trailer.

Building on the successful Battlefield formula, Battlefront appears pretty impressive with the epic sense of scale presented in-game, with infantry skirmishes in the trenches happening as towering walkers piloted by enemy players approach. All this, while the iconic TIE-fighter and X-Wing aircraft engage in dogfights in the chilly skies of planet Hoth.

Interesting combat equipment is prevalent in the game, as we witness rebel soldiers deploy a shielding device that renders them invulnerable from an Empire orbital strike. Furthermore, players will get the opportunity to enter the fray as major characters from the films, such as Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, with overpowered force abilities and lightsaber combat to boot.

For those who have been observing this multiplayer title closely, Star Wars: Battlefront arrives 17th November this year.

Having talked about these hard-hitting projects by EA, one non-blockbuster game that caught my attention during the conference was the puzzle-platformer Unravel.  From the outset, it has a beautiful design and is likely to be driven by a meaningful story.

Although the developer seemed quite nervous on stage and the audience’s reaction not as lively as that of Battlefront, Unravel is looking to be quite a piece of interactive art worth following in the meantime.

In case you missed it, catch the EA conference below:

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E3 Conference: Bethesda wows with DOOM Remake, Fallout 4 Details

Bethesda kicks off its inaugural conference at the Electronic Entertainment Expo with major testosterone, follows up with first-class tickets aboard the Fallout hype train.

 

At 10 o’clock yesterday morning (GMT+8), the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) began with a no holds barred display of gibs and ultra-violence, with Bethesda fanning the fires of gamer excitement with the official, in-depth unveiling of its DOOM project.

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A beast of a game that pays homage to the very first First Person Shooter game for the PC – and also my first ever PC game: DOOM, this upcoming incarnation of the franchise seems to discard the survival-horror path taken by its immediate predecessor DOOM 3.

Instead, id Software has chosen to reinstate the no-nonsense, buckshot-spewing, demon-slaying, faceless marine protagonist (aka DOOM guy aka the truly merciless anti-anti-Christ) from the first two installments. This is furthered with the rehashing of iconic audio elements from the 1993 game for use in the upcoming title – players of the former will definitely recognize the door opening sound and the bass riff that plays at the beginning of the trailer above. Oh, and how can one forget the purr of the chainsaw.

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The average person needs thrice the number of family jewels to take on the Cyberdemon, DOOM Guy doesn’t.

Featuring top-notch graphics and visceral combat on top of its nostalgic appeal, DOOM is looking to become a blockbuster action-packed shooter for Spring 2016, the date of its release.

One defining feature of the id Software sharing segment was the announcement of a DOOM: SnapMap system – a streamlined design platform that allows the average player to generate new content  (missions or maps) using DOOM’s very own assets, regardless of their background in modding or game design. Whether this pro-community move will prove revolutionary or end up as a white elephant, we will have to wait and see.

Until then, things are looking peachy for this legendary franchise.

Fallout 4

For Fallout 4, Bethesda has revealed much more about the highly-anticipated game. Clearly the trump card of the developers, the game’s presentation section was selected as the closing act for its conference, with fans cheering loudly when developer Todd Howard took the stage.

The conference confirms the assessment that the voiced protagonist will be someone who has seen the pre-war daysAlso, players of Fallout 4 will have at their disposal heavy customization capabilities  with the incorporation of an in-depth crafting system inspired by Bethesda’s earlier success with The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim.

From the ability to alter one’s facial features, down to weaponry, power armor and even one’s own settlement, Howard’s presentation drives home the point that Fallout 4 will be as player-centric an interactive journey as possible.

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It’s incredible how much attention to detail was displayed in the trailer. I’ve always wanted my tin man suit to look more ominous.

Fallout 4 is scheduled for release on 10th November 2015. Coupled with the good news is the release of a free-mium Fallout: Shelter game on iOS and Android, in which you manage the daily goings of a Fallout vault as an overseer. More details here.

Aside from the two games, fans of Dishonored would be pleased to know that Dishonored 2 is in the works with its announcement made mid-conference. More as E3 goes along.

In case you missed it, here’s the Bethesda Conference video:

Revealed: Fallout 4 Announced!

While its development has long been assumed, Bethesda Studios confirms rumors with the release of Fallout 4’s trailer. Yup, prepare your wallets for late 2015, ladies and gentlemen.

 

And yup, it’s definitely set in Boston, Massachusetts or “The Commonwealth” as is known within the game’s post-apocalyptic setting. Now, without further ado, the much-anticipated reveal:

“War…war never changes.” Whenever that tagline rings, you know that’s authentic Fallout material talking. In Fallout 4, players will take on the role of a vault dweller (this title is subject to change) from Vault 111 in the Commonwealth.

The origins of the protagonist are not clear, but it seems that the character has seen the pre-war years prior to living in (and exiting) the vault, a step away from the usual formula for the past few protagonists.

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What quirks will Vault-Tec’s Vault 111 have?

With the Fallout 4 official trailer, one can see that the greenish and orange-ish hues from Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas have been completely done away with, replaced with a livelier, full-colored palette. A possible sore point for some, who see it as iconic of the bleak nature set by the series, I for one welcome this refreshing change to Fallout’s visual appeal.

A few prominent landmarks are also witnessed as the trailer progresses, with what looks like the Paul Revere statue and the Red Sox Stadium appearing mid-way, a huge nod to the New England setting anticipated in prior discussions.

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Note the baseball player statue in the background, centre-right.

The prominent Brotherhood of Steel and Enclave factions are likely to make a reappearance, as demonstrated by the display of power-armored troop patrols in the wasteland and the frequent feature of Vertibird aircraft, the transport of choice for both factions.

While not obvious in the video, there is also a strong possibility that the enigmatic Institute faction will be a prominent part of the story. The post-apocalyptic remnant of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, one can only wonder what technological marvels and inventions they’ll bring to the table in Fallout 4.

Maybe that’s why we see an unprecedented tour-de-force of technology and vehicles in the trailer – aspects that were relatively sparse in the Capital and Mojave Wastelands of the earlier titles. Perhaps all the vehicles are the Institute’s after all. Who knows?

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The statue of Paul Revere, situated at the North End district of Boston present-day. A curious blimp appears above the location, possibly of Enclave or Institute origin.

Lastly, the fresh take on the Fallout theme song which plays mid-trailer is phenomenal. I can’t help but feel that this game will emerge as one beautiful, wholesome package. It gives me a warm feeling inside when the orchestral piece starts at 1:31. Absolutely stunning.

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Save for a beautiful graphical overhaul and a fresh location, Fallout 4’s official trailer tugs players’ nostalgic strings while not revealing too much about the upcoming game.

That being said, more details will surface as the weeks go by, particularly with the annual E3 conference around the corner – a high profile event where the major players in the game industry step forth and unveil their latest triple-A projects.

Creators of the legendary Elder Scrolls and Fallout franchises, Bethesda Studios is another developer which prides itself on consistent performance in producing quality titles. With several industry awards under its belt, I can say with much confidence that things are looking up with Fallout 4 and 2015 in general.

All in all, there’s only two words to describe my feelings having seen both XCOM 2 and Fallout 4’s reveals:

DOUBLE STOKED.

Revealed: XCOM 2 Announced!

The alien-buttkicking business just got a stimulus package. Let’s unpack the possible features that could be in the upcoming sequel, shall we?

 

Earlier today, IGN released a trailer revealing a sequel to Firaxis Games’ hit title XCOM: Enemy Unknown/Enemy Within. Slated for release this coming November, the action-packed XCOM 2 trailer seems to reveal a number of interesting new features alongside familiar ones, gameplay and story-wise.

It becomes immediately clear that a major part of Earth has fallen to the invading aliens from the first game, who have set up a totalitarian state to govern the occupied post-‘unification’.

Simultaneously, Earth’s XCOM forces have gone into hiding and strike using guerrilla tactics, operating from a mobile air base where the game’s iconic Skyranger troop-transport is housed and dispatched from.

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Hello, beautiful.
  • 1:25 displays a possible plot element: judging from the banner behind the snake-person, it is possible that EXALT is in collaboration with alien forces in the occupation of Earth.
  • For newcomers to the series, EXALT is a rival organization against XCOM which seeks to assimilate alien technology for their own private gain (aka world domination aka illuminati). This could be the reason behind the significant human presence among the alien forces’ ranks in the video.
(From the first game) Note the similar elements between the EXALT logo and the banner above.
  • Also, the snake-person herself (itself?) is worthy of note. While an obvious nod to the inclusion of a new enemy within the game, this new element could arguably be of non-alien origin. Seeing the frequent display of the DNA helix on the city screens, it could be a hint to human genetic manipulation to bolster EXALT’s ranks.

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  • Plot aside, XCOM 2 looks to be a familiar game to players of Enemy Unkown or Enemy Within: XCOM soldiers come in heavy, assault, support and sniper varieties, continue to wear their national flag on their signature chunky green armor, and work in squads of four and above. Also a characteristic feature of the franchise, taking cover will remain key to keeping your soldiers alive, as emphasized between 1:28-1:32.
  • Familiar with an added boost, XCOM 2’s tactical combat will be upgraded with a new array of tools for use in the field. Drones, grenade launchers and even melee weapons are likely additions to the XCOM arsenal, allowing for more explosive, cutting-edge solutions to Earth’s alien infestation problem.
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Clearly not a fan of puns.

Given Firaxis’ track record of releasing quality games such as Sid Meier’s Civilization V and the first XCOMEnemy Unknown, it is likely that its current project will meet the expectations laid out in today’s reveal.  

As such, this is one game that you’d want to watch closely when the winter holiday approaches this year. I’m pretty stoked myself!