EA’s E3 2013 Conference Round-Up: The PC Bits
This is EA’s first E3 of the post-Riccitiello era, and their first to address the new console pairing of the Xbox One and PS4. But, being a PC-only site, we’re only interested in the multiplatform releases. Titles like Battlefield 4, the new Need for Speed and various sports games are a given. Mirror’s Edge 2 is being heavily rumoured too; but did it show up? (Spoilers: Yes, sort of.)
Read on for all the PC-relevant information to emerge from EA’s conference.
It all started with a cheeky fakeout, as the traditional honking buzz of the Battlefield soundtrack gave way to some familiar garden chums. Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare will be turning the previously side-on tower defense title into a full third person, co-op shooter. A spot of four player co-op showed off peashooter, chomper, sunflower (the healer) and cactus (the distance shooter,) turning zombies into mulch. Even a disco zombie mini boss and giant zombie foe couldn’t wilt their petals.
EA only mentioned an Xbox One and (later) Xbox 360 release for this, but previously leaked details have mentioned a PC release as well, so let’s assume that’s still the case.
Before vanishing offstage in a puff of smoke, PopCap’s spokesman had time to say the words “Peggle 2” and “coming this year.” Not a whole lot to go on there, but a crowd-pleaser nonetheless.
Then, it was time for a little more Titanfall. We saw some of this in Microsoft’s conference, but here there was a prerecorded video entitled ‘Inside Titanfall,’ with a collection of Respawn talking heads giving more details about the game. They weren’t particularly fascinating details, but it has been reiterated that the mobility and agility of the Titan mechs is very much A Thing™. There were also some curious promises made about the multiplayer only title having “story” and “moments” worthy of a single player game.
EA followed that by taking a moment to celebrate their new EA Sports Ignite and Frostbite 3 engines; the latter of which was a cunning segue into a very brief teaser trailer for Star Wars: Battlefront. That’d be one of the Star Wars titles EA is working on, then. Not much was revealed here, aside from its existence and the fact that it’ll be developed by DICE.
Next, there was some even more surprising news: Need for Speed: Rivals will have fast cars in it. Anybody holding out for Need for Speed: Sedate Family Car Trundle will just have to keep waiting. The game’s executive producer was careful to say that Rivals can, technically, be played offline, then did everything in his power to suggest that you probably won’t get much out of it unless you play online.
A bit of Racer vs Cop gameplay was demonstrated at this point, in demonstration of the fact that single player racing can so easily be the gateway drug to multiplayer. The footage followed a single player race at first, but then somehow triggered a ‘Pursuit,’ whereupon the Cop player hopped in to try and book the errant speedster. It’s wasn’t exactly clear how that whole mechanic functioned.
Perhaps to cause a distraction away from the lack of substantive information, the producer made a “changing gears” joke and introduced Breaking Bad’s Jesse Pinkman. He warned us not to cook meth in high performance sports cars (ok, that was a lie,) and ushured in a short Need for Speed movie featurette.
That had nothing to do with PC gaming though, so let’s instead note that Dragon Age: Inquisition made a short appearance at the show. BioWare didn’t have much time to fill before the first (CG) trailer, and most of that time seemed to be spent on vague RPG phraseology like “impact of choices” and “deep, captivating experiences.” Sounds like it’ll be an open world (of sorts) this time around, so perhaps the developer has learned its lesson from Dragon Age 2: Trapped in a City.
The trailer confirmed that the number ‘3’ has indeed fallen off the game, and offered no gameplay to speak of. It did, however, speak of crumbling alliances, encroaching darkness and terrible monsters. Morrigan was there, doing the narration, and Varric popped up for a bit too. It’ll be along in the autumn of 2014, so there’s a fair amount of time between now and then for further details to be divulged.
Of course it wouldn’t be an EA event without SPORTS CHAT, so the nerdy, stat-driven Dragon Age: Inquisition was followed by the nerdy, stat-driven world of professional sports.
This meant lots of chat about EA’s new ‘Ignite’ engine and all the wonderful things it can do with physics, facial detail and the like. Unfortunately, the PC version of Fifa 2014 won’t be using any of that, as it’ll be stuck with last year’s engine. This made the sports segment a bit of a bust from the PC perspective, because there’s no way of knowing if any of the titles that make it to the PC will use Ignite yet. For Fifa, we’ll probably have to wait a year or two.
Still, Lionel Messi and his Barcelona chums sounded excited about it all. As did Drake.
When it does finally make it to the PC release, Ignite will bring proper crowds and something called “pro instincts” that’ll make players act more like their individual counterparts (wait, wasn’t this promised last time, and the time before that?) You can expect “hundreds” of new moves too, thanks to “elite technique.” But again, only on the console versions. The PC one will basically just be Fifa 13 with a team sheet update this year.
Luckily, Battlefield 4 will be the real deal. The main news here is that ‘Commander’ mode is back in (last seen in Battlefield 2, I believe,) offering one player a birds-eye view of the fight and the ability to be a big bossy fellow, directing troops around the place. An inevitable social network angle was mentioned here, suggesting that you could interact with the game anywhere. Even while drowning. Alright, maybe not while drowning.
With the PR blather out of the way, DICE showed off a multiplayer map called Siege of Shanghai and claimed to be having 64 players all playing it live. There were certainly a lot of people sat at PCs around the auditorium, so that might have been true. Nobody was flying a helicopter upside-down though, so it’s doubtful how true-to-life this Battlefield match really was.
During the play, the Commander play was directing players towards certain capture points and warning of hostiles. Meanwhile, we were seeing the traditional FPS view in the building interiors of Shanghai. As you’d expect from a battlefield title, it looked rather slick in the Frostbite 3 graphics department.
At this point, someone hopped onto a jet-ski and headed to capture point C, which, the Commander informed people, was on top of a skyscraper. It’s not clear what happens if you just decide to ignore your Commander. Maybe you get virtual court-martialed. Or just lose the game. Anyway, the role does seem to involve more than just shouting at people. Some troops holed up at the top of the skyscraper asked the Commander player for support and he was able to provide some heavy artillery strikes on specific locations. Handy.
Finally, DICE had one more trailer to show off. The rumours were true. Our Faith is being restored. It’s not Mirror’s Edge 2; instead it’s a ‘series reboot’ just called Mirror’s Edge … again. A spiffy trailer with lots of white and orange and (hooray) no guns confirmed as much. At this point it’s not clear whether the game will definitely be on PC, but as nobody seemed to utter the dreaded ‘exclusive’ words near the trailer, it probably will be.