EA’s conference at the 2014 E3 was a strange one. Clearly most projects that were under development at the time were, well, under developed, leading to an hour of uncomfortably talking over concept art being dressed up as ‘going behind the scenes’ of some big franchises before they showed some sports stuff and everyone could breathe a sigh of relief because at least those were games at that point. I mean, apart from their basketball stuff, natch.

It was a tough watch, but dangled potential in front of the player, and was undeniably a result of the transition to a new generation of hardware. It’s hard, though, to imagine an excuse for EA this year, where we should be in full swing, yet EA seemed desperately vague, as if they found out that morning they were going live to millions for an hour to deliver a speech on a homework assignment they hadn’t started.

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They toppped and tailed with what they did have at least, a pair of first person shooters that head in different timelines for their inspiration. Battlefield One was given a likely unrepresentative trailer along with a multiplayer stream. As expected this doesn’t really appear to take into account the human toll of The Great War, its single player trailer instead showing typical pyrotechnics, along with the promise of flying biplanes and shooting at airships. It seems fine, but you’ve played this campaign before, albeit with F14s instead of Sopwith Camels. As with every other Battlefield game, the multiplayer is the likely draw, especially with the ability to take control of those airships, or hulking battleships and armoured trains to dispense serious doom.

The multiplayer will likely be the draw of Titanfall 2 as well, at least going on a trailer for the single player campaign that seemed as Michael Bay Transformers/Pacific Rift as things could get (and Pacific Rim was shit, shut up). Mutiplayer looks like tons of fun though, which was indeed the case with the first game, and the increased abilities of pilots, including smoother parkour motion and (sigh) grappling hooks) should make the on foot just as much fun as climbing into the titans themselves. This time, the series comes to PS4 as well; the question is with Overwatch‘s long legs and this year’s omnipresent CoD to compete with, whether the audience already has their fill of competitive shooters.

Then there was, ah. Mass Effect Andromeda, we guess? MEA was at that 2014 conference, with generic developer wiffle playing over concept sketches. This year we had generic developer wiffle play over footage of space ships. It’ll probably be good, but also felt it was given too much time compared to the amount EA wanted to show.

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Then? Err, err, er,, oh yeah! Sports! Thank God. Madden and FIFA were about and given substantial amounts of time. Due to the shady anti competitiveness EA are known for, it never seems to make much sense to spend a lot of time on Madden; it’s the only game in town when it comes to American football, and will always sell in similar numbers to similar people regardless of marketing. They could of course take the time to welcome more new players in and actually create new fans of the sport, but naah. FIFA 17 is actually doing something new at least; The Journey mode will see you take control of a new up and comer playing his way to compete for club and country in a scripted story. A bit like NBA 2K16′s career mode then. Let’s be cautiously optimistic of it conveying the human element of sports, but a word to the wise: Spike f’n Lee couldn’t do a good basketball story mode. Tall order.

That’s essentially all EA themselves had to offer, so they were eager to give time to Swedish studio Zoink and Fe. Following on from pretty-but-not-all-that Unravel, which debuted last year at E3, Fe is the first game that’s part of EA’s new ‘originals’ program, which gives funding to smaller projects. In reality this is an evolution of the Partners program that did incredibly well for EA critically, if not commercially in the 360/PS3 generation, and is A Good Thing, as long as there’s more than one game a year to take advantage of it; especially as Fe really didn’t show well, its dark palette and basic looking action coming some way short of Unravel’s visual splendour.

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We were left with some Star Wars, obviously, but in a press conference that offered precious little in the way of concrete details, or anything new at all, you knew to expect little from EA here. So, there’ll be a new Battlefront next year (well, duh) which will include content from the new films (well, duh). Video? Fat chance, fat head. Visceral are working on a game with former Uncharted writer Amy Hennig, which we knew for years, and then Respawn are creating an all new third person Star Wars adventure, which sounds just fine, but there was nothing in the way of footage or details to get stuck into.

There was very little of anything to get stuck into, really. EA’s approach to E3 2016, with no on floor presence, and trailers for their big games released far in advance of their presser, was an indication of many’s views on E3 in general. EA’s E3 seemed a bit redundant and boring, and the same could be said of the big show. Prove me wrong, kids! Prove me wrong.

 

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