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Sound Off Vol. 10 – EA & Ubisoft press conference reactions

E3 2013EAUbisoft

Welcome, to the tenth volume of our Sound Off feature. With E3 2013 now over, we’re finishing up roundtable discussions on what we thought. Here’s Shane and Jonas’ reaction to the EA & Ubisoft press conferences.

Shane Ryan: Jonas, what were your impressions of the EA conference?

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Jonas Jürgens: Apart from a few strange moments, like Aaron Paul and Drake appearing on stage, I thought EA did really well.

“Started with a joke”Shane Ryan: They also started with a joke. This was easily the biggest shock/surprise/non-embarrassed laugh of the show. With the Battlefield-esque theme cranking away, it cut to a sun blasted cartoon environment. Yes, Plants vs Zombies has a third-person Xbox exclusive spin-off.

Jonas Jürgens: I was a bit disappointed in the Plants vs. Zombies sequel. I liked the first game, and would’ve rather seen a continuation of that concept. This looks a bit like a copy of Orcs Must Die or Dungeon Defenders. However, I will say that it looked like a more polished version of said genre, and with a larger scope, both of which intrigue me. I also liked the fact that EA didn’t mind that the trailer spoofed Battlefield. It’s nice to see companies that can laugh at themselves.

Instead of showing us a ton of games, they focused on a small slice of upcoming titles – I believed they did something similar last time. The big news is of course a new Battlefront, of which we only got a very brief teaser, so it’s hard to say anything concrete about it. But it’s made with the new Frostbite Engine, and the teaser looked gorgeous. Battlefront + the same visual fidelity and destructibility of Battlefield? I’m sold.

Secondly was Mirror’s Edge 2.

Shane Ryan: That trumps anything Star Wars related for me, but go on.

Jonas Jürgens: It’s another game that we pretty much knew was coming eventually, so it was nice to see it finally revealed. Visually, it looks much like the first game, but more polished. Honestly though, I’m not that interested in its visuals. I’m more excited to finally get Faith’s story continued.

Shane Ryan: Mirror’s Edge had a fantastic visual style. The lightning was gorgeous and more than technical candy. What else interested you?

“A new Battlefront”Jonas Jürgens: The Dragon Age: Inquisition trailer also interested me, but there was little information for me to judge. They used the usual buzzwords and phrases, “choices that impact the world” and so on, but it’s difficult to say whether they’ve learned their lesson from Dragon Age 2 or not. Mind you, DA2 was a serviceable game. It just didn’t strike the same chords as Origins.

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On a positive note, I warmed on both Titanfall and Battlefield, neither of which had a particularly strong showing at the Microsoft conference. We got more concrete information on Titanfall, and I’m positive about the emphasis on delivering a singleplayer-like narrative within a multiplayer game. Like one of the developers said, it creates a stronger emotional attachment to the world.

Shane Ryan: Agreed. The continued integration of single and multiplayer becoming one in Need for Speed also looks to have improved for the latest iteration in the series. Players will now seamlessly enter each other’s worlds and take over AI positions. Then there was EA’s blockbuster series Battlefield.

Jonas Jürgens: Due to technical difficulties, I didn’t see all of the information about Battlefield 4, but the things I did see intrigued me. The commander mode – in the vein of games like Natural Selection and Nuclear Dawn – is an excellent addition, and the fact that you can do this on mobile devices interested me. I’ve always been more into the strategic and tactical elements of the Battlefield series, so seeing this integrated into the game has piqued my interest. The exact details of how it’s going to work haven’t been revealed yet, though, so I hope it won’t turn out like in most games with that mode. That is, it’s totally impossible to play as commander because everyone wants to as well.

I reconnected to the conference just as the skyscraper was collapsing, which looked absolutely spectacular. It might not be much, but these two little changes have left me wanting more.

Shane Ryan: Battlefield 4 looks superb. My only concern is the amount of changes and DLC that’ll inevitably roll out. That killed 3 for me.

With many positives mentioned, what did EA get wrong at their conference?

“The amount of trailers for sports games”Jonas Jürgens: The disappointing thing about EA’s conference was the amount of trailers for sports games. The games themselves are always enjoyable, but I find that the presenters always repeat themselves. Over and over again. Of course, they’re EA’s biggest franchise so of course they’ll show them off.

Shane Ryan: It was unbearable. The middle of EA’s conference turned into damn awful jargon and a load of bollocks. It was muted until the awkward suits left and Titanfall‘s multiplayer came on. Which looked rather nice and pleasantly in-game.

Jonas Jürgens: All in all though, a very good show.

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Shane Ryan: What about Ubisoft?

Jonas Jürgens: Firstly, I thought Aisha Tyler handled the presentation quite well, but as per usual with Ubisoft’s conferences, there was a lot of failed references to Internet culture. It’s like they’re trying too hard to be hip, but nonetheless it was far more entertaining than the other conferences. The crowd seemed a little dejected, though.

The new announcements were the parts that caught my eye. Although I’m not normally interested in racing games, The Crew looks ambitious. They’re touting it as being totally open-world, covering all of the US, and judging from the different locations we saw, it looks like it could actually live up to that potential. It seems to have a nice variation between city and off-road racing, which bodes well for the game’s longevity. It’s also an online persistent world, where you drop in and out as you please, which is a far better move than making the whole thing multiplayer. It broadens the market for it. Having a live demo for it was a plus, which is quite rare, because it allowed for a better feeling of what it will plays like.

The Division looked great too. Again, they focused on having an online world where players can drop in and out as they please. It was squad-based, which is rare in multiplayer shooters, and also had survival aspects – which is all the rage now for a good reason. I honestly don’t have that much to say about this, except that it looks great so far.

“Ubisoft could be onto something here”Shane Ryan: Ubisoft’s The Division did look rather special. As hopes of new genres have been culled, it’s now come down to teaching an old dog new tricks. And this is bringing many successful ones into a new act. The opening sound design was stunning. As a vertical slice we can rightly be cynical as to how this will survive in the final product, but by George, if it maintains what has been promised Ubisoft could be onto something here. Just don’t call it ‘post-apocalyptic’, because it isn’t after the end of humanity. Unless we’re playing another species on Earth post-homosapein. Which we won’t be, so it’s not.

Jonas Jürgens: Otherwise, there was sense of disappointment that we got a bunch of trailers for some games that we already knew were coming out. I would especially have liked to have seen more information about South Park: The Stick of Truth and Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag.

So, up until the reveals of The Crew and The Division, I thought the conference was quite a disappointment, but with these two great looking games, the conference was elevated to quite a success.

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Shane Ryan: EA and Ubisoft certainly showed their importance in the videogame landscape. Both of the new consoles are relying heavily on their continuing involvement in next-generation development. 2014 is shaping up to be a rather jam-packed calendar.

The author of this fine article

is the Deputy Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in December 2010. Get in touch on Twitter @shaneryantb.

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