As I walked through central London thinking about what should be an exciting night, filled with a rare behind the scenes look at the upcoming behemoths of the gaming world this Autumn, I felt a little bare inside as it dawns upon me, the so called triple A titles that lie in wait, are nothing but sequels.
I attended the EA Games Roadshow, something of a little perk from working in a games section in a retail store. Although I’m not sure the barrage of stupid questions by questionably stupid people that spill out of their verbal face-hole is worth it sometimes, but a perk is a perk and I’ll be damned if I’m going to let one slip me by.
I strolled into the lobby of the location, my windswept face adding a gentle rouge tint to my cheeks, allowing pedestrians to tick an extra box on their spot-the-nerd bingo card. I looked out of breath with excitement to play some games, but in all honesty I was just quietly panicking that the overly priced dodgy Panini I had moments before would lay dormant in my stomach, just until the event ended at least.
My two work colleagues and I handed over our e-tickets at reception, and in return were presented with blue EA Games lanyards, with a little summary of each game they were going to let us get our mitts on. The lanyard, the only freebie of the event (boo, hiss) also has EA Gaming Guru labelled across the top on each side, a title I’ll happily boast to fellow gamers but deny to the death in any sort of outer gaming social situation.
We were ushered into a small elevator that would take us to the bottom floor where the action was, the perky EA promotion lady informed us it was all part of the experience to get us in the mood. The elevator slowly dropped to the bottom floor as other attendees looked at us from their Battlefield 3 director chairs. This entrance was awkward and had the feeling of a Take Me Out episode, but instead of a desperate gaggle of overly confident 4 out of 10s, we were greeted by fellow nerdlings, a sight of comfort.
A large TV rolling trailers for the upcoming games played until an EA rep took to the floor to inform us what the night would have in store and to let us know where the toilets were. There was no mention of refreshments, I got a little upset. After the promotional speech we took to the gaming floor. We had 20mins on each game and first up for me was Need for Speed: The Run.
The demo on offer was a speed run from one checkpoint to another, the promotions team happily announcing the fastest time of the day was 2min 34seconds, challenge accepted and challenge failed. The game ran smoothly (it was the PS3 version FYI) and it played like any racing game should. It took place on a mountain track and the road was filled with other determined racers trying to beat you to the checkpoint. The cars looked nice as they sped through the mountainous road, filled with oncoming traffic, one false move and you will crash, and be presented with a mood killing loading screen, hopefully the final build won’t have the lengthy one that was present in the demo. The reps mentioned there would be out of car experiences in the final game, but we didn’t get a sniff of this. There was not much else to experience, but Need for Speed fans will be kept happy upon its release. EA promises this to be the most exciting drive from San Francisco to New York you’re likely to experience, or bother doing.
Swapping women impressing cars for womanising footballers now, I got my hands on the game I wanted to play most; FIFA 12.
The demo had a small selection of playable teams on offer in a short match. AC Milan, Arsenal (with Fabregas), Barcelona, Borussia Dortmund, Marseille and the now universally hated Man City are your choices. The menus have had an overhaul at last and now look pleasing to the eye. I opted for AC Milan against Manch£st£r City. Yes, I typed out their full name for the sole purpose of using the pound signs for the letter E. The game is familiar territory for FIFA veterans, some passes didn’t go where they were intended, the referee gave free kicks despite the tackles being perfect and showing off the impressive impact engine. The pace of 12 seems a bit slower than 11, as the players had the feel of running on a beach and not the finely cut grass they’re used to. Defending has been changed significantly so you can no longer rush into tackles like Scholes, but will have to time and plan your lounges into the ankles of your enemies. Like all FIFA games, the more time you spend with it the more rewarding it becomes and the new tweaks and touches start to shine through. My time was brief, frustrating but fun, the way football should be. The EA rep informing me that “not a lot of people play FIFA any more, it’s mainly children” is definitely the reason I lost both my games and also the reason for EA to find a new rep next time. I hate Tevez.
Shuffling over to the next set of pods revealed that it was time for potential COD killer, Battlefield 3.
The co-op mode was on offer and it impressed from start to freeze. I had the unlucky pod that froze every couple of minutes so I didn’t experience the full level. I jumped into the game with a random attendee, ready to partner up and unleash a hailstone storm of bullets, I was excited, I was pumped, I was partnered up with a random attendee whose sprint button didn’t work. I knew it was a co-op mode, he didn’t and he wouldn’t come through the first door I opened. I stood their patiently firing off rounds in his direction, hoping he would realise but instead ran for cover in a panic, scouring the rooftops for baddies. Eventually he went through the door, I was relieved. We ran through corridors together blasting anyone stupid enough to get in our way, the game was running perfectly and the gunplay had a certain satisfaction that COD feels lacking in. The sound effects, the control system and the Frostbite 2 engine are very impressive. We both died moments later as we were ambushed from the rooftops of a narrow city street, my partner then realised it was co-op and laughed towards me, I cowardly laughed along, pretending I didn’t know either. We ended up back at the beginning and our demo pod froze and it froze again and again. I lost patience and moved on. Battlefield 3 was the most impressive game on show despite the problems with our demo. The gunplay was fun, it was fast and action packed. Just from the co-op mode alone I’m overly excited about the online multiplayer element. I’m leaning towards EA and DICE’s military baby this year, will you?
The last and probably most sweaty control pads of the night came in front of the demo for Mass Effect 3.
From the moment I arrived I heard whispers of excitement for this title, even the EA reps kept saying “I know you’re all here for Mass Effect 3”, the small crowd would yelp and swear in agreement, (we gamers love to swear). The demo kicks off with an impressive cut scene and I got straight into the thick of things and went in guns blazing. My peripherals informed me everyone else was in the menu screens, looking at Shepherds’ stats and weapons. The demo again was short but action packed, interlocked with Mass Effects famed cinematics. I’ll be honest, I had no idea who the characters were or what significant duty I was on as I have yet to complete Mass Effect 2, but I had fun running, gunning and covering. The brief demo even ends with a mini boss battle, the action ante has been significantly raised and the graphics as impressive as ever. The only downside to the demo is that it left out the meaty RPG elements and Kinect support that has been much taunted at the bigger gaming events this summer. Mass Effect 3 is sure to hit all the sweet spots for the legions of fans it has waiting sweaty palmed for its 2012 release
My experience at the EA Games Roadshow was fun but a little bit too short. I would have loved to spend more time with each game to get a better opinion, and a pod that didn’t hate me in the Battlefield section. Kudos to EA for putting on a private event though, I hope the feedback is useful and another one can be arranged in the future.
FIFA 12 is coming September 30th.
Battlefield 3 is coming October 28th.
Need for Speed: The Run is coming November 18th.
Mass Effect 3 is coming March 9th, 2012.