In this series we will look at some of the biggest announcement from each publisher’s conference during last year’s E3, and see what has come of those announcements since.
Electronic Arts (EA) played a huge roll in the launch of the Gen-8 consoles releasing four titles alongside the new consoles: Battlefield 4, FIFA 14, Madden 25, and Need for Speed Rivals. That meant that EA made up almost a third of the original physical launch lineup for the PS4 and a quarter for the Xbox One. Later that year, EA released the well-received third-person shooter Plants vs. Zombies Garden Warfare. From an available game stand-point, EA was poised to make a huge splash in Gen-8, and at E3 2014 they hoped to continue this trend.
EA’s approach to most of 2014’s press conference, Dev Diaries.
EA’s highly-successful first-person shooter Battlefield 4, released to both the PS4 and Xbox One with myriad issues. The DICE title was marred by server issues, rubberbanding, a lack of hit detection, and many other shortcomings that made the game’s online experience extremely unpleasant. The online side of the game was not the only portion that saw game-breaking issues. The game’s campaign suffered an issue that would corrupt a player’s save file several hours into the game resulting in many people being unable to finish the story. These issues led to some customers seeking legal action against the publisher and many others simply being unable to enjoy a game that they had been anticipating for quite some time. Despite the multiple issues, the game was a commercial success, selling over 12 million copies across all platforms. Because of the failed launch of Battlefield 4 — and for longtime fans of the franchise, the botched launch of Battlefield 3 in 2011 — as EA took the stage in 2014, the franchise needed to regain consumer trust.
Enter, Battlefield: Hardline, a new take on the popular Battlefield franchise that took the series out of desert settings and foreign urban backdrops and placed the weapons in the hands of cops and robbers during an all-out drug war in Miami. Developer Visceral Games took the reigns from DICE for this iteration of the series and attempted to breathe new life not only into a franchise, but a genre as a whole that had become quite cookie cutter in it’s storytelling.
The announcement of the setting shift was met with mixed reviews. For some, the change was a welcomed one, rerouting the traditional first-person near future military shooter in a new direction. The gameplay demo shown at E3 showed off many of the classic cops and robber tropes from bank heists to high speed chases. Place that on top of the classic Battlefield destructible environments, and many fans of the series were pining to get their hands on the title.
However, for others the new direction seemed either forced or out of place. Battlefield made its name telling stories of wars in far-off lands, and a drug war in the streets of an American metropolis just seemed too far off the mark to merit the Battlefield moniker. With a new studio and setting, EA could have been just as successful launching Hardline as it’s own IP. The use of the name Battlefield just seemed like lazy marketing, as Visceral and EA attempted to ride the coattails of their successful FPS franchise. To others, the game seemed more appropriate as an expansion pack to the existing Battlefield 4 that was finally beginning to hit its stride from a performance stand-point.
The biggest storyline concerning this game was the surprise announcement of an open beta available for immediate download on PS4 and PC that sent gamers running to their respective platform to try to get in. Subsequently, PSN was sent into a downward tail spin as the result of high traffic from the announcement and was down within minutes. For those that did get an opportunity to get into the beta, they were met with a less than stellar experience.
As a result of the beta’s reception, EA decided to back up from Battlefield‘s traditional Fall release window and launch in March of 2015. According to Karl-Magnus Troedsson, vice president and general manager of DICE, the move allowed the team to innovate the multiplayer experience, deepen the story mode, and ensure a stable online experience at launch.
Battlefield: Hardline launched on March 17, 2015 and was the first Battlfield title in a long time that released to generally stable online conditions. The campaign’s change of pace from non-stop action shooter to well-paced shoot and stealth was also very well received. Overall, the game sold much better than even EA anticipated, and the extra development time allowed for them to iron out issues and get out of the congested Q4 of 2014.
New Mass Effect
Continuing the trend of plastering a developer’s face on the screen to talk about a game that is nowhere near being ready to launch, EA revealed a minimal amount of information about the latest installment in the Mass Effect saga. The dev’s speaking about the game talked about the massive universe that players will be allowed to explore as they showed off conceptual footage of different planets and settings.
Since the announcement at E3 2014, not much else has been revealed about the game. The main character of the story will no longer be Commander Shepard, Chris Schlert (Halo 4‘s senior writer) was confirmed as the lead writer for the Mass Effect title, and a survey leaked to several outlets revealing some alleged changes and plot points for the new installment [Warning: Possible Spoilers in the Link]. Outside of that, no release date or other details have been revealed.
Mirror’s Edge 2
The sequel to cult classic Mirror’s Edge made an appearance at E3 2013 that set fan’s of the series in a frenzy 5 years after the original game’s release date. After that year’s E3, silence surrounded the title. The first-person parkour action game showed up at E3 2014. Seen in yet another Dev Diary, the audience was shown conceptual footage alongside concept art of Faith’s character design. Developers promised even tighter controls than the first installment of the game with the parkour being designed with the help of actual parkour experts, while the conceptual footage showed seamless combat-to-parkour transitions. What was shown was enough to ensure fans of the series that this game was going to continue in the vein of what made the original release so successful; creative map-design, fluid parkour, and action-packed combat.
Not much else is known about Mirror’s Edge 2 at this point. EA confirmed earlier this year that it will be launching in early 2016.
Criterion’s New Actions Sports Game
Known for racing games such as Burnout and Need for Speed, Criterion Games showed up at E3 2014 to announce a new racing IP that took racing fans beyond just the driver’s seat and placed them in the cockpit of helicopters and behind the handlebars of ATV’s. EA revealed the unnamed IP was still in the early stages of development, going so far as to say “Listen, we don’t typically show things this early”, and the footage they showed was incredibly early. Textureless prototypes driving through bare-bones scenery may have showed off what Criterion is hoping to accomplish with the title, but it didn’t create a buzz like the game may have in a couple years whenever they are ready to show more polished gameplay footage.
The trend was indicative of the issue with many of EA’s announcements at E3 2014. Filling a 60 minute conference with enough content to make people feel like getting their money’s worth is difficult at times, but sacrificing the future interest in a title for the sake of revealing something too early seems like the risk they took with Criterion’s new IP. We have yet to see how this works out, but if the footage they showed was any indication, we won’t see this game until 2017 at the absolute earliest. And let’s be honest, is anyone going to look back and care about what EA showed at E3 2014?
Obviously with the game being so early in its development cycle, nothing else has been revealed about the game and it will be interesting if we see anything from Criterion at this year’s E3.
Star Wars Battlefront
EA has locked up the development rights to the Star Wars franchise for the next 10 years, and their first venture into the universe comes later this year in Star Wars: Battlefront. With veteran studio DICE taking the reigns on the project, gamers and Star Wars fans alike are expecting as tight a first-person shooter experience as DICE has delivered. However, after E3 2014, players were left with their Star Wars: Battlefront itch left mostly unscratched. In yet another Dev Diary, EA revealed that they owned the property, were working on a game, showed off conceptual prototypes, and claimed the game was nowhere near ready for release.
While many people felt disappointment from the announcement, much more is known about the title now that what was initially revealed at E3 2014. While a gameplay reveal shown at a Star Wars Celebration event earlier this year showed a beautifully rendered world, the details that followed left fans of the franchise very disappointed. Staple features of the Battlefront series such as space battles, a dedicated campaign, AI bots, player counts, and infantry types will be missing or downgraded from EA’s Star Wars: Battlefront release this November. A comprehensive list of missing or changed features can be found here.