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EA E3 2017 press conference rated: The highs and the lows

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The EA E3 2017 press conference has ended for another year, and we’ve now had time to reflect on what we saw. Let’s take a look back at the highlights and the lowlights.

A Way Out: When EA rolled out the creator of Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons to announce his newest game, I’d imagine most folk expected another fantasy-tinged weepie with a control gimmick. What we got was a reality-based co-op prison drama with a control gimmick.

In all seriousness, A Way Out was the true standout moment of EA’s conference. The co-op prison escaping, story-driven aspects, and the ability to continue playing the other character in your co-op partners cutscenes looks massively promising. It’s nice to see EA help foot the bill for a more ambitious project from a successful indie dev. I just hope that’s the end point of its involvement.

Need For Speed’s car-checking: Awkward spaced out host aside, Need For Speed Payback looks pretty sweet, and the best part was watching the player bodycheck other vehicles in true Burnout fashion.
The jury’s out on the whole Fast and the Furious overload, but that bit was at least entertaining.

Madden Journey: No surprise that EA’s other sports titles are starting to embrace FIFA’s successful story mode. Madden looks interesting.

Star Wars Battlefront 2: The game looked impressive, as expected, and EA made the right move by making future content free. Plus points also go to actress Janina Gavankar for doing the only decent hosting of the night.

Andrew Wilson: He looks more like a real boy this year! The treatment seems to be working.

EA Free Trials: It’s hard to say if EA were being deliberately coy about PS4 in this section. They announced a free week of EA Access, and fumbled around some sort of free trials for certain EA titles on PS4, which notoriously does not currently have EA Access. Either this was a compromise for the format, or it was a vague attempt at keeping Access on PS4 a secret for a couple more days. Either way, it’s nice to see they cared.

EA 2017 Conference Misses

Two Men in Blazers: These guys have a successful show with actual celebrity guests. I’m guessing it’s got nothing to do with their abysmal patter. Amazingly not the most painful onstage speakers either, and that’s a pretty high/low bar they set. Football banter is the abyss at the best of times, this was straight up end times stuff.

FIFA trailer: Another year, another FIFA trailer that told us nothing. Apart from the fact Cristiano Ronaldo is in it…a lot, and they seemed to get off on him wearing lycra.The Journey trailer was fine, but felt flat after the awful introduction it got.

Anthem Teaser: Look, I get it EA. You have an obligation to show more at Microsoft’s conference, but the little bit of Bioware’s new IP you did show made it look like a highly derivative knock off of Titanfall, Horizon and Mass Effect. Not a problem in normal situations, but when it’s hyped up as something exciting and fresh, you expect something that doesn’t instantly remind you of several other games.

NBA Live 18: The Black Sheep of EA’s show. The effort is there to make it stand out, but the king is NBA 2K, and it doesn’t look like that reign will end this year.

YouTube/Streaming personalities: Bring back Pele. There was an abundance​ of YouTubers and Streamers in EA’s show, and none seemed at all comfortable being there. From the deer in the headlights performance of that guy at the start of the Need For Speed Payback portion of the show, to the agonising wall of glad handing platitudes in display in a section of talking heads footage for Star Wars Battlefront 2, it felt awkward, and irritating in equal measure.

I get that this is a huge part of gaming now, but perhaps integration into E3 press conferences is a step too far because nobody came out of this well.

The Battlefront 2 esports setup: An evolution of the forced player chatter that plagued conferences a couple of years ago. Having esports-esque commentary over an admittedly great-looking bout of Battlefront 2 felt way off. It wasn’t competitive, it didn’t add anything to the match, and it felt way too close to an infomercial.

Abrupt end: It just stopped out of nowhere and bled awkwardly into discussion about a Star Wars mobile game. The way EA handled Battlefront 2’s big match finale didn’t help matters, as nothing about it felt like a proper crescendo to the conference.

Missing Games: Amy Hennig’s Star Wars was a notable omission, but on a lesser note, what happened to Fe? EA’s indie darling joint of 2016 has seemingly vanished. I hope this doesn’t mean the end of EA’s venture into smaller games, but with A Way Out looking like the closest thing to a small game this year, there seems to be a death knell for that short fling with indies.

Patrick Soderlund:
It’s not that he did anything wrong, it’s just that he looked, and acted, distractingly like a Scandinavian Ross Geller.

Overall Show:
A show featuring fast cars, superstar sportsmen, and Star Wars rarely managed to do more than eke out a shrug and a comment of ‘this looks alright’. The fire of Bioware’s reveal was washed away by contractual obligations, and a poor quality of ‘guests’ created an awkward, off-putting atmosphere.