As you likely gathered from our blow-by-blow account of Electronic Arts’ Studio Showcase earlier today, the house that Madden built had plenty of things to talk about. Granted, Peter Moore calling the PS3’s Sixaxis controller “cute” was undeniably the day’s money quote, but EA still has more than enough games coming down the pipeline to get gamers excited. And amazingly, that excitement isn’t limited to “hardcore” gamers — Nintendo Wii and DS owners were also clearly in EA’s sights.
Probably most surprising was the fact that EA has taken to heart all the “sequelitis” and “minimal upgrades” flak from the past couple years and really come back with some impressive games. Army of Two is shaping up to provide an absolute gem of a co-op experience, and although it probably crashed more than any other early-code game, its graphics, gameplay and total package should shape up sufficiently to warrant attention when the game ships in mid-November. Likewise, Battlefield: Bad Company is going to blow people’s socks off (at least graphically) when they get their hands on it, in spite of the gameplay itself failing to offer much in the “innovative” category.
But while those are both hardcore titles, EA had plenty to show that was decidedly non-hardcore — and perhaps even more refreshing. The Simpsons Game, both for next-gen consoles and Nintendo DS, was probably our surprise of the Showcase. Witty, gorgeous, hilarious and an epic in the making, The Simpsons Game has “family friendly superstar” written all over it. Likewise, EA Playground for the Wii packs enough minigame-like punch to bring a smile to kids and parents alike.
Back on the hardcore bandwagon, EA’s Burnout Paradise stands a good chance of being our favorite racing game of 2007 with its combination of beautiful graphics, sandbox-style gameplay and seamless integration of rival-based competitive play. Team Fortress 2, part of The Orange Box collection from Valve, will also turn a few heads this holiday, with surprisingly deep team-based gameplay that belies the game’s comic-book appearance.
All told, EA had approximately 33 titles on display, and although we only had time to really get hands-on with about eight of them, our time at EA’s campus left us very excited about the games the company has on its horizon. I’m not normally one to gush about a publisher, but I must confess that I was extremely — and pleasantly — surprised by EA’s showing, and I actually left the campus slightly giddy about several titles.
Perhaps most important, though, is that EA showed enough today to warrant a slight sense of giddiness for all gamers, regardless of their platform of choice, age or skill. From Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 to Nintendo Wii and DS, EA quite literally has something for everyone. Granted, a few of the games seem somewhat derivative and borrow certain elements from one another, but the chances of gamers buying each of them are slim, so that’s really a moot point.
Full-length previews for many of the games we saw today will come in the days ahead, but if there’s one thing you take away from this quick-impressions recap, it’s this: EA has taken to heart gamers’ comments for the past two years and really come back with games that are fun, creative and worthy of your hard-earned dollars. And really, considering some of the biting comments EA has fielded during the past two years, that’s really the best statement they could have made.
— Jonas Allen