Gamescom 2011: EA Press Event report back

Electronic Arts Europe held their press event earlier today where we were treated to a handful of debuts and reveals. The show was hosted by the Senior Vice President of EA Europe, Jens Uwe Intat, and featured appearances and presentations by BioWare’s Dr. Ray Muzyka, producer David Rutter from EA Canada Vancouver and the slightly eccentric but entertaining as hell Ken Rolston from 38 Studios.

The show kicked off with a reveal for a new FIFA Street title that looks to continue the franchise that was established back in 2005. The game is scheduled for early 2012 and aims to be the most authentic street football game ever created. Judging by the debut trailer there’s an emphasis on style and free-flow flair. All of the player animations have been motion-captured by the world’s top street football players. There will be 5 versus 5 and 6 versus 6 matches in over 35 locations inspired by real-world playing areas. Finally, the game will support EA Sports Football Club, which was announced at E3 this year. For fans of FIFA games this looks like a neat break from the usual FIFA football games.

Need For Speed: The Run made an appearance along with the game’s Executive Producer Jason DeLong. It’s an interesting looking title – a sort of Need For Speed at heart, but a Need For Speed with a story line and main character. You play as Jack, a man on the run who is forced to partake in an illicit race across America (from San Francisco to New York) in order to win a cash prize that Jack hopes to use to claim back his life. Expect more than 300 kilometres of road across varying terrain that is constantly changing thanks to natural elements like fog, avalanches and rain – think Need For Speed meets MotorStorm Apocalypse. We got to see a live gameplay session that demoed a race through Independence Pass. The course was covered in snow and, thanks to planned demolitions in the mountainous area, featured constant avalanches and rock falls – so while you’re trying to best your opponent, you need to keep an eye out for massive falling rocks and debris blocking your paths. The game will be out on 18 November 2011.

Next on stage was one of BioWare’s founders, Ray Muzyka. His presentation focussed on the myriad BioWare titles that EA is bringing to the market. One new title was a free-to-play MMO set in the Warhammer universe called Warhammer Online: Wrath of Heroes. The focus is on fast-paced PVP competition between three teams of 6 players. You’ll be able to have a number of custom-made heroes at your disposal that you’ll be able to switch on-the-fly. A beta program was mentioned to be launching during fall (so spring in South Africa) some time.

Muzyka then moved onto Star Wars: The Old Republic where he introduced the upcoming MMO’s version of what WoW calls Raids. They’re called “Operations” in SWTOR and the aim is to keep high level players interested in the game. We were shown an Operation called “The Eternity Vault” and once again this was a live demo played by a group of presentation gamers all playing Sith characters. A number of Sith classes were shown, including Sith Inquisitors, Sith Warriors and Bounty Hunters. The objective of the Operation was to secure a particularly powerful force user before he could escape from this intergalactic prison known as “The Eternity Vault”. The demo ended once the first of the players got taken out by a particularly massive robot Juggernaut – good times!

Of course, any presentation by a BioWare rep at this stage would be remiss in excluding any mention of Mass Effect 3. No major reveals or game-changing additions were shown, but we did get to see a new trailer that featured Shepard and his squad in a massive fire fight. The game is out on 9 March 2012 for South Africa.

SSX was up next and it’s looking really good. The team has been using satellite images in order to create the terrain that you’ll be racing down, and they claimed that every important mountain on the planet will be in the game. Locations like Kilimanjaro, Everest and more will create the drops that you and your friends can take on. Friends and the social aspects of the game were what they chose to focus on the most. SSX will have its own version of the Autolog feature found in Need For Speed except it’ll be called RiderNet. The online functionality suite will allow you to link up with friends, “like” certain drops, partake in competitions and upload ghosts of your best runs. You can then challenge your friends’ ghosts and if you beat them you’ll earn money. Furthemore, if your friends fail to beat your ghosts then you’ll also earn money. This money can be used to upgrade your board and unlock other character features. The game is out in January 2012. Oh yes, there are wingsuits as well.

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning’s creator, Ken Rolston, was on hand to talk us through the upcoming action RPG. Rolston is entertaining as hell; the guy is so in love with what he does that he exudes this youthful passion for his project in much the same way that Peter Molyneux does – our money is on Rolston being able to keep promises though.

If you haven’t heard of this game, then you’re in for a treat. It looks like your typical action RPG but there’s a certain charm that seems to pervade the entire package. We’re interested in this game, that’s for sure, and you can expect a hands-on preview at a later stage this week.

Funcom’s The Secret World made an appearance next. The MMO is set in a world where all of the myths, legends and conspiracy theories we know of are all true. You can choose to play as a character from three different societies: the Illuminati, the Templars and the Dragons. The Secret World will feature persistent PVP gameplay but there are no character classes and no character levels at all. Instead, there are 500 different skills to unlock that you can choose from to customise your character. A beta was announced and registration for this will begin on 26 August 2012.

Naturally, EA wasn’t about to leave out its biggest sporting franchise, so focus shifted to FIFA 12. The game’s Executive Producer David Rutter, as well EA Sports’ Executive VP Andrew Wilson, came onto stage to talk up the next big thing in the FIFA franchise. The focus of their presentation was on the management side of FIFA 12 and the social functions built into the game. To date, there have been more than 1 billion FIFA 11 matches played online, and FIFA 12 looks set to continue this massive online appeal. A large part of this will be down to the previously revealed EA Sports Football Club, which will obviously be integrated into FIFA 12. FIFA Ultimate Team will make a return and will be included on the disc from the get-go. They also announced that you’ll be able to start making and managing your Ultimate Team from 20 September 2011, more than a week before the game is set to launch on 29 September 2011. A demo is also scheduled to go live on 12 September 2011.

Next up: Battlefield 3 and the debut of the game’s co-op game mode. We got to see a live demonstration played on two PlayStation 3 consoles. In the mission, the two players were tasked with finding a prisoner inside an urban building and bringing him safely back to the awaiting convoy. The opening stages of the mission included a lot of stealthy elements and timed co-op kills between the two players. They had to silently take down enemies by synchronising their shots so that both enemies dropped at once. The two of them stuck to the shadows and shot out security cameras; generally it was all very sneaky sneaky… until they failed to take out one security camera in time. Naturally this triggered an alarm and all hell broke loose. There was a ton of close-quarters fighting as the pair gunned their way to the top of the building to save their hostage. Once they’d got him out of the building they rejoined the convoy of military vehicles and began making their way through the dark urban streets. An ambush ensued and the co-op pair was forced to take cover. One acted as a spotter, highlighting enemies for the other to take out with a scoped rifle. The demo was fantastic to watch and the PlayStation 3 consoles churned out some amazing graphics and a silky-smooth frame rate. Once the live demo was finished we were shown a new trailer for a multiplayer match called “Caspian Border”. The trailer featured a massive battle between two sides and a number of jets causing untold amounts of decimation to the countryside and opposition forces. This game is going to be a ridiculous amount of fun.

The highlight of the event has to have been the live co-op mission in Battlefield 3. Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning is also looking excellent as is Need For Speed: The Run. You can expect a lot more EA games coverage from us over the coming days; Geoff and I are itching to try out that Battlefield 3 co-op mission so you can read a full preview on that soon.