EA’s press conference at E3 this year didn’t take place at the convention center. Instead it was set up at the Orpheum Theatre, a nice little place with a whole ton of history behind it.. having played host to everyone from Judy Garland to the Marx Brothers to Stevie Wonder. While the unwashed hordes of game journalists walked into the door, music blared and the screen rattled off a list of developers. They definitely still want to be rockstars over at EA, you can just tell it.

Let’s get the big news out of the way first- id Software has joined forces with EA to publish their new game, Rage.
John Carmack came on stage and stunned the crowd with the announcement,
letting everyone know that this was the perfect way for them to get the
game out to more people without sacrificing any of the creative
process. The way the game was described makes it seem more like a first
person action game than a shooter, with crazy monsters and vehicles. No
firm details on the plot were described, instead

The teaser trailer is already online, so check it out and see if it does anything for you.



The rest of the conference? Entertaining, but didn’t really have any surprises.

As
this is my first E3, it was interesting to note how different it is
being in the actual theater when the company’s showing their stuff off. EA’s shit was LOUD.
Metal concert, ears ringing the next day loud. It helped make Dead Space and Left 4 Dead look even creepier, at least.
 
The
conference started off with a promise by EA CEO John Ricatello that there would be no powerpoint presentations or sales stats, but it did get pretty close at parts. Thankfully they did focus on bringing out developer after developer to show just how
powerful their upcoming lineup is, and it truly is a strong one. But
then again, how could it not be, now that EA has its money in so many strong studios?

The biggest crowd-pleasers were Spore, Mirror’s Edge, and Sim Animals.

Yes, Sim Animals, cause who hasn’t wanted to play Viva Pinata on their Wii or DS?

Seriously
though, they opened the show with that game and it was a puzzling
choice, especially since it bore more than a passing resemblance to those pinatas. Sure, it’ll probably sell a ton just by name association, but
this isn’t what we paid all that money to come to E3 for.

There are more Sims games on the way as well, just in case you haven’t already played the hell out of all 5 dozen expansion packs. Sims 2‘s
big announcement was that there would be a Sims Store where you can pay
small amounts of money for things people used to download for free.
Yay!

Course that’s all just leading up to Sims 3. That game’s
big thing is that you can finally leave the house and really interact with the whole
world. I have to admit the trailer was clever (a guy leaving his
house for the first time and being ecstatic with what he found in the outside world)
even if it was nauseuatingly cute.

But really, Mirror’s Edge is the game that brought down the house. The live demo of DICE’s parkour-influenced title showed how easy and seamless jumping around the city is, and while the section he played was identical to the first trailer that was released (this one) it went further and showed off more of the features. It looks incredibly simple to run and jump and dive through the locations, and it’s a great idea how objects change color (“Runner Vision”) so you know what path you can take from building to building.



Dead Space looks awesome, as well. We were shown a live demo for this too, and the sci-fi horror game defintiely has some thick atmosphere. The game has no HUD- your life bar is shown via bars on the back of your suit, your ammo count a hologram that rises from your weapon. They showed off a little of the “strategic dismemberment” that they’ve been going on and on about… where you have to kill enemies by chopping off important limbs. The first monster he found was big and kept charging and knocking our hero down before his hind legs were severed and he fell to the ground, useless. In another room a giant tentacle grabbed the character and the camera went down with him, allowing you to aim and fire and try to cut it to pieces before it drags you off. The guy playing the demo wasn’t that great of a shot, and was dispatched in bloody fashion.



We were also shown a creepy new trailer for the game that had a girl singing some really weird variation of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star over scenes of incredible violence. And the more I see of the zero gravity sections… man oh man. Will definitely be getting more on this one soon.

Speaking of creepy games, Gabe Newell of Valve was there to show off Left 4 Dead, and while the presentation was just a little bit boring (whose idea was it to have bullet points appear behind him as he talks?) the game looks phenomenal.



It’s all about the co-op play… and there even will be split-screen! Boy am I glad to see that feature return. Gabe showed two clips of gameplay that demonstrated how the game’s experience will improve if you play well together. Watch each other’s back, conserve ammo and make sure no one gets too hurt? You’ll have to face tougher enemies, but you will get to experience moments that everyone else will miss. The scene in question was a boss fight- the sloppy team dispatched a couple of zombies in seconds, but the more experienced group had dozens of zombies to deal with, eventually triggering an explosion that ripped off the top of a gas station apart. (Check it out for yourself below!) Impressive and definitely lends itself towards finding a good team.



Bioware was there as well to show off their new title Dragon Age:Origins, which they called a Baldur’s Gate successor. That got you excited, didn’t it you dirty dork? It should…

There wasn’t much shown besides a teaser trailer but it was already pretty impressive seeing masses of incredibly detailed characters and monsters fighting on a battlefield. Definitely one to keep an eye on…. although you can bet that some people were disappointed that it wasn’t a new Knights of the Old Republic.

One of the strangest things during the conference was seeing Peter Moore talking about EA Sports like he’s been there since inception. The former Microsoft VP and Russ Fischer drinking buddy showed off a few new titles with the help of a few sports celebs and charmed the crowd in his usual fashion.

The big thing they were showing off was NBA Live 09, with its new “Dynamic DNA” feature. What this means is that every day you will get an update to the game that will tweak your player depending on how they played in the game before. They might be more likely to head right or left to the hoop, hit a certain kind of shot, etc. It’s an interesting idea and seems aimed to keeping things fresh. The best part of the presentation was that it was co-presented by legendary NBA player Bill Walton, who seemed to really piss off Moore by being genuinely funny and going off the script continually. Definitely a highlight of the event.

He also demonstrated the recently announced All-Play titles that are coming out for Wii, and that will feature controls aimed for both the pro and amatuer. He showed this by beating golf pro Natalie Gulbis, who was playing on hard mode (and apparently having a bit of trouble with the supposedly 1:1 controls). But I could really care less about sports games either way…

There was some smaller news as well, such as the games for the iPhone (they made a big deal of the fact that while playing Scrabble you can shake the iPhone and jumble the pieces. Oooh!!) and EA’s strange new Rupture system that essentially allows for a profile that exists cross-platform and gives you achievements for all games. Not sure why we’d need it, but hey, who am I?

But don’t let me end this article without saying how hysterical Will Wright was. The man was there of course to show off Spore, and he just knows how to charm the crowd. No one seemed more surprised and pleased that the Spore Creature Creator has taken off so well. He made frequent references to how many units were sold and how many creatures were created- noting that there are now more species in Spore than there are on Earth. Impressive, gamers. We really didn’t need to be sold on this game any more- we’re all going to buy it- but they showed off another new trailer that makes you somehow want to play it even more. Can’t wait till September.

And with all of this, all of these really quality games, they didn’t show anything for Mercenaries 2, Red Alert 3 or Rock Band 2!
Sad, but we’ll get a chance to check them out later this week. So while this conference wasn’t earth-shattering (besides id, of course), it’s a good reminder that EA’s lineup is truly one to be feared.