Crowded in the hot but majestic Orpheum Theatre in Los Angeles, we awaited the first major software announcements of the Electronics Entertainment Expo, known to diehards and casual gamers alike as E3. With our pens and cameras in hand, we got a front-row (well, almost) glimpse at the anticipated upcoming Electronic Arts titles. EA is a pretty serious publisher, responsible for sports greats ('Tiger Woods PGA' and 'FIFA,' for instance) and lifestyle classics ('Sims'). Arriving in a neat, ten-part package, the titles we'll be playing next year were announced by both developers and directors. Instead of parading them with little rhyme and reason (as EA did), we've ordered and classed the deca-dosage, listing in descending order which titles we'll be pre-ordering and which we'll avoid like another unwelcome expansion pack.
10. 'Sims 3'
Our console-based friends will finally get a chance this fall to play 'The Sims 3,' the wildly popular domestic god game that has been available on both Mac and PC since 2009. EA is inserting Karma Powers into the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions, letting you bless and curse your digital creations.
Release: October 2010 on Xbox 360, Wii, PlayStation 3 and DS
9. 'Madden 2011'
No, not that hallowed title of fun football fantasy! That can't be so low on our countdown, can it? In fact, putting 'Madden' so low on our list was unanimous. With no graphic upgrade and no new gameplay mechanics, the edition was described by President of EA Sports Peter Moore as being "simpler, quicker and deeper." With a new "play-calling engine" (read: lots of automated playing) for any skill level (read: easier), Moore had to bring out Joe Montana to talk about the importance of calling plays to sell the game. Gameplay itself was whacked seriously down (or, as Moore called it, "trimming the fat"), but often those details are what makes Madden feel like a legitimate football match, not just like a series of automated actions.
Release: (Tentative) August 10, 2010 on PS3 and Xbox 360
8. 'Medal of Honor 2'
Following endless World War II campaigns (and an arguable decline in quality), the new 'Medal of Honor' attempts to revive the series by leaping forward to the modern era with a stint in Afghanistan. The new war sim, co-developed by Dice (multi-player) and EA LA (single-player campaign), may not look bleeding edge, but the 24-player, close-combat demo in the streets of Kabul suggests a serious contender in the multi-player war ring.
Release: PC and Beta: June 21, 2010
Two Switched editors watched this trailer, and two divergent opinions emerged. One, a comic-book fan who is easily wowed by fully realized worlds and campy characters with authentic vocabularies, looked forward to this shoot-em-up. The other, recently off of 'Portal' for his first time and valuing a well-paced and thoughtful storyline, thought 'Bulletstorm' looked like dreck. The developers, Epic Games, openly admitted to a "pulpy, over the top FPS," and set up a Skill Shot System, which rewards players for creative, adolescent methods of killing baddies. (Points were accrued for executing a "Fire in the Hole," which took kicking butt a little too literally.) Sure, the protags looked like generic beefcakes, but, for the right audience, 'Bulletstorm' may entertain.
Release: February 22, 2011 on PS3 and Xbox 360
We dug that this realistic fighting game offers what seems like a well-researched look into the cult-like world that is mixed martial arts fighting. Each character moved uniquely, be it Fedor Emelianenko's judo or Gegard Mousasi's Dutch kickboxing style. Apparently, the title has been in development for two years, and it shows, from every punch's ripple to the pros and cons of each fighter. Still, while social networking is all the buzz at E3, sometimes games simply aren't made to be loosed upon your friends. EA Sport's president, Peter Moore, enthusiastically explained the "Live Broadcast" mode, which allows players to take videos of themselves "talking smack," to create their own fighting avatar, and to try to catch the eye of real fight agents and fans in order to better imitate MMA battles. The idea sounds interesting, but we have a hard time imagining fans watching virtual fighters when the real thing is loads more exciting. Also, call us pessimists, but we spend our days reading about technology gone awry; we'd hate to see a virtual beef go real.
Release: October 19, 2010 on PS3 and Xbox 360
5. 'Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit'
Full disclosure: your author does not love racing games. However, the adrenaline-filled (dare we say, "high octane") trailer for one of the most established racing series of all time was bordering on epic. With Batmobile-like cars and a new social networking component, the game lets players "choose a side," either outracing the law or hunting speedsters in souped-up cop cars. Backdrops like the California redwoods freshen up the genre, and careers can be built, not only by driver, but by car as well. We will play it, sitting as close to the screen as possible, of course.
Release: November 16, 2010 on PS3 and Xbox 360
4. 'active 2'
EA's 'active 2' cross-platform fitness game (available on Wii, PS3 and Xbox 360) does away with the original's clunky chest strap in favor of an upper arm heart monitor for real-time feedback. Each console version comes in a different flavor; Wii employs the Wiimote, PS3 involves motion sensors (attached to the arm and legs) and Xbox 360's Kinect uses only the heart monitor. The demo showed off biking, weight lifting, boxing and running, and the game promises other workout modes to keep things interesting. Embracing the trend of allowing fitness addicts to obsessively track, compare and share their workouts, 'active 2' adds an online Active site for team challenges, daily stats and more.
Release: November 2010 on Wii, Xbox and PlayStation 3, $99.99
3. 'Dead Space 2'
Part space drama, part horror shooter, the original 'Dead Space' was a chiller, relying on cheap, effective scares and sci-fi-inspired "Necromorphs" whose charge was to kill protagonist Isaac Clarke. For 'DS2,' Clarke is back again, with similar, upgradeable suits and weapons. Located in a deep space city/station dubbed "The Sprawl," Clarke has to fight off (we think?) evolving Necromorphs, some many-fanged beings and some other beings that were infected by the virus that plagued the original. While plot was scarce, the gameplay looked creepy and incredibly cool, with electro-weapons freezing large enemies and pulse grenades taking out hordes of advancing baby-Necromorphs. Striking us as terrifying, gruesome and intricate, we can't wait for this space survivalist title.
Release: January 25, 2011 on PS3, Xbox 360 and PC
2. 'Star Wars: The Old Republic'
Last year's action-packed E3 trailer
for 'Star Wars: The Old Republic' reignited enthusiasm in the hearts of the 'Star Wars' faithful, and this year's followup trailer
is just as impressive. In development by BioWare and LucasArts since 2008, 'The Old Republic' will find players choosing sides as Sith or Jedi (or, as Galactic Republic or Sith Empire) in a massively multi-player game where every player gets his or her own ship. The cinematic trailer opens on Alderaan, one of many 'warzones' where battles will play out, and weaves together a battle between the Jedi, Republic soldiers and the Sith -- all with a heavy dose of the Force. There's still no word on a release date, but we're ready to lose sleep and friends to 'The Old Republic.'
Release Date: TBA on Windows
1. 'Crysis 2'
Is it like crisis? Cryosis? Whatever the title's origination, it certainly matches the game's futuristic, sci-fi overtone. Developer Crytek has been teasing the Cry-Engine for almost a year now, and the gorgeous "urban jungle" (Crytek's words, not ours) of New York City acts like a character itself, adapting and interacting with the player in a sandbox style of gameplay. As New Yorkers, we always find ourselves vaguely unsettled when we see Grand Central under siege, and for good reason. The art direction is gorgeous and realistic, depicting a city that is both alien and familiar. The Nanosuit 2, a crucial part of gameplay, has three different settings, which the player can switch between seamlessly: invincible, invisible and tactical (the latter outlining grids and weapon possibilities). The plot is still hazy, but the real kicker is the game's full capability to go 3-D on PS, Xbox and PC. Supporters of 3-D we are not, but if the technology isn't harnessed for giant mech monsters eating Manhattan, then when will it ever be appropriate?
Release: Holidays 2010 on PS3, Xbox 360 and PC