The E3 show floor finally opened today, and we had the opportunity to check out several of EA's games behind closed doors. Battlefield 3, Star Wars: The Old Republic, and Mass Effect 3, three of the biggest titles coming in 2011 and 2012, were on the menu. Sadly, we weren't allowed to take photos during the VIP meetings, but these hands/eyes-on previews should satiate your appetite for now.
First up was Battlefield 3 (or BF3 for short). We've been fans of the Battlefield franchise since the days of BF 1942, all the way through Vietnam, BF2, 2142, and the Bad Company saga. BF3 is a title that every PC gamer should be looking forward to, as the PC is the lead platform this time around; this is by no means a console game where PC development is an afterthought.
We had a chance to play Operation Metro, a Rush mode multiplayer map based in Paris. If you've played Bad Company 2, then you're probably familiar with the M-COM destroy/defense mode. Some tweaks have been made, of course, but the idea is the same. This time destructible environments are even more prevalent; as soon as you destroy the first set of M-Com stations, friendly jets blow a rather massive hole in the ground, which grants your team access to the subway system.
The movement system in BF3 is very fluid, almost BRINK-like. You can vault over barriers and other cover, and effortlessly climb over fences and other barricades. BF3's classes are similar to its predecessors, as you can play as Assault, Engineer, Support and Recon. We spent most of our time as Assault, reviving teammates and dolling out medpacks like there was no tomorrow. The subway station was especially fun, allowing us to use escalators for cover with plenty of side hallways for flanking maneuvers. Regardless of what weapon you choose, you'll be afforded three customization slots for sights and other augmentations. The M4 was the only weapon we could choose, but you can be sure that plenty more will ship come October 11th.
To put it bluntly: We loved BF3. This game is a stellar combination of familiar Battlefield combat and play while offering up incredible graphics, match-changing building destruction and fantastic weapon control. Whether you go "pray n spray" or snipe foes form a distance with a scoped M4, using guns in BF3 is a terrific experience, as is the rest of the MP side of the game.
After Bf3, we moved into Star Wars: The Old Republic. This is proving to be the most highly anticipated MMO since World of WarCraft launched so many years ago, and we definitely enjoyed the short amount of time we spent as a Jedi.
TOR is classic good versus evil, allowing you to play as an Imperial Sith or as a defender of the Republic. Every decision you make affects how Dark or Light you become, and subsequently that will affect what abilities and quests you can choose later in the game. We spent our playtime as a Level 1 Jedi, so we weren't quite running around with dual lightsabers yet. The playtime was more to show off the combat system and the game's HUD/UI, which we found to be very approachable and easy to use.
BioWare believes TOR will captivate gamers because of it's deeply-rooted story, so much of the games mechanics are typical in what you'll find in modern MMO titles. The story, however, is very compelling, even more than you would expect from a Star Wars game. Much like Mass Effect and KOTOR, every decision you make has far-reaching consequences in the game; if you spare the life of a Sith lord or warrior, and convert him to the Light, chances are you'll run into him later in the game.
Lastly, we sat in on a Mass Effect 3 demo. Sadly there was no hands-on time with ME3, but rest assured the game is going to be amazing. There's a reason virtually every gaming outlet is giving ME3 some sort of "Best of Show" award or nomination (see above). The new Omni-Blade melee attacks, combined with using stealth to sneak up on unsuspecting enemies, looks incredibly fun. Grenades are also introduced in ME3, along with workbenches that allow you to customize virtually any weapon in your arsenal.
As far as developers/publishers are concerned, EA is out in force at E3 2011. Their upcoming titles, including the ones above as well as new Madden, FIFA, and Need for Speed titles, should keep you both drooling and occupied in 2011 and 2012.