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E3 2015: EA DICE Showcase Impressions (Star Wars Battlefront/Mirror’s Edge Catalyst)
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E3 2015: EA DICE Showcase Impressions (Star Wars Battlefront/Mirror’s Edge Catalyst)

Lightsabers and parkour were in full force at the Electronic Arts booth.

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Can you cram the entire E3-going experience in three days? The short answer is ‘No’, you can’t do it by yourself and fully appreciate it. That’s why you have to choose your attractions carefully as I scrambled through the Electronic Arts booth during the final day, even with a VIP badge and previously scheduled appointment I was still elbowing my way to see everything I could, but racing against the clock within two hours.

Knowing the reality of the situation, I kept my path coordinated and my walkthrough centered on the most exciting titles that me and my crew gushed over (well, they gushed over anyways…) the night prior. Despite EA’s press conference of awkward attempts at light-hearted enthusiasm and some poor sap in a Plants vs. Zombie mascot suit parading around a stage in vain, I doubt anyone would say that their 2015-2016 lineup wasn’t excellent, if not acceptably solid. EA’s suite of sports titles (NFL, NBA, FIFA, and NHL) will forever remain the bread and butter of their portfolio, they look great and play exactly as you’d expect if you’re poised to buy the 2016 editions. So I diverted my attention to EA Digital Illusions Creative Entertainment (DICE) and their two standout games.

Mirror’s Edge Catalyst

With roughly 15 minutes for each game and both of them prominently flanking the EA booth, I started with Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, the long awaited follow-up to the first-person parkour (more accurately portrayed as free running) cult favorite from 2008. Yes, it’s almost hard to believe that original game came out so long ago, and it appears that the delay was technology needing time to catch up to the visceral concept. You’ll once again be playing as Faith from the previous title, and like before it also plays mostly the same. The beginning of the demo had me being liberated from prison by an underground resistance led by a guy named Noah, in order to take down a totalitarian government.

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Considering this is a reboot of sorts I expected the game to feel a little recycled, and very familiar as the only goal is to keep momentum and never stop moving, and use the L1 and L2 buttons almost exclusively for jumping/wall running/climbing to parkour upwards/ducking/sliding maneuvers. When you start out its slow going as Faith must keep her breath and gain speed to quickly take down the occasional enemy or evading bullets, this is more apparent as the renewed emphasis on physical combat has completely eliminated the use of firearms, at least during my playtime.

In terms of gameplay it’s intuitive and gracefully fluid, as one mission involved hopping between buildings to an extract point; it’s linear but hides it well for the sake of presentation as predetermined detours through a mall and parking garage to catch a helicopter kept the action fresh. Another mission had me racing towards a billboard for impromptu reprogramming, with combat being a minor aspect throughout the trek. My takeaway: There should be no reason for anybody not to try this refreshingly sleek game, it certainly deserves the attention the original didn’t get.

Star Wars: Battlefront

But it was this game that took up the other third of EA’s coveted playground. The wait was longer but worth it as I took my seat in the front row, for a pending twenty man team battle, it was us (Rebels) versus them (Galactic Empire) as our present mission was to defend the shield generators on the planet Hoth. “This isn’t like any other Star Wars game I’ve recently played” I thought to myself, while valiantly trying to establish a satellite uplink for a Y-Wing airstrike, if it weren’t for the AT-STs callously picking off my teammates.

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The announcement of Star Wars: Battlefront happened at the perfect time, not just because of E3 but during a maelstrom of revitalized passion and the promise of better things with the upcoming The Force Awakens film helmed by J.J. Abrams – pretty much everything coming full circle for the fandom piling up in droves, and instantaneously forgiving any supposed hatred of the franchise. It sounds like I’m ranting but it’s actually a win-win situation as beloved popularity trumps skepticism.

And you know what, I’m perfectly fine with that. It was initially concerning since the trailer presentation felt a little too much like Titanfall – a seeming jumble of X-Wing dogfights, explosions, and battalions of players scrambling about while the orchestra of John Williams bolstered in the background. But it all comes together in extraordinary multiplayer form, with a core graciously streamlined and liberated from an agonizing learning curve.

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Everybody jumped right in as I found myself dropped in the shoes of a Rebel soldier, clamoring over white landscapes as though they were pulled straight from ‘The Empire Strike Back’. Perhaps it was my general fondness for Lucasfilm and Star Wars but it certainly helped when you witness AT-ATs lumbering in the distance or engage Snowtroopers from above by jetpack, we were facing an uphill battle but it was immensely enjoyable to take part in.

A defining moment for me was holding the line and taking down at least two AT-STs in the process, unknowingly cheering aloud at my own accomplishments. Fellow players around me gave their thumbs-up of approval while crowds of bystanders were gawking in confusion or envy at my jovial mannerisms. But I didn’t care as I even witnessed somebody fortunate enough to temporarily play as Luke Skywalker and devastate advancing forces.

Conclusion

I thought I was saving the most monotonous booth for last, but I was wrong and much better for it. I don’t know when it occurred but there seems to be wonderful things happen at Electronic Arts, a statement I’ve never made until now; what I am sure of though is that November (Battlefront) and spring 2016 (Mirror’s Edge) could be a spectacular time for fanatics and gaming underdogs alike.

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About the Author: Herman Exum