In a surprising bit of news at the beginning of the year, Electronic Arts announced that they would not be part of E3 this year. The plan was to host an off-site event instead, right next door to the show proper, in downtown Los Angeles. EA Sports was there in full force, with a trio of sports games that are once again making a comeback this year, as they’ve been for more than two decades now.
We don’t play in stereotypes at Entertainium, but sadly, none of our writers are exactly versed in sports. Even in my case, being a Brazilian, I haven’t been keeping up with the soccer (ah hem, football?) videogame wars of the last few years. Yeah, I’ve dabbled here and there with Pro Evolution Soccer, but not enough to really decide which is the current ultimate soccer game around. Still, I braved on and took the appointment for these games, and for better or for worst in terms of deep knowledge of the subject material, here are my impressions of the EA Sports catalog
at E3 2016.
Curiously enough, it was with Madden NFL 17 that I started with time at EA Sports. Their entire sports sectioned off from the rest of the EA games on display, at another corner of a roof in LA. Madden’s spot felt like the bigger of the three sports games.
My choice of teams for my test match were the Kansas City Chiefs and the Dallas Cowboys, with me sitting in as coach for the Chiefs. The first thing that hit me when playing the hands-on demo was just how realistic this game looks. At first glance, you could very well think you’re watching a an actual NFL broadcast, for as cliché as it may sound to say in a preview like this. Surely enough, the animation still works in playing down the uncanny valley effect, with a instances of repeated movement between defensive men, but all in all, Madden 17 is really impressive in that department.
I was also quite pleased to see how easy it is to pick plays and actually control players. Plays are all matched to the face buttons on the controller, with a few reserved as recommendations, in case I wasn’t too sure what to go with. Controlling defenders and attackers felt quite natural and in line with what I remember Madden playing like in the past. And even though I picked the easy difficulty at the outset, in order to have a chance at making it through the match, I found the game to be quite fair and not a pushover at all. I was still able to score a couple of touchdowns at a fairly unrealistic pace, sure, but the other side didn’t miss the opportunity to nip at my shins and catch an interception after I abused pass plays during my turn at playing offense.
Playing Madden again after so long was a lot of fun. I’ll probably be really bad playing the game for real, but my time with it at the showcase made me interested in jumping back and giving it a go eventually. Die-hard fans should be pleased to hear how well the game is doing. And it won’t take long to find out, the game is set for release on the 23rd of August.
Moving on to FIFA 17, which I’m surprised is still named that after all the hubbub with that organization last year, is still alive and (har har) kicking. Just like Madden 17, EA’s answer to the also massively popular Pro Evo looks beautiful and played the same trick on me when I approached its space at the showcase.
While I haven’t been as inactive in this franchise as in the other two I’m covering in this article, it’s safe to say I consider myself a very casual player, so it was refreshing to see just how unobtrusive FIFA has become since the PlayStation years, when I was much more into playing the game regularly. Since then, I’ve tried to get back into it, but have never really stuck, because everything about it felt so overwhelming. Controlling players was just too cumbersome, with many button combinations I just happened to stumble into and pull off without really knowing how I did it or in which situation they were useful in.
The actual demo put me playing as Borussia Dortmunt, against Real Madrid, but according to the menus in the demo, there are a host of other teams to pick from, from all around the world, even places I had to idea that they played soccer in – which I’ll refrain from mentioning in order to save me the embarrassment.
All in all, it felt good to jump in the nailed shoes of some of the most famous players as I scored a couple of goals in the ten or so minutes the demo lasted. The face button controls felt really familiar to me, and my (limited) slumbering skills came back to me naturally as I changed players and made the shots. Better yet, it was even smoother this time around, thanks to the gigantic leap in player movement and behavior that was come into the game over the last decade and a half.
But the potentially best part of the game is its new career mode, called The Journey which will play more like a single player campaign from a non sport game, starring up and coming fictional player Alex Hunter, who has big dreams taking his place in the Premier League in Europe. I didn’t have a chance to try this mode out myself, but from the looks of it, it would be the main reason that I’d be giving FIFA 17 a shot. Even if it turns out horribly, it’s a bold move for EA Sports to include such a feature in the game, a gamble that should bring in many returning players like myself, as well as newcomers, to try FIFA 17 out in late September.
Last, but not least, was NHL 17. I’ve always had a tumultuous time playing hockey games in the past, but the itch to come back to them has always been buried deep within my conscious. Funnily enough, my Genesis/Mega Drive copy of NHL 97 is twenty this year, so it just might be a good time to give the franchise another shot, because frankly, the demo I watched at the showcase really sold how much the series has grown since my pixelated 16-bit days trying to carry on a full NHL season while trading a cart back and forth with my older brother.
The demo itself looked awesomely good, like the other two I got to play at the event. Due to the limited space and number of consoles available for play at the venue, I decided to hang back and watch, which proved to be the best choice, because the guys I watched play just happened to be pretty big fans of the franchise and wowed me with their skill and knowledge during their time with the game. I never really had a lot of trouble grasping the basics of hockey when playing NHL 97 back in the day, and the demo conveyed how easy it still is to take control of the chaos that ensues on the virtual ice.
I have to say I came out of that demo session thoroughly surprised in regards to the game. Granted, like the previous two, I’ll probably be terrible at it, but it’s surprising that in this day and age, for as much charm as my little ol’ Genesis calls to me for one more game in that never ending season of NHL 97 that I’d be willing to give its newest entry a try, but here I am, writing an impressions article on it. Color me interested. Hopefully I’ll have some time to check the game out as it skids to consoles in September.
EA Sports felt at home at their showcase outside of E3. Whether or not there will be such a setup next year is anyone’s guess at this point. Regardless, it was refreshing to get to take a look at their games, for as little experience I have with them as I do.