Company Spotlight: Electronic Arts

Posted by WhenYourGodGivesYouLemons On 11:41 AM

Electronic Arts, founded in 1982 are an American games publisher, developer, marketer and distributor. Whilst they haven't always been everyone's favourite company due to their bizarre marketing strategies or aggressive takeovers of smaller companies it's undeniable that EA are one of the biggest games developers in the world. Last year, despite making a reported loss of US$1.08 billion the companies overall revenue was up to US$4.2 billion. The EA brand is most famous for its long running series like Madden NFL, FIFA, Need For Speed, The Sims, Battlefield and Command & Conquer.

The best place to start a look at EA is with it's big, pre-existing franchises. A long time criticism of EA has been its reliance on franchises which they release every year, sometimes with minor improvements. Since current President John Riccitello has been helming EA though their has been a huge improvement in the quality of their yearly franchises. Where this has been most evident is with the FIFA series. Whilst it has been one of the most successful franchises ever, the quality of the game was stagnating and the series was duely taken over by Konami's Pro Evolution Soccer. Since FIFA 08 and with a little help from a Euro 2008 title FIFA has retaken it's crown as the top soccer sim. Innovations like Be A Pro have won critical accalim for its ability to control just one player on the field whilst the games gameplay and feel has been greatly enahnced for more realism yet still retaining a fun element. 2010 offers improvements on this whilst allowing you to design your own freekick routines, offers over 50 enhancements to the Manager Mode which has stagnated of late and improves both attacking play with 360 dribble control, player AI (curving runs, finding space) and defensive play with collision sharing (more intense battles for the ball), more urgency in collisions, multitask marking and better slide tackle control. As usual there'll be a host of other upgrades too. Most noticably the players movements look even more realistic this time around, EA put a lot of time into capturing this and it certainly pays off. Creating my own freekicks doesn't appeal to me but I do like the improvements to defending and manager mode. The game needs to keep a balance between awesome attacking play and solid defence which it was kind of losing. Also I usually play manager mode and it had felt taked on the last few outings due to the rise of Be a Pro, which is a great feature nonetheless. FIFA 10 is shipping out October 20th 2009. The other long running franchise from EA I'm excited about is Command & Conquer. Formerly made by Westwood Studios the game has developed in leaps and bounds over the years resulting in a huge amount of buzz for Command & Conquer 4. The game is set to complete the Tiberium Universe sage which pits The Global Defense Inititative against the Brotherhood of Nod for control of the Earth. From the look of things they are planning to send the series out with a bang. A multitude of changes have taken place with the series adopting a darker and grittier storytelling and gameplay feel. IGN recently had a look at the game and said that the campy cinematic cutscenes and monologues, which I loved, are now gone. In its place is a more direct and immediate storytelling style with darker more ambiguous cutscenes to allow for ambiguity over what is exactly going on. Personally I don't know if I like this, half of my fun with the series was due to the crazy cutscenese. Gameplay has changed drastically as you now not only choose your faction but your class as well, just like in RPG or FPS online games. The classes are offense, infantry/ground based, defense, structures and base defences, and support, air units and bonus powers like nukes. Whilst this may seem limiting it actually isn't. When playing a game you can choose to respawn your character at any time and when you do this you can choose your class again. You do lose your money but it allows you to keep any units remaining from before the spawn. Interestingly only the defense class builds bases due to the new Crawler unit which is a mobile base with legs, treads or jet engines. It can create units and purchase upgrades as it moves giving you a mobile base of operations. A far cry from the old school C&C. The last major upgrade is an experience system which allows you to get experience from every one you kill in any game mode and take that experience into online matches. With a raft of changes this is certainly not the Command and Conquer of old and I think that is good thing. The series needed a jump start, even if it is the end and the new innovations for the most part look good and there is no denying those Crawlers don't look cool. C&C 4 comes out next year.

Since Riccitello has been in charge there has also been a greater push for new IP to be developed at EA. It's seen the release of games like Army of Two, Mirror's Edge and Dead Space which were all quite impressive and innovative in their own and larger being successful enough to spawn a sequel. Continuing this line of development we are seeing two new games from EA, The Saboteur and Dante's Inferno. The Saboteur is an ambitious World War II game which looks to revitalise an age old genre. Many people have shied away from the last world war, feeling it is now tired and old but EA has attacked the period with gusto. The Saboteur sees you playing as Sean Devlin, an Irisher mechanic with a personal grudge against the Nazi's. Devlin arrives in Paris which is under Nazi control and soon contacts the resistance. From there the game is the first open world game set in Nazi occupied Europe and uses a blend of action and stealth as you complete dangerous missions. Devlin has a huge range of weapons at his disposal to just blow shit up but he'll need to climb buildings, walls, crawl under things to get to his target before the fireworks start. What I'm most impressed with is the visual style of Paris. When you first start the whole city is done in black and white with little touches of colour to highlight important stuff. It looks like Frank Miller's Sin City and from what I've seen it looks great. Free an area from Nazi occupation though and the colour floods back in and the resistance helps you fight. I think this is a really cool idea as it will give the game a very distinctive feel. I'm not normally a stealth fan but this definetly has me interested. Dante's Inferno is based upon the poem The Divinie Comedy and presents a frigtening look at Hell and Purgatory. Dante msut go through Hell to rescue the sould of his lover Beatrice and this is portrayed as a thrid person action adventure game similar to God of War. From memory the game has been in develop for quite sometime and has caused a stir when EA tried to market the game with a fake religious protest. Controlling Dante you wield his Scythe, stolen from Death which is pretty cool, through the Nine Cycles of Hell being limbo, lust, gluttony, greed, wrath/sloth, heresy, violence, fraud and treachery. Each has its own boss which promises an intense battle. Controls are similar to God of War with light and heavy attacks and some magic and I wonder how much else will be similar to God of War, remember Kratos went through the Greek hell as well. The game does look amazing though, the boss battles look set to be huge and the story is undeniably cool. It'll be interesting to see how the final package comes together when it's released in January 2010. Interestingly the game has also been picked up for a movie and an anime adaptation before it's even been released.

So there you have EA Games, one of the largest and most interesting developers of video games today. Other EA titles worth checking out include Crysis 2 where it comes to consoles, Army of Two: The 40th Day, Battlefield Bad Company 2 and the recently released Madden NFL 2010 which has got a metascore of 89.

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