E3 2017 opened up with EA Play, the first in the line-up of major conferences to grace the show this year, and while only a couple of surprises really stood out, the conference was unceremoniously filled to the brim with sports titles and an unnecessarily lengthy Star Wars: Battlefront II multiplayer demonstration. So what stood out for the Screen Critics team at this years EA conference, and what fell flat?

The conference opened up with Madden 18’s first ever story mode – following in the footsteps of FIFA’s The Journey – with Long Shot, which documents the life struggles of an aspiring football player aiming to make it into the big leagues. Nothing particularly stood out about this announcement, but it definitely adds something to look forward to for fans of Madden, especially to extend its longevity. The show transitioned into Battlefield 1’s expansion pack, In The Name Of The Tsar, which looks to deliver a great extension of the core experience. The first Battlefield 1 set quite a high benchmark for war shooters last year, and with a seemingly meaty expansion on the horizon, the game only looks to continue being a juggernaut hit for the company. The YouTube gamers show reel was also a great touch.

FIFA 18 followed the shooter with a short trailer and a whole lotta Cristiano Ronaldo – especially his motion capture work for the game which looks admittedly quite impressive, but while no gameplay was actually showcased, it leaves little to be desired for this forthcoming addition to the series which seems to take more pride in showering praise at their fictional football star, Alex Hunter, than giving us a glimpse of anything new and exciting. This section was especially lengthy as the initial trailer was followed by a string of vague and outlandishly optimistic commentary from speakers and developers, not really elaborating on any gripping features we might expect from FIFA.

Need For Speed: Payback was the next demonstration, revealing an unexpectedly entertaining bit of gameplay that absolutely nails the high-octane, action-oriented tone they’re going for. While it isn’t a new concept – seems like EA and Ghost Games were taking a few notes from The Fast & The Furious film franchise – the transitions from cutscene to gameplay was buttery smooth and extremely enticing, never seeming to break the momentum and fast flow of the driving. The game will also feature the most detailed open world put into a Need For Speed racing game yet along with an even more robust car customization, so for fans wanting bang for their buck, they seem to be getting a bit more than what 2015’s game offered.

A Way Out marks a return of the co-op campaign experience that was all but lost since the success of Army of Two. The game, from Hazelight Studios, appears to be a cross between Uncharted and Prison Break, telling the story of a couple of inmates attempting a daring escape from a heavily guarded prison. The gameplay showcased at the conference placed emphasis on the co-op aspects, which looks quite intriguing considering gameplay can continue with one player when the other simultaneously enters a cutscene. As predicted, Bioware arrived with Project Dylan, or the final name for the game officially titled Anthem, which looks to be the Destiny killer many claimed it to be. However, with only a brief 30-second teaser trailer to observe, we will have to wait for Microsoft’s E3 briefing to get a more in-depth look at the game.

Finally, EA closed their conference with a half an hour Star Wars: Battlefront II showcase, revealing a new trailer followed by an exploration of all the features and content included that will trump the original Battlefront. EA also poked fun at themselves regarding their barebones lack of content for the first game, which is refreshing to see a company so blissfully self-aware of their own faults. That scored a few points for EA as it generated a pretty warm reception from the audience and also instilled some hope in the sequel. However, despite the laughs and hype moments in the first half of the showcase, the conference awkwardly transitioned into a tiresome multiplayer demonstration which looks great but overstayed its welcome by at least five minutes. Battlefield in space, it certainly is, but we would’ve loved to see more than just the Darth Maul and Boba Fett slaughterfest.

Final Thoughts: EA’s press conference was solid enough to get a pass, largely thanks to the surprising Need For Speed: Payback gameplay, Bioware’s reveal of Anthem and the in-depth Star Wars: Battlefront II section, but it fell victim to an unbearably overbloated focus on sports which almost killed the flow of the show. The awkward placement of these sports games also hindered the impact of their reveals too, especially cramming a Battlefield 1 expansion in between Madden 18 and FIFA 18 which just came across as out of place given the transitions. Nonetheless, we got off to a relatively good start this year for E3, and we expect to see more of Anthem in the coming Microsoft briefing.

'Games Editor' - Some say Sam completed Final Fantasy VII in one sitting... without a memory card. Some say he only sank into depression twice while playing Dark Souls. Some say he confirmed Half-Life 3 before Half-Life 2.