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Gamescom 2015: EA Conference Recap – Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, Unravel and Star Wars Battlefront Round Out Strong Showing

To kick things off, EA CEO Andrew Wilson steps across the stage and highlights some of the games that the company will have on show for all of those who have made the journey to Cologne, Germany for Gamescom 2015. The likes of Need for Speed, FIFA 16, Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, The Sims 4, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Star Wars: Battlefront, Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 and Unravel are all to be courting your interest and hard-earned cash.

Need for Speed begins the show, with a trailer showing off the five faces of the game – every one of them real names in different areas of urban car culture, and each representing one of the five styles for you to engage with: speed, style, build, crew, and outlaw. What stands out most is the fact the game is able to juxtapose live action with your in-game car and garage; the line between real-life and virtual motorsport becoming increasingly blurred. We see the main character interacting with some of the game’s actors, and it all echoes what we’re seeing in the likes of Guitar Hero Live: a new attempt at blending real life and video games seamlessly. We’ll see how it goes for Need for Speed in November this year.

Next, Mirror’s Edge Catalyst is introduced by making that same life-to-game connection, via the recent interest in action cameras such as GoPro, and the first-person, action-packed viewpoint of the lead character in Mirror’s Edge. The first gameplay trailer, unveiled here, demonstrates the freerunning we’re all familiar with, but it seems all the more physical now. Not only that, but unlike its closed-off predecessor it takes place in a true open-world environment; a perfect fit that encapsulates what true, unrestrained freerunning is all about. Despite this, the main character Faith – and her transformative story – manages to take the limelight, with her personality, inquisitiveness, and stubborn attitude all shining brighter than the graphical beauty on display. Faith will be deftly running onto PS4, Xbox One and PC in February 2016.

MMORPG Star Wars: The Old Republic has its expansion, Knights of the Fallen Empire, on show next. The new story was outlined, with the main character becoming the outlander, a war veteran, who has important choices to make. The expansion will contain the first nine chapters of a story that will continue in an episodic format. An exclusive ally available for those who begin a subscription during Gamescom is also announced, while a story-centric trailer shows off the outlander and rounds the presentation off. It’s good to see continuing support for the MMO, which has been known to have had an unstable fanbase, and there’s no doubt EA will be hoping to win some new supporters when Battlefront and Star Wars VII hit store shelves. October doesn’t seem like too long to wait for it.

On from the flashy freerunning and lightsabers, Sims 4 wears its more casual, playful nature well and truly on its sleeve. A trailer showing a bunch of spiteful people pushing others around and taking off innocent people’s clothes (as you do) is showcased, before a trailer for the expansion Get Together reveals a new location Sims can go to: a European-style city, of course appropriate for the location of this conference, but it all reeks of a familiar lack of inspiration that trails the franchise. It didn’t help that pools are mentioned during a discussion on what the game has added since launch; they were always included later, yes? It all finishes with awkward dancing on stage that leaves the crowd feeling embarrassed. Our Sims will be getting together in Europe in November this year.

I may mock, but I do want to get on that stage and dance.

Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 showcases its usual zany humour, this time through the introduction of three new plant classes: Rose, a sorceress who can turn zombies into goats; Colonel Corn, who wields two cobs of corn like a pair of gatling guns; and Citrod, who can shoot lasers and roll up into a ball. A hub world containing daily quests, challenges, PVZ characters, and the ability to meet up with your friends, is also unveiled. Finally, a piece of DLC is introduced that brings some of the world of Mass Effect into the game: a Z7 armour mech that’s available at launch for those who preorder. We’ll be getting dead hands dirty in Spring 2016.

The rather reserved Martin Sahlin is next to the stage to talk about Unravel, and he didn’t come alone; he’s accompanied by a little red yarn creature, Yarny, who is to be Unravel’s protagonist, and it looks even more adorable in his hands than a wool-knit Yoshi. Sahlin seems fragile and genuinely overwhelmed with the amount of support Unravel has received so far, and it’s hard to feel that this is undeserved. A stage demo shows off the beauty of the world Yarny must make his way through; the crashing waves, relaxing music and the art style moulding together to create something outstanding. The concept of the title is simple: to not run out of thread, but the physics-based puzzles to be formed with this seem both challenging and wondrous. Out of all the games shown this is probably the best, perhaps because of how surprising, original, and wholesome it seems. Sadly, we still don’t have a release date.

Such an adorable little red yarn thingy.

What follows is something much more corporate, much more imperial. Star Wars: Battlefront is a stunning game, and although this has already been established, the new mode Fighter Squadron that is introduced seems like it may be one of the strongest points of the game. The trailer on show is eye-watering, with screens filled with tie fighters and cockpit views that will make your trigger fingers twitch; the appearance of the Millennium Falcon is all that is left to get people ecstatic for the upcoming mode. The presentation is rounded off with the introduction of a beautiful new world, and the ghastly feeling of helplessness as a player is approached by the powerful Darth Vader. Get ready to shiver in angst in November this year.

Battlefront Fighter Squadran Mode
The mayhem in this shot is astounding.

Of course, EA has left their most popular and long-running franchise for last. FIFA 16 has its new FUT Draft feature introduced; all with the help of ‘popular’ football pundits Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher, who have an epic banter over who they want on the team. What this new option entails is you building up your Ultimate Team by selecting from one of five suggestions for each position, along with a formation and team captain; all the time balancing team chemistry and player stats. Outside of FUT, career mode has been beefed out some more, with more tournaments and training options making a welcome return. Finally, they outline some new tweaks made to areas all over the pitch. FIFA 16 seems like a comprehensive addition to the series, but the addition of Women’s National Teams is by far the best and most progressive addition to the title. Serious banter will begin next month.

FIFA 15 FUT Draft mode
He looks like he know what he’s talking about.

Altogether it seems like a straightforward display from EA. They have managed to maintain some of their momentum from E3 and have been afforded some extra breathing room with some companies giving the show a miss. Unravel continues to gain fans, Battlefront and The Old Republic continue to maintain them, and how could FIFA not miss a chance to stretch its legs in Europe, the home of football. I may have taken shots at The Sims, but the fact it still strides on after so many years is just one example of why a company so many despise continues to prosper.

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