EA – A Serious Return To Form

Electronic Arts was a powerhouse of great gaming during my formative gaming years. Classics such as Road Rash, Desert Strike, FIFA, the Mutant League series, PGA Tour Golf and James Pond to name a few, were always innovative and a delight to play.

But somehow over time EA became the ‘bad guy’ – the heartless corporation who were happy to churn out yearly updates of average games, often with little or no improvement.

Suddenly we had Burnout, Need For Speed, Harry Potter, SSX, the Def Jam fighting games 😡 and a host of annual sports updates. The difference being that these games (possibly excluding a few Burnout titles) were just not that great.

They started buying smaller, rival studios and created big rifts in the industry by often closing the studios down and taking their best talent.

And then all of a sudden things changed a few years ago – as well as the usual updates they announced two games which turned people’s impressions of EA on their head: Dead Space and Mirror’s Edge.

Two games which were highly polished, innovative, produced to an extremely high level… and were original ideas. Not a sequel or prequal – or even a film tie in. Just cleverly made great games.

Now I’m the first to admit that maybe Mirror’s Edge had it’s faults but that isn’t the issue here – what I’m talking about is EA’s willingness to take a shot at launching a new brand, based on something no-one had tried before.

Brutal Legend is another fine example – while the game appears to have tanked at retail, which is a shame, EA backed it all the way with marketing and promo. Not all of their new ideas come off so to speak.

The other shift was that the year updates, sporting especially, got good again. The Fight Night series was a serious return to form, culminating in Round 4’s superb simulation of the sport. Likewise FIFA – which has now overtaken long standing champion PES as the best football game around.

With Rock Band they are looking to take on Activision (the new ‘bad guys’ apparently) and Guitar Hero, a battle which will rage for years to come.

The standard of games forthcoming as well looks really positive with Army Of Two: 40th Day, Dante’s Inferno, Mass Effect 2 (not for us PS3 folks… yet :wink:) and Battlefield Bad Company 2 (the Beta of which is truly stunning) all arriving in the first quarter of 2010!

When I think back to 5 or 6 years ago it seems insane that EA of all people would be pushing the envelope and delivering top quality, fresh and innovative titles – long may it continue!

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