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EA Press Conference

APB, NFS: Shift, The Old Republic, Littlest Pet Shop

In an event that started in a more considered tone than the pizzazz of Microsoft's briefing, EA focused on their breadth of coverage rather than trying to impress with celebrity (apart from the occasional Wimbledon champion).

First out of the gate, was a clutch of games for casual gamers - and young girls in particular. Maybe misjudging the audience a bit they rolled out their range of games for young girl gamers. Charm Girls offered multiplayer games themed around various beauty and lifestyle activities. This, along with a new set of Littlest Pet Shop games reinforces EA as one of the chief publishers for these super casual gamers.

A collective sigh of relief could be heard as proceedings moved onto more central assets and the Need for Speed franchise in particular. Although previously announced, Need for Speed Shift came closer into view. Announced for the first time was the Driver Profile system. This not only promises to create believable opponents but also gives a way for players to tune their driver as well as their car.

BioWare stepped up next to push their usual quality Role Playing fair. First of these was Dragon Age, which although portrayed as a slightly mixed action game, beneath the surface could well be a masterly RPG. In more tested territory their Mass Effect 2 trailer showed a little more of Shepard's story and much touted mysterious demise. Although the gap has certainly been closed on them since the first game, Mass Effect still has the gravitas needed to pull off a space drama such as this.

Another change of tack was then introduced by Peter Moore, as our attention was turned to EA's sports titles. In his usual magnanimous form, Moore talked of EA's desire to "deliver personal access to the experience of sports as well as changing the way fans connect, compete and share their passion".

Although a tall order, this was then easily fleshed out by a simple cruise through this year's upcoming EA Sports titles. Not only the 600,000 in one week selling EA Sports Active but also EA's first tennis game for many years, Grand Slam Tennis, made clear that they are still the kings of sporting videogames.

Hardcore gamers and boxing fans were then treated to a gameplay showdown in Fight Night Round 4. The game builds on the audio visual success of Round 3's offering by introducing a new physics system. Taking in attributes ranging from speed, strength, strategy and style this enables the game to build a physical profile of each player. Punch damage, muscle and sweat effects as well as more common aspects such as reach and reactions are all modeled in this new system. This was rounded off with the announcement of EA MMA, their new Mixed Martial Arts game.

Having answered the "delivering personal experiences" part of his pitch, Moore moved onto the "changing the way fans connect" part. Here we were treated to a comprehensive introduction to a range of EA web services and games that meant you could play, configure and discuss your favorite EA Sports console title. A chatty, and surprisingly funny VT, made the point convincingly and confidently finishing up with a nice looking iPhone app to boot.

This segment was rounded off with another airing of Grand Slam Tennis. Although it is still not totally clear as to what exactly the MotionPlus support adds to the experience, this looks like a suitable (spiritual) successor to Wii Sports Tennis. Here we could add to our list of celebs to name check with friends and family as Pete Sampras snuck onto stage for some tennis tuition.

With Moore exiting the stage we are introduced to some more of EA's new free world climb/assassinate/blow 'em up The Saboteur. Although similarities to Assassin's Creed abound, there is something about the moody black and white Moulin Rouge-esque setting that appeals. Not only does the intentional lack of color add a little drama to the setting and our hero, but its slow coloration identifies the player's progress through the game.

Following up on the recent announcement, Cevat Yerli was on stage next to talk about partnering with EA for the follow up to Crysis. Crysis 2 not only represents a new game in the series but also the first title developed for 360/PS3 and the first game being built on CryENGINE 3.

Having now gathered a bit of momentum after the almighty hum drum start, the show ended with two big salvos. Firstly, All Points Bulletin (APB) was show in video form and impressively outlined how this Real Time Worlds MMO takes the Crackdown ethic and injects it with a massively multiplayer shot in the arm. The result, it seems, is a city teaming with vigilantes (and anti-vigilantes) all looking to make a name for themselves. Sounds like a lot of fun to us, and it'll be published via the EA Partners label.

The show then ended with a pantomime troop of lightsaber wielding Jedi's marching onto stage. This at first appeared somewhat laughable, until that is our jaws hit the floor with the cinematics for Star Wars: The Old Republic - the new BioWare and LucasArts MMO. We are talking seriously impressive pre-rendered storytelling here - far and beyond the cartoon sketches of the Clone Wars. Not that it needs one, but one USP (unique selling point) here is that this is the first MMO to be fully voiced - a feat requiring many thousands of hours of dialogue and a cast of literally hundreds.

The show reminded me of what press conferences used to be like. Little of the slick showmanship and massive spend of Microsoft's earlier event to be found here. Instead, a somewhat choppy beginning is cajoled along through some solid announcements so that by the end we don't begrudge EA a little understated enthusiasm. A thoroughly grown up showing from EA all told.