Electronic Arts recently held a massive event in San Francisco offering an early look at some of their most anticipated titles, including announcements of a handful of XBLA, PSN and mobile games scheduled to hit throughout the next year. We had a chance to go eyes-on – and occasionally hands-on – with a few of these games and bring back of a few quick impressions of the content that you’ll be downloading throughout 2011.
Kicking off the evening’s opening presentation, Wildlife: Forrest Survival surprised the audience by offering what seemed like yet another game about adorable, fluffy animals traipsing about the wilderness doing…well…whatever it is that cute, cuddly forrest creatures do. Until, of course, a giant alligator leapt from the lake to devour a cartoonish hawk that was, itself, swooping to grab a retreating rabbit. Welcome to Wildlife, an 11-player PvP experience in which you control either a gator, hawk, rabbit or fox as they try to eat their way through 8 lush outdoor environments.
Each of the four animals comes with their own distinct advantages and disadvantages. The rabbit has booth speed and a well-honed sense for danger, but little ability to defend itself. The fox boasts a terrific sense of smell. The hawk controls the field from above, swooping down with great agility, while the alligator is swift on water, but ultimately slow on land. Foraging for fauna or feasting on fresh meat is the name of the game in Wildlife. Kill or be killed. The semi-stylized presentation of the game contrasts hilariously with the stark reality of adorable animals stalking and killing their prey. Consider for a moment if Skittles from Kinectimals finally decided to make a play for your face.
It’s an intuitive, easy-to-play experience that even now provides a great sense of the chase while also offering a laugh-inducing time for you and your buddies.
The event also featured two twin-stick shooters – Gatling Gears and MircoBot – the latter of which made an appearance on the floor. Gatling Gears is a top-down, sci-fi heavy, war-laden shooter from the minds that brought you Killzone, and even though we didn’t get to see the title in action, the early art indicates that the game is taking a very serious, graphically intensive approach.
MicroBot, however, was a visually impressive shooter that takes place inside the human body. In the tradition of Inner-Space, you play as a machine inserted into the bloodstream in order to fight a mysterious infection, traveling through the pathways, bone marrow, lungs, brain, etc...Along the way, you’ll find various collectibles to power-up your weapons and modify your MicroBot, configuring your ship in an endless variety of ways. But since each item is restricted by its range of movement, where you place these upgrades and how you construct your vessel is key to your survival against the onslaught of bacteria and paramecium. The visuals and animation are first-rate, providing a real sense of depth down into the network of veins, vessels and cells that run below the battleground. MicroBot should hit sometime this winter.
Lastly, the indie, Flash-based, PC side-scroller, The Fancy Pants Adventures, is making its console debut courtesy of EA. The title started out life as a simply drawn homage to the great Mario-esque side-scrollers, staring a crudely constructed pencil-sketch of a hero sporting a pair of baggy, and really quite amazing, pants. Players will wield weapons, destroy enemies, solve puzzles and explore a handful of open levels that look as if they were drawn by a three year old with a pencil and a half-hour to spare.
The game looks sharper on the console, but still maintains its unique visual style and simple, pick-up-and-play appeal. Make no mistake, The Fancy Pants Adventures is a helluva challenge on either the PC or console, and while we couldn’t quite get the sense of whether the game had been significantly expanded for XBLA and PSN, the game's charm and difficulty both translated to what we saw earlier this week.
There were a handful of other titles at the event that we’ll be discussing in the coming days and weeks, but from what we saw, there’s plenty of worthwhile games heading to XBLA and PSN as 2011 approaches.