Next Mirror’s Edge Gets Name, Timeline Confirmation

Mirror's Edge CatalystThe next entry in the cult favorite first person parkour inspired action series Mirror’s Edge will be named Mirror’s Edge Catalyst and will not be a sequel to the 2008 original. Confirmed by an announcement made by Electronic Arts following the leaked trademark filing for Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, DICE producer Sara Jannson confirmed the title and the relation of the 2016 game to its predecessor.

“This is not a sequel, this is not Mirror’s Edge 2. We have landed on a vision that honors the first game — pushing the boundaries of first person movement and diving deeper into the story behind our heroine Faith — but also brings a lot of great new, interesting gameplay and features to the experience for our players.” – Sara Jannson, Producer, DICE

The use of the subtitle Catalyst confirms much of the speculation that this Mirror’s Edge game would be a prequel, especially based on the E3 2013 trailer that showed series protagonist Faith getting her trademark digital tattoos on her arm along with developer statements focusing the game on the building blocks that made Faith. I think that a prequel is the right way to go because of the way that the original Mirror’s Edge unfolded, especially with the fairly open ending that had Faith and her sister Kate on the run from the government’s Project Icarus.

While we know where Faith ended up and are curious about her next chapter, explaining her origin is just as interesting. Faith, as a character was one of the more beloved identities of last generation, despite only appearing in one game where not much is known about her background. The idea of her becoming a runner, to becoming a part of the counter culture that essentially rebelled against the government’s constant surveillance is a story that can bring new audiences up to speed with the world and potentially set the tone for a true follow up to Mirror’s Edge.

Mirror’s Edge Catalyst has been targeted for an early 2016 release on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Windows PC.

Polygon – The new Mirror’s Edge is called Mirror’s Edge Catalyst

Need for Speed, Don’t Call it a Comeback (Reboot)

Need for SpeedElectronic Arts is calling their next entry into their iconic Need for Speed series a reboot, echoing buzzwords and happy memories of the many highpoints that the racing series has provided over the past 20 years. Announced with their signature “in-game engine” teaser trailer, a Porsche and a Mustang are sliding around a city’s late night streets as police cruisers scream after them in tow.

Whatever Electronic Arts is up to, their marketing team needs to stop using lowest common denominator terms. It is insulting.

Let’s be honest.

Need for Speed does not deserve the term “reboot”. It is a series that’s sole purpose has been racing and that style of racing has changed from title to title. Sure the early Need for Speed games were just about racing exotics through the country hills, NFS3: Hot Pursuit added police chases. Then it got crazy with Underground’s popularity, which led to Most Wanted and the proliferation of the incredibly campy (but slightly endearing) FMV cutscenes. But what did NFS ProStreet, Carbon, Shift or Rivals have to do with any of this formula?

Need for SpeedNeed for Speed does not have a formula beyond fast cars, loose arcade style physics with the modern focus of police pursuits that has been a recurring feature for over 15 years.

So to call it a reboot is incorrect. Nothing has changed about Need for Speed. EA has gotten progressively more impatient with the development studios that have done great things (and mediocre things) for the franchise. Black Box brought on the popularity of Underground but met their end after ProStreet, Undercover and The Run were underwhelming. Criterion Games, one of the best arcade racing development studios of all time, flamed out after two games. Both Hot Pursuit and Most Wanted were critical darlings, but had trouble latching on to audiences in the way that past games had. Criterion ended up handing Need for Speed off to Ghost games, which made the decent but hardly attention grabbing Rivals.

I speak from an angle of adoration for the Need for Speed franchise. I want it to do good things, which is why I stuck by it over the years. It will likely never be the best racing game on the market, but it has managed to carve out a particular following with a great combination of mechanics and loose arcade-style freedom. I trumpeted praise for 2012’s Most Wanted, despite its slightly hollow core. I played through the entirety of The Run and concluded that the best moments of the game were contained in the demo. I adored Porsche Unleashed’s 4 point physics model that was unheard of in the franchise. I modded High Stakes, became obsessed with Underground and think Shift is the most underrated title in the franchise. But Electronic Arts can not lie to us.

Need for SpeedThe phrase that stands out in Electronic Arts’ announcement is “deep customization, authentic urban car culture, a nocturnal open world, and an immersive narrative that pulls you through the game.” They can tout a reboot as much as they want. But at the end of the day, they’re going back to a game that ended up making their biggest successes. This is Underground. This is Most Wanted. This is Rivals. This is Hot Pursuit. This is every Need for Speed game that they’ve ever made, put into one product. They are desperately fighting for recognition. Maybe they should bring back Black Box.

But unless it has FMV cutscenes. It’s not a reboot.

Have Faith, Mirror’s Edge 2 Launch Scheduled for Early 2016

Mirror's Edge 2Looks like Faith will be officially making her return in early 2016 with the launch of Mirror’s Edge 2. According to a financial earnings presentation by Electronic Arts, Mirror’s Edge 2 is set to debut in the first three months of 2016 on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Windows PC, giving many fans a sigh of relief.

Battlefield developer DICE is returning to their parkour inspired story driven first person runner(?), a fan favorite that was a critical darling for approaching the first person shooter genre without an emphasis on combat but rather environment traversal. The original game came out in 2009 and is one of my personal favorites of last generation with a slick interface and setting, memorable characters and intuitive gameplay that relied heavily on reaction time to simple color changes.

Mirror’s Edge was thoughtful in a genre filled with mindless explosions, and required deft reflexes compared to its more blunt compatriots.

To say that I am excited for Mirror’s Edge 2 would be an understatement, but I have long had doubts that this game would ever see the light of day. DICE is hardly the company they were 6 years ago as they rarely experiment with their development and have preferred to stay safe by developing Battlefield games, which has worked for them. But for a company coming off the release of a Battlefield spin-off, the upcoming Star Wars Battlefront and an eventual return to core Battlefield, Mirror’s Edge 2 seemed like a far-off passion project.

Early 2016 is the right time for this game to come out as it will be coming out in a relatively lighter period where publishers are more prone to experiment. It avoids the logjam of the fall and the typically dead summer. So let’s get the word out that Mirror’s Edge 2 is actually happening and maybe we won’t have to wait another 7 years for Mirror’s Edge 3.

Polygon – Mirrors Edge 2 coming in early 2016

Star Wars Battlefront’s First Trailer Looks Great, Lacks Gameplay

Star Wars BattlefrontElectronic Arts and DICE are hitting the hype train right on schedule with the first official trailer for Star Wars Battlefront unveiled at the Star Wars Celebration Anaheim. The game is scheduled to release November 17, 2015 on Sony PlayStation 4, Microsoft Xbox One and Windows PC, the first Battlefront game in 10 years. Continue reading

Star Wars Battlefront is Officially Gorgeous

Star Wars Battlefront“That’s not CGI.”

Electronic Arts and DICE are hard at work on Star Wars Battlefront with the official unveil scheduled tomorrow as part of the ongoing Star Wars Celebration in Anaheim, California. But if this early screenshot is any indication of the quality of the first Battlefront game in a decade, then this game has immediately jumped to the top of my watchlist for the Fall season. The game is expected to launch on November 17, 2015 for Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Windows PC.

Lead level designer at DICE, Dennis Brännvall, made a preemptive confirmation of the validity of the yet to be unveiled screenshots on Twitter, April 2.

He then put any questions on the screenshot’s validity to rest with three simple words.

Tomorrow’s gameplay reveal can’t come soon enough.

End of an Era: Maxis Closed by EA

SimCity (2013)Longtime development studio of the legendary Sim franchises Maxis was shut down today by parent company Electronic Arts. The news comes via several news outlets quoting designer Guillaume Pierre who tweeted about the shuttering of Maxis Emeryville.

Maxis Emeryville was the epicenter of Maxis, the studio that famed designer Will Wright opened in 1987, and recently developed 2013’s SimCity. Maxis also created EA tentpole franchise The Sims, which saw the launch of The Sims 4 last year. The Sims appears to be unaffected as The Sims Studio was created to handle development and support of the popular PC franchise. Additionally, word on whether the overseeing name of EA Maxis will be renamed after Maxis’ closure. EA Maxis had Maxis (Emeryville), The Sims Studio, EA Salt Lake and Maxis (Helsinski) under its umbrella.

SimCity (2013) saw modest success in initial sales and was trumpeted as having a ton of refinements and improvements to the 25 year old franchise, many rooted in cloud processing. But with the cloud processing came the caveat of an always online requirement, a “feature” that drew the ire of gamers and series fans. Coupled with a rocky launch that saw the online functionality broken and the game essentially unplayable, SimCity was quickly written off as a failed attempt at locking content to EA’s wallets. Even worse was that modders found ways to circumvent the online checks within the game and discovered that the cloud processing features were mostly unneeded resulting in many to conclude that the requirement was smoke and mirrors by EA to force online DRM.

Regardless of the fact that the writing was on the wall for Maxis, it is always a shame to hear of a studio’s closure, especially one with nearly 30 years of experience and multiple landmark titles including the original SimCity, SimCity 2000, Spore and The Sims. Hopefully somebody will carry the torch and we will continue to be able to drop tornadoes into our cities.

Kotaku – EA Shuts Down SimCity Developer Maxis

I want to believe in Dragon Age: Inquisition

Dragon Age: Inquisition

Reviews went up pretty early for Dragon Age: Inquisition and the consensus appears to be that Bioware’s fantasy franchise is back on track. I want to believe the reviews. I want to believe the hype. I want to believe in Bioware again.

I reviewed Dragon Age II in 2011 and called it a great game with a solid story that was hampered by lazy level design and restrictive character progression. I scored that game an 8.5, a score I almost want to reconsider.

I actually took the chance and played a little bit of Dragon Age II last month. I never finished the final DLC package for the game, the Felicia Day starring Mark of the Assassin, and decided to fire the game up to clear some space. Boy was that a mess. Yeah the signature Bioware flare and conversations were all there, but without the sweeping overarching story, there was really nothing driving me forward to play the DLC chapter other than the goal of completion. What was left without that story was the mechanics of the game, naked in all its flaws.

I remember referencing the difference between Origins and II stating that the decision to streamline Dragon Age II’s skill progression and speeding up the combat both worked against the success of the game as a whole. This truth was even more evident in my brief playthrough as Tallis (the new companion in Mark of the Assassin) was a dual-wielding rogue, exactly like my Hawke. What resulted was an AI controlled character that constantly fought with me to keep spacing in fights and often found herself in trouble, leading to a couple ugly wipes against the harder fights in that game.

Any tactical advantage that would have been gained in Origins was negated by the decision to make Dragon Age II a frenetic, almost button-mashy, RPG. Complete with characters you are essentially locked into playing with.

So when review outlets are saying Dragon Age: Inquisition is a step in the right direction, I get the simultaneous sensations of excitement and dread. Because I want to believe that Bioware, some of the greatest storytellers in modern gaming, can remember how to actually craft a game.