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Thoughts on EA Sports Season Ticket

EA announced today the launch of their EA Sports subscription program called EA Sports Season Ticket. For USD$25 or 2000 Microsoft points you get early access to 5 EA Sports games 3 days before release as a digital download, which will expire on retail release but all achievements and progress will carry over if you decide to buy a retail copy. The 5 sport games franchises involved are Madden, Fifa, NCAA, Tiger Woods PGA Tour and NHL. The other features of the program are 20% off DLC, free premium web content and membership recognition.

EA have teamed up with game retailer GameStop to market the program and keep intact the dicey relationship between publishers and retailers as digital downloads become more common. Having the early access full digital download expire on retail release is a concession to retailers but sooner or later we’ll see digital downloads day and date for new releases on consoles.

The question now for consumers like me is whether or not I would pay 25 USD for 3 days of early access. For me I only regularly play and buy FIFA and $25 is a steep price to pay for early access and the other features. But I do occasionally rent or pick up way later the Tiger Woods and NHL games and enjoy playing those games. I can see playing the full game of both of theses for 3 days and picking them up way later when they are discounted. So right now I’m unsure of whether I would subscribe to this program but it will mostly hinge on how badly I want to play the next FIFA early.

As for the ramifications of this I can see this being implemented with other multiplayer heavy games with regular releases such as the Battlefield or Call of Duty series. I think this a good idea that caters to the diehard competitive fans and has little effect on everyone else. As long as the multiplayer matching system correctly filters out the experienced players from the inexperienced it shouldn’t have too much of an effect on the multiplayer environment for regular players. I can already see the comments that are going to pop up as people decry this as another EA cash grab but what these people don’t understand is that fans will gladly pay the extra money to play the game early and be more involved in the game ecosystem.

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Completed Games – Need for Speed Hot Pursuit

Developer – Criterion Games

Publisher – Electronic Arts

Release Date – 16 November 2010

Not really completed but I’ve gone as far as I can go, which always happens with racing games. I hit a point where the races become too hard for me taking me 5-10 tries to place in a race. I’ve finished around 80% of the races and sometime in the future I might come back and finish the rest. Now on to what I think about the actual game.

I like the Need for Speed series but I don’t pick up every game in the series, especially now that NFS is more of a brand rather than an indicator of the style of racing gameplay. With NFS Hot Pursuit EA tasked one of their subsidiaries Criterion Games, known for their Burnout series of games, to bring their innovative take on the racing game genre to the NFS franchise. The end result is a game that predictably feels like a mix between the original cops and robbers style of NFS and Burnout.

If you don’t know how a Burnout game play all you need to know is that speed and crashes are emphasised with a very light weight drifty feel to the cars. Criterion Games also excel in integrating a social aspect to their games, this time they create a Facebook style wall and have leader boards for individual races. In terms of game modes it sticks mostly to the standard racing game race varieties with time trials, standard races and duels. My favourite race type is one Burnout fans will be familiar with where you have to takedown as many opponent vehicles as you can.

In NFS HP all vehicles have gadgets that can be used to slow down or take out other racers. As a cop you can call in a police roadblock, road spikes, a police helicopter which drops down road spikes, and an EMP. As a racer you also have spikes and EMP along with a radar jammer and nitrous boost. The gadgets are a great addition to game and takes your mind off how little finesse is needed to control the cars. The main tip you need to master when driving is the use of boosts and building up boost through drifting. You will want to boost uphill and boost out of corners. Also going into corners at full speed and ebreaking at the right point is also another thing you will need to master if you want to get gold in every race.

I really enjoyed the robust online modes and levelling system which were reminiscent of Burnout Paradise’s online races, another racing game I surprisingly played a lot online with. Criterion’s dedication to downloadable content also is evident here with plenty of new cars and races available in the time since it launched.

I didn’t need to buy the game at launch but I’m glad I did. I think I’ve spent close to 40 hours with the game not even finishing it and I will still enjoy periodically playing online. If you haven’t picked it up yet go ahead and pick it up for whatever discounted price it is at now.

 

Completed Games – Battlefield Bad Company (PS3)

Developer – DICE

Publisher – EA

Release Date – June 23rd 2008

DICE was known as the developer of the super popular PC game Battlefield 1942 but over the years it has moved towards releasing games on all platforms with a focus towards the Xbox 360 and PS3. Battlefield Bad Company was the game that solidified DICE’s presence on the consoles with a strong single player game as well as their trademark multiplayer gameplay. Their latest BFBC 2 was released in May of this year and has many people declaring it their console FPS of choice preferring it over the frenetic pace of COD:MW2. The multiplayer in BFBC 1 is still somewhat active as I got some decent games in but if you are looking to play multiplayer pick up the more recent game.

The single player of BFBC starts with you joining a “B team” in the army  consisting of 4 other misfit soldiers. You are sent in to do missions given to you by command and are often seriously outnumbered. During your missions you come across gold and take advantage of the situation to find the source of it held by a legendary mercenary outfit. Ultimately the story is of little consequence and serves as set up to the main draw of the story which is the humour and banter between your team.

The game is more open world than I thought, each level is a huge map with linear goals but you are free to roam around and explore. There are multiple ways to approach combat, by vehicle or engaging in long-range or short-range combat. I really appreciated the opportunity of the large amount of sniping as I like to deal with situations from afar and then close in to eliminate the leftovers. There are also aerial approaches with air support and helicopters, which mixes up the variety in combat in the latter stages if the game. However my favourite vehicle in the game are the different tanks and I don’t think any other game does tank combat as well as the Battlefield games.

Another major feature of the game are the destructive environments. Most buildings can be partly destroyed (around 75%) and since you encounter many enemies defending from buildings it allows you to  instead of just aiming at them through little windows you can blast away their cover. The health system is non regenerating and utilise you switching to a syringe which restores your health.

The collectibles in the game are smartly done as they are just the different weapons you can pickup or find from the enemies. The gold is the other collectible and actually makes sense in terms of the story, unlike other FPS’s.

Played through twice on normal and hard collecting all weapons and gold. If you haven’t played the original BFBC yet you can pick it up for cheap (around $10) and easily get sufficient enjoyment out of this two-year old game.