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Electronic Arts’ press conference at E3 2011 was long on sports, but short on substance.

For E3 2011, EA packed us into Los Angeles’ Orpheum Theatre to make its big announcements for the latter half of the year and beyond. Predicted before the event were looks at the future of Mass Effect, EA Sports, Sims, a multi-platform Insomniac Games franchise, and more.

EA started the conference off right with a teaser for Mass Effect 3. Hectic news reports from all over the world detailed the invasion of Earth by the Reapers, as Reaper ships are shown encircling the globe. As we already knew, Shepard is the only one with the power to save the planet, and a new gameplay trailer showed us a little of what players will be in for. One of the big focuses of the trailer was Shepard’s handy new energy blade, which will stab many a merc in the face and may make melee easier than in the past. It’s very Halo. Shepard is shown taking down forces in a similar way to Mass Effect 2, and at one point paints an area for a bombing by the Normandy. Later, he hops on a ship with a turret and tries to take a Reaper down all on his own while flying through the environment. Mass Effect 3 looks more much more cinematic and physical than the previous titles in the series. BioWare’s Casey Hudson announced that it’ll be released on March 6, 2012 for PC, PS3, and Xbox 360.

EA then moved on to talk about Need for Speed: The Run. The latest game will incorporate on-foot segments, with the player being chased across rooftops while engaging in QTEs to safely land jumps and get out of police sleeper holds. Then it’s right back into the car on a race from San Francisco to New York with the mob on your tail. Somebody basically got some Grand Theft Auto and Heavy Rain into your Need for Speed. It’ll also feature a new social environment that keeps track of every single thing you do and displays it in your profile.

Next, Greg Zeschuk appeared from the darkness to talk about Star Wars: The Old Republic. He emphasizes that an army of developers is working on it and the only way to learn about the game is to play for yourself. A trailer emphasized cinematics of Jedi and Sith battling to be number one in the universe. They looked beautiful and varied, so expect a lot of these during play.

Alarmingly, smoke began to fill up the room. An arctic mountain range appeared on the screen, and then, a snowboarder! It’s SSX! Peter Moore emerged to reveal that the latest game in the series will focus on every major mountain range on the planet with realistic GPS-mapped levels and dangerous situations. Racing, tricking, and surviving will all be necessary in the game’s three primary modes. Do a 1080 over the Great Wall of China! It’ll be out in January 2012.

The smoke dissipates. Now it’s time for FIFA 12. EA is adding realistic physics and collisions between players this year. It’s also improving ball control and making tactics necessary to win. The presentation announced the EA Sports Football Club, an online social environment where players can connect with each other and gain XP to level up their personas. It’ll connect every online FIFA product, cross-platform and cross-game. This type of service is a big initiative for EA Sports, and will be integrated with social media.

It wouldn’t be an EA press conference without Madden would it? Coach Lombardi narrated a trailer filled with big hits and close plays. A trio of football players came out to talk about how much they like football. Not too much news here, other than potential online integration as seen with FIFA 12.

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See all our coverage directly from the show floor.

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The announcement of The Sims: Social was a little uncomfortable. It’s a Sims game tied to Facebook that’ll allow players to invite friends into their games and then smootch with them. It looks like Sims, but cel-shaded, and you’re playing with your actual friends. Sims: Social looks like a new take at bringing multiplayer into the franchise, and I’m sure at least one couple will break-up because of it somehow.

Curt Schilling took the stage to talk about Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, but there wasn’t much new here other than to note that the game is a part of EA’s roster. The newest trailer shown off focused on the action-based combat and how it’ll differentiate Reckoning from the other RPGs on the market. For a close look at Amalur and why (I think) you should pay attention, go here.

Insomniac Games CEO did indeed come to E3 to show off a new multi-platform title, and it’s called Overstrike. It stars a futuristic elite squad of two female and two male combatants, each with their own quirks. The leader is a Bruce Campbell type, but in a sci-fi future. No gameplay was shown, but cinematics revealed the squad dropping in on mercenaries with cloaking tech, mercury guns that bubbled up and fused foes, and electric-bolt crossbows. They all converge in one scene to take down a bald, bulletproof tough guy, who turns out to be a robot and nearly impossible to kill. Look for Overstrike to feature Insomniac’s storytelling with a serious bent but a sense of humor as well. Price didn’t say too much about gameplay, but I would predict that online co-op is a given. Overstrike is coming to both the PS3 and Xbox 360.

EA’s big finisher was, of course, Battlefield 3. DICE trumpeted its new Frostbite 2 engine which it says is allowing the game to go bigger in scale, make environments even more destructible, and improve audio amongst every other aspect of the series. Similar to EA’s other social features, Battlefield 3 will feature a social environment through which people can check stats, communicate, make friends, and more, for free. A new multiplayer trailer showed some attractive gunplay in the middle of Paris, but the real meat of the presentation was the single-player trailer. It featured a tank battle in which players never leave the vehicle, but it wasn’t as boring as that might sound. Players move through the environment until they encounter a line of enemy tanks. After taking them down (with just a few dings), explosions from an unknown attacker block the path. Players move out of the tank’s gun sights to another screen within the tank that shows an overview of the battlefield. Just ahead of the friendly tank line is a mercenary camp with the rocket batteries responsible for those explosions. The player paints them with his sights and calls in an air strike, moves on the camp, takes down infantry with the tank’s machine gun, and blows up more rocket batteries, all the while listening to radio chatter, taking enemy fire, and kicking up dust from the environment. It looks really, really fun if every mission incorporates this sort of variety. The multiplayer beta for Battlefield 3 will go live in September 2011, and the game will launch before Modern Warfare 3 on October 25 (smart idea).

And that was it for the EA press conference. 9 big games from 9 big developers, as EA put it, and a big focus on free social platforms as a new, central feature.

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See all our coverage directly from the show floor.

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