Tag Archive: DICE


When you think of virtual reality, you probably think of immersing yourself so deeply in a game you could almost leave the world you exist in behind. But when Oculus VR releases at the end of March, one of its least-involving launch titles may also be one of its most fun. While at the annual DICE Summit last week in Las Vegas, I had a chance to sit down and go hands-on with the Oculus port of Defense Grid 2.

Now, a port of a 2014 tower defense game may not sound like the most thrilling use of VR, but what Defense Grid 2 lacks in bombastic action, it makes up for in allowing players to focus on the task at hand and bringing them closer to the game like never before. After placing the retail Oculus headset over my eyes and grabbing the Xbox One controller, instead of feeling like I was in an alternate reality, I felt like I was lording over an elaborate playset, able to see the entirety of the level at once in what has become known as “God view.” If I wanted to look at the level from a different angle, I could simply get up and walk around, or slide my chair into a different position. Sure, when turning my head and craning my body, the hotel room around me had changed into what looked like a sci-fi boiler room, effectively placing me in the game like all other VR experiences. The core gameplay of Defense Grid 2, however, had remained entirely the same.

By using my sightline as a surprisingly intuitive cursor, and the controller to then interact with what I was seeing and to select options, I could perform the same actions I would in the console and PC versions of the game. I placed and upgraded towers of varying purpose as I saw fit all along the set, trying to protect a collection of power cores that invading waves of aliens wanted for their own nefarious purposes. With the Oculus headset closing me off from the outside world, I was able to sit down, concentrate, and plan out winning strategies with the greatest of ease.


The Oculus version of Defense Grid 2 isn’t just a straight port, though, and does feature some upgrades over the console and PC original. A handful of new challenge levels have been incorporated to further lengthen the experience. Each level also has five collectibles on them, which often require you to get in close to the playset and peer around every corner before using the controller to snatch them up. As well, many levels now feature special interactive elements—some are for cosmetic purposes, while others can actually change the layout of the map.

The biggest addition, however, may be the ability to jump into any individual tower and change the game’s perspective in an instant. Although not as intuitive for implementing strategies as one might hope due to the limited range of sight, this view provides a front row seat for all the fighting once your towers have been placed to your satisfaction. Seeing the detail of the aliens and the world up close is actually kind of breathtaking, giving you a sense for that over-the-top action you may still be craving in VR.

With Defense Grid 2 acting as one of the Oculus’ launch titles, it also serves the important purpose of offering us another way to enjoy virtual reality. It shows that various game genres that might not leap off the page as obvious choices can work just as well, if not better, in VR, and that creating immersion doesn’t necessarily mean putting you squarely in the shoes of a hero character and building a new world around you. Now, it’s just a matter of seeing if the install base for Oculus will be there to take advantage of this fun, re-imagined experience.


The new Star Wars: Battlefront trailer unveiled at Star Wars Celebration touched on plenty of the cool new and returning features in the upcoming reboot of this iconic Star Wars game franchise. Still, it didn’t exactly give the full experience of what EA and DICE let people see at the convention. If you weren’t lucky enough to find yourself in the center of the Star Wars universe this past weekend in Anaheim, here’s a rundown of EA’s Battlefront setup on the show floor—which gave a longer, more in-depth look at what will make the game special.

The hands-off demo was about 15 minutes of pre-recorded footage from a pre-alpha PS4 build. It took place in a mode called Walker Assault, which seemed to be defined by an ever-increasing presence of AT-STs and AT-ATs. The demo, given inside a small domed theater within the booth, started off much the same way as the trailer, with speeder bikes whizzing past as a player trudged through the thick foliage of Endor. Once the first-person camera crested a ridge and saw a platoon of stormtroopers, however, the seamless switch between first- and third-person cameras made its presence known.

Transitioning to a third-person perspective allowed for the generic rebel soldier we were following to more accurately fire from the hip with his blaster as he carved a path through the oncoming Imperial forces. After clearing some space for himself, he instantly switched back to first-person view, took cover behind a fallen tree, and then attempted to snipe more far-off soldiers—which demonstrated that both perspectives could have their uses in battle beyond player preference and showed off the previously announced ability to switch viewpoints on the fly.

An AT-ST soon flanked our hero, and he seamlessly switched back to third-person mode, no doubt to get a better view of the surrounding area to escape his now-compromised position. The soldier attempted to take down the walker with blaster fire, scarring its silver body with black marks, but when that proved futile, he quickly ran over to an equipment locker, where he picked up a rocket launcher. This filled a special-weapon slot on an item wheel in the lower right corner of the screen that also included a standard blaster and grenades. Then, much like in the trailer, he proceeded to use the rocket launcher to blast apart the AT-ST’s head.

As stormies and AT-STs continued to fall one by one, I also saw the points/perk system in play. Much like in DICE’s other multiplayer games, earning kills nets as much as 100 points, with 25 doled out for assists. Killing enemies with particular weapons, like grenades or rocket launchers—whether soldier or vehicle—also netted points. Even those small blaster shots against the AT-ST earned vehicle damage points, insinuating that players will be able to take out something small like a chicken walker with enough concentrated fire if an appropriate special weapon isn’t handy.

Soon, the menacing AT-AT from the trailer showed up, slowly stomping its way across the battlefield. The player then took an interesting tactic and ran underneath the AT-AT, using its durasteel legs as additional cover—as stormtrooper fire continued to blister the area—before rushing over to a terminal to call in a Y-wing bombing run.

The battle still raged on even after the AT-ATs destruction, and the player then switched back to first-person view again and joined a second, human-controlled player running into a bunker similar to the one Han Solo and his team destroyed on Endor in Return of the Jedi. Here, however, was a special surprise. The second player turned a blind corner and immediately found himself lifted several feet off the ground. As I watched through the eyes of the first player, the second player desperately kicked to escape the invisible grasp around his throat—but soon succumbed to strangulation.

His lifeless body was then angrily thrown against a wall, and Darth Vader emerged—a little unsurprisingly, after the obvious display of Force powers—from the corner, flicking on the crimson blade of his lightsaber. The player fired his blaster at Vader, but the Dark Lord easily deflected the shots away with his saber. The rebel fighter then ran back out the way he came and into the forest, only to see a small army of AT-ATs and AT-STs approaching his position. Surrounded, the player turned to look back, but Vader was already upon him, striking him down with all of his hatred, and ending the demo.

This demo definitely imparted the feeling that players will able to create their own adventures and stories in Battlefront—as alluded to during the Star Wars Celebration panel that unveiled the trailer. Even watching someone else play, I got the sense that a dozen different options were available at any given moment, and you never knew what could come around the next corner. The Battlefront demo made me even more excited than the trailer, because it showed off a scenario that could actually occur in gameplay—and one that likely wouldn’t play out exactly like that ever again.

We ask fans about their impressions of the new Star Wars: Battlefront trailer from Star Wars Celebration in Anaheim.

It’s crazy to think that’s it already been 10 years since the last Star Wars: Battlefront game came to home consoles. But when EA DICE’s relaunch of the series drops this holiday season, that’s exactly how long it will have been since Battlefront II released on the PS2, Xbox, PC, and PSP. In honor of the new Battlefront’s reveal at this year’s Star Wars Celebration convention, we decided to take a look back at the history of this beloved gaming brand.

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…

Back in 2004, Star Wars’ popularity was still riding high. We were mere months away from the release of Episode III: Revenge of the Sith in theaters, and although Star Wars games had long been loved on PC (X-Wing, TIE Fighter, Jedi Knight), they were going through something of an upswing on consoles courtesy of three successful Rogue Squadron games on Nintendo systems and the Xbox/PC RPG Knights of the Old Republic.

LucasArts looked to continue its success on consoles, and they tapped a then-little-known developer named Pandemic to play around with the brand. The studio blended first- and third-person shooting with some standard conquest gameplay, which brought a whole new dimension to a Star Wars video game. Players were allowed to jump into different conflicts from the movie universe, while choosing from one of five classes within four factions. And thus, Star Wars: Battlefront was born for PS2, Xbox, and PC. Although the single-player component was a rather bare-bones experience—and poor AI held the title back at times—Pandemic was on to the start of something special when it came to Star Wars and multiplayer gaming.

Return of the Jedi

Only a year after the massive success of Star Wars: Battlefront, Pandemic took the criticism it had received to heart and not only fixed many of the issues that plagued the first game, but also built new modes on top of them that would come to define the series in 2005’s Battlefront II. The first of these was the addition of a revamped single-player campaign. Episode III: Revenge of the Sith had released earlier that year, and Pandemic crafted a narrative around a single, anonymous stormtrooper who served in the legendary 501st division, Vader’s Fist, and followed his exploits from the Clone Wars up to the infamous assault on Hoth that opened up The Empire Strikes Back.

While vehicles had been a part of the first game, Battlefront II added space battles to the mix, allowing for many of the iconic firefights that played out across the movies to be re-created on TV screens. It also featured seamless transitions where players could fly a ship into the hangar bay of an enemy vessel, deboard, and wreak havoc from the inside out. Playable characters received a big boost in the game as well—not only was a sixth class added to each faction, but iconic heroes, such as Luke Skywalker, could be utilized in battle if certain criteria were achieved. These “Hero” characters were featured as NPCs in the first entry, but here, they had specific game modes built around them, and they could often change the tide of any battle if implemented properly by a smart player.

In only a year’s time, Pandemic had crafted what many still point to as the premier Star Wars experience in video games, thanks to the freedom it offered players during conflicts and its wide range of scenarios taken from the films.

Size matters not

With Battlefront II dominating on the home-console front, LucasArts decided to focus more on making the franchise portable, so they tapped PSP development experts Rebellion to make Renegade Squadron, which released in late 2007 as a PSP exclusive. Similar in many regards to its console brethren, Renegade Squadron limited itself to the original trilogy of Star Wars movies, following a group of ex-criminals turned Rebel operatives through some of the most harrowing black-ops missions during the battles of Yavin, Hoth, and Endor. While the single-player component lacked the depth of Battlefront II, it did introduce customizable characters to the series for the first time.

The mixed fan reaction to Renegade Squadron wouldn’t deter the mobile movement for the franchise. Star Wars Battlefront: Mobile Squadrons was developed by THQ Wireless and released in the beginning of 2009, but it met with minimal success—most likely due to the fact that it was an on-rails shooter that featured none of the gameplay Battlefront had come to represent.

Battlefront again returned to the PSP in 2009 with Elite Squadron—but this time it also hit the Nintendo DS, making it the first (and so far only) time a Battlefront game was released on a Nintendo system. N-Space, the folks behind the DS ports of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and World at War, handled the DS version, and Rebellion was again tasked with making the PSP iteration (which had a longer single-player campaign and more customization features). Elite Squadron saw a movement away from some of the multiplayer aspects that defined the series, but it also provided perhaps the deepest story mode to date, as players took control of a clone trooper who attempted to atone for the infamous Order 66.

A great disturbance in the Force

While LucasArts had seemingly shifted its focus with the franchise toward the mobile arena, this wasn’t actually the case. Free Radical Design, known for the TimeSplitters games, was actually hard at work on Star Wars: Battlefront III. Sometime in 2008, however, the plug was pulled. Several years later, Free Radical co-founder Steve Ellis put the blame on LucasArts for the project’s demise, while anonymous sources from LucasArts pointed the finger right back at Free Radical, claiming they’d regularly missed deadlines. During those squabbles, leaked videos and screens showcased what the project could’ve been, including footage of a ship taking off from a planet and joining a battle in space. At this point, LucasArts supposedly had begun working internally on Battlefront III themselves, but the studio went defunct before it could finish what it started.

While Battlefront III remained in limbo for years, former secondary SOCOM developer Slant Six Games was also reportedly working on another chapter in the series, Battlefront Online, with a scheduled 2011 release. The game was intended to feature only the online multiplayer components that made Battlefront so popular in the first place, but this project, too, was nixed once Slant Six missed its target release date. Many speculated that some of the purported Battlefront III leaks could actually have come from this game instead.

A new hope

It’s now been six years since we’ve seen a new Battlefront, and it’s fast approaching 10 since we’ve had one on a home console. After Disney purchased Star Wars and its related properties for $4 billion more than two years ago, however, new hope was instilled in this beloved series—and, more importantly, its fanbase. EA DICE, the multiplayer masterminds behind the Battlefield series, have been hard at work on the next Star Wars: Battlefront, and we know for sure that it’s a full-fledged reboot of the franchise.

Few solid details are currently available, but we do know the game will tie into Episode VII, and Hoth and Endor are playable maps. Rumors, however, have swirled for months. Some say the Hero system from Battlefront II will return; others claim the planetside-to-space battles we saw in leaked footage from Battlefront III will be incorporated. There’s speculation that we’ll see 64 people in multiplayer (32-on-32) and that the single-player campaign will span the entire Star Wars saga. Whatever the case, we know for sure that EA will separate fact from conjecture over the weekend at Star Wars Celebration, and we’ll have more reason than ever to believe that a new Battlefront is finally ready to redefine what had become a rather bleak timeline in the Star Wars universe.

Star Wars Battlefront will be taking part in this year’s Star Wars Celebration convention in Anaheim, California, from April 16-19, EA announced this morning.

While rumors have been swirling around for months about Star Wars Battlefront, this should finally shed some light on the game since it was first officially announced last E3.

Traditionally, Celebration is a convention held by Lucasfilm to either celebrate the upcoming release of a new Star Wars movie or the anniversary of an older one. For example, the first Celebration was for Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace in 1999, but Celebration V in 2010 revolved around the 30th anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back. This year’s Celebration is the tenth overall, the seventh on American soil, and the first to take place in Anaheim.

Star Wars Battlefront is slated for a holiday 2015 release on PS4, Xbox One, and PC.

Batman: Arkham Origins creative director Eric Holmes has left Warner Bros. Montreal and joined EA DICE, he announced over the weekend on Twitter.

Besides his work on Batman: Arkham Origins, Holmes also servied as a designer on Gears of War 3, Prototype, and The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction. He also helped Epic develop the tech for Unreal 4.

Holmes later mentioned he can’t say what he’s going to be working on at DICE, but with reboots of Star Wars: Battlefront and Mirror’s Edge currently in the works there, and the always present Battlefield series, it’ll be interesting to see what project he ends up on.

A whole slew of rumors about the upcoming Star Wars Battlefront have surfaced, including the notion that its campaign will span all the movies, according to fansite MakingStarWars.net.

While we would normally hesitate to relay information first procured by a fansite, MakingStarWars.net has a track record of being spot on with rumors it has reported about Star Wars: Episode VII: The Force Awakens. That said, we’d recommended everyone still take this all with a grain of salt and hold off on writing any new fan-fiction just yet (besides, it wouldn’t be canonical).

The majority of the game is supposedly set to take place during the original trilogy (Episodes IV-VI), but will have missions that bring us back to the prequels, like the space battle above Coruscant that Revenge of the Sith opened on.

There will also be some original missions that help build the bridge between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens, since Battlefront is currently slated for a holiday 2015 release and is expected to launch just before the movie opens.

In regards to multiplayer, it will support 64 players (32-on-32), and will feature a “hero” system where players will be able to accumulate special points that allow them to play at least once per match as a hero character. I’d imagine that means characters like Luke Skywalker and Han Solo. Maybe even Lando Calrissian (who hasn’t wanted to be Billy Dee Williams at some point in their lives)?

Unsurprising in this day and age, there will also be an “extremely aggressive” DLC plan for the game.

The rumors continued that developer DICE was allowed into Pinewood Studios (where Episode VII is being filmed) to scan and capture new props and sets for the game.

To see the rest of the list of rumors, you can check them out at MakingStarWars.net. Star Wars: Battlefront will (hopefully) be available this holiday for PS4, Xbox One, and PC.

Same old song and dance

It was one of the worst-kept secrets in the industry. As soon as the invites hit our inboxes, the word was out on the street that we’d finally get to see Battlefield 4 for the first time at GDC. Renting out a massive theater at the Metreon in San Francisco, EA shuffled in some of the biggest names in videogame development. And, somehow, I snuck in, too.

With the ever-present cloud of next-gen systems looming on the horizon, I admit that I didn’t know what to expect. But I do know that I definitely wasn’t expecting what we did get. After waiting on line for close to an hour—and another 30 minutes shuffling through the door—I witnessed EA and DICE show, quite simply, one of the most disappointing 15-minute game reveals I’ve ever had to uncomfortably sit through.

Things didn’t start off horribly, though. In fact, those first few visuals from the brand-new Frostbite 3 engine had me doing a double-take, since they were so lifelike. Of course, these visuals were also displayed on the highest-end PC money could buy, so 90 percent of the Battlefield-loving audience won’t experience what I did—nor will I when it comes time to review the game later this year.

This also clearly shows just where DICE’s focus is when it comes to developing Battlefield 4, because their claims of looking to make the game more “human, dramatic, and believable” just were straight up not true once events actually began to unfold. If anything, this reveal did nothing but point to lowest-common denominator game development, where developers hope that impressive visuals will hide the fact their game probably fails to provide the depth of content most gamers crave.

In regards to making the game more “human, dramatic, and believable,” the first thing you’d look for is character development. Being able to immerse yourself in the characters is critical to enjoying most media of any sort. Yet Battlefield 4 looks to deliver a group of cold, distant characters once again that will likely be forgotten by the time the end credits roll—and this came across in many instances. 

The demo began with the four soldiers in your group—the player character included—sinking in a submerged vehicle. Your commanding officer is trapped against the dented frame of the car and his seat. He orders you to shoot the window out, leave him behind, and get the rest of the group to safety. With reluctance, you do this before a flashback explains how these soldiers got to this position in the first place.

During the entire transition, all I could think of was this: “Why would I leave this guy to drown if he meant something to me?” It’s a fact that, as subjective as it is, many people consider drowning one of the worst ways to die. Wouldn’t it make sense that if you really cared about this person—or had any shred of humanity—after working with this man for who knows how long, that you’d put him out of his misery and not let him suffer before escaping? This was just the beginning of the awful storytelling I saw.

About halfway through the flashback sequence, you’re racing up the shell of an abandoned factory, hoping to be rescued with the vital intel you’ve collected. Before you can reach the top of the building, however, an enemy helicopter comes in for the kill. Your allied chopper is at the top of the building already waiting for you, but the enemy helicopter decides that it needs to shoot you—the tiniest, most difficult target to hit—instead of the chopper you’re headed toward. If America’s real enemies were this stupid, we wouldn’t be so hated much the world over.

But this could also just have been to help amp up the “drama” aspect that Battlefield 4 looks to focus on. That’s fine. Videogames need a little disbelief in them, although that goes against that entire “believable” thing they were going for as well. So, either way, they screwed up here.

OK, so the enemy helicopter finally figures out the proper target to aim for and blows your friendly copter out of the sky. Along with all the shooting it directed toward you, this causes the rest of the factory to collapse on itself. Somehow, because this is all so believable, you fall several stories and get buried under a ton of rubble. But you walk away unharmed. In fact, three of your four squadmates are perfectly fine. 

Now we go back to this “dramatic” aspect. Your commanding officer (it’s clearly not this guy’s day) has his leg pinned. With a little bit of realism here (finally), he talks about how his leg’s been completely crushed by the concrete. He hands you a combat knife and tells you that you need to cut the leg off. This is also not unheard of. What is unheard of is that, like a samurai sword through wet paper, you easily cut through his leg with this teeny-tiny knife. Combat armor, skin, muscle, tissue, and tendons are all cut through in an instant. Ignoring that we never see or hear anyone cauterize or clot up the new wound that would cause most men to bleed out, I think it would take a bit longer than a split-second to do this maneuver. 

At the very least, DICE had the good taste to have our character look away so as to not show players what could easily have been a gruesome scene. But you talk about building humanity into your characters? This was another failed opportunity. Have the player look at the commanding officer’s face. Tell him how sorry you are this is happening. Put some dialogue in there to help convey the power of the emotion that comes from a guy having to cut off his buddy’s limb!

Instead, we quickly flow right into our next dunderheaded story beat, where a random security guard comes to explore the giant explosion and collapsed building. In this part of the world, the last thing that most people would do when they see American soldiers is to want to help them out. We’re not really welcomed with beds of rose petals whenever we go to certain parts of the world—this coming across as one of them. Then, you steal his car, which leads to a stereotypical driving sequence that brings you back to doing your best Ariel impersonation under the sea.

And let’s not forget: Aside from the story, the action we saw was nothing special. It’s the same stuff we get in every other military shooter. Some cool group mechanics, some slow-mo moments that try and fail to build tension, a little bit of gameplay variety with a driving sequence, and I’m bored just writing that damn sentence—never mind playing it.

But you must be asking yourselves: “Why hasn’t he mentioned multiplayer?” Because they didn’t show us any of the multiplayer! The best we got was a brief mention of how the gap between multiplayer and single-player would be bridged. The only thing I saw that hinted at this was beating up some guy and stealing his dog tags. For a brief instant, there were a few murmurs of delight in the crowd. But that raised the question in my mind: “Why the heck would I care about a single-player NPCs dog tags?!”

The graphics are next level, for sure—but the story’s still wallowing in the muck. It seems that after Bad Company 1 and 2, DICE forgot what it meant to actually provide an entertaining single-player campaign. The action is run-of-the-mill, and the thing most folks really care about, the multiplayer, was noticeably absent. Of course, with all this being said, this was a 15-minute demo of what looked like the first level of the single-player campaign. Things can certainly change once we get longer demonstrations, hands-on previews, and the final review code.

But since this is all EA and DICE decided to show us, that’s all I can comment on—and what I saw had me shaking my head as I walked out of the theater.