Five EA Franchises That Need A Reboot
Medal of Honor, NBA Jam, Hot Pursuit, and SSX have all gotten the reboot treatment lately. Which other games from EA's vaults deserve a second (or in some cases, third or fourth) chance? Here are five of our personal favorites:
Def Jam I hate rap. I can’t stand it. I think it’s the de-evolution of the music industry, and, arguably, society. So it’s with quite a bit of surprise that I ended up not only playing a game called “Def Jam: Vendetta”, but also liking it. A lot. Though not nearly as much as I liked Def Jam: Fight for NY, the vastly superior sequel.
The Def Jam series was notorious for its satisfying brutal beatdowns incorporating limbs, finishers, weapons, and best of all, environments for some bone-crunching, face-smashing four-player carnage. The gameplay was also surprisingly deep, with a handful of varied fighting styles to choose from and even combine, creating a more robust grappler/brawler hybrid than you’re likely to find in any WWE or Street Fighter game.
The third title, headed up by now-Kinect frontman Kudo Tsunada, was ambitious but ultimately a failure. For all of its revamped visuals and intriguing integration of dynamic music into the combat, the game simply didn’t play as well as its lineage. By transferring to a new developer, Def Jam lost that hard-to-explain “magic” that made it so special. Also, T.I. looks like a homeless person and I couldn’t bear losing to him.
I’d like to see the concept return, but preferably with a focus on supermodels and rockers (Carmen Electra and Henry Rollins were my team in Fight for NY) rather than obnoxious rappers. It would be like a very R-rated Power Stone. Besides, you can’t tell me you wouldn’t want to see Marilyn Manson face off against Lady Gaga.
Mercenaries Mercenaries appeared on last-gen consoles without much fanfare (published by Lucasarts), so I was surprised when it turned out to be one of my favorite Xbox games of all-time. Calling in airstrikes of increasingly sizable destruction never got old, and the rest of the game, an open-world military GTA, was begging for a next-gen sequel. It seemed that the developers had listened to every fanboy wishlist (including mine) for the oft-delayed Mercs 2, adding in online co-op, the ability to grapple onto airborne vehicles (a la Just Cause), and much more.
The execution, however, was a horribly glitchy and terribly frustrating mess. Mercenaries went from a shining gem in the overpopulated open-world genre to an embarrassing scarlet letter on Pandemic’s tombstone, as the developer closed its doors shortly after. How a game as brilliantly simple and enjoyable as Mercenaries could be screwed up is beyond me, but even with a couple of extra years in the oven, Pandemic was not up to the task.
Still, I’d like to see a more capable developer give the franchise the second chance it deserves. It wouldn't be hard to design it either; just read all of the reviews for part two and you'd have a mile-long list of what not to do.
Freekstyle If you've never heard of Freekstyle, you're not alone. One of EA BIG's lesser known titles, the quick pitch is essentially "motorcross meets SSX". If you think Freekstyle now sounds totally awesome, you're not alone. Again, another unexpected but surprisingly quality game, Freekstyle had all the makings of the quintessential EA BIG title: "extreme" characters, ridiculous courses, high speeds and monster tricks. But don't take my word for it:
Black Rock's Pure is about the closest we've come to seeing a successor, though Nail'd certainly tried its hardest (minus the tricking). I know motorcross isn't the most appealing or successful video game property, but Freekstyle was, undoubtedly, the king of its kind. If SSX and Hydro Thunder can get remake-quels, then Freekstyle deserves one too.
Freedom Fighters IO Interactive is famous for its Hitman series (and infamous for Kane & Lynch), but the best game the studio ever made is actually Freedom Fighters. Considered one of the best 3rd-person action games of the previous console generation, Freedom Fighters had rock-solid gunplay and a satisfying formula which saw players rallying a rag-tag resistance against the Soviet Union, the game's alternate universe global superpower. If that sounds overly complicated, don't worry--this game is all about capping Ruskies, blowing important things up, and having fun doing it.
Although Freedom Fighters 2 would have considerably more competition than the original, if IO can capture the same fluid combat system and rebel-rallying aspect that made the first a breakout hit while adding some squad-based online multiplayer (among other this-gen expectations), I sure as hell would play it.
Fans should note that IO has publicly delayed the development of a sequel for five years, instead focusing on Kane & Lynch. Now that Dog Days has unequivocally revealed that franchise to be the utter garbage we all knew it was to begin with, perhaps Square Enix will light a fire under their asses and urge them to make a good game instead.
NBA Street I hate basketball. I pretty much hate all sports, actually, but I can stand soccer (futbol) and hockey in small doses. I especially have no interest in playing sports games. If I wanted to shoot hoops or kick a ball around, I’d go outside and shoot hoops or kick a ball around. However, the hyper-stylized, NBA Jam-esque basketball being played in the NBA Street series is nothing any human could ever hope to reproduce outside the Matrix. Couple that with some mostly excellent tunes, mostly great visuals, and extremely tight and satisfying controls, and NBA Street is the winning combination that NFL and FIFA Street could just never seem to match.
NBA Street 2 was the apex of the series, then it began to suffer due to iterative successors who over-complicated the already near-perfect gameplay. Now that the NBA Jam reboot has come and gone just as quickly, NBA Street could fill a much-needed void in the ghost town once known as EA BIG. It doesn’t have to be an annual thing, but considering this was the one sports franchise that could tear me away from my racing games, shooters, and RPGs, I’d definitely like to give it a go every once in a while.