LOS ANGELES – Electronic Arts didn’t have the fire in its belly that it so forcefully displayed last year during its pre-E3 press conference, but you can’t deny the fact that the conglomerate has some primo titles.

During their show Monday afternoon at the Orpheum Theatre, EA started with the promising epic Dante’s Inferno from Visceral Games. The title feels like God of War and has a gripping fantasy story.

Then we got a “by the way Sims 3 comes out tomorrow” spiel, where EA showed a trailer that’s been on YouTube for about a week. Marc Normandin has let me know we will have a review of that title later this month, so keep an eye out for that.

But then EA lumbered for 20 minutes as they discussed several new Littlest Pet Shop titles and just this terrible, stereotypical series called the Charm Girls Club, where stick figure-skinny girls braid each other’s hair, have pillow fights and pick out the best clothes. “Pet Shop” I can deal with, but Charm Girls reeked of Twilight-like anti-feminism. They even paraded four young girls on stage to demonstrate a minigame of teasing your hair out.

It’s not that I’m against the girly nature of the games – three for DS and one coming for Wii – but I’m not happy with this continuation of Barbie doll stereotypes among young girls. [Ed. Note: Maybe this is just a ruse to get them sick of this style of game, so they end up playing other EA games, like Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure. Also, if this helps pay for Dead Space 2, then please, braid away.]

My initial impressions of Need for Speed Shift are not good. The game looks bad. I’m going to try to play it this week if possible and prove myself wrong, but the gameplay demo the developers showed featured dated visuals and lots of bump and run driving with too many cars bunched together on a narrow road.

Next came Dragon Age Origins, which Bioware is hoping will revitalize the fantasy genre, calling it the “culmination of 15 years” of work in the franchise.

I was impressed with this one. There is plenty of violence and lust but also some potential showing in the betrayal-laden storyline.

Mass Effect 2 has a lot of type and potential, but not much was shown. It will be released next year on the Xbox 360 and PC–I wonder why it wasn’t mentioned at the Microsoft conference earlier in the day.

Continuing to try and be the polar opposite of last year, where bloody action titles were king, it was EA Sports’ turn to shine this year with two products I’m really excited about:

Grand Slam Tennis is the first decent playing tennis title on any platform since Wii Sports Tennis. This Wii-exclusive is bundled with a Motion Plus and takes advantage of the improved motion capture.

The second is Madden 10 Online Franchise, an online football paradise where you can build your own team with dozens of friends, do drafts, conduct trades and play the season against each other. There’s even an iPhone application that lets you manage your team. This is the biggest Madden feature we’ve seen in years. It starts up Aug. 14.

EA Sports excelled, but my favorite game that EA has brewing right now is Saboteur, from Pandemic Studios. Unfortunately, the video that leaked a week early was it, and nothing new was shown. I’m really, really looking forward to seeing more from this title.

Brutal Legend, a metal and hair band fantasy adventure comes from the mind of Tim Schafer, and stars Jack Black. Black plays a roadie who gets sent back in time by his evil belt buckle. Killing, head banging, and lots and lots of rock and roll ensue. This game looks hilarious, and is sure to please the crowd that loved Psychonauts.

Crytek president and CEO Cevat Yerli made a brief statement, announcing that Crysis 2 was being developed with a new gameplay engine. No visuals, though if it’s anything like the original, they are stunning.

The last two games were massively multiplayer online games, a genre that is ridiculously popular despite its dripping saturation.

All Points Bulletin, from new EA partner Realtime Worlds, is a Grand Theft Auto-style MMO where you can either be the cops or the criminals in a wide-open city.

Finally, we saw some Star Wars as Lucas Arts and EA are joining together to make Star Wars: The Old Republic. The twist to this game is that every player is voice acted, with thousands of voices and hundreds of thousands of lines of dialog. There was a good trailer, but no real gameplay hints–check out the trailer here, as we’ve already uploaded it for you.

And that’s it for Electronic Arts. It wasn’t a gutsy press conference, but they have meat and we’re hungry.

About The Author

John Guilfoil is the editor-in-chief of Blast: Boston's Online Magazine and the Blast Magazine Network. He can be reached at [email protected]. Tweet @johnguilfoil.

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