Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Ubisoft E3 Press Conference

After Ubisoft single-handedly saved Nintendo and pretty much spearheaded Sony’s conference, I was so intrigued I had to watch their main stage-show. This was in part to see whether more information would be revealed about the games already shown and to check out a rumoured brand new IP in the making by the French developers. Here’s a round up of everything that went down Ubisoft’s way.


The conference began with a group of dancers introducing Just Dance 4 and then Flo-Rida jumped on stage for a quick performance (take that Usher!). Ubisoft’s host for the evening Aisha Tyler gracefully arrived on stage and congratulated Flo-Rida on a ‘hot’ performance and moved onto emphasize Just Dance 4 as the number 1 dance game, but without showing any extra content or footage.

The big guns were out almost immediately with Far Cry 3 next on the big screen as Dan Hay and his lead designer began discussing what we already know about Far Cry 3 from last year’s announcement at E3 2011. The new footage showed the lead protagonist Jason amidst the local tribe on the island as he is initiated as one of them. Then Jason addressed the people and swore that the enemies invading their island will all fall and their freedom will be restored. Gameplay featured next as the player swam across to another island and grabbed what looked like a patrol guard, threw him in the water and stabbed him. Upon climbing up I was very impressed with the gorgeous visuals of Far Cry 3, it really looked like a beautiful game. The action got a little bit more heated as Jason attacked a camp of enemies, only to be stabbed from behind by Vaas, the main enemy – the game then turned into a weird psycho trip as Jason must have been dreaming or hallucinating from the stomach wound. The gameplay ends with Vaas saying “you are me Jason, and I am, you.” I am definitely looking forward to whether this will be more than a generic first-person shooter.

After a very successful showing at Microsoft’s media briefing, Splinter Cell: Blacklist was next for Ubisoft. The release trailer ‘welcome to forth echelon’ was up on the big screen for the audience. The trailer showed Sam Fisher enter an enemy complex and rescue a mystery target. Plenty of action and gadgets were on show in this fast-paced footage, all of which looked fantastic and made me want Splinter Cell that much more. More content was shown during Microsoft’s press brief so if you want, check that out.

Marvel Avengers Battle for Earth made its way onto the big screen straight after, showing off the incredible cast of characters and carnage we all expect from an Avengers game. My first impression was I actually didn’t like the art-style but that can easily be overlooked if the gameplay is enjoyable. The trailer had Wolverine take on Venom, Spider-Man swinging through New York to do battle with Magneto and then the camera panned out to reveal the Avengers standing on top of a building looking towards what seemed like an Alien spaceship and subsequent invasion of earth.

With that Ubisoft moved onto the Wii U and one of the most popular current platform franchises, Rayman. Senior Game Manager Michael Micholic jumped on stage with his team to demonstrate Rayman Legends for Nintendo’s new console. This demo was all about showing off the Wii U’s capabilities with Rayman, including first of all, the introduction of Murphy, the character specifically built for the Wii U tablet controller. Murphy essentially acted as a support character helping to move items across the level and grab a hold of bad guys while Rayman and his buddies could attack them. Rayman Legends looked a lot grittier than Origins, but it was still vibrant and had that same charm we have all grown to love. Up to 5 players will be able to play Rayman Legends on the Wii U using the Wii U tablet, pro controllers and Wii remotes.

Next up was what I considered to be the most impressive title for Wii U, the first-person shooter ZombiU. While no gameplay was shown (check out Nintendo’s conference for that) a quick trailer showed worldwide panic forming as the zombie apocalypse consumed humanity, which is pretty standard for this genre.

Ubisoft then recycled the same highlight reel we saw during Nintendo’s conference that depicts all the titles for Wii U. This included Assassin’s Creed 3, Rayman Legends, Avengers Battle for Earth, Just Dance 4, Your Shape, Sports Connection and ZombiU.

Arguably Ubisoft’s most popular franchise Assassin’s Creed was next up as a trailer for number 3 hit the big screen. The footage showed our assassin doing battle during the American Revolution and lead producer Francois Pelland came on stage to show playable gameplay from AC3. The demo began with our new assassin Connor swinging and climbing across trees as he stalked a group of deer. When he got close enough Connor unsheathed his bow and took down one of the deer but as he moved closer to finish the job, he was attacked by a group of wolves. After quickly countering their pounces Connor finished the predators and moved on through the snow. Upon accepting a new mission to infiltrate a particular fort and rescue someone, Connor came across a group of soldiers, which are eliminated in beautiful fashion thanks to the fluid gameplay of Assassin’s Creed 3. The combos and reversals reminded me heavily of Batman’s gameplay and this is by no means a bad thing. The action continued as a soldier tried to run away but the player chased him down and put a tomahawk straight into his back. When Connor finally got into the fort his goal was to assassinate the fort leader and with numerous ways to handle this goal, it was really exciting waiting to see how the player went about it. It was actually rather anticlimactic with it being a short gameplay demo as Connor blew up a bunch of exploding barrels then chased after the target and stabbed him in the back, ending the demo there.

Shootmania gameplay was next for Ubisoft as the event took a small step back from all the ridiculously awesome AAA titles present. This is a game played on the E-Sport circuit for major league gaming and with two all-star teams arriving on stage comprised of world champion Counter Striker players, this was sure to be an interesting divergence from what we’ve seen so far. A bunch of quick rounds were played showing off Shootmania but without playing it I can’t really point to anything that makes this game seem anything other than a generic FPS game. The E-Sports theme was rounded up with a quick highlight reel showing off Trials Evolution, The Settlers Online and Ghost Recon Online.

To round off the conference Yves Guillemot arrived on stage to discuss the future of Ubisoft. Finally, this was the fantastic new IP I have been hearing about from Ubisoft. Watch Dogs was revealed for the first time to the public with a beautifully envisioned trailer. This trailer discussed an alternate modern society in which all of America is run through a ctOS computer system that runs everything from trains, traffic lights to gathering personal and biological information of humans as a commodity. The notions of hacking and terrorism were clearly emphasized as the trailer ended and Jonathan Morin stepped out on stage to discuss this new IP. After a quick introduction and emphasis surrounding the entire city’s infrastructure will be at your fingertips to exploit and hack, Mr. Morin jumped straight into the gameplay. Watch Dogs looked like a clever mix of Grand Theft Auto and Deus Ex, with a very cyber punk artistic style present. The main character Aiden was able to hack into every single person he walked near, seeing all his or her darkest secrets and skills. A clever use of a signal jammer allowed Aiden to sneak into a charity gallery where he was looking for someone. After letting himself be known the player made a dash out of the building and used the traffic jammer to cause a horrific pile up, where he proceeded to engage with enemies and then find his target in one of the cars. After killing the guy, the demo ended and the presentation for Ubisoft concluded on a fantastic note with Watch Dogs being one of E3’s most exciting announcements.

With that came the end of what I consider so far to be by a LONG way the best presentation I have seen so far. With EA still to come, I doubt that they can top Ubisoft’s brilliant line up of games. Consistency I believe is really the key here with high profile titles across a wide variety of platforms with a brilliant new IP slotted in right at the end to get the crowd going. Well done Ubisoft, I thoroughly look forward to each and every game announced today (apart from Just Dance 4!).

Igor Kharin.

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