E3 2013: Ubisoft
Posted on Tuesday June 11, 2013, 17:45 by Matt Kamen in Infinite Lives
An uncomfortable start greeted many at this year’s Ubisoft conference, as the massively over-subscribed event saw an overflow of press relegated to a basement room in the theatre location, watching the announcements on hastily set-up screens.
Ubisoft’s show was once again hosted by actress Aisha Tyler – a hardcore gamer herself, with a wicked potty mouth – and the announcements game thick and fast. Attendees were first reminded that Splinter Cell: Blacklist will be released for current gen consoles in a few short months, and that the once-exclusive Wii U title Rayman Legends is now multiformat, due for release on PS3, Xbox 360 and Wii U in September. After a seemingly interminable delay following the closure of original publisher THQ, South Park: The Stick of Truth was once again dated, bringing Matt Parker and Trey Stone’s creation back to console gaming for the first time in years. The RPG is due for release this holiday – though Cartman advises “Y’know, maybe” – and features such delights as Randy teaching how to deliver Nagasaki Farts. Seems on-message for South Park.
Ubisoft’s free-to-play PC title, The Mighty Quest for Epic Loot, also got a plug. Blending tower defence and dungeon raiding gameplay with genuinely funny scripting and some ingenious options for level design, the game is well worth a look.
Switching focus to the next gen, Ubisoft founder Yves Guillemot joined the stage – where he was dwarfed by the amazonian Tyler! – to announce a new racing game, The Crew (pictured above). A rare dip into the genre for Ubi, the game is developed by the new French studio Ivory Tower. Though the name is new, the talents behind it aren’t, as it’s staffed by the veterans who created the original Test Drive Unlimited games. The Crew immediately strikes us as a bit Midnight Club-ish, with dark neon-lit streets and a loose narrative that sees groups of street racers taking each other on (again – along with EA’s Need for Speed: Rivals, this is becoming a theme at this year’s E3). Julian Gerighty, the game’s producer, appeared to detail the crowd on the power the new wave of consoles provides, and promising that the game will be set in an online, persistent world. Solo play WILL be possible, but when you connect you can build your own crews with friends and other drivers you race against may be human players, not just AI. The scale of the game world seems immense, with a remarkable draw distance and vast distances you can drive across. As is de rigeur for car games, there will also be a plethora of customisation options, including the ability to tinker with your cars on your tablet device and upload to your game remotely to play when you return home. If it all pans out in the usage, The Crew could give the likes of Need for Speed a race for the title.
Attention then turned to Watch_Dogs, the title that Ubisoft wowed audiences with on its unveiling last year. Although it was clearly a next-gen game at the time, it couldn’t be announced as such but now that the curtains have been pulled away on PS4 and Xbox One, more can be shown and spoken of. It will be the title that Ubisoft’s E3 slate will be judged by and, thankfully for them, it remains an enticing game. Set in an always-connected future, the open-world action effort – with some pretty clear RPG influences, though that so often seems a dirty term when applied to sci-fi trappings – sees you playing as Aiden Pearce, an anti-hero vigilante hacker who applies his skills to social justice. The idea of cyber warfare and data power is an increasingly compelling one in fiction – particularly in light of the NSA’s Prism program coming to light – and Watch_Dogs seems to be hitting all the right notes. Whether Ubisoft announced it too early by revealing it in 2012 remains to be seen – people’s attention spans can be short when it comes to new titles – but its mix of shooting, stealth and parkour, plus its scarily well-realised universe should remain of interest.
On the casual side, Ubisoft’s Just Dance 2014 looks to be more fun for house parties, with a beefed-up soundtrack and new features such as 6-player group dances, DJ and playlist functions and a a trippy mode where your movements affect the music. Rayman spin-off Raving Rabbids is making the leap to TV with Rabbids Invasion, coming to Nickelodeon. Like Defiance and Quantum Break, it’s toying with interactive viewing, though here it will be mini games for kids to play while watching episodes rather than player actions affecting the TV series’ story.
Physics-based motocross trick racer Trials is expanding too, with Trials Frontier bringing the game to smartphones – a clever move, as gyroscopic controls perfectly suit the game – and Trials Fusion bringing the next home version to Xbox One, PS4 and Xbox 360.
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag
Surprisingly, the expected focus on Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag came late in the show and didn’t show any live gameplay. Perhaps due to the imminent release (01 November in the UK on current gen consoles and PC) Ubi chose to focus on showing the story elements, though given the game should ‘really’ be played on next gen – it’s the start of a new story cycle after all, and completists will likely want them all on the same format – it’s odd that more wasn’t made of the Xbox One and PS4 versions. Regardless, the game looks to be as authentically historical as ever (secret societies of white-garbed trained killers aside, of course), aiming to present a realistic example of the grim life of a pirate. Other than an expansion of the ship battles introduced in AC3, don’t expect any huge revisions in core gameplay though.
Finally, Massive Entertainment announced Tom Clancy’s The Division for PS4 and Xbox One. A lengthy trailer failed to really give much info on the game but it’s definitely a fresh direction for the franchise. Inspired by real-world disaster protocols such as Operation Dark Winter, it appears to focus on a group assembled to deal with pandemic outbreaks and the impact they might place on society. Expect tactical shooting with roleplaying elements. Interest is definitely piqued but more info is required before excitement for this title will begin to generate.
Overall, Ubisoft’s presence was a reinforcement of its titles and clout in the industry. Nothing this year really amazed in the way Watch_Dogs did in 2012 but the publisher has an undoubtedly strong slate for gamers to look forward to over the next 12 months.