E3 2013: Ubisoft

R.G. continues his E3 retrospective with assassins, Alice in Chains, Tom Clancy and some Watch Dogs. It can only be Ubisoft

There wasn’t much to expect from Ubisoft other than gameplay from two of their most anticipated releases, Watch Dogs and Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. Aisha Tyler hosted again after last year’s Ubisoft conference, meaning that her less-than-funny presentation from 2012 apparently makes her an ideal host for this year, too. I’m pretty sure that not a lot of people liked her previous job for the company, but hey, second time’s the charm, right? Now, I do like Tyler; she can be very funny when the situation is right, but in this conference, she was more awkward than funny. Her jokes were badly executed, her act of trying to be hip and cool just wasn’t working, and it was so awkward that I was just praying for H. Jon Benjamin to come out on stage and shout “LAAAAANAAAA!”, hoping that she’d instinctively answer back “WHAT!”. Of course, it’s not very common to see a tall, attractive woman hosting a gaming conference, and props to her for actually being interested in the games being shown.

The conference starts off with Alice in Chain’s Jerry Cantrell playing improvised solos, which was pretty damn cool and, at the same time, showing off the new version of Rocksmith and its integration with the Kinect. A new trailer for Splinter Cell: Blacklist was then shown, which looked very stylish with a multi-screen interface, probably the reason for why it didn’t go full-screen on the stream. I was expecting gameplay next, but no, there wasn’t any. The next game was a trailer for Rayman: Legends and it was very awesome, with the beginning resembling the animation style of Dreamworks. There was a good amount of gameplay footage in the trailer, too, demonstrating different modes and showing off the vastly improved and beautifully hand-drawn visual style with a good mixture of 3D models.

The Mighty Quest for Epic Loot was kind of strange in terms of demonstration, as it was one of the quickest gameplay demos I’ve seen. It looks like a competitive tower defence/looting title that involves making your own protection around your loot, whilst trying to capture your opponent’s bounty. The trailer was very funny and quite reminiscent of the Team Fortress 2 teasers. Keeping with the humorous tone, a trailer for South Park’s The Stick of Truth also arrived, being the game that Ubisoft bought from the now-liquidated THQ. The teaser gives a sharp jab to gaming release dates, as expected from a show renowned for their lampooning, as well as bringing the usual humour that South Park is known for.

At this point, I was getting pretty tired of the constant advertisements and the lack of any actual gameplay walkthroughs. That was until the driving title The Crew was unveiled. The trailer emphasises co-op drive-and-heist gameplay, and they fully demonstrated the game a mere twenty-seven minutes into the conference. A co-op/driving-focused release is actually something I have never seen before. Maybe there are some out there, but I can’t think of any examples. Seriously, what is with this year’s E3 and driving games? As of late, I seem to have a fascination with every single driving title shown in each conference. In the demonstration, I did like its emphasis on open-world driving, and it seems like you can go anywhere in the given area. The need to work with your friends to complete a mission together, and the notion that you can get them in without any loading hassles, is a very impressive feature. The editing mode was also a cool thing to see. As well as being very aesthetically pleasing, allowing you to see every single part of your car, it also lets you build a vehicle from scratch. As they showed off the missions, I liked how spontaneous they were as you drive around the map, and it flowed well solo or with a team.

The next title was the game that won E3 for Ubisoft, which is the open-world, action/adventure game that involves a lot of hacking things, Watch Dogs. This new trailer unveils the mystery of what the game actually is. It’s an incredible-looking ad as I was actually not sure if it was live-action or computer-generated. After it finished, I was fully expecting a brand new gameplay video and, unfortunately, the trailer is the only Watch Dogs-related thing in this conference. Surely, you would try harder to show more of a game that could possibly be your biggest hit for the next generation?

I have absolutely no interest in the next pair whatsoever, and they are solely aimed at casual audiences. Just Dance 2014 looks just the same as the previous Just Dance games, with new features like the song changing depending on your moves and having six players at once. The new Raving Rabbids game is apparently an interactive TV show. From the demo, it looks like a more advanced version of a game that I could find on an interactive DVD.

It was time to move on to better things, and what could be better than something new from Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag? Like with Battlefield 4, I was also sceptical with this title. When it was leaked and officially announced with a reveal trailer, I thought it was just banking on how good the sailing gameplay was in Assassin’s Creed III, and it was way too early for a numbered sequel. There is a reason why I was excited for the third in the series, and that’s because it was three years apart from Assassin’s Creed II. It had a good build-up. Having a numbered sequel a year later seems like rushing it. That is until I saw gameplay footage a few months back. It actually expanded on the sailing and focused a lot on travelling to islands, with the novelty of leading a group of pirates. It looks gorgeous and its gameplay looks like a lot of fun, especially when battling other pirates. The trailer is another official one, much like Watch Dogs, they just ended it there. Just a bit of story insight. Oh, well.

For the rest, Ubisoft only showed three demonstrations. They didn’t even show any gameplay from two of their top games, just trailers, trailers and more trailers. As the conference was nearly finished after showing another teaser, which is for two Trials games on consoles and smartphones, I was ready to dismiss Ubisoft as the weakest conference of the day so far. That was before they pulled off a wild card. Tom Clancy’s Division was the highlight of this conference, and pretty much redeemed a display that wasn’t doing a good job showcasing games. Not only is the trailer very fascinating, but how the game presents itself is a sight to behold. It showed off a very stylish and intuitive-looking HUD and inventory system, and also shows a very interesting co-operative gameplay mixed with RPG elements. Also, the game just flat-out looks fantastic.

I’ve got to say, Ubisoft’s conference is a little bit disappointing overall. With the exception of The Crew and Tom Clancy’s Division, most of the games that were shown were mostly just promotional materials, even for their two upcoming core titles. Let’s hope these two live up to the building hype. And, please, reveal plenty of in-game footage next time…

R.G. Villanueva

Contributing game and film writer for SquabbleBox. Occasional DJ and instrumentalist, amateur programmer, all-around lazy guy.

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