Despite their expansive library of titles, the critical under-performer of 2014 had a lot to prove on the big stage this year. Despite the gaffes surrounding last year’s Assassin’s Creed Unity still hanging around like a bad smell, Ubisoft opened up their E3 2015 campaign strongly.
With a Bang
The opening footage was a stock-standard RPG monologue – until you saw the Stick. In a toilet. Then, as quickly your thoughts turned to, South Park: The Stick of Truth, Cartman appeared. It was met with lots of cheers and applause as gamers everywhere realised they had another title on the way.
After an appearance from Trey Parker and Matt Stone, we learned the next South Park game shuffles towards super heroes instead of a fantasy theme. The next game, called “The Fractured But Whole” (insert immature laughter here), reveals more backstory of you, The New Kid, with a hilarious adventure to match, which was fantastic news.
Ubisoft’s CEO, Yves Guillemot, surprised everyone by introducing a new IP that he said “couldn’t wait until the end of the show”. The opening trailer depicted a battle, between knights and vikings, across several time periods. Footage shifted between run-down wooden keeps to fully-fledged castles with trebuchets and cannons firing in the distance. Nearby blasts landed in a flurry of fire as teammates and enemies were set alight. It was a gritty intro to say the least.
The game in question was called For Honor, and was presented by a very enthusiastic Jason Vanderberghe, the game’s Creative Directo. The game focusses on Knights, Vikings and Samurai – three of the most identifiable classes in medieval combat.
A live gameplay demo of the game then followed. Though the Knight’s animation was strange (reminiscent of that German fat kid from The Simpsons running away from Homer) it was very immersive. Similar to Chivalry, there’s a lot of strategy involved in timing your strafes, blocks and strikes. With the 4v4 demo, there was also a duel, which seemed genuine as opposed to the usual scripted events. No release date was revealed and no mention of whether the game would be an MMO or a 4v4 game. Watch this space for more information.
DLC Fluff & Pretty Trailers
Ubisoft then chose to plug their Trials Fusion and The Crew titles with some expansion packs. The Crew ultimately fell flat and Trials stole the segment with an outlandish teaser of a pistol-wielding feline riding a fire-breathing unicorn. The ‘Awesome Level Max’ DLC is set to release July 14th, undoubtedly with some even weirder character and level design.
While development of The Division has definitely dragged on, Ubisoft announced that it is to receive a gameplay demo – it’s third since 2013. Said demo shows the PVP area called The Dark Zone, where players clear small zones to collect more powerful weapons and upgrades not available in the co-op districts. This was a welcome update, even if excitement for the game may have lost momentum.
The trailer proves that The Division still looks decent, though a night time setting with shadow effects covered what seems to be a graphical downgrade. Aside from that, the only noticeable difference from previous E3 showings was a slight tweak of the HUD, which is now designed to display your group’s level. Despite the in-game chatter being less cringe-worthy than usual, one of the players in the demo did an unrealistic dick move and killed his former teammates for their loot. Again, they were quite stingy when it came to revealing more gameplay options (e.g.: skills, weapons, etc.) or even another look at that cool map from their 2013 show.
But, The Division was finally given a release date of March 8th, with a Beta to arrive in early-2016. Ultimately, the beta test will be a ‘make or break’ moment for the game. Ubisoft have drip-fed us details of this game and it hasn’t amounted to much. There has to be something memorable in the beta or it’ll lose traction fast.
Next up, there was another attractive trailer, in the form a vehicle traversing a dusty, barren planet. The footage eventually shows gamers a bright lunar settlement where, despite so much detail, the ball hadn’t yet dropped. Anno 2205 most likely lost a few people when it was revealed to be a city simulation builder. However, the ability to establish communities in outer space is a cool concept and merges into the sic-fi genre quite well; there was no confirmed release date.
Unfortunately, the flow of the show was then halted following a droll and awkward chat with a cosplayer promoting Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate. So, it seemed plugging Just Dance 2016, a Jason Derulo performance and a current-gen exclusive Just Dance streaming service would be just the thing to save Ubisoft. Right? No, no, definitely not.
Unfortunately, now that it’s a committed franchise, Ubisoft has to stick with Just Dance – releasing a ‘2016’ version this October, over a year ahead of the present.
Besides from being on Just Dance 2016, Derulo’s performance had nothing to do with games.It would’ve been to good to see him using the game and dancing to a routine. However, one thing we did learn is that he likes to spin a lot; perhaps he should’ve sang Spinning Around by Kylie Minogue? Needless to say, the conference was in limbo for 10 minutes or so.
The franchise train continued to roll forwards, as Ubisoft showed a live demo of Rainbow Six: Siege. The demo really exemplified how important team co-operation and communication is in Siege, because the players remained very vocal throughout the game.
While it looked great, with intuitive upside-down rappelling and first-person leaning mechanics, only one mode, TerroHunt, was talked about for Siege’s entire updated reveal. There was a real Battlefield 4 Rush Mode-type feel about the demo, with fantastic detail in destructible environments and tense close-quarter combat. Furthermore, it appeared to borrow Ghost Recon’s use of aerial drones and other remote-controlled stealth gadgets. Still, a Beta testing period on September 24th was nice to see.
Next, Trackmania:Turbo looked to be one for lovers of arcade titles. The PC racing game, now making the transition over to consoles, was colourful, quick and pretty crazy. Similar to Burnout in some respects, Turbo lets players drive their cars extremely fast through levels reminiscent of Micro Machines.
What was impressive about this game, though, was the automatic track generator. The feature constructs complete tracks in no time, yielding lots of variations in gameplay – seen by mistakes made from Creative Director, François Alaux.
“Get Out of Jail” Cards
The big fish, Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate, finally made an appearance. No doubt this series has had on-again/off-again relationship with gamers from as far back as Assassin’s Creed II. Black Flag injected less stealth and more action into the franchise, whereas Unity attempted to re-establish that stealth, with atrocious results. How did Syndicate fare on it’s first public outing? Frankly, we don’t know.
With the yearly release window looming, there was no live demo and no news of a Beta for the game. The game’s flashy trailer did little to impress, so Ubisoft will have to pull something special out of the bag to excite gamers about their franchise going forward.
The last reveal of the night, out of the blue, went to a new Ghost Recon iteration. Ghost Recon: Wildlands’ premise wasn’t clear but appeared to be a near-perfect title for co-operative online play with friends. What is clear is that you need to fight criminal organisations at large in a specific location in a particular country; no doubt the pesky synchronisation points will come into play. The various environments detailed mixed approaches to combat, with the Ambush option providing the ‘Michael Bay’ solution. Furthermore, the open world aspect of Wildlands opens up the map to encourage more carnage and, undoubtedly, more enjoyable gameplay. Even though there was no release date given, Ghost Recon: Wildlands is a game to keep an eye out for.
Even with the absence of a new Child of Light or Valiant Hearts, or even another Rayman iteration, Ubisoft’s conference had as many ups and downs as a Shar-Pei puppy riding a roller coaster. It appears that the company have learned from Unity and opted for Beta periods in their games . With that all important community feedback, this hopefully means that they learn from the mistakes of the past.