E3 2016: Ubisoft Media Briefing
Ubisoft has been known for doing some unique things with their E3 presser, and the way this one started off was no exception, but I suppose I'm getting ahead of myself. Ubisoft has used E3 in the past to reveal some high profile titles including Far Cry 4 and the upcoming For Honor. For the past few years, Ubisoft has also been among my favorite press conferences, thanks to the continued involvement of Aisha Tyler, who has hosted the Ubisoft briefing for the last four years. I hope to see her back again this year, but for now, let's get the ball rolling and see what Ubisoft has for us this year.
Just Dance 2017
Ubisoft opened the show in the strangest possible way with a troupe of dancers, including some in animal costumes, to introduce the next annual entry in the Just Dance franchise. Not much was said about the game, but the series has been annualized since 2009. Expect plenty of Top 40 pop songs and a smattering of a few other genres just to shake things up. The game will be released on consoles and PC in October, and typically this would be the end of the discussion, but not this time. In a surprise announcement, the game was also revealed to be coming to the Nintendo NX. This shocking reveal makes this the only the second confirmed title for the NX and the first by a third party developer.
This particular announcement doesn't make me any more interested in Just Dance itself, but it is nice to get some official word of third party support for the upcoming next generation Nintendo console. At the end of the segment, Aisha Tyler came out to the stage to host her fifth consecutive press conference. She asks for a moment of silence for the victims of Orlando before the show continues normally.
Ghost Recon: Wildlands
Ubisoft with a look at the upcoming Ghost Recon title, Wildlands. The aim of Wildlands is to return the series to its roots instead of sticking with the futuristic setting of the previous Ghost Recon titles. Set in the country of Bolivia, which is run by a drug cartel. In the Ghost Recon universe, this cartel has used Bolivia's supply of coca leaf to turn the country into the largest supplier of cocaine in the world. The Ghosts are dispatched to Bolivia to unseat the cartel and prevent them from continue to flood the United States with their drugs.
What followed was a long gameplay demo, which highlighted once of the game's missions. This mission shows a team of players attempting to capture one of the members of the cartel. The team must first access a cartel compound and hack one of their computers to learn the location of the target. From this point on, the demo turned into a race to capture the objective with lots of gunplay and car chases.
Wildlands feels like a natural progression from last year's Rainbow Six: Siege. The open world setting of Bolivia seems to borrow some inspiration from the recent Far Cry games as well as taking some nods from a few of Ubisoft's other titles. I'm sure that Wildlands will do well when it drops next year, I'm just not sure it will be a title that I'll bother playing.
South Park: The Fractured But Whole
The South Park creators themselves came out for this reveal and, despite the initial trailer having nothing to do with the game, this segment was one of the highlights. Getting to see the game in action with newly updated battle systems was quite a surprise. I had assumed that all we would see of the game would be a trailer, but they did one better and walked up through the game's introductory scene in addition to a standard trailer. The enhancements from the first title look like they'll keep the game interesting, and change it just enough to prevent the sequel from being stale.
The trademark South Park wit is back, with writing easily any par with any episode you'd watch. Of course, it should go without saying that this game isn't for the little ones, and if you're easily offended, you should probably avoid it. The biggest surprise from this reveal came in the form of the game's pre-order bonus. Anyone who pre-orders a copy of the game will also receive a copy of The Stick of Truth for either the Playstation 4, Xbox One, or PC. This offer is a great add-on and a fantastic way to bring a stellar title to both of the current generation consoles, despite the fact that the X1 could already play the 360 version.
The Fractured But Whole was one of my most anticipated titles coming into to E3, and after seeing it in action, I can say that it's going to be staying there. The game is taking everything I enjoyed about the first game, putting a superhero twist on it, and tweaking it just enough to make it stand out. I admire the work put into this by all parties, and I can't wait to play it on December 6th.
Following the South Park section, Ubisoft spoke more about The Division DLC that was debuted earlier in the day at Microsoft's Briefing. We get a few more details, but since I'm not a Division player, I'm not the best person to elaborate on them.
Virtual Reality seems to be the real hot button topic at this year's E3. We've seen VR at nearly every one of the events so far, and I'm sure this won't be the last time we see it either. Well, Ubisoft started by bringing out the founding and creator of Oculus. While on stage, he played Ubisoft's first VR game, Eagle Flight. In Eagle Flight, you take control of an eagle in a two-on-two race to capture your prey and return it to a particular point before the opposing team can knock you out of the sky and steal the prey from you. It's an interesting concept, but it ultimately feels like more of a concept than a full featured game. The other issue with this style of game is the multiplayer portion, while the team aspect would be perfect for parties, let's be honest, who's going to have four Oculus headsets laying around? With four Oculus Rifts, you'd be looking at close to $2500; that's certainly nothing to sneeze at, especially for a game as basic at this one. Again, it's a cool idea, and I'm sure it'd be fun, but the logistics aren't on its side.
Following up Eagle Flight, Ubisoft dug out some Star Trek alumni and introduces their second VR game, Star Trek: Bridge Crew. I've seen some episodes of The Next Generation and the original Star Trek, but I've never been a huge fan of the franchise, but this was a pretty cool concept. In the game, you play along with three of your friends and run the bridge of an actual Federation starship. While this isn't a game for me, mainly due to not being a big fan of Star Trek, are the logistical issues once again. Being able to enjoy the game fully is dependent upon having access to three friends and four Rifts. The real highlight of the segment was seeing Lavar Burton on stage with Aisha Tyler, seeing her gush over meeting him was something I could totally relate to because it was evident that she was starstruck. This is a cool concept, and I'm glad to see Ubisoft supporting VR.
Odds and Ends
Picking up from where they left off at the end of last year's E3, it was now time to see what's come of Ubisoft's For Honor. The game looks like it's just a prettier version of Dynasty Warriors, and while I love Dynasty Warriors, I can only do so much. The other issue with this game is that the trailer talks about the futility of war, but the game itself glorifies it. It's a bit of a strange mixed message, but ultimately I don't think this is a game I'm going to be checking out. Check it out if you're interesting in a Dynasty Warriors game that pits knights against samurai and Vikings. Once again, it's a cool concept, but I'm just not sure it will work well in execution.
Ubisoft Reflections got a little stage time again this year with a sequel to Grow Home, Grow Up. Once again the game features B.U.D., the little red robot. This time, he'll be doing a lot more vertical gameplay than last time and his new adventure looks like it will be enjoyable. I haven't had a chance to play the original, but this game does make me interested in trying it out, so perhaps I'll take some time to try it out sometime.
Finally, Ubisoft broke out the drugs and sent us back in time to the 80s, as the team responsible for Far Cry: Blood Dragon returned to give us something completely ridiculous once again. Their new game, Trials of the Blood Dragon, take the gameplay from Ubisoft's popular Trials series and mix it with the surreal visuals and humor from Far Cry: Blood Dragon and you have Trials of the Blood Dragon. This game just had to tell me its pedigree, and I'm on board. The bright and crazy visuals of Blood Dragon added to the gameplay of Trials seems like a hell of a match. I've wanted to try out the Trials games for a while, and this looks like it's going to be my opportunity. This game looks great, and I think it'll a fun way to spend some time on the PS4, especially since it's already available to download.
Trials was followed up with a look at the upcoming Assassin's Creed film. This whole section felt out of place. To recover some momentum, Ubisoft introduced us to Watch_Dogs 2 next. This helped to get the show back on track and gave us a first look at the gameplay. The ability to come at each situation as either a ghost or run in guns blazing is fun, even if it has been done before. The game seems like a natural evolution from the first game and, as someone who enjoyed the first game, I look forward to having the opportunity to try this new game.
As we approached the final segment, the CEO of Ubisoft, Yves Guillemot, made his way onto the stage. As I waited for their final reveal, I was expecting to see the first look at the 2017 Assassin's Creed title, since the series is taking a break this year. As he started discussing a new IP, his words caught my interest. Marking the second year in a row that they closed the show with a new IP, rather than merely pushing out a sequel to an establish franchise.
As they pulled back the curtain, we would be introduced to a brand new game, Steep. The first of its kind, Steep is an open world extreme sports title. Steep takes place in the Alps and allows players to explore the mountains freely via skiing, snowboarding, parasailing, or by descending in a wing suit. Players can take challenges in the game and then send them to their friends, allowing them to compete against your best times. In addition to this, say you do a cool stunt when you're doing freestyle on the mountain. You can rewind your play and change that stunt into a challenge, which allows you to send it to friends or post it for other players to try. This feature adds a lot of value to the game, and offers additional content, by consistently adding new challenges to the game. Steep felt like a great way to close the show. The game sounds interesting, and it looks gorgeous. With it coming in December, it won't be a long wait to get our hands on it.
Despite a few hiccups, like the Wildlands segment going too long and the Assassin's Creed movie, Ubisoft has a fantastic showing this year. Aisha Tyler did an excellent job hosting the event and made sure it was entertaining throughout, and Ubi didn't spend too much time lingering on most of the content, giving it a nice pace. So far, Ubisoft has had the best conference of the year, and it's only fitting that this event coincides with the company's 30th anniversary. While I had my doubt coming in, and I've spoken ill of Ubisoft in the past, they've renewed my faith with some of their upcoming titles, and I can't wait to get my hands on most of what was shown.