E3 2014: Ubisoft all over the place with the serious and the casual
Ubisoft delivers a memorable if uneven show about French assassins, suburban warfare, and World War I lettersBy Jonathan Toyad 10 Jun, 2014
If there’s one thing to learn from Ubisoft’s presentation at this year’s E3, it’s that it knows how to keep its talented if eccentric personalities on-stage while also showing off all varieties of games regardless of tone. Take Aisha Tyler, one of the stars from TV show Archer who goes from excited to very excited presenting Ubisoft games that will be out for 2014 and 2015. There is no calm centre within this presenter; everything about her performance is wildfire and we wouldn’t want it any other way.
Talking about tone earlier, it was all over the place, though it at least came off as interesting in retrospect. Ubisoft had a showcase of different kinds of games here and there, with Just Dance 2015 and Shape Up tailored for the casual market. The former is the next dance game that now features community sharing options, that Pharell song with the montage, and a free app that lets you share dances around the world whether you like it or not.
The latter is a gameified version of an exercise programme, exclusive for the Xbox One. While gimmicky at first, the visual feedback on-screen from doing push-ups and dancing on the spot ala Dance Dance Revolution while clearing up coloured blocks in the game is incentive enough to maybe dusting off that Kinect for a quick 10-minute bout or two.
All the nonsense was offset by the balancing out from core titles. There was a grand introduction via Far Cry 4, a first-person shooter where you start life anew in the Himalayas, and then all of a sudden explosions and some guy who looks like Chef Wan escorts you. It’s not as colossal as the co-op showcase from the Sony press conference, but it’s a lovely way to kick things off.
Then there’s a bigger demo of Assassin’s Creed Unity, the next action adventure title in the Assassin’s Creed series set in 1789 Paris at the start of the French Revolution. While the Xbox One demo was about the four player co-op mode, this playthrough was to showcase how alive Paris is with its random side missions popping up amidst a player’s main quest to assassinate a target. We do hope that the HUD-less presentation is indicative of the final game, because it’s easier in the long run to parkour and hunt without clutter.
The Crew also made its appearance, albeit in a short and quick cut manner similar to a car commercial, coupled with a tournament announcement and a release date (July 23). Ditto for Tom Clancy‘s The Division, where Ubisoft put up a story trailer about how New York City in-game turned to a war-ravaged wasteland; that’s it. The standout short trailer, however, was for Valiant Hearts, a uniquely-animated adventure game based on the letters and memoirs from soldiers during World War I, all tying in to one dog that went through the ordeal. This possibly unique title will be out on June 25. Keep in mind that this is the only time presenter Aisha Tyler was straight-faced.
As if the Ubisoft presentation needed more Tom Clancy games, along came a five-versus-five match of Rainbow Six Siege out of nowhere, a game that was originally called Rainbow Six Patriots before it was scrapped and re-done 18 months ago. The gameplay showcased a capture-the-flag variant where a female hostage (so much for being progressive, Ubisoft) requires rescuing from a suburban home filled with destructible environments. Yes, there’s actually a use for the said environment, as punching out holes in bedroom walls can open up more spots to fire from, as well as blowing up floors below you to ambush enemies from above.
Ubisoft never did follow the straight and narrow when it comes to showboating its wares. While 2014’s effort wasn’t as insane as the past two E3 presentations, it was all over the place in tone. We went from a trip to the Himalayas with explosions to a dance game to a dark future where a major American city gets hit by an epidemic. And then there’s a thing about suburban warfare and a World War I indie-styled game. But be honest; you probably wouldn’t remember much if the show was by-the-numbers, would you?