The last two years have given us some tremendous press conferences from Ubisoft. 2012’s event gave us the first look at the recently released (and reviewed) Watch Dogs, while last year had the unveiling of two online open-world RPGs: The Division and The Crew. With those events still fresh in gamers’ minds, Ubisoft had a lot to live up to this year, and while we saw a glimpse of that greatness, the event was a bit underwhelming.
Beginning with a new trailer for the recently-announced Far Cry 4, Ubisoft gave us an extended look at the villain for their Montreal studio’s newest baby. Wearing a colorful suit and carrying a sharp blade — which he uses to “take care” of an incompetent soldier — the eccentric boss seems to have taken a liking to the protagonist, acting like the two are close friends after jumping from his helicopter. It’s difficult to tell if what we were seeing was running in-engine, as the game is launching on systems that Far Cry 3 was not on, but the environments look like a nice change from the jungles of the last installment.
Next up was the obligatory live demonstration for Just Dance 2015, as well as a look at the Just Dance Now smartphone app. It appears that there will be more community interaction for scoring players, but as the name would suggest, the changes are incremental.
At this point, we got CG trailers for two games that we have already seen in action, The Division and The Crew. This follows a similar pattern to Watch Dogs and Splinter Cell, which were both unveiled with gameplay before showing off CG story trailers later, and while they certainly looked good, I was hoping to see a little bit more gameplay. Of course, some of that was already shown for The Division at Microsoft’s show, but with a game already announced a full year ago, it was an odd decision.
This was followed by another CG trailer — this time for Assassin’s Creed: Unity, complete with a weird Tears for Fear cover — but it eventually morphed into a long gameplay demonstration that showed off four-player co-op and a tremendous amount of civilians. For a franchise releasing on a yearly basis, Assassin’s Creed definitely got the room talking. The basic pillars of an Assassin’s Creed game still seem to be there, but the challenges of working stealthily with three other people looks to add a whole new element to the franchise.
After another weird, extended demo for the fitness game Shape Up (the second year in a row “Eye of the Tiger” was used on stage) that featured push-up competitions and a 16-bit interface, we got another trailer for the very soon-to-release Valiant Hearts: The Great War. The trailer was one of the high points of the conference, giving a dog’s thoughts on losing his friends to war and showing him resting at their graves, with wooden crosses in the dirt. It launches in just over two weeks.
Last up, as always, was the cold-open reveal of a brand new, showstopping game. Only this time, it wasn’t a new IP. In fact, it wasn’t even exactly a new game. Rainbow 6: Patriots has been scrapped in favor of Rainbow Six: Siege (back to the word “six” in the title) and we were given a gameplay demonstration of a hostage multiplayer mode. With tons of breaching explosives and destructible environments, the game looks extremely tense, and a multi-stage gameplay scenario seems to mix things up from the standard online shooter. Still, I’m interested to see how the campaign has been retooled, given that a conceptual video on Patriots’ story was all we had been shown before.
One final note: host Aisha Tyler was awful this year. Her jokes generalized gamers, her banter with the developers fell flat, and her remark about the online response at the start of the conference made it obvious that she wasn’t going to change anything. Luckily, it didn’t get in the way of the games, but I wish that Yves Guillemot or another Ubisoft executive would host the conference themselves.
With such high expectations to live up to, it isn’t too unexpected that Ubisoft couldn’t quite complete the three-peat, but the show this year was still solid and featured good looks at some giant franchises, as well as a few smaller ones. We’ll just have to wait and see if the games can live up to the hype.