Ubisoft E3 2014 Press Conference – Our Impressions

By Chip Tamplin

Published on Saturday, June 14, 2014

Ubisoft has easily been one of the biggest game publishers and developers in the industry for almost thirty years. Behind annual franchises like Far Cry, Just Dance, Assassins Creed and Tom Clancy’s games, this French juggernaut is one of the biggest forces in gaming.

While a few things were certain to show up in their press conference, namely new Assassins Creed and Far Cry games, they still managed to bring a few surprises to the mix. Read on for my impressions of the conference.

Far Cry 4 – Xbox one, Playstation 4, PS3, 360, PC:

Far Cry 3, which I sadly didn’t play until about a year after its release, was a fantastic game. Despite being patched multiple times, it still featured a decent amount of glitches, but the story and crafting system was captivating. Vaas, the notable villain from 3, was one of the best video game villains in recent memory. Using that as a segue, Ubisoft opened their E3 2014 press conference with a trailer showing off Far Cry 4’s villain – despotic self-appointed king named Pagan Min (voiced by the incredibly talented Troy Baker). Vaas was a raving lunatic, but based on this trailer, Min might be even more evil and crazy.

I had the opportunity to do a fort raid in Far Cry 4 playing it in two of the three ways to play: using a hang glider to fly in, sneak in with a silenced sniper rifle and cross bow or riding in guns blazing on the back of an elephant. Needless to say, I tried the elephant first.

The controls were a bit wonky and given how quickly your health deteriorates, I can’t see using the elephant too much in combat unless all the enemies are in close proximity of one another. If they were close together, the elephant would automatically start kicking them and thrashing them around with its trunk. But if it wasn’t, you’d be dead pretty quick. Naturally, I died pretty quick. On my second play through I decided to go the stealth route. Equipped with my silenced sniper rifle and crossbow I made quick work of the guards up high, sadly I was randomly spotted and my stealth play through quickly turned into a run and gun brawl. After I luckily sniped the pilot of an incoming gunship on his way to kill me, I made quick work of the last few guards and my play through came to an end.

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Over the two play throughs I had, I noticed many of the same glitches that I’d experienced in Far Cry 3 seemed to be present in 4 as well. Given that the release date isn’t schedule for mid-November, there’s plenty of time to iron those out and hopefully they do. Despite the glitches, Far Cry 4 was a ton of fun and I can’t wait to get it this November.

 

Just Dance 2015 – 360, PS3, PS4, XB1, PC, Wii, Wii U:

No, Aisha Tyler, we are all sick of that song. If “Happy” by Pharrell doesn’t die soon, I may lose the last shred of sanity I have. That said, there’s no denying just how popular the Just Dance series is and with Just Dance 2015 coming, you know it’s going to be insane. That’s not all though…

 

Just Dance Now – Smartphones and tablets:

Ubisoft Paris has also announced Just Dance Now, an app for your phone that allows you to turn your smart phone into a hub for a game of Just Dance. Any player with a smartphone/tablet (Android or iOS), smart TV or PC can join the game using the accelerometer on their phone. And, according to Ubisoft, there’s no limit on how many players can connect at once using the Just Dance Now app.

Just Dance Executive Producer Jason Altman states: “the magic of Just Dance Now is that there’s no limit to the number of people who can play. From four people, to twenty people at a birthday party, to the two thousand people in this auditorium, to twenty thousand people at a stadium concert. Anyone with a smart phone, who can see the big screen, can join the game, bringing us one step closer to connecting the world through dance.”

A compelling concept, though it’s hard to imagine it truly working that well.


The Division – Xbox One, Playstation 4, PC:

Tom Clancy’s The Division was unveiled at E3 2013 and blew everyone’s minds. Leading up to E3 2014 it was announced that The Division was delayed into 2015. Despite that claim, we knew that Ubisoft would definitely be showing off some more footage from the RPG/third person shooter. Boy, were we in for a treat.

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For those who are unfamiliar with The Division, the game is set in New York City after a deadly pandemic sweeps through the city. A day into the outbreak, basic services fail and the city is thrown into utter chaos. Because of this, The Division – a covert group of self-supported sleeper agents – is activated. The agents in The Division are allowed to work independently and outside the chain of command.

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The trailer Ubisoft shows us is a compelling flash-forward in time showing the gradual affects of this manmade virus on the city. We were also granted a look into another great (albeit short) mission of gameplay that shows off a few gadgets as well as tablet integration. Behind closed doors, the developers also showed us another variation of that same level (this time at night) that showed off how the city can change between night and day and how that can affect combat.

Ubisoft (more specifically Massive, Red Storm and Reflections) has done a fantastic job with this game. The new Snowdrop engine makes The Division one of the best looking games of all time. Gameplay was crisp and although the tablet integration doesn’t seem overly practical, it’s a cool addition. One of the coolest aspects in its fusion with RPG attributes is that The Division doesn’t force you to play one way the entire game. As they showed us in the behind closed door viewing, you’re able to change your attributes depending on the situation you’re going in to, giving you much more freedom to play the way you’d naturally play.

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We unfortunately don’t have a firm release date following the delay, but hopefully it’s going to be a Q1 release in 2015. As a huge fan of Tom Clancy games, The Division is far and away my most anticipated game right now.

 

The Crew – PS4, Xbox One, PC:

I’m not a big fan of racing games, with the exception of Mario Kart. I had a blast with Forza Motorsport 5, but overall, I just get bored with racing games too quickly to justify the purchase. So, going into my demo of The Crew, I was pretty skeptical that I’d like it. The Crew was actually a ton of fun. We got to play two different modes. One was just a simple race, where I naturally finished towards the back of the crowd. In the next mode, you were required to hit and destroy another car, similar to the class Burnout games, which I actually enjoyed quite a bit. I was actually pretty good at this mode.

Graphically, the game was stellar. The city we raced through had a ton of detail and matchmaking seemed like a breeze to set up each race with your friends. The races themselves could be a bit glitchy (at one point I literally went through another car), but I chalked most of that up to alpha bugs.

While I still doubt I’d buy the game, I’m certainly open to renting it in the future or borrowing a friend’s copy. If you are a fan of racing games, I think this is definitely a game to keep on your radar. The Crew is set to release on November 11th, 2014.

 

Assassins Creed: Unity – Xbox One, PS4, PC:

I was very late to the Assassins Creed series. Despite buying the GOTY edition of Assassins Creed, I didn’t actually truly play or finish an Assassins Creed game until AC3 came out. After playing through about thirty minutes of 3, I went back and started the whole series over and just fell in love. Despite the slow nature of AC1, I was blown away by AC2, Brotherhood and Revelations. 3 left me disappointed and while the story of Black Flag was okay, the free roaming was the only part of the game I truly enjoyed. The last two felt unnatural, given the previous time periods touched on. Unity, set in the French Revolution, feels like it could be a true return to form for the Assassins Creed franchise.

For the first time in the series, four-player co-op has been introduced. We’re not sure if the entire game is playable in co-op (I’d tend to doubt it) or just specific missions, but we’re excited. The gameplay video of it we saw at the Ubisoft booth was fantastic. Also, the addition of improved parkour (especially when descending from heights) looks fantastic and is well overdue.

While we’ve still got a few months until release, the bits I’ve seen from Unity have me cautiously optimistic for a return to form of quality for the Assassins Creed franchise.

Additional videos: Single player commentary and an introduction to Arno.

 

Shape Up – Xbox One:

An interesting take on the motion capture fitness routine. From the little bit they showed, it seemed like a cool mix between the normal mini games of video game fitness games, but with a bit of a fusion with Guitar Hero and those kinds of games. A bit childish, but seemed pretty cool.

 

Valiant Hearts: The Great War – 360, One, PS3, PS4, PC:

In honor of the 100th anniversary of World War I, Ubisoft is bringing a beautiful and tragic puzzle solving game to your local console. Valiant Hearts puts a unique spin on the war games we’ve come to know and puts you in the boots of four companions and their dog through the horrors of the trenches across the western front. Ubisoft also announced their partnership with a documentary called Apocalypse: World War I that will premiere soon on the American Heroes Channel. Some of their photos have been included in the game, adding an interesting spin on how we approach and process war.

I had the opportunity to play a level of this game and was blown away by it. The art style is unique and beautiful and does a great job of being challenging while also compelling. I can’t wait to pick this up and play through the full game when it launches on June 25th, 2014.

 

Rainbow Six Siege – PS4, Xbox One, PC:

With games constantly being leaked early (Battlefield Hardline and Mario Maker), it was amazing that Rainbow Six Siege actually managed to remain a secret. I don’t think there was a game I put more time into on my Xbox 360 over its lifespan than Rainbow Six Vegas 2. When Rainbow Six Patriots was announced at E3 a few years ago, I couldn’t contain my excitement. After the announcement, there was no talk of it for around a year and while it was claimed it was still in development but as of this E3, it was canceled to make way for Siege.

Normally scripted demos don’t bother me, but a the terrible commentary, attempting to raise the feeling of desperate and haste, just made the demo seem gimmicky and turned me off from it.

What appealed to me most about Patriots was its (apparent) focus on single player – which is what the biggest appeal of gaming is to me. With Siege, the focus is substantially more on multiplayer. The multiplayer for RSV2 was great, but that was a plus to how good the main story was. With Siege, at least based off the hostage rescue mode they demoed, it’s hard to imagine people truly working together to play the game but it will turn into some mediocre deathmatch.

While I won’t write the game off until I see more from it, knowing that Patriots was canceled for this leaves me very disappointed.

 

Final impressions:

Ubisoft’s press conference was par for the course. Everything that was shown, besides the surprise addition of Rainbow Six Siege, was what myself and most other people predicted would be there. While they shouldn’t tinker with what’s working for them, it would’ve been nice to see another new IP or two thrown in there, especially with how well Watch Dogs was received.

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