E3 2012

Ubisoft at E3 2012 – Watching Those Dogs.

Conference number three on Monday evening was provided by Ubisoft, who gave a typically energetic stage show with presenters who had the potential to either irritate beyond belief or add an aura of excitability to the show. Regardless of that, their offerings were nothing out of the ordinary: Splinter Cell gameplay, Assassins Creed 3 and a whole roster of titles announced for the upcoming Wii U. However, the biggest, best and most talked-about reveal came at the end of their conference and received a rapturous response from the audience, both at E3 and watching over the internet. You’ll see why later on but let’s crack on with the earlier announcements first.

Before I start, I think it’s probably wise to encourage everyone who watched the event to wipe the appearance of Flo Rida out of their memories to save the inevitable nightmares further down the line. It may even have been worse than Usher making an impromptu appearance at Microsoft’s event but that’s up to you to decide as it’s like choosing cat excrement over dog feces.

Splinter Cell Blacklist Gameplay

Blacklist was introduced during the Microsoft E3 conference and as such, I have already gone into a bit of detail about that over on my Microsoft post. However, it made an expected appearance during Ubisoft’s conference and nothing has changed. From watching the footage, you can see ‘stealthy’ elements in there, such as being able to see through walls and pinpoint where all of the enemies are in your close vicinity, but ultimately, all guns’a blazing seems to be the method that gives the most success in this game.

I mentioned in a previous post that Conviction was a significant departure from the familiar Splinter Cell format, with its choice to abandon stealth and skulking in dark corners in favour of stylish execution moves and more accessibility to the more absent-minded of players. However, there were times during the game when stealth wielded more success than the Rambo method. I sincerely hope Blacklist still has sections which promote stealth because it can never be good if the game chose to totally disregard its heritage and how it became so successful in the first place.

Conviction was a thoroughly decent, and interesting, game when you chose to ignore its conceptual change. Blacklist looks to be the same thing all over again but whether it still has sections dedicated to the act of stealth remains a mystery. Still, Spy vs Mercs baby. Gimme gimme.

Far Cry 3

Big-breasted women, tigers, bow and arrows and psychedelic sections that make you feel like you’ve taken a large dose of LSD; Far Cry 3’s first gameplay footage looked slightly above average and like it could offer something special come release day. Not only that, it seems to do what few sequels have managed this E3 – offer something different to its predecessor.

Firstly, Far Cry 3 looks gorgeous. It’s no surprise given how Far Cry 2 managed to transform its African setting into a gorgeous wasteland of sand and sun and now that we’re on more colourful ground, things really start to look their best. The view shown as the player approaches the edge of the cliff and looks around at the island they’re on reminds me heavily of Just Cause 2 – another title that excelled in the visual eye-candy department. Whether or not the game is as large and full of possibilities as said title remains to be seen.

From the demoed gameplay, it appears as though the elements that dragged Far Cry 2 down have gone. For example, the player isn’t required to take medication every half a flippin’ hour to stay alive, nor trek along miles and miles of roads to get to their next objective, only to encounter checkpoints along the way that magically replenish their occupants every few minutes. Ok, enough about that. FC3 looks to be abandoning those choices and be less of a chore to play, as well as becoming a lot better and more solid in the combat department, from the dive into the ocean to the slitting of throats mid-combat. I only hope it’s not as clunky and awkward as FC2 made it.

Despite its biggest flaws, Far Cry 2 still gave us one of the finest map editors available to date and we’ve already been told that it’s returning. However, with a 4-player co-op campaign revealed this week, I’ve heard some rumblings that you may be able to edit levels for co-op with the editor. If true, you can sure bet I’ll be scooping this game up on release day like a deranged madman salivating at the prospect of making an entire island of my own. FC2 played like crap but making levels on the editor, or playing the creations of others, was the most fun I ever had with it. I hope to do it again.

Wii U Announcements

As well as giving some love to the Xbox 360 and PS3, Ubisoft also showed some for the upcoming Wii U console, although their offerings were bordering on potential shovelware rather than eagerly anticipated creations. Of the six announced (Just Dance 4, Rayman Legends, Rabbids Land, Sport Connection, Your Fitness Evolved 2013 and ZombiU), only two caught my eye that may just tilt me towards the potential purchase of the console come this Fall.

The first one, Rayman Legends, looks like an extremely colourful and fun platformer that takes advantage of the critical reception to Rayman Origins, the previous title of this nature, as well as making use of the asymmetric capabilities of the Wii U controller. I have to admit that I hold no extensive knowledge of either the Rayman franchise nor Origins, but this game still looks like tremendous fun; it’s vibrant, exciting and looks to be full of frenetic-paced sections to speed the gameplay along. Colour me extremely interested.

The second Wii U-announced title that took my interest was ZombiU. Ubisoft’s E3 conference merely introduced the existence of the title and didn’t reveal much about what the game entails, but the trailer they provided made several things clear: zombies, London and plenty of guns and gore. Actual gameplay footage was demonstrated during Nintendo’s press conference which I will talk about in more detail tomorrow. For now though, I am extremely interested in this title. C’mon, zombies in London? Hell yes?

Oh, and what a highly appropriate choice of music given the setting and the Queen’s recent diamond jubilee here. Or maybe it was hugely inappropriate? You decide. I almost expected the Queen to emerge from behind some rubble all zombified and menacing.

All of the other Wii U announcements held very little interest and not just to me judging from the chat on Twitter at the time. Just Dance 4, Fitness Evolved etc. are just the same thing repeated verbatim, especially Just Dance. Is it nothing more than just new songs to dance idiotically to? It’s the same for Fitness Evolved as well. Clearly no imagination or innovation is going to come out of these titles anytime soon.

e-Sports

Ubisoft’s conference also featured a look at the concept of e-sports, complete with live gameplay on stage of a game which, quite frankly, looked terrible. To be honest, I’ve seen so little discussion of this section of the event since the conference concluded to deduce that nobody gave a hoot about whatever the point was of showing this on stage. I’ve even done a YouTube search for the video to put in here but I can’t find anything. Either I’m experiencing momentary loss of YouTube-browsing capabilities or there’s just nobody who cares.

Assassins Creed 3

Assassins Creed 3 was undoubtedly the biggest title to appear in Ubisoft’s line-up and nobody can possibly be surprised as to why that was. The two previous titles in the franchise, Brotherhood and Revelations, were basically more of the same with new features deployed here and there. AC3, however, puts a number on the end and promises a new setting, new character and a wide range of new gameplay features to enhance the traditional Assassin’s Creed formula. I was already eagerly anticipating the game; now I’m salivating over playing it.

As you can see from the footage below, it still retains that look and feel of an Assassin’s Creed title whilst also appearing marginally different to the last few entries. You can now hunt wildlife, the snow-scape is especially luscious (with promised seasonal changes) and the combat looks to be more fluid and fulfilling than ever, as does the process of traversing the environment around you. Not much has been said regarding the actual story element of the game, which is unfortunate as it’s probably the most intriguing aspect of the franchise, at least for me, but we’ve seen quite a bit on how Connor, the new hero of the game, slaughters his enemies with terrific style and ease and it’s wonderful.

A cinematic trailer was also unveiled during the E3 events which you simply must absorb for yourself to appreciate its awesomeness. Although, as good as it is, I’m not entirely keen on the DLC notice at the end, mainly because I’m not overly fond of revealing DLC months ahead of launch nor restricting it to people who pre-order at a certain store. Other than that, absorb it!

Watch Dogs

Here it is: the game that stole the show and solidified Ubisoft’s conference as possibly the finest this year. It impressed on so many levels that there may be too few words available to me to describe just how much of an impact it left, but I will try.

Watch Dogs is an entirely new IP bringing with it a unique blend of GTA, Deux Ex and hints of Assassin’s Creed. It puts the technology of the world in your hands to use as a weapon against your enemies, such as tinkering with traffic lights to cause a pile-up, or jamming cell phone signals around you so that you can slip by unnoticed whilst they flail around with their now-faulty devices. When you get to using actual weapons, the combat appears satisfying and fluid, as the player vaults over vehicles and picks off his foes one by one. It all just looks so fantastic.

Look at the graphics on the game as well. On the video below, move to around the 6:14 mark and observe the rainfall and how incredible it looks when it touches the ground and even the player himself. It’s difficult not to think that Watch Dogs is running on a next-gen gaming engine but it’s already confirmed that the game is releasing on current-gen systems. How they managed to make the game look so phenomenal on current hardware is a mystery totally beyond my comprehension.

Watch Dogs received a fantastic response from those in the auditorium and from those of us watching at home and there are many reasons for that, outside of the fact that it looks amazing. In an E3 event saturated with sequels that bring no innovation or unique concepts, Watch Dogs brought about something that’s new, fresh and unlike others out there. Too many game developers these days are relying on already-established fan-bases to drive current sales and interest, rather than take risks and create something new. This E3 has made that fact even more apparent. The response to this game proves one thing: a new IP can create just as much, if not more, buzz and interest than the third sequel in a franchise can. The sooner others pick up on this fact, the better.

Now, watch the gameplay below and watch it again and again, because it’s darned fantastic.

Ubisoft’s E3 conference started out rough before gradually becoming just another average outing. That was before Assassin’s Creed 3 took to the stage, wowing the audience with its delights in the process, and Watch Dogs concluded the event with huge success. Microsoft and EA didn’t bring the goods to the table whilst Ubisoft tried something other than yet another sequel and received massive success because of it. Watch Dogs made the event and possibly stopped this entire E3 calendar from being a complete disaster.

Now where do I get a time machine to fast-forward to Watch Dogs’ release date? Anyone? Please?…

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