Zany, drawn-out, but an impressive showing from Ubisoft.
Ubisoft has a tendency to stretch the truth, particularly at E3. They’ve become notorious in recent years for showing overly ambitious, unattainable trailers for their upcoming games. And frankly, we’ve all become wise to it.
Watch Dogs, The Division and Rainbow Six: Siege were all guilty of practices verging on false advertising – incredible lighting effects, incidental details, and game-changing mechanics were all present in their original trailers, yet completely absent in the final product. And that left many gamers, myself included, pretty pissed off.
It was only natural, then, that before I sat down to watch Ubisoft’s E3 conference, I poured myself a colossal pile of salt to pinch throughout. To my surprise, however, it seems like the French publisher may have finally left their smoke and mirror tactics behind them.
The Truth Will Set You Free
Although Ubisoft’s conference was packed full of cringe-worthy moments, mainly courtesy of the divisive Aisha Tyler, at it was at least honest. (Yes, I know it sounds daft to praise a company for being morally decent, but hey, here we are.)
The gameplay trailer for Ghost Recons: Wildlands, which opened Ubisoft’s show, was clearly a fair representation of what gamers can expect when it releases next year. And even though it wasn’t the visual spectacle some people may have been expecting, I found myself appreciating the game’s imperfections, knowing that this was the actual game instead of pure hyperbole.
Unfortunately, Ghost Recons: Wildlands was let down by the scripted, god awful team chatter that Ubisoft has pioneered. I’m sorry, but no one winces in pain when you’re playing a game in real life, that’s just dumb. It was like listening to Stone Mountain 64, a parody YouTuber who takes games far too seriously with amazing results.
Gonna Have Myself A Time
Next up was South Park: The Fractured But Whole, a close contender for my game of E3. It was only fitting that two of the most outspoken men in entertainment, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, co-creators of South Park, were invited to discuss the sequel to the excellent Stick of Truth, which is free on Xbox One, PS4 and PC to those who pre-order The Fractured But Whole.
The Fractured But Whole looks like it has all the ingredients to leave gamers laughing out loud thanks to the typically intelligent writing and amazing satire that South Park is famous for. The combat, which was arguably the weakest element of Stick of Truth, has been completely overhauled, too, so colour me excited for this one.
The award for ‘most dramatic introduction’ has to go to For Honor, whose Creative Director, Jason Vandenberghe, set the stage like an accomplished Shakespearean actor. Thankfully the build up was worth it, as For Honor appears to be a brutal, visceral combat game. It reminded me of Ryse: Son of Rome with a hint of Dynasty Warriors, take from that what you will.
The good news is that For Honor looked close to the gameplay trailer we saw last year, which was extremely impressive. If there has been any downgrading, I failed to spot it; however, I do worry that the game’s melee system could grow tedious over time. Fingers crossed this isn’t the case.
Watch Out, Hackers About
The theme of transparency continued with the much maligned Watch Dogs 2. It still doesn’t live up to the infamous reveal trailer of the original game, but overall I like the direction Ubisoft has taken with Watch Dogs 2. The game clearly doesn’t take itself too serious this time around – it’s far more colourful, exuberant and at times, silly.
The gadgets available to Watch Dog 2’s new protagonist, Marcus Holloway, and his ability to hack remote objects such as vehicles, gave the impression that the gameplay will be more varied and creative, which only bodes well.
A promising sequel, then, but one that still has a lot to prove due to the mediocrity of its predecessor.
Wrapping up Ubisoft’s E3 conference in a wintry coat of wonder was a new, albeit niche IP. Steep is a remarkably ambitious game that revolves around the GoPro phenomenon of filming and sharing extreme stunts. You can base jump, snowboard, ski and paraglide with your friends as you take on challenges, watch replays and explore the powdered slopes of the mountainside.
It remains to be seen whether gamers will be drawn to Ubisoft’s Steep, but I already have doubts. Base jumping looked uninspired, and traversing the mountains may become tiresome after a while. Nevertheless, what we saw had promise, and it’s great to see a large publisher take a gamble in an industry full of safe bets.
What we saw from Ubisoft, then, was a lineup of promising games, all of which appear to be representative actual gameplay. More of the same next year, Ubisoft.