E3 2016 Day 2 Recap - Ubisoft

Yesterday right between Microsoft's and Sony's massive conferences was AAA developer Ubisoft's presentation. Ubisoft is a french multi-national game developer company that's incredibly well known for several critically acclaimed game franchises including Prince of Persia, Far Cry, Rainbow Six, Assassin's Creed and so many more. To be honest, for the most part, Ubisoft is one of my least favorite game developers. It might be due to the bombardment of Assassin's Creed titles year after year and that abandonment of some of their best franchises, BUT I obviously have a ton of respect for any major development company due to how difficult the field is.This year Ubisoft didn't really shock me or leave me particularly awed, but there are a few titles I am completely sold on and I was happy to see some more variety this year.

To start off the show Ubisoft had a giant dance party to the song "Don't Stop Me Now" by Queen to celebrate the release of their popular franchise's next addition, "Just Dance". There were some giraffes, clowns and pandas parading around the stage for around 3 minutes followed by the announcement that Just Dance 2017 will release next October for all consoles including Nintendo's NX. The announcement was followed by a short description of Ubisoft as a company by Aisha Tyler (as per usual) then into the next trailer, which didn't surprise me at all, but the title looks good.

Revealed at Ubi's E3 conference in 2015, Ghost Recon: Wildlands is a open world shooter emphasizing tactics and stealth. The Wildlands demo was pretty long and the game looks solid. Graphically, the game is gorgeous (well...as gorgeous as a desert can be) and the ability to deal with threats and infiltration the way you see fit is always welcome. Ubi revealed the game's plot will be centered around disrupting the Mexican drug cartel...in Bolivia. Ubisoft states "this is the first military shooter you can play entirely solo or in teams of 4", which is promising. I spent an incredible amount of time with Ubi's 2007's entry in the Ghost Recon franchise; Advanced Warfighter. I don't think Wildlands is a groundbreaking gamechanging shooter, but I do believe the game will have an incredible amount of content and a surprising amount of strategy. I can imagine getting a 4 player game going right in the shop, and that sounds awesome. Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Wildlands launches March 7th 2017. I would like to note, I thought the title has a really cool box art!

After the Wildlands showcase was over, the stage went black and I kinda figured Watch_Dogs 2 was next but I was pleasantly surprised to see the newest South Park game's new trailer. South Park: Fractured But Whole (oh god), is a successor to 2014's critically acclaimed game "Stick of Truth". South Park's own creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone took the stage to talk a bit about their next game which was completely hilarious and surprisingly tame, considering, Unlike the pseudo fantasy setting of Stick of Truth, Fractured But Whole shifts the game to a superhero setting right in South Park. This time it seems the youth of South park are wrapped up in a superhero civil war (kinda like a recent blockbuster film...). I was pleasantly surprised to learn the player character is the same boy from Stick of Truth (dubbed "douchebag"). Designed exactly like the television show, Fractured But Whole looks incredible on all fronts. Combat is incredibly similar to Stick of Truth, with a good amount of depth and action the story is simply a South Park experience that you get to play and control yourself, which is perfect. South Park: Fractured But Whole releases December 6th 2016!

Tom Clancy's The Division is actually a pretty big game at LAN Mob and Ubisoft rolled out a whole plethora of DLC incoming. The next pack is titled "Underground" and releases June 28th. Boasting "endless replay-ability" The Division: Underground will have randomly produced areas to work your way through, They also announced that if you are a member of Ubisoft's community reward program "Club Ubi" when Underground releases, you will be rewarded with Splinter Cell, Rainbow Six and Ghost Recon gear in The Division. I love programs like this! I figured that'd be it for The Division but Ubisoft surprised everyone with one more trailer for an upcoming expansion pack called "Survival". It did not get a confirmed release date but it got a pretty sweet teaser, check it out below.

Ubisoft shifted their presentation to virtual reality titles next, which didn't surprise me, but I'm glad they did. Ubisoft tends to make errors when it comes to development, but recognizing and challenging virtual reality is a great choice, in my opinion. First up they demoed a cute little game called "Eagle Flight". Eagle Flight is essentially a fast paced capture the flag competitive title where you control an eagle...in VR! They represented the demo with EIGHT people playing. A virtual reality competitive game supporting up to 8 players is pretty insane, and while the game is simple, the experience is probably wild. The graphics are incredibly polygonal and the premise is simple but controls look responsive, and experiencing flight in VR looks incredibly promising. Eagle Flight didn't get a concrete release date, just sometime 2016, and will release on Oculus Rift, PSVR and HTC Vive.

Up next Aisha Tyler came back on stage and invited a "special guest" on stage to preview their next VR title. Levar Burton from the television show "Star Trek: The Next Generation" entered the stage and helped reveal "Star Trek: Bridge Crew", followed by a video of Star Trek alumni playing the game. I'm not a big Star Trek fan. despite my brother's absolute love of the legendary sci-fi series, but the game looks pretty awesome. The title is also multiplayer, and allows you to control a Star Trek ship as a member of the bridge crew with your friends. I imagine Star Trek fans would kill for an experience like this, so good for Ubisoft for developing it!

So, as I've made clear, Ubisoft is a company I pay attention to, but if I was to name my top 25 games of all time, they wouldn't make my list as a developer. However at the 2015's E3, Ubisoft revealed a title called "For Honor" which I immediately fell in love with. Not only did Ubisoft bring the game to their 2016 E3 stage, they blew it out of the water. "For Honor" is best described as a historical hack and slash set during an alternative medieval war time. The title utilizes an incredibly unique hand-to-hand combat system called "The Art of War", which has players blocking in one of three directions to parry blows, and reacting accordingly. In the past a lot of the For Honor gameplay shown to the public was very multiplayer based, however at this conference, Ubisoft showcased an incredible single player experience. Single player For Honor has a lot of focus on how massive these battles would have been, and how small a single combatant would feel. Unlike other games that deal with massive mob combat (like Dynasty Warriors) For Honor has an awesome sense of flow and grittiness that would accompany actual medieval war. For Honor releases February 14th in 2017 and I'm completely ecstatic. The game's realistic exploration of Viking, Samurai and Knights and their style of combat in a multiplayer setting sounds like a complete blast, and I'm happy to see the game will have a solid campaign experience as well.

The next 2 reveals were on completely different sides of the spectrum and put on a pretty good show for the people watching the conference. First up was a reveal trailer for a sequel to last years' adventure platformer, "Grow Home". "Grow Up" was revealed with an adorable trailer portraying the game's hero BUD barreling through space on a quest to find MOM, his parental spaceship. The original title, "Grow Home" had a very special charm about it, and BUD's acrobatic antics are something I'm excited to revisit. After everyone was ooing and aweing at little BUD, the show kind of took a 180 and got really...neon and intense. The creative director of Blood Dragon entered the stage to a wrestling theme overture and then the Red Lynx dev came up and everything became an 80's acid trip Miami Vice style. I assumed it was another entry in the Far Cry Blood Dragon realm, but was pleasantly surprised to see the reveal for Trials of the Blood Dragon. A perfect blend of Blood Dragon insanity and Trials addicting runs, the title scratches an itch I didn't even know I had. Check it out in all of it's...glory...below!

After some stuff about the upcoming Assassin's Creed film, Ubisoft finally got into the title everyone expected, "Watch_Dogs 2". Now, to be frank, I disliked the original title a lot. I thought Ubisoft was on to something but completely hit the mark. The preview started with a pretty cool trailer that reminded me of  "Mr. Robot", the television series that aired on USA last year (it's good, go watch it). The plot follows Marcus Holloway in the city of San Francisco as he hacks every electronic device in the city to create a better tomorrow. Just kidding. I believe the term used is "hacktivist", like an activist that hacks, get it? Watch_Dogs 2 looks incredibly gorgeous, as the city of San Francisco really comes to life, which is inexplicably important in these free roam "GTA-like" style games. Marcus has access to a buttload of firearms and weapons, as well as being able to hack into the world around him to accomplish what needs to be done, and that's always cool. Ubisoft also confirmed it is possible to do entirely non-lethal runs of Watch_Dogs 2 which is also incredibly neat. I have my concerns, all due to the original title's shaky release, but I am hopeful that Ubisoft learned from the mistakes of the past and allow Watch_Dogs 2 to be the game it can be. Watch_Dogs 2 releases this November for PS4, Xbox and PC.

Lastly Ubisoft presented their new IP, an extreme winter sports game titled "Steep." Okay, story time. SSX is a game series, that for some reason, completely captivated me growing up. I didn't just play every entry in the series, I absolutely played every entry in the series to the ground. I don't personally snowboard or ski or even snowshoe, but something about the SSX series really struck a chord with me. The last entry in the SSX series was in 2012 and it's felt like a life time. I've revisited 2012's SSX a few times over the last 4 years but seeing Steep's reveal made the itch come back. Steep is being described as "an open world alpine sports game" and is utilizing all sorts of new technology to make a pretty unique experience. First of all, Steep takes place on one mountain. Not just for you but for the multiplayer aspect. All runs take place on the same mountain and the game will track, record and all you to share you personal runs. Steep lets you play around with all sorts of camera angles, including a first person view, which sounds awesome. Ubisoft Annecy stated Steep is more or less a passion project for them, and they hope this alpine wonderland will pull in all sorts of players for a new kind of adventure. Ubi also stated many fans immediately felt Steep qualified for a virtual reality treatment, and Steep's creative director Igor Manceau stated the concept is not off the table for the development team. Despite Steep not being this hugely insane surprise or blowing anyone's mind, I think Ubisoft is taking a step in the right direction. For a company that tends to run their franchises into the ground. ot's really refreshing to see something so fresh and new for the company. I look forward to getting a copy of Steep this December.

Ubisoft didn't do poorly this year, in my opinion. I was happy to see Ubisoft's main attraction NOT be an Assassin's Creed title, and to be honest, I'm happy to not have not even seen one at all. Ubisoft is creating some new stories and IPs and I think that is incredibly important nowadays. These titles all have their place in gaming and somebody has to develop them! Personally Steep and For Honor are games I'm going to pick up on release day, and from a LAN Center standpoint almost all these games have a good spot in a LAN environment. I'd love to see competitive matches of For Honor and challenging runs set by our community in Steep. I'm also incredibly happy to see Ubisoft recognizing VR and making moves on those platforms. E3 2016 was a good example of why Ubisoft is sort of a "golden standard" in independent publishing and what makes them stay that way. Stay tuned to our blog for more information about E3 2016! 
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