June 10, 2013, 3:00 PM
Los Angeles Theatre
The LA Theatre, home to Ubisoft's pre-E3 2012 briefing, looked similar to how it did last year, with the most obvious shift being a distinctly blue lighting scheme. There was trivia on the wall, including questions like what Rayman and E3 had in common (both started on the same year), and what spy skill Sam Fisher hasn't yet mastered (parallel parking) alongside more serious trivia, such as Ubisoft's 26 development teams. Ubi's logo was cast against a background of connected lines, implying that Watch_Dogs, last year's centerpiece, would also be central to this year's briefing.
Just before the show started, technicians pulled out some guitar amps and recording equipment. It seemed to be an odd start, but the lights dimmed, and Jerry Cantrell of Alice in Chains stepped on to the stage, kicking into the guitar intro for "Man in the Box." Then he mentioned that he was playing to a prerecorded track and started Rocksmith: All-New 2014 Edition to demonstrate the new backing band feature, which lets you use voice commands to change instruments — all using the signature real guitar as connector technology. He explained how the game's band reacts to what he does, simulating real session musicians, and he pointed out how there's nothing really like it today in the music industry. Alice in Chain's new single, "Stone," will be in the game's new edition.
Aisha Tyler, who also hosted Ubi's show last year, returned to the stage with ridiculously high heels that would make her almost a head taller than every other person during the show. She was also wearing a t-shirt with the #girlwood hashtag. After a few jokes, she pointed out how tweets featuring specific hashtags revealed during the show would be reviewed during a post-show session to answer questions.
On to the games.
First, Aug. 20 represents the launch of Splinter Cell: Blacklist, which claims to have a long single-player campaign, many co-op missions, and the return of Spies vs. Mercs multiplayer. The screen lit up with a trailer that sets up the plot: A mysterious group known as The Engineers is protesting the United States' military presence in 150 countries with a simple demand. For each week that the U.S. Doesn't withdraw all of its troops, one base would be attacked and destroyed. Sam Fisher, naturally, is back to lead a team in the new Fourth Echelon division to stop them. Armed with a new base, a new plane, and his usual gadgets, Fisher must stop the group in his usual action-focused way.
Next came the sequel to Rayman Origins: the now-multiplatform Rayman Legends. Revealing the painting-based world setting and traditional humor of the series, the video showed a female Viking saving Rayman with cartoonish combat antics and then jumping through a painting to another world. A new threat to the Glade of Dreams calls for Rayman and crew to return to the side-scrolling action through painting-based alternate worlds, competitive multiplayer minigames, challenging levels, larger boss fights, music-based levels, and a beautiful UbiArt core.
Then came Ubisoft's inevitable social game. The Mighty Quest For Epic Loot is a game about capitalism at its purest: making stuff, taking other people's stuff, and repeating until you die. The game runs in two halves. Castle-building looks to be loosely a tower defense mechanic, but the player builds a hero and invades someone else's castle. The game is in closed beta at themightyquest.com at this time. A trailer highlights the game's rather screwy sense of humor, including what might be the longest entirely bleeped out string of voice acting this side of "Potter Puppet Pals."
Next in the comedic line of was South Park: The Stick Of Truth, which was newly acquired from THQ. The title showed new jokes, a similar sense of humor, and a planned holiday release on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC. (As Eric Cartman was quick to note, though, it could be, "some other holiday season. You know how games go.")
After this, Yves Guillemot (co-founder of Ubisoft) stepped in to set up the next-gen section. He explained that he loved new consoles and wanted to see what they could do. With this, we rolled into a new game by Ivory Tower and Reflection, The Crew. The trailer started in an auto repair shop, with a car assembling itself from spare parts. It's a street racing game with police chase mechanics and the requisite epic crashes. There's some off-road play, an attack on an armored truck, and social integration in the vein of Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit.
The creative director then explained that the concept was to create a big environment with lots of variety and a vast, open world the size of the lower 48 states. You try to conquer a criminal empire, city by city. The game takes place in an online, persistent world, but you have the ability to play solo. Co-op is available in every mission, event and race, and other cars in the open world may be live players, not other AIs. The demo showed four players in separate regions: a New York street race and police chase; an exploration of Rushmore, South Dakota, for off-road objectives; an asymmetric ghost race in the Nevada backroads; and in Miami, a player asks for invites from his buddies, and it seamlessly switches to co-op once others agree to join. They also revealed an iPad app for customizing vehicles.
Then Senior Producer Dominic Guay stepped in to discuss Watch_Dogs, with a point about how the NSA PRISM scandal has made this title newly relevant. In a world where everything is connected, Watch_Dogs asks what you would do if you could control all of the connecting systems. In Chicago, one man's obsession with surveillance leads him to be a vigilante. The trailer shows a man telling his wife that he's busy at work, but then he steps into an underground lair at a club and proceeds to attack a human trafficking ring. New surprises will be revealed during the show.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Ubisoft revealed Just Dance 2014, which will be available on every active console in October. New to the series include presence on every console, new artists like Psy and David Guetta, six-player dances, an on-stage mode, and a mode that modifies the music based on your freestyle dance moves. Party Master mode from the WiiU version returns. That's some impressive progress considering this started as a minigame in Rayman: Raving Rabbids.
The bunny idiots are back in the form of a Nickelodeon television series, "Rabbids: Invasion." The big twist is that the show doubles as its own licensed game. Adrian Lacey, a director for Ubisoft Montpelier, explains that players sync their "screen" to the episode as it runs, and they can play minigames that use the television footage as a backdrop, whether it's throwing eggs at on-screen Rabbids using a motion sensor (read: Kinect) or screaming in sync with them. While it's not a technical achievement, it looked like a fun way to draw together shows in Nickelodeon's lineup.
Back to core games, with the hotly anticipated Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, which casts the player in the role of a pirate who's the father and grandfather of Assassin's Creed III's two protagonists. Several men walk into a tavern, cause some trouble, and a bar brawl ensues, complete with bottles to the head, hidden blades, and corpse-looting, followed by a transition to a ship-to-ship fight, with the new main character promptly using the series' classic tools to slay an enemy captain. Jean Guesdon, the game's director, showed up, highlighting how brutal the gameplay will be. It takes fundamental pirate themes, mixes in Assassin's Creed themes, and emphasizes open exploration. The game includes ship battles, Mayan ruins, and large cities. Guesdon left us with new in-engine footage, highlighting the wave physics, some city exploration on the Spanish Main, the continued development of gunplay, and intense ship-to-ship combat, including new underwater elements with wildlife. Only Watch_Dogs drew louder applause during the Ubisoft briefing.
Tyler introduced the next game with a tagline: this game was next-gen before the next gen. Trials Fusion continues the 2-D motorcycle stunt gameplay of the series in a sci-fi setting with cities in the clouds. There's also a new mobile-specific, wild-west themed entry dubbed Trials Frontier. Both come out next year, with Fusion dropping on PC, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3 and PS4, while Frontier is coming to mobile devices (not yet specified).
Finally, a new game by Massive capstoned the event. We start with some facts: Turn-of-the-millennium tests of national emergency alert systems demonstrated that Western civilization is basically a gigantic house of cards, where just one malfunction can cause a cascading disaster in a few days, since almost every necessity runs on a just-in-time shipping system. It then talks about how all of this is powered by money — and how a flu virus can live on a bank note for 17 days. In 2007, the president signs a directive for crisis response, establishing secret agencies to ask: What will it take to save what remains?
In Tom Clancy's The Division, a new MMO by Massive, you find out. The game takes place in a plague-stricken New York three weeks after tainted bank notes were spread on Black Friday. The gameplay has teams investigating and securing areas to gain supplies for survival. They went through a police station, saving a few people, picking up bottles of water and bagged food, and then accessing an armory for a large gun. Combat uses a third-person-shooter core, with players developing with skill points in a routine vaguely similar to Borderlands. Players can connect and play via tablet, piloting drone aircraft to do tasks for the party. At the end of the demo, there appears to be two-faction PvP (no details yet). It will be interesting to see how this turns out.
With that, Ubisoft ended its show. The stack of new and existing reveals combine to be one of the strongest third-party lineups for this E3.