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Ubisoft Pre-E3 2015 Media Briefing Summary

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on June 16, 2015 @ 2:00 a.m. PDT

During Ubisoft's Pre-E3 2015 Media Briefing, it presented new coverage for Anno 2205, Assassin's Creed: Syndicate, The Crew: Wild Run, The Division, For Honor, Ghost Recon: Wildlands, Just Dance 2016, Rainbow Six: Siege, South Park: The Fractured but Whole, and Trials Fusion: Awesome Level MAX.

June 15, 2015, 3:00 PM
Orpheum Theater, Los Angeles

The Ubisoft conference opened up with one of the first big surprises of the show. Last year's South Park: The Stick of Truth is getting a full-fledged sequel. Called South Park: The Fractured but Whole, it follows not long after the original game. Players once again take control of the New Kid, but this time, the plot promises to delve deeper into his origins. Rather than being based on fantasy stories, The Fractured but Whole is a take on superhero stories. Involving the ridiculous superhero alternate identities of the South Park kids, the new game seems to share the same irreverent humor as the original. The developer for this game will be Ubisoft San Francisco rather than Obsidian Games, but Matt Stone and Trey Park are both returning to lend their voice work and trademark humor to the game.

A new IP was showcased, For Honor, which looks like it's one part Chivalry and one part MOBA. Players can choose one of several clans of ancient warriors, ranging from samurais to Vikings to knights. Four players on each side hop into battle against one another in an attempt to overtake their foes, while countless uncontrolled AI players clash into each other on the field of battle. Combat looks to be slow and weighty. What we saw in the demonstration emphasized the idea that wild swings will just get you killed. Knocking the opponent off-balance or tricking them into a foolish attack seems far more important than pure twitch skills.

The next two things shown were expansion packs for existing games. The Crew is getting a new updated called The Crew: Wild Run. As you'd expect, Wild Run focuses on off-road travel. It aims to add new content to the game, including monster trucks, off-road racing, and a general focus on the less-traveled parts of the American landscape. The other expansion pack is for Trials Fusion. Dubbed Trials Fusion: Awesome Level MAX, it looks to be very much in the vein of Far Cry: Blood Dragon. The trailer showed — and yes, you're reading this correctly — a ninja cat riding a fire-breathing unicorn while firing golden handguns. No real gameplay footage was shown, but you can probably guess how you'll feel about the game based on the fire-breathing unicorn part. The new Trackmania Turbo was also shown, with a larger selection of track customization options, a huge selection of pre-built tracks, and the ability to randomly generate a stretch of track on which to race.

After that, we got another look at Tom Clancy's The Division. Dark Zones are a mixed PvP and PvE area of the game. They represent a high-risk, high-reward gambit. Dark Zones are walled-off sections of the city that players must willingly enter. Once they do, they find themselves in a free-for-all. Players can team up with other folks in the zone to take down the elite mobs and get their precious gear. Enemies in this area drop high-level loot, but you have to extract the gear to use it, and if someone kills you, it becomes theirs. You can work together with someone only to have them shoot you in the back and take your new assault rifle. It's a cool concept, and it'll be interesting to see how it plays out in the final version of the game. The Division finally has a release date: Mar. 8, 2016.

We were also given a brief glimpse of Anno 2205, a city builder game in which you populate space. You begin on Earth and gradually build your way up to full-fledged lunar colonies. The preview was short but included some tantalizing hints about what city-building fans can look forward to. 

Just Dance 2016 also made an appearance at the show. The biggest news of the day here was that Just Dance no longer requires a camera-enabled system. Camera-less systems can choose to use a smartphone in place of the expensive peripheral.  The next-gen versions of the game will also support a new feature. Just Dance Unlimited will be a streaming subscription service that allows players to get regular game updates, with music both classic and new.  It will be available on the PS4, Xbox One and Wii U versions only but offers significantly more bang for your buck than the last-gen versions.

Rainbow Six: Siege is the latest in the iconic franchise. Players take the role of members of the elite organization Rainbow Six, under the lead of the mysterious Six (Angela Bassett). They're tasked with stopping a bioterrorist organization that isn't limited by country, race or religion. Our brief demo focused on the return of the Terrorhunt mode, a co-op PvE mode. The Rainbow Six agents had to enter a besieged building and disarm bombs. We saw a variety of gadgets in play, including grappling hooks, miniature drones, and shields. Particularly cool is the use of destructible environments. A Six member armed with a sledgehammer can bust through a wall instead of going through a door, and even shotgun shells can break open thin walls to allow for new firing positions. Once players find the bombs, they have to defend the defusing device, turning the tense entry into a deadly siege.

Of course, Assassin's Creed: Syndicate made an appearance. Set in London during the Industrial Revolution, Syndicate follows the story of two siblings, Jacob and Evie Frye. Jacob is working to set up his gang, the Rooks, as the lords of the city to oppose the machinations of the Templars. The trailer focused on the idea of taking out Templars and coercing their forces into joining the Rooks to improve Jacob's capabilities.  His sister Evie was mostly MIA but is billed as being a more capable assassin than Jacob is and a true force in her own right.

The big surprise of the show was the final game shown. Ghost Recon: Wildlands is a new take on the franchise. Players take control of up to four soldiers and are given open-world missions to complete to take down a criminal organization. The trailer focused heavily on the idea that there are multiple ways to complete a mission. You can snipe your target from a distance, stealthily sneak in and kill them, or bring in heavy weaponry and level the place. One cool feature seemed to be the idea of sowing discord among your enemies. The final of the methods shown (leveling the place) ended with them leaving the target alive but disgraced. His own boss killed him instead, and the implication is that turning the organization upon itself is just as valid as killing them all individually. Ghost Recon: Wildlands was still clearly in the early stages, but it looks to have a lot of potential.

There weren't a ton of surprises at the Ubisoft show this year, but it was one of its most solid lineups in quite some time. There was also a sense of mea culpa to the show, with a number of self-deprecating jokes about the poor reception to some of its recent games last year, as well as greater emphasis on making sure the next set of games is better received. Assassin's Creed: Syndicate will be playable on the show floor, and demos and public betas aplenty are coming in the future. Anyone who is a fan of Ubisoft's franchises should have a lot to look forward to in the upcoming year.

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