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Ubisoft's Pre-E3 2011 Media Briefing Summary

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on June 7, 2011 @ 3:30 a.m. PDT

During Ubisoft's Pre-E3 2011 Media Briefing, it presented new coverage for Assassin's Creed: Revelations, Far Cry 3, Raving Rabbids: Alive & Kicking, Rayman: Origins, Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Future Soldier and Trackmania 2.

Rayman Origins

Right off the bat is one of the surprise hits of the show. Rayman: Origins is a return to the old-fashioned style of Rayman, but with a new twist. Well, not entirely new. The game that Rayman: Origins most resembles in New Super Mario Bro. Wii. Rayman Origins is a classic platformer, but now with support for up to four players at once. Players can play as Rayman or his various friends and travel through stages, helping (or hurting) each other along the way. The gameplay appears incredibly quick-paced, and many environments demand that the players do some incredibly fast platforming or get killed. Fortunately, as in Super Mario Bros. Wii, death isn't a game over. It appears that as long as one player is alive, a defeated ally will appear in a bubble and float over to his pal, who can pop the bubble and revive him.

The art style is striking and very cartoonish, reminiscent of the classic game Earthworm Jim.  The demo went through a number of environments, ranging from an icy cave to a fire level to a castle in the sky where the game briefly turned into a side-scrolling shooter. The fire level was akin to the inside of an oven. The enemies were evil chefs and chili peppers who relaxed in pools of molten lava, and the stage design didn't feel like yet another volcano level. The star moment of that stage was the beginning, where Tetris blocks fell from the sky and began stacking themselves (complete with Tetris theme music!) while players try to use them as platforms to escape the deadly river of fire below.

Driver: San Francisco

Despite its name, Driver: San Francisco is basically Driver 4 and set a few months after the previous Driver game. Players are once again put in control of officer Jack Tanner, who is on the trail of his archenemy, Jericho, who recently escaped from jail. The big gimmick in Driver: San Francisco is a new feature called Shift, which allows players to jump from vehicle to vehicle at any time in some vaguely supernatural way. The game will also feature an innovative multiplayer concept, although Ubisoft was fairly mum on what exactly that entailed.

Far Cry 3

Far Cry 3 puts players in the shoes of Jason Brody, an unfortunate individual who ends up trapped on an island with a bunch of angry mercenaries. His girlfriend is missing, and he has no idea how to escape. As if that weren't bad enough, he appears to have somehow enraged the leader of the mercenaries by having a habit of surviving what should have killed him.

The demo opens up with Brody spying on a group of mercenaries from a distance. His attention is divided to the point where he doesn't notice another one sneaking up on him until he gets the butt of a gun to the face. When he awakens, the mercenaries' leader gives him the definition of insanity: The act of doing something over and over again and expecting a different result. Since the leader had clearly "killed" Brody once, he's rather unhappy and insists on finishing the job this time. He ties Brody to a heavy cinderblock and kicks it into the ocean.

Unfortunately for our villain, Brody manages to break the rope, swim to the surface and escape. The first thing he does after escaping is break a guard's neck and steal his money, gun and a statue. He sneaks through the forest and finds a machete and silenced pistol. He dispatches any guards with brutal efficiency, using the machete or their weapons against them. At one point, Brody leaps off a cliff and onto an enemy, silently impaling him with his machete. Another time, he sneaks up and steals a bad guy's knife to brutally slit his throat before he can cry for help.

The silent tactic fails once Brody sees a bad guy tossing an innocent woman's body into the river. He follows this up by opening fire with a machine gun, killing the murderer and a few mercenaries. Brody fights his way across the mercenary camp and to a nearby helicopter. Grabbing the pilot and holding a gun to his head, Brody insists the chopper fly them out of there. The escape attempt goes poorly, as a rocket slams into the chopper and sends it spiraling to the ground. When Brody awakens, the first thing he sees is the mercenaries' leader, looking down at him and beginning his spiel about insanity once again.

Brothers in Arms: The Furious Four

One of Ubisoft's new IPs this year is The Furious Four. Billed as a "new take" on the World War II genre, it appears to be a game inspired by movies like "Inglourious Basterds" instead of "Saving Private Ryan." Players take control of the aforementioned Furious Four — a group of soldiers named Chok, Crockett, Montana and Stitch — as they gleefully slaughter their way through groups of Nazis in the most violent ways. The brief video showed Stitch electrocuting a Nazi with a cattle prod, Crockett branding one with a hot iron, Chok throwing an ax into one's head and Montana mowing them down with a machine gun. Developed by Gearbox Software, Furious Four seems to have more in common with its previous game, Borderlands. There wasn't any gameplay footage in the trailer, but the sense of humor and general aesthetic was similar in tone to Borderlands.

The Adventures of Tintin: The Game

Based on the upcoming "Tintin" animated film, The Adventures of Tintin: The Game is a loose retelling of the movie events. The basic structure of the game appears to be a 2-D adventure game, somewhat akin to the older Prince of Persia. Tintin and his pals can fight, jump and trick their ways through the various environments. A big feature of the game will be co-op, where players can switch between different characters to take advantage of their skills. The burley Captain Haddock can throw Tintin into the air, or the tiny dog Snowy can sneak into small passages. It also appears that there will be some 3-D segments, such as where Tintin is forced to outrun a wall of water in a sinking ship or battle a group of bandits in a jeep. 

Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Future Soldier

The latest entry in the Tom Clancy series of games has a very specific goal in mind: futuristic-yet-modern combat. As in most of the Ghost Recon games, you take command of a member in the elite squad of Ghost soldiers. They are given the hardest missions, and their only advantages are immense skill and the most advanced weaponry and technology the world can offer.

In particular, one of the most striking things about the Ghost Recon demo is the use of advanced technology. The demo opens up with a squad of four elite Ghosts sneaking into enemy-held territory. Their goal is to rescue a VIP, but this is complicated by the fact that the terrorists are holed up in a village of innocent people. On the plus side, the Ghosts have some serious advanced tech on their side. Each Ghost is equipped with a visor that allows them to use Augmented Reality features. It labels objects, people and places for easy reference, and more importantly, it shows the current targets for each of your squadmates so players can synchronize their attacks. The four co-op players each get into position and pick a different target. Once all four targets are marked, they open fire as one to take out the enemies without leaving a chance for counterattack.

This sort of synchronized combat continues as they advance. The Ghosts move around the side of a building, covering every possible entrance. Once they know that the others are in position, the four burst in. Three eliminate enemies while the fourth quickly captures and interrogates a foe to learn the location of the VIP. After that, the squad moves toward the village, using enhanced vision modes and a remote-controlled drone to get the lay of the land.

Things get rough when the Ghosts' cover is broken and they're forced into a firefight in the middle of the village. This is an intense scene because the Ghosts can't fire indiscriminately; they have to time their shots and make sure they're not shooting any of the innocent villagers. The AR helps with this, but with the bullets flying all over the place, it can still be a fierce sequence. The Ghosts finally reach the VIP, making use of synchronized attacks and a very quick and effective cover system to dispatch enemies. The bad guys call in some serious artillery, including choppers and heavily armed soldiers, to stop them. This is where we get to see the last big show of the Ghosts' high-tech prowess. The squad leader calls in a thermobaric charge, which wipes out every enemy nearby, saving the Ghosts and ensuring a successful mission.

In addition to Future Soldier, Ubisoft is creating a free-to-play PC online game called Ghost Recon Online. Little information about the game is available at the moment, except that it is supposed to be a companion to Future Soldier. Players will be able to transfer achievements between the two games, and the gameplay of Ghost Recon Online was similar to what they showed for Ghost Recon: Future Soldier.

Trackmania 2: Canyon

Fans of the racing genre will be pleased at the announcement of Trackmania 2: Canyon. A sequel to the first Trackmania, it is shaping up to be a worthy successor. Trackmania is a racing game that was most notable for its customization, allowing players to create their own tracks and cars and modify many aspects of the game. From what we can see, Trackmania 2: Canyon appears to be the same game but a lot prettier and with the inevitable new features. Like the original, it will debut on the PC.

A big surprise came in the form of a blink-and-you'll-miss-it announcement at the end of Trackmania 2's announcement. The developers Maniaplanet are also working on Shootmania and Questmania. Shootmania is supposed to be akin to Trackmania for FPS, while Questmania is similar for RPGs.

Raving Rabbids: Alive & Kicking

Another addition to the ever-growing Kinect lineup is Raving Rabbids: Alive & Kicking. Alive & Kicking is a minigame collection designed to use of the Kinect's various features for more unusual minigames. For example, one of the games was an Augmented Reality game where the screen used the Kinect camera to display the "real world" and then made Rabbids pop up from holes in the ground. You have to stomp the Rabbids as quickly as you can, wack-a-mole style, either alone or with the help of a friend.

Alive & Kicking allows up to four people to play at once, and we saw this demonstrated through the use of another minigame. The Rabbids attempt to sneak up on someone in a shower, and in order to scare them off, the folks behind the curtain have to bunch up together so that their silhouette resembles various monsters or "scary things," such as a UFO or Dracula. Once the silhouette is filled out, the group stays there long enough for the Rabbids to get scared away. At the end of the adventure, the game displays a picture of the ridiculous group. It's shaping up to be a fun party game for folks who've grown tired of Kinect Adventures and similar titles, and it's due out Nov. 8.

Music Games

Ubisoft also gave us a glimpse of a few upcoming music games. Just Dance 3 is the latest in the popular Just Dance franchise, and it's coming to the PS3, Wii and 360 this November. There's no word on what is new or has changed in this particular entry, although it seems to be a straightforward sequel. Also joining the music lineup is Rocksmith. The latest in a long line of guitar games, Rocksmith stands out because it's designed to function with any guitar. It includes a special feature that allows you to plug in any guitar and use it as the controller, all the while learning how to play on a real guitar. It will even include a built-in amplifier to make your music sound better.

Your Shape: Fitness Evolved 2

A brief trailer was shown for Your Shape: Fitness Evolved 2, but little information was provided. The big reveal is that the game will focus on connectivity. Using Kinect and Xbox Live, you'll connect with other players with similar weight loss or exercise goals so you can better arrange group workouts or trade tips and advice.

Assassin's Creed: Revelations

The latest Assassin's Creed title is what they are calling the last of the Ezio trilogy. For the past two games, Ezio de Auditore has been busy battling the Templars and rebuilding the oft-ruined Assassin order. Ezio is now noticeably gray, worn and tired. Despite this, he is on a quest to discover the secrets of his ancestor, Altair. This takes him to new places around the world, such as Constantinople.

The demo begins as Ezio attempts to leave Constantinople. The Ottoman Guards are aware that he is in the city and have blocked off the harbor with a giant chain to prevent anyone from leaving. To escape, Ezio has to find a way to lower the chain. He meets up with a contact who gives him a bomb with "50 times the kick" of a regular bomb. Ezio uses it to blow up two of the guards defending the chain, and he handles the rest in hand-to-hand combat. While the fighting doesn't look much different from Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, it's clear that age hasn't slowed down Ezio. He slaughters the guards and plants another bomb at the base of the tower to which the chain is attached. After blowing it up with a shot from his gun, the action really starts.

With the chain and tower now lowered, Ezio begins a mad dash toward his ship. We get to see him use the new zipline attachment, which allows him to slide down ropes quickly. Ezio quickly attacks a ship and gets some help from his fellow assassins. On the ship is some kind of medieval flamethrower, possibly Greek Fire or something akin to it. Comprised of multiple barrels, the flamethrower allows Ezio to set aflame nearby enemy ships in the harbor. A nearby cannonball wrecks Ezio's flamethrower and ship, so he is forced to use his trademark acrobatics to jump from burning ship to burning ship, occasionally stabbing a few enemies along the way. After what seems like an eternity, Ezio makes it to his escaping ship and leaves the fiery Constantinople harbor in his wake.

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