E3 2011: Ubisoft Press Conference Roundup

by on June 7, 2011

Ubisoft are celebrating their twenty-fifth birthday, and they’re making sure that everyone knows it. Their E3 press conference is all about the milestone, and we’re reminded of it at every juncture throughout the 75-minute presentation. The majority of the titles on show this evening hark back to the publisher’s greatest successes, and whilst it might have been nice to see a few more new IPs, it’s reassuring to see the return of reliable favourites like Rayman and Ezio.

The conference is opened by Ubisoft’s president Yves Guillemot, who speaks of how there has never been a better time to be in gaming, and how he looks forward to the next twenty-five years. Following this short introduction, he invites the legendary Michel Ancel on stage to discuss the first game. What could it be?

Unfortunately for those holding out hope for news of the elusive Beyond Good and Evil 2 (of which Ancel is the lead designer), the first game on the roster is Rayman Origins, a return to two-dimensions for Ubisoft’s talismanic Rayman after a decade in three dimensions. The game is a co-operative platformer that looks like it takes its cues from LittleBigPlanet and the recent Donkey Kong reboot. That said, it retains Rayman’s strong visual style and sense of humour.

The highlight of the live gameplay demonstration is an imaginative cameo from some Tetrads and Tetris’ iconic 194 theme tune. Rayman and his blue friend Globox leap around the Tetrads and evade obtacles with style. Environments range from a coral reef to a lava-flow to an imaginative steampunk level.

After the lengthy demonstration, we’re treated to the first of many, many skits by Ubisoft’s Aaron “Mr Caffeine” Priceman, who bounds on stage to tell us that “40% of gamers are women, and 89 % of them are smokin’ hot… I’ve investigated!”. A few nervous coughs and some ill advised “joywand” jokes later, and Priceman wisely moves on to showing us a game.

Driver: San Francisco, to be precise. San Francisco is the perfect setting for a Driver game, with its spectacular vistas and enormous scale. The game will apparently feature a massive multiplayer mode.

Next up, it’s Dan Hay and Jamie Keene to tell up about the mysterious Jason Brody, whose girlfriend has been kidnapped and is now trapped on a mysterious island. What can this be? After a rather long cinematic in first-person perspective that features a lot a swearing from a wild-eyed gentleman, we’re treated to some gorgeous views of a spectacular open world, which can only mean one thing: Far Cry 3. The series’ trademark size is in evidence, and the story sounds pretty interesting too.

From one shooter to another then, as Gearbox Software’s CEO Randy Pitchford assumes the stage to tell us about a new take on World War II in the form of Brothers in Arms: Furious 4. With a video that features outrageous set-pieces such as an axe in the forehead and a grenade in the crotch, the game seems remeniscent of Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds. It certainly looks like an interesting interpretation of an oft-visited genre, and we will no doubt find out more about it as the (as yet unconfirmed) 2012 release date approaches.

From the sublime to the…well, not ridiculous, but certainly different spectacle of Hollywood heavyweights Peter Jackson and Steven Spielberg speaking about the upcoming video game adaptation of The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn.

It’s interesting to hear Jackson’s thoughts especially, because he had quite a lot of input into the critically-successful (though awkwardly-named) Peter Jackson’s King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie. Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn looks like it has gorgeous visuals, but there’s also a moment when it looks like Tintin punches someone. Does Tintin do punching?

Mr Caffeine returns to the stage and shows us a bizarre isometric mock-up of how Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon games would have looked if they had been released in 1986 (one wonders if the time spent on these videos would have been better directed towards Priceman’s script, but never mind) before the actual video for Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Future Soldier rolls. The lengthy film shows some dynamic gun battles, and we hear about the game’s online capabilities and how it has been specifically designed with the PC in mind.

Next up is a truly spectacular trailer for online racer Trackmania 2: Canyon that follows a thoughtful presentation from Adrienne Pechere and Anne Blondel-Jouin. Trackmania is not only created with online play in mind, but also features an astonishing capacity for user-generated content. The trailer provoked loud applause, so it’s juust as well that the beta version of the game is set for release in July 2011.

The next slot is taken up by Rayman’s friends the Rabbids, who have made their way onto Kinect (those Rabbids get everywhere). The gameplay demonstration for Rabbids: Alive and Kicking is perhaps the most dymanic of the press conference, and shows off a gameplay mode whereby up to four people must co-operate in order to recreate a shape that’s shown on screen. Looking like an insane cross between Twister and Takeshi’s Castle, the minigame raises the most genuine laughs of the evening.

Continuing the Kinect theme is Just Dance 3, which is apparently available on all the motion-controlled platforms. The video in this instance largely showed footage of people simply playing the game and enjoying themselves, which is arguably the best advert that a party game can possibly have.

One of the most anticipated games on show this evening is Rocksmith. Guitar Hero for people who actually play the guitar, the game is revolutionary in that it allows players to plug in and use a real guitar. The footage is definitely impressive, and the game looks to further break down the barriers between the virtual world and the real one.

The final game on show is probably the biggest. Assassin’s Creed: Revelations’ position as set-closer will suprise no-one, but the trailer is spectacular. Although it doesn’t seem to deviate too far from the series’ formula, it’s a winning formula that no-one can really seem to get enough of.

We’ll leave you with that lengthy and awe-inspiring video, and even though Mr Caffeine makes a brief appearence at the end, we hope you think it’s worth it.

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