E3 2016: Ubisoft Press Conference Recap and Review

With EA departing for greener pastures on Sunday afternoon with their EA Play segment, Ubisoft moved up in the time table this year. With Aisha Tyler back to lead the proceedings, many were wondering what sort of surprises the company had in store this year. There were a ton of announcements in the hour and a half presentation, as Microsoft was laser focused in delivering players content this year.

ubiE3 2016

With games and reveals leaking left, right, and center the week before the big show, many wondered what Ubisoft had in reserves. Watch_Dogs 2 had been officially unveiled, though gameplay was kept to a minimum for what many expected to be shown off at the show. For Honor, Ghost Recon Wildlands, and South Park were also expected to be major players this year as well.

So how did they do? Did Ubisoft drop any major surprises on the crowd? Lets recap!

Just Dance 2017
This has pretty much become an annual franchise and from what I’ve been told is still doing well so this shouldn’t really be a surprise to anyone. For those looking for bigger announcements, perhaps it was the reason why it led off the show.

Ghost Recon Wildlands
Many expected Ghost Recon to be the headlining game and you could argue that it was. Or that it was part of a three headed monster (more on that later). Either way, Wildlands was given a huge chunk of time, and deservedly so as this appears to be one of, if not the biggest game Ubisoft has created. The first trailer revealed more about the bad guy, El Sueno, and how his gang has a tight grip over the populace of Bolivia.

Next, we were treated to a lengthy gameplay demo, where a team of four worked together to take down a compound full of guards in an effort to not alert the enemy faction. Typical gadgets such as a drone were used, and the segment ended with a car chase.

We also finally got a release date, though it’s later than probably most expected, with a March 2017 reveal.

South Park: The Fractured But Whole
After surprising the crowd last year, fans were given their first look at actual gameplay from the game. Trey Parker and Matt Sonte once again came out to show off the gameplay which looks to heavily poke fun at super hero movies like the Avengers. Fans of the show and the last game, Stick of Truth, will find a lot to love here, but new additions include an upgraded combat system where players can move their characters around to set up different positional and environment attacks.

The game is set to arrive in December and anyone who buys the game will get a ported version of the under appreciated Stick of Truth.

The Division Expansions
While people had seen the Underground expansion trailer earlier in the day, Ubisoft revealed a few more details from the now released expansion. Not only that, special Ubi30 outfits representing some of the other Tom Clancy games like Rainbow Six, Ghost Recon, and Splinter Cell are coming as free updates as well. For many, the big surprise during this segment was the first trailer for the next expansion known as Last Stand which looks to put players in harm’s way even more.

The Division Hello Sign

Virtual Reality Time
With VR products like Oculus and Vive on the rise, and with Sony set to launch their product in a few months, many companies have begun developing VR based games. Ubisoft is no exception. At E3 this year, the company showed off two products: the flight based game spawned from the eagle in Assassin’s Creed, Eagle Flight, and a game based on Star Trek, even bringing out LeVar Burton, who played Geordi LaForge in The Next Generation show.

Unlike some of you, I’m not sold on VR, I feel like it’s something I need to experience first hand in order to not only understand, but get excited about it. For now, these announcements did nothing for me.

For Honor
The second of the three headed monster arrived with For Honor which was also given ample stage time. Unlike last year which showed off the interesting looking multiplayer, fans were shown a section of the single player campaign where the player (as a Viking no less) was involved with an invasion of a Samurai stronghold. The gameplay centered around the player having to help his troops advance, and fight through waves of cannon fodder while stopping to battle heavier enemy types using the new combat system as well.

Interestingly enough, a trailer prior to the gameplay demo revealed a biblical-like disaster which seems to set the stage for the reason why these three factions want blood including a mysterious villain known as Apoleon who leads a group known as the Black Stone Legions.

Grow Up
Essentially a sequel to the quirky indie game Grow Home, the little robot was shown off in a brand new trailer. Not much else was revealed on the game.

Trials of the Blood Dragon
Fans who had held out hope that a sequel to the insanely creative Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon would be getting another entry…well…kind of got their wish? Mixed with the physics based platformer Trials, Trials of the Blood Dragon is kind of like a mash up between those two franchises, giving players some Trials dirt biking and some platforming segments involving shooting. Curious players could download the title starting after the show.

Assassin’s Creed – Movie Edition
While I was figuring Ubisoft would potentially tease the next Assassin’s Creed…they didn’t. Instead, they revealed a behind the scenes look at the upcoming movie based on the franchise, with cast interviews. I have no clue how this thing is going to turn out, but from what I’ve seen so far, I’m interested.

Watch_Dogs 2 Deep Dive
After getting revealed the previous week, the final head of the three headed monster was given its time in the sun. As expected, this great looking sequel was heavy on the gameplay, showing new protagonist Marcus exploring San Francisco and showing off his new hacking style and abilities.

Fans were also shown a mission where Marcus had to infiltrate a political headquarters to expose corruption, while the latter half of the demo was done to “Don’t Sweat The Technique” playing in the background. Overall, Watch_Dogs 2 appears to be shedding the sometimes stuffy and gloomy world of the first game, instead embracing personality, style, and fun. It’s what sequels should really strive to be.

As expected, Ubisoft did have a surprise game tucked away, though it may have surprised many for the wrong reasons. Steep is an action sports title from the company, aimed at adrenaline junkies, skiers, and snowboarders. The giant environment takes place in the Alps, letting players dictate how they get down the slopes even utilizing a wingsuit for even more thrilling moments.

As a big fan of the seemingly dormant SSX franchise, Steep could definitely fill that void for me. With a release sometime in December, expect to hear and see quite a bit more from this title as the year progresses.

Final Reveal Lacked Punch – Honestly, there’s not too much to dislike from Ubisoft if I’m being honest. I’m somewhat interested in Steep, it looks unique and there’s really not too much out there in terms of skiing/snowboarding games. However, as a “one more thing” style reveal, it lacked excitement. In years past, this time was used to reveal some really exciting looking projects aimed at hyping up the crowd. Steep didn’t do that for me. I would have probably penciled this in earlier in the show, but this could have been a situation where Ubisoft either didn’t have a game far enough along to tease out, or was a little gun shy about revealing something too soon and then getting dumped on by people with the “downgrade” talk. Frankly, I can’t say I blame them in that regard.

Overall: B+
Like I mentioned, I felt Ubisoft put on a solid show as there was something for everyone. Major props to the French company for their classy intro touching on all of the gun violence that had rocked Orlando, Florida days before as well. From a games perspective, they showed off a number of cool looking titles that are all releasing in the next 10 months or so, which is very cool. There’s a lot to look forward to, even if the company didn’t have many big surprises this year as they normally do.

Perhaps sticking to near future products will server the company well, and finally silence those people looking to nitpick the company for the disconnect between reveal trailers and final products.

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