E3 2016: Ubisoft Talks Sequels, VR, and Brand New IP

The Ubisoft (correctly pronounced throughout the show as “ubi,” as in “ubiquitous”) conference began with an odd little dance routine to Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now,” peppered in a bunch of F-bombs throughout the show, and ended their otherwise solid line-up of games with a new I.P. that didn’t resonate with me in any way, shape, or form.

Recurring hostess Aisha Tyler was great though, keeping things fun and entertaining between each of the interview segments that somewhat killed the momentum, so kudos to her. She gets a lot of flack on social media for her hosting duties, but I’ve always liked her. Plus she’s Lana in Archer, so there’s that.

My predictions:

  • With no new Assassin’s Creed in 2016, maybe a current-gen port of Assassin’s Creed: Rogue. Long shot, I know.
  • Probably show the Assassin’s Creed movie trailer, maybe twice.
  • Next year’s Assassin’s Creed confirmed to be a series reboot instead of a sequel. Long shot, but if any series needs it it’s this one.
  • New Splinter Cell.
  • New Blood Dragon spin-off for Far Cry Primal.
  • Watch Dogs 2 is the marquee title to close the show.
  • A beefy For Honor gameplay demo.
  • The Crew sequel revealed.
  • The Division DLC gameplay demo.
  • Very little talk of South Park: The Fractured But Whole.
  • Ghost Recon: Wildlands gameplay demo.
Just Dance 2017 gets a release window, even for Nintendo NX.

So it turned out that the weird dance number with the giraffe man and candy cane girls was a segue in to the confirmation of Just Dance 2017. Host Aisha Tyler confirmed the dance game’s release window as October, but perhaps the most interesting reveal is that she mentioned its arrival on the new Nintendo NX “next year.”

This marked the first time (at least to my knowledge) that the console had been referred to by its code-name at E3 2016, but it’s not surprising when you consider it’s the only Ubisoft game to really push units on a modern Nintendo platform.

Ghost Recon: Wildlands gets an official release date.

Wildlands opened with a cinematic trailer, which I felt was a little ho hum, but after a very business-like description we were greeted with a very lengthy gameplay demo showing off the game’s open world and tactical 4-player co-op combat.

It was confirmed during the demo that Wildlands can be played in its entirety on your own, if you’re the antisocial type. Either way there’s a tactical aspect to the game’s mission structure that allows you to decide how you want to approach their end goals. Do you run in with your bro-op partners guns blazing, hijacking cars and dirtbikes to make a quick getaway? Or does one of you provide sniper cover for a stealthy extraction?

The story was explained a bit, which read like a terrible action film wherein big hero America comes to the aid of a foreign country and liberates it from bad guys. In a nutshell, a Mexican drug cartel has moved in to Bolivia to take advantage of their natural resources and turn it in to cocaine. They’ve given the Bolivian townsfolk an ultimatum: join them and get money, power, and protection, or die. Pretty cheesy shit, right? I fully expected Vin Diesel to provide voice acting and mo-cap work.

Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands will release on Xbox One, PS4, and PC on March 7th, 2017.

South Park: The Fractured But Whole gets an official release date and a nice pre-order bonus.

I figured Ubisoft would talk very little about the new South Park RPG, but boy was I wrong. Not only did they do an on stage interview with show creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker, but they showed off a brand new trailer, the newly revamped combat system, the superhero class system, and announced a pretty sweet pre-order bonus for those of you who’ll go the digital route.

There was also a truckload of F-bombs dropped over the course of about 15 minutes.

Hostess Aisha Tyler commented after the fact that if you were playing a drinking game at home, taking a shot every time the word “fuck” was said on stage, you’d have been asleep by the end of the South Park segment. Xbox opted to edit out the curse words during their Gears of War 4 demo (which was weird), but Ubisoft (for lack of a better term) gave no fucks. So fuck yeah to them.

The classic turn-based combat system of Stick of Truth has been replaced with a tactical turn-based system, similar to those found in The Banner Saga, Disgaea, or Final Fantasy Tactics. Though perhaps not as deep, you’ll be able to maneuver around the combat zone a set amount of tiles, attack those around you, and use the power of farts to alter the attack order of everyone involved. Some attacks, like magic, can be used over obstacles in the environment, while other brute force abilities can knock opponents back a tile or two.

Since The Fractured But Whole picks up where Stick of Truth left off, your douchebag-turned-king is now a douchebag again, and finds himself in the midst of a civil war between the kids in South Park. Gone are the fantasy classes as well — it’s all about superheroes. Your douchebag can choose between three starter classes, like a Flash-like Speedster, or a heavy hitter.

Pre-ordering the digital version of South Park: The Fractured But Whole on any platform will give you a free download for South Park: The Stick of Truth. Seeing as how The Fractured But Whole is only releasing on Xbox One, PS4, and PC, yes, that means that Stick of Truth has been officially released on current-gen consoles.

South Park: The Fractured But Whole will officially release on December 6th, later this year.

The Division’s first two DLC packs lightly detailed.

Tom Clancy’s The Division is clearly a huge success, at least in terms of sales, and DLC has been planned for Ubisoft’s open-world shooter for quite some time.

The first DLC pack, Underground, presents you and your squad with an underground network of procedurally generated sewers to explore and fight the good fight. The trailer itself explained very little, and while I could go ahead and Google the details, that’s not the point of this write-up.

What I do know is that all who own the Underground DLC pack can redeem three new costumes on the Ubisoft Club shop as an added incentive. These are all themed around popular Ubisoft IP, like Splinter Cell, Rainbow Six, and Ghost Recon.

All of The Division’s DLC lands on Xbox One a month ahead of its PS4 counterpart, so Underground is set to release on Xbox on June 28th, with a PS4 release following on August 2nd.

The 2nd DLC pack, Survival, was only given a cinematic trailer. The environment is under the barrage of a massive blizzard and it appears that resources are scarce. Like Underground, the trailer did very little to explain the DLC’s contents, so whether or not this is a Dark Zone-only thing, or a new mode that takes body temperature and hunger in to consideration, is beyond me.

Survival was only given a “coming soon” release window.

Ubisoft enters the realm of VR with Eagleflight and Star Trek: Bridge Crew.

The presentation then shifted toward the realm of VR, as Oculus Rift’s own Palmer Lucky took the stage to take part in a 3-on-3 capture the flag match in Ubisoft’s Eagleflight.

Eagleflight is just what it sounds like — you’re all eagles and you fly around doing eagle things in a multi-player setting. Dubbed “capture the prey,” this mode pit two teams of three against each other in typical CTF fashion, but instead of a flag there’s a dead rabbit. Looked like it could be fun if you had 5 friends who could all afford an Oculus Rift, but since that’ll never happen in my lifetime I quickly lost interest.

Eagleflight looks pretty damn ugly and arrives on all major VR platforms this fall.

Their next VR showing was for Star Trek: Bridge Crew, which featured a behind the scenes trailer with Star Trek alumni Jeri Ryan, LeVar Burton, and Karl Urban playing the game for the first time.

In Bridge Crew, you choose one of four positions aboard a star ship and work together to complete objectives. Similar to a 3D version of Love in a Dangerous Spacetime, no job is more important than the others, and everyone needs to contribute to be successful.

As LeVar Burton excitedly questioned during his on-stage interview, “what’s more Star Trek than that?”

He seemed really happy with how the game turned out, and as many on social media were quick to point out, Ubisoft received a lot of praise for featuring two people of color discussing nerd culture on the grandest stage in video games. Kudos to them.

The game looks pretty awful, at least by a graphical standpoint. Even my girlfriend, who’s a huge trekkie, said “wow, that game looks like shit.”

I’m sure it’s fun for fans of the source material, but it’s definitely not my cup of tea.

For Honor’s lengthy gameplay demo looked pretty damn fun.

Ubisoft Montreal’s For Honor showed a beefy gameplay demo in which the vikings entered an island off the coast of Japan to battle samurai on their home turf. What a fucking game this is shaping up to be.

This segment was made even better by the presence of Ubisoft Montreal’s creative director, Jason Vandenberghe. When this guy talks, I pay attention. He has one of those deep Elder Scrolls barkeep voices; the kind that draws the eyes of anyone within earshot, and I could’ve sat there and listened to him wax For Honor for the next twelve hours.

The demo showed off the game’s single-player campaign, which played a bit like a slow hack-n-slash (or musou, if you’re familiar with the term) when the muscular viking took his axe to hordes of insignificant samurai. Once the one-on-one battles began with the high-ranking officials though, it became more tactical — Dark Souls-ish, I guess you could say.

The on-screen queues showed the player using the right analog stick to change their posture and defend the left, right, and top portions of their body. Blocking in the right direction rewarded the viking with invaluable opportunities to counterattack, but there’s also abilities that break the defender’s guard and leave them vulnerable instead.

Some well-placed blocks ended the fight in a matter of swings, while others showed off some of the game’s environmental kills — shoving the attacker in a to a spiked rampart, or shoulder ramming them off the side of a wall.

For Honor received an official release date of February 14, 2017, making it the perfect Valentine’s Day gift. You can currently register for the game’s next alpha test by going to forhonor.ubisoft.com.

Grow Home sequel Grow Up confirmed.

Last Year’s Grow Home was a pleasant surprise to me, ending up in the #10 slot on my favorite games of 2015 list. I wasn’t sure how successful the vertigo inducing platformer was, so imagine my surprise when its sequel, Grow Up, was revealed during Ubisoft’s E3 presentation.

Graphically it looks exactly the same as Grow Home, which is fine. More Grow Home in a significantly larger environment is a game I’d be happy to play, and that’s what we’re getting. Rather than grow a giant plant to get B.U.D. from ground level up to your space ship, you’ll be connecting planets and going all the way to the damn moon. THE MOON!

I felt like I was going to barf in Grow Home’s smaller scale, so I’m sure I’ll be white knuckling my controller for the duration of my playthrough.

Grow Up will release this August for PS4, Xbox One, and PC.

Trials and Blood Dragon make sweet love to birth Trials of the Blood Dragon cross-over.

Two dudes dressed like 80’s wrestlers in full Zubaz attire took the stage (props to the one rocking “The Boss” Sasha Banks’ Legit Boss rings!) to talk about something that wasn’t a new Blood Dragon spin-off, which was more depressing than it has any right to be.

Instead, the folks at Red Lynx and Ubisoft Montreal confirmed they’re working together on a new Trials cross-over, entitled Trials of the Blood Dragon. They showed a pretty good trailer with the kind of humor you’d expect, but no matter how much I adored Blood Dragon, I don’t like Trials.

Trials of the Blood Dragon has the aesthetic of Blood Dragon with the physics-based gameplay of the Trials series, but there seemed to be some 2D platforming segments sprinkled in for good measure.

Trials of the Blood Dragon is available on PS4, Xbox One, and PC… RIGHT NOW!

Assassin’s Creed the mov– …sorry, I fell asleep there.

I’ve said it before, but I love the Assassin’s Creed series despite its franchise fatigue setting in a while back. I’m also genuinely interested in seeing the Assassin’s Creed movie.

I’m not, however, interested in listening to someone talk about the movie. For 10 minutes.

Granted that someone is the film’s producer, Frank Marshall, whom you may know from the likes of Indiana Jones, Jurassic World, and Back to the Future, but it dragged on for what felt like an eternity.

The Assassin’s Creed film hits theaters on December 21st, later this year.

Watch Dogs 2 looks like big dumb fun, and I want it now.

The crowd erupted as Aisha Tyler was interrupted by a well-made Dedsec propaganda film. They’re definitely eating up Watch Dogs 2, and so am I. The sequel to 2014’s underwhelming open-world hack-a-thon seems like a drastic improvement in every way imaginable.

Ubisoft showed a very lengthy gameplay trailer, in which new hacktivist Marcus Holloway used everything in his arsenal to infiltrate a corrupt politician’s heavily guarded home and extract valuable information locked away on his hard drive. This was the perfect scenario for Marcus to take cover behind a myriad of environmental objects and take out the armed guards for good, but instead the entire playthrough is non-lethal. Color me impressed.

The demo showed off Marcus’ drone, which was used to tag enemies and profile them like he does with his cellphone. He also used his RC car to maneuver around the house and hack the objective away from the prying eyes of the politician’s hired help. Rather than run and gun his way to victory (or death, I suppose), they portrayed Marcus as the hacktivist he’s supposed to represent in-game — he was smart, clever, and agile in his execution and getaway.

So far I’m really enjoying everything I’ve seen about Watch Dogs 2, which releases November 15th. I know the original game set the bar pretty low, but the idea of an open-world stealth game with interesting ways to complete my objectives is already a huge selling point.

Ubisoft confirmed that a Watch Dogs film is on the way, thanks to a partnership with Sony. I’ll just watch Hackers for the 100th time instead.

Watch Dogs 2’s DLC will arrive first on PS4, one month ahead of its Xbox One and PC counterparts, which makes sense considering the film partnership.

Steep, a new open-world IP about sharing extreme sports stunts, isn’t even remotely interesting.

If I were Ubisoft, I would have ended the conference with Watch Dogs 2. The crowd ate it up. They LOVED it.

They instead closed with their newest IP, Steep, an open-world (noticing a trend here, folks?) game taking place in the Alps where players can snowboard, ski, paraglide, and use wingsuits to create challenges and share footage of their stunts.

Did this excite anyone?

This seems like a glorified tech demo of sorts, but maybe I just don’t see the appeal of such a simple idea. Folks hop in to the mountains, do stunts, and share them with friends. You can all snowboard down a slope together, or just paraglide around and enjoy the beautiful landscapes, and I don’t really see that being enjoyable for longer than an hour or two. Fuck, I’m bored just talking about it.

I’m all for developers and publishers trying out new IP, especially a developer who’s heavily relied on sequels as a crutch, but I found Steep severely underwhelming and don’t really see the appeal of such a game outside of VR.

Ah well, best of luck to them. I’m sure there’s a market out there somewhere.

You can sign up for the Steep beta at steepgame.com, though no date was given.

So how was it?

Although I felt that Ubisoft spent a lot of time talking about their games, they did an excellent job showing them in action. I was more than a little puzzled by the lack of Division gameplay and explanation, but I left the presentation with a general idea of what their future holds in the next year or so.

The momentum screeched to a halt during the Asssassin’s Creed movie bit, but of course they want as many people to see it as possible. It was an understandable segment, but it could’ve been just the behind the scenes trailer and given more time to show off The Division’s DLC or Watch Dogs 2.

I’m extremely confused by Steep’s existence, and for such a niche game I’m pretty shocked they decided to make it their marquee title. Ubisoft is known for ending their conferences with new reveals, so I guess it’s not totally surprising, but they could’ve ended with Watch Dogs 2 (which had a great gameplay demo) and been okay.

What did you think of the 2016 Ubisoft press conference?

3 thoughts on “E3 2016: Ubisoft Talks Sequels, VR, and Brand New IP

  1. Ubisoft really need to move on from Assassins Creed. We get that it was amazing but holding onto something that a lot of people have moved on from isn’t helping them at all.


    1. As a fan of the series (yes, even Unity) I’m happy that they took the year off to go back to the drawing board. I don’t think I (or the fanbase) want to see it go away, we just want it to have the polish it once did.

      Syndicate only sold about 3.3 million copies (and more shockingly only 0.18 million of those were on Xbox One), so sales were clearly on the decline after Unity’s fumble — although Syndicate reviewed extremely well with critics and Unity wasn’t, Unity went on to sell nearly 10 million.

      I just want them to get their shit together, not brush it under the rug.

      Liked by 1 person

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