As expected, Ubisoft put a huge focus not only on the developers that work on their titles, but on their leadership under Yves Guillemot, as they continue to battle against Vivendi’s hostile takeover bid. Developers took centre stage throughout the presentation, but none moreso than with their very first announcement.
Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle
Despite being one of the worst kept secrets in gaming, Ubisoft still managed to surprise us all with this announcement. On stage to talk about the concept and development of the game was Mario’s creator himself, Shigeru Miyamoto. There were tears in the eyes of the game’s, clearly emotional, director as Miyamoto specifically called him out for praise on the game’s concept. Also, some entertaining moments as Miyamoto and Yves Guillemot pretended to shoot each other with oversized props of the weapons featured in the game.
The game effectively plays a bit like XCOM, with tactical positioning, shooting and teamwork all in play as you mow down hordes of Rabbids – some of whom are dressed up as Mario’s extended cast. Despite the original leaks of the game looking like a bit of a shallow licensing grab, it has to be said that the game clearly looks like a labour of love from all involved. There’s a lot of attention to detail and a surprising depth to the gameplay. This could very well end up being a must-have when it arrives on the Switch in late August.
More Assassin’s Creed
As well as a new trailer for Assassin’s Creed Origins in the show, we also got a full 30 minute play through of the game afterwards. It’s very much looking like an Assassin’s Creed game made in a world after the releases of The Witcher 3 and Breath of the Wild. By cribbing a lot from the paradigm shift those games have made on open world games, it does take some of the sheen off of what’s otherwise the biggest overhaul of the series since Assassin’s Creed II. All that said, though, it’s looking extremely positive so far – and the team leading development is the team behind the excellent Black Flag – so as much as the game may not be breaking new ground overall, it could still be the best Assassin’s Creed entry for years. We’ll have more on the development of Assassin’s Creed’s open world in a feature soon.
The Crew takes a left turn away from Forza Horizon by going all out
Though the original The Crew was a modest success for Ubisoft around the time of the launch of the Xbox One and PS4, we’re now in 2017 and have had two fantastic Forza Horizon games effectively reset the bar for this kind of title. The Crew 2 sets out to completely sidestep that by throwing anything with a motor into the game. Bikes, Planes and Boats join all kinds of cars in an open world New York City. The kind of in-game motorsports festival that gives Forza Horizon its name is also centre stage in the framing of The Crew 2, but by going all out in what kind of racing that actually involves, it at least softens any direct comparisons.
There was a new, foul-mouthed, trailer for South Park: The Fractured But Whole, but since the game is only really at E3 again because of recurring delays, there understandably wasn’t a lot more revealed than we already knew. What we did get as a new announcement, though, was a new South Park mobile game called South Park: Phone Destroyer.
Phone Destroyer follows in the same style of the two console titles by having you assume the role of a ‘new kid’ joining the South Park cast playing at different roles. The gameplay focuses on collectable cards of the South Park kids in various getups and different levels. We assume there’ll be micro-transactions involved, despite South Park lampooning the entire idea on the show recently, but if the game is as well written as the console games, it will be hard to turn it down. Phone Destroyer launches alongside The Fractured But Whole on the 17th October.
Elijah Wood does a VR thing
We’re still not actually sure what on earth Transference actually is. All we can really tell for now is that it’s a VR experience that involves Elijah Wood and it looks damned creepy. Even creepier than his Sin City appearance. Or in The Faculty. Or when he loses it under the influence of The One Ring. Perhaps at least we’re slowly coming to the realisation that maybe Elijah Wood is just creepy?
Skull and Bones
By far, one of the major reasons why Assassin’s Creed Black Flag was such a fantastic game was that it was also a fantastic pirates simulator. Ubisoft’s taken that fact on board and basically copy/pasted the pirates bit of Black Flag into a standalone game. The gameplay walkthrough indicates that there really isn’t a huge amount that is different from Black Flag’s naval combat, but in a sense that’s a good thing. It’ll remain to be seen just how in-depth this game is when standing on its own two feet, especially in terms of any single player content, when the game comes out late next year. As far as a sales pitch goes, though, it’s hard to be negative about Skull and Bones at all…
Just Dance 2018
In which a Panda dabs.
Starlink was a game teased in Watch Dogs 2 when, irony of irony, you leak out an upcoming Ubisoft game by hacking them. What we didn’t know then, but now do, is that it’s a toys-to-life game starring space ships. It’s the first toys to life game since Skylanders itself to actually not feature and rely on existing well known IP to sell the toys themselves, so it seems a little brave to us. Especially following the collapse of Disney Infinity and the increasing likelihood that Lego Dimensions might not see another season of content. What is pretty cool, though, is how Ubisoft have made a Nintendo Switch grip specifically for the game – albeit as a kind of awkward stand for the ship figure attached. We do have to admit that the figures do look pretty nice…
Steep goes to the Winter Olympics
Proving that the Olympics just aren’t about Plumbers and Hedgehogs, Ubisoft announced an update for Steep to add some Winter Olympics 2018 content this December. Steep was released last year and is an excellent falling down a mountain simulator. Now, with this update, players will be able to fall down a mountain for a gold medal.
Far Cry 5 Gameplay
In our first look at Far Cry 5 in action, we saw some very brutal scenes and some cute dogs. The game is nicking Far Cry Primal’s feature of being able to tame and instruct wild animals, so the dogs won’t just be there for window dressing – you’ll be able to put them to work at chewing the arms off some white supremacists or playing fetch with automatic rifles. The trailer also highlighted the game’s other standout features of guns for hire and seamless co-op throughout the entire campaign. It’s clear that Far Cry 5’s setting will make a lot of people uncomfortable for just how close to home it will hit for people in Trump’s America, but there’s a lot of over the top action to offset its somewhat coincidentally politically appropriate tone.
Beyond Good and Evil is finally back
We barely even dreamed to hope that this year would be the year Beyond Good and Evil would finally be back – we’ve had reports of the game being in some stage of development on and off for years now – but Micheal Ancel, the creator of the series (as well as Rayman), took to the stage to present the stunning cinematic (and foul mouthed) trailer above. The game is clearly years away – we’re not joking when we say that 2020 is a very likely release frame for this game – but with the ambition on show, it should definitely be worth the wait. Despite (currently) being called Beyond Good and Evil 2, the game actually takes place before the original game. That should effectively mean that it won’t rely on the events of the first game, which will at least a positive for those who haven’t played it now that the original is 15 years old.
Ubisoft’s show was not only the best presented of the entire weekend so far – which is a pleasant surprise given the switch to focusing on developers and Guillemot himself this year – but also managed to deliver with the games themselves. When you can still come out of the announcement of a game that’s been plastered all over the internet for weeks with a feeling of happy surprise, you know it’s a presentation done well. Almost all of the games on show at Ubisoft’s E3 this year look like must haves.
Perhaps the biggest issue is just how few of them are out this year. Far Cry 5, The Crew, Skull & Bones and Starlink aren’t out until 2018. Beyond Good and Evil is unlikely to even be 2018. If it weren’t for the fact that South Park was delayed, only Assassin’s Creed and Just Dance would be joining Mario + Rabbids this year. After a couple of years where E3 focused mostly on games coming out during this year, it’s a bit of a disappointment to be moving away from that into longer timescales. Overall, though, if you were to pick the best show so far, it’d have to be Ubisoft’s. Given that Nintendo’s doesn’t really count and Sony’s is always a pretty dire presentation saved only by the content of the games themselves, it may well cling onto that for the rest of the week.