Ubisoft's 2011 conference E3 was special for at least one reason, as this year is the French company's 25th anniversary. When looking at some of the games they showcased tonight, it's impressive to see what a long way they've come. Not everything was interesting or captivating, but the show did have quite a few highlights and some really surprising announcements. Let's discuss them all!


The opening of the show did set the tone for the rest of the show presentation-wise, as the laughably bad pun at the beginning (Ubi or not Ubi) was quickly overruled by a long string of bad attempts at humour by Mr. Caffeine, the show's main host. His job was to provide some comic relief inbetween announcements, but literally all of his jokes were received with an awkward, painful silence that really managed to kill the excited atmosphere at times.

Fortunately, the conference got off to a good start as far as games go, with Rayman creator Michel Ancel and an assistant demonstrating co-op in the new Rayman Origins game. While this whole 'back to the 2D roots' approach has been done to death and I was initially sceptical of this new installment of Ubisoft's flagship franchise, the gameplay itself looked nothing short of amazing. In the short demo - it only lasted for about 5 minutes - we got to see a wide array of environments, gameplay applications, moves and themes, which immediately made you want to play the game. The best thing about Rayman Origins is that it does not seem to be thriving on just nostalgia, and actually push the 2D platformer forward again with fast, fluid gameplay. We'll have to see if the entire game turns out to belike that, but consider me interested.

Next up was Driver: San Francisco. Like Rayman Origins, it seems to be going back to its roots, not in terms of presentation, but gameplay. Whereas the more recent driver games put a lot of emphasis on story and on-foot gameplay, Driver: San Francisco honours the name of the franchise by focusing on the driving element. The result is a game that looks a bit like Burnout Paradise with a story, characters and a large set of missions. Too little is known about the game to decide whether it'll be worth the purchase, but back off of the GTA imitation is step in the right direction at least.

Driver: San Francisco puts you back where you belong: behind the wheel.

After some cringeworthingly bad attempts at humour, a new trailer hit the screen. And even though the title of the game didn't appear until the very end, it became apparent quickly that we were looking at the first in-game footage of Far Cry 3. The third installment in this sandbox first person shooter series will drop the African setting and go back to the series' roots (sound familiar?). You're stuck on a tropical island that harbours some kind of dark secret. In the trailer, we witness civilians being rounded up and shot by what appears to be an organised band of loonies, and it doesn't take long before the protagonist gets caught and cursed at (A LOT), after which one of the loonies tries to drown him. Naturally, he escapes death, and the actual gameplay starts. In the next sequence, where the player causes mayhem and shoots a bunch of people, it becomes apparent that the gunplay is near identical to that of Far Cry 2, but also that the stealth has been improved and the explosions have become even bigger. The trailer ends after an inevitable helicopter crash and a second encounter with the looney that tried to kill you. All in all, I really liked the look of this game. The tropical island setting may seem a bit too familiar after Far Cry 1 and Crysis 1/Warhead, but if Ubisoft is able to fix the issues that were plagueing Far Cry 2, we might be in for a treat. It was impossible to tell from the trailer if they're switching for a more linear approach this time around (like Crysis 2), but for now, let's just hope that we'll get to experience some mad sandbox shooting fun.


But perhaps the most surprising announcement was the upcoming fourth installment of Brothers in Arms. It was surprising enough that this military tactical shooter is getting a new installment (with developer Gearbox being so caught up with Duke Nukem as of late), but what was even more shocking is the total shift in focus in this game. Whereas the first 3 Brothers in Arms games went for an authentic World War 2 experience (at which they, by the bye, succeeded remarkably well), the animated trailer of Brothers in Arms: Furious Four, as the game is going to be called, showed a bunch of bizarre, cartoony characters smashing up a nazi bar. The whole ordeal looked like Inglorious Basterds and Team Fortress 2 had a bastard child. I doubt that this humerous approach will gel well with what the Brothers in Arms series has stood for until now, but seeing as no actual gameplay footage was shown, I will restrain from passing definitive judgment for now.

Brothers in Arms: Furious Four takes the series into an awkward new direction.

After these impressive or at least interesting announcements, the show slowed down a bit. The presentations of a Rabbids Kinect game, Just Dance 3, a Wii Fit clone entitled YouShape and a guitar-focused Rock Band clone called Rocksmith were all what you'd expect them to be like. Just Dance 3 had some hipsters and Katy Perry dancing in their living room, Rabbids Kinect had four enthusiastic Ubisoft employees demonstrating the game and Rocksmith had a couple of known-but-not-really-all-that-famous musicians talk positively of the game. There was also a trailer of Trackmania 2: Canyon, a title that should be cool enough, but seeing as no actual gameplay footage was shown, it's difficult to tell what it's going to be like.

A trailer that did stick out was Ghost Recon: Future Soldier. The game seems to take a much more arcade-like approach, with cover-based combat, regen health, a less realistic presentation and less focus on the technical aspect of the game. While the game itself looked okay, it didn't look like the previous Ghost Recon games at all, and no doubt some fans will be disappointed. Additionally, a free online component named 'Ghost Recon Online' was announced, although not a lot became clear from the hectic trailer. Still, if it's free, what do we have to lose?

The show concluded with a trailer of what probably is Ubisoft's biggest upcoming title, Assassin's Creed Revelations. After an uninteresting CGI trailer that had little to do with the actual game, we got to witness about 5 minutes of actual gameplay of the fourth installment in Ubisoft's wildly popular stealth series. The game takes place in Constantinople, and it is not long before the protagonist roughens up the setting a little bit by bringing down the harbour's lighthouse, killing a lot of people and setting some ships of fire. While all of this was stuff that makes for something what in popular gaming jargon would be considered 'epic', it bothered me a little that the gameplay was interrupted quite frequently by cutscenes. It gave the game a cinematic look in a way that it gave me this feeling of 'if I want to go see a movie, I'll go to the cinema'. Maybe this was just in the demo to showcase the admittedly impressive graphics of the game, but if the entire campaign has such an inconsistent pace, then colour me uninterested.

This CGI trailer of AC: Revelations is a bit of a drama queen.

While I definitely enjoyed some segments of Ubisoft's conference, I was actually glad when it was over. During much of the second half of the conference, it felt like they were just buying time until the grand finale, which was of course Assassin's Creed Revelations. And even though the new Assassin's Creed is highly anticipated, my personal favourites were Rayman Origins and Far Cry 3. If Ancel's demonstration is anything to go by, Rayman Origins will finally set some new standards in 2D platforming, a genre that is not uncommonly abused for retro-esque side projects from uninspired developers. And if Far Cry 3 stays true to the sandbox nature of the series, it may shape up to become a great alternative for those who are not interested in the extreme linearity of the campaigns of Modern Warfare 3 and Battlefield 3. With the bad design choices that killed the buzz in Far Cry 2, though, some reservedness is advised until more information about the game is released.

Ubisoft's 25th anniversary conference was definitely worth watching, and it's hard to believe that a small French company founded in 1986 would grow out to become one of the video game industry's leading developers AND publishers. At the same time, though, Ubisoft needs to realise that many of the people who watch E3 probably aren't very interested in their casual titles, so they may want to dedicate a little less time to that section of their conference next year. And in the name of all that is sacred, get someone other than Mr. Caffeine to present it.


Our scores:


Cian Crowdy: C

Jesse Dolman: C

David Gabriel: C-
Joshua McCaul: C+

Jesse Dolman, NoobFeed.

comments powered by Disqus

  • 25 Years. Impressive to say the least. Sadly their conference didn't stand out too much for me at all. Nonetheless you provide a solid look at it, kudos.

    Posted Jun 07, 2011

  • Brothers in Arms gave me a little surprised but I liked the new look of it. And nothing to say about the new Assassins Creed. It looked way better than what I expected. Driver: San Francisco looked sort of average and FarCry 3 honestly made me laugh.

    Posted Jun 07, 2011

  • @Amaya Far Cry 3 was just ... odd. I didn't laugh, I was more speechless at the free use of numerous unecessary curse words at the opening of its trailer. Going to be a great game though for sure.

    Posted Jun 07, 2011

  • I thought Far Cry 3 actually looked quite good. The gunplay reminded me a lot of Far Cry 2 (and a bit of 1), and that was one of the most solid aspects of that game. I just hope they won't stuff tons of QTEs in this game and make it yet another mediocre linear shooter, but the trailer was quite promising.

    Posted Jun 07, 2011

  • the host was ok - there conference didn't stand out much - was looking forward to seeing more on Driver ( to get me back into it )  seeing the BIA game got me interested ,as for the new Assassins creed game the trailer got me interested but the demo was short - Far Cry looked allright ( then again I wasn't much into Far Cry)

    Posted Jun 08, 2011

  • @Tressilate : I don't know whether it's going to be a great game or not, but they looked like they over did few things. Which didn't look much realistic.

    Posted Jun 09, 2011

  • @Amaya Fair enough, but I still feel like it would be very hard to screwup a Far Cry game. Nonetheless, the possibility is there and we'll just have to wait and see :)

    Posted Jun 09, 2011

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