E3, or the Electronic Entertainment Expo, is arguably the biggest and boldest annual video gaming convention ever to grace the planet. Held in sun-drenched Los Angeles; the big guns of the gaming industry including Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony showcasing brand new hardware and games. The event is a pantomime of lights, music, noises and good old’ fashioned video games. Held exclusively to the press and industry members, the entire convention is streamed online for all us norms to watch at home. And that’s exactly what we did. People from all around the globe watched with bated breath waiting for what the next big announcements were coming to PC’s and home consoles over the next few months and beyond. This is a list some of the notable games and software that hooked us to spend all our hard earned money on the most expansive and by far best consumable media there is.
Oobisoft? Yoobisoft? Maybe it’s something totally different, like ‘Ewbisoft.’ Whatever you call them, they’re a fantastically, quirky games developer. From action adventure epics to tactical shooters and beautiful platformers, Ubisoft are reliable for providing the world with ‘Assassin’s Creed’, ‘Far Cry’ and ‘Rayman’; making software for casual, dip-in gamers, to the hardest of core gamers; Ubisoft has everyone catered for and they do a good job of it.
With ‘Watch_Dogs’ taking centre stage in the past couple of E3’s with mind-blowing visuals and stunning gameplay, and it was released a few weeks before the presentation. It was going to be interesting to see what they could show off this year and to see if they could create a tornado of hype from other, more established franchises. They didn’t fail to deliver.
After a slightly bizarre introduction from the ‘Rabbids, Ubi went straight for the jugular. Litterally! ‘Far Cry 4’ had been announced before E3 but only a few sparse details were known. This gave Ubisoft the chance to show the first five minutes of the new instalment to the Far Cry series. As our character, Ajay Ghale, is ambushed whilst riding a bus through the Himalayas, we get thrown into a tirade of gunfire and bullets at an unannounced spot check. Ghale is fired at by the militia and manages to escape the mayhem of the bus only to be greeted by an armed guard and an ominous, black helicopter at his feet. The dark figure that creeps out of the chopper is the games villain, Pagan Min, who graces the recently released box art. Dressed to the nines with his pink flares, he oily says “I distinctly remember saying ‘stop the bus’ […] not ‘shoot the bus.’” Although, calm and collect, rage is evidently building up in the swishly, dressed villains eyes and voice as he pulls out a pen knife and goes for the injured guard furiously, ruining his shoes and splattering his face with blood in the process. This man is clearly mentally unstable and not a force to be reckoned with. He however does recognise our protagonist and starts conversing with him, like they’re old friends and even finds time to take a selfie with Ghale in true 2014 fashion. Ghale looks evidently perplexed as to who or why he has been picked up on. Is he in trouble or his he safe? We’ll have to play it to find out…
‘Just Dance’ is a funny old series, starting back in 2009 on the Wii with roots in ‘Rayman’s Ravin’ Rabbid’s’ game. Now in its sixth iteration, the worldwide mega-seller is back for sillier dance moves at your next alcohol fuelled family gathering. A trailer featuring a number of elaborate groups of people dancing to their on-screen leaders to Pharrel Williams’ sickly infectious ‘Happy’ is shown before moving on in true E3 form by getting a load of actual dancers on stage to rave to the newly announced ‘Just Dance Now’. An app and tablet/smart TV based that allows gamers to play Just Dance with their smartphone. The app is connected to a bigger screen to show the players what to do whilst the phone itself uses the power of the built in gyroscopes to recognise the movements as you do your dancy thang with an infinite number of others. This interesting concept will get regularly updated with new songs and dance moves in the future.
‘Assassin’s Creed’ opened up a new world of possibilities for me. As I was stuck playing mostly racing and driving games, I got immense satisfaction soaring into haystacks, traversing high walls and plunging hidden blades into enemies. ‘Unity’ is the new offering. Although Microsoft showed a multiple player co-operative mission of Unity in their press conference, Ubisoft gave us a glimpse of a solo objective. After short atmospheric trailer, the gameplay began at the very top of Notre Dame. Our Assassin swiftly and bravely dives off the tower, catching every other wall, gargoyle and protrusion on his way down. This assassin doesn’t care much for haystacks it seems but his decent is quick and nimble. He reaches a vastly populated terra firma and objectives pop up as he blends in with the Parisian crowds. He encounters a restricted area and promptly uses his hidden blades on a couple of unaware guards. This follows with familiar swordfight. Sparks fly from sword blades and the finally the guard is taken down with a slice to the throat. Our assassin now searches for potential targets and proceeds to hunt them down. He slinks down behind cover, staying out of view of potential foes and silently creeps from one crate to the next. The man he is after is not where he thinks he is but gets word of the actual whereabouts. As our assassin darts out of the window and across roofs, icons pop up. As there is no map, this could possibly the new way how we as players find missions. He now scuttles through houses and crowds and back up wall with acrobatic finesse, getting to a higher vantage point to find his prey. He finds the man he is after and follows him via rooftops to a guillotine. He picks his moment and pounces from the guillotine itself, forcing his hidden blade into the Captains neck. The guards around rear up as our assassin is joined by his fellow co-operative brothers, ready to take on the ensuing onslaught. Unity is on good form. ‘Assassin’s Creed II’s’ Italian setting defined it and going back to a similarly stunning location and time period rather than the later colonial America of III is going to be favourable with fans. I for one cannot wait to see how this develops.
‘Battlefield Hardline’ has a new competitor it seems. A new Rainbow Six had been in the works and was overdue. The most recent utterance of a new Rainbow Six for consoles and PC after ‘Patriots’ was cancelled was 2008’s ‘Vegas 2’. This multiplayer pre-alpha level features a bunch of good guys planning and taking out the bad guys in a hostage situation, showing its mettle in a five versus five match. Again like Ubisoft’s ‘The Division’, it unrealistically gave us this heavily acted interpretation of an online multiplayer match. But cheese aside, the elements that were shown provided enough coverage into how ‘Siege’ can bring something interesting to the table. Gun shots can fire gaping holes into the wall that players can then shoot through themselves to take out the enemy. This type of procedural destruction adds to the immersion and realism. Battlefield may have had its ‘levolution’ moments that drastically altered the map but the smaller details on something like a house falling bits when a player blows a hole in the floor to get past barricades may not be the same as tumbling buildings but using the destruction adds a tactical approach. The footage ends with a one on one cliff-hanger.
Ubisoft’s open world multiplayer racer, ‘The Crew’ was shown in a time lapsed compilation trailer of races that span over two hours filled with high powered supercars bursting through urban jungles, sand-filled canyons and winding hills.
‘Valiant Hearts: The Great War’; a touching UbiArts side-scroller inspired by events from the First World War. With a cartoony animated style but also a heavy message, it expresses an evocative atmosphere that is aching to be played, just to see and hear the stories it can tell.
By the looks of things, ‘Shape Up’ uses the Kinect to its full ability. With crazy push ups and ‘Dance Dance Revolution’ inspired challenges, this is bringing motion controlled games up to scratch.
Who Was Not Mentioned?
Where to start? ‘Rayman’ was not present; his fury yet crazy pests the ‘Rabbids’ were relegated to the introduction; so we can’t expect any of that ridiculous fun from previous instalments on newer consoles just yet. The Driver series could have also been touched upon but, alas no. I think that last year’s ‘Watch_Dogs’ being a similar open world game with driving might have become a bit repetitive which is a shame because after ‘San Francisco’, Driver proves that it can still provide hours of joy and entertainment.
The French company did well this year. We’ve seen the next instalment of the ever-popular Assassin’s Creed; we’ve met psychopaths and are intrigued by their motives in Far Cry 4; we can dance with as many people as we want to with just an app and a fancy TV; and we can use our Kinect’s for something half decent! It’s hard to pick a firm favourite because these titles all have something that appeals; which is what Ubisoft (‘Oobisoft’? ‘Yoobisoft’? Actually, it might also be ‘Ubbisoft’…) is all about.
Words by Jimmi