Ubisoft Press Conference: The Division, The Crew Intrigue
The unofficial first day of E3 2013, in which many of the major publishers and console makers have press conferences, is nearing its end. We’ve already seen Electronic Arts’ lineup for the coming year and Microsoft’s batch of titles to power its next-generation Xbox One console. Now it’s time for Ubisoft to march out its lineup.
We already know to expect new details on Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag, this year’s entry into Ubisoft’s flagship franchise, and there are other solid but known titles sure to pop up — like Splinter Cell: Blacklist and Watch Dogs. But what else might Ubisoft have hidden up its sleeve? With two new consoles hitting the market this year, we’re expecting the unexpected. Or at least, we’re expecting some new game announcements — like a new Beyond Good and Evil game.
Ubisoft’s press conference starts at 3 p.m. PDT/6 p.m. EDT, and you can stream it here. Keep refreshing this page for a play-by-play of the event as it happens, with more to come afterward as well.
Ubisoft kicks off its press conference, which is again hosted by comedian and Aisha Tyler (of “Archer” fame), a little differently from the other publishers we’ve seen today — a musical performance by Alice in Chains guitarist Jerry Cantrell playing a bit of “Man in the Box.”
As Cantrell starts firing off voice commands to Ubisoft’s music lesson game Rocksmith, he’s able to dynamically adjust the band backing track in Rocksmith 2014′s new “Session Mode,” in which the game generates a virtual band on the fly that reacts to the player. Alice in Chains music will be included in the game, as well.
The conference proper starts with Tyler leading into info on Splinter Cell: Blacklist, due on Aug. 20. We already know the title will include a new Sam Fisher story (sans longtime voice actor Michael Ironside), focusing on “Fourth Echelon,” with new co-op missions and the return of the Spies vs. Mercs multiplayer mode.
The trailer that follows explains what “Blacklist” is all about — a terrorist group called The Engineers is attacking U.S. military installations around the world, referring to those attacks as its “Blacklist.” We saw some gameplay that seems to combine elements from Splinter Cell: Conviction, which took the series in some new directions, with elements from older Splinter Cell games. We also got some info on characters: longtime handler Anna Grimsdottir is back, and it seems Fisher will spend a lot of time teamed up with a CIA operative named Briggs.
After Splinter Cell comes a trailer for Rayman Legends, which is due on Sept. 3. Another side-scrolling four-player cooperative platforming title like Rayman Origins, Legends seems like it’ll include a bunch of different kinds of levels to work through with other players.
Notable from the Rayman Legends trailer were a few details: the title will include 120 different levels, for a start, and pack things like big boss battles and musical maps.
New IP for Ubisoft this year is The Mighty Quest for Epic Loot, a game about building castles, defending those castles, and attacking other people’s castles. A new cinematic trailer for the game plays off Epic Loot’s humor, but you can read a whole lot more about the title in Ben Richardson’s hands-on pre-E3 preview.
Next, Ubisoft reminds everyone that South Park: The Stick of Truth, the Obsidian-developed RPG that was formerly being published by THQ, is still a thing. Ubi picked up South Park in THQ’s bankruptcy sell-off, and after a new, short trailer showing Randy Marsh teaching his son, Stan, the “Nagasaki Fart,” we got something of a release date — the sort of soft implication that South Park is coming in holiday 2013 (kinda, maybe).
Ubisoft Co-Founder and CEO Yves Guillemot is out next to introduce Ubisoft’s next-gen offerings. The first of which is The Crew, a racing game that melds single-player and multiplayer experiences and lets players access a huge open world of races, challenges, and car customization.
Julian Gerighty, creative director The Crew, detailed a huge number of details about the highly ambitious game. Players can take part in all kinds of challenges and have the ability to drive basically all over the United States that’s featured in the game, with the gameplay demo showing a number of courses in places like Miami, Las Vegas, off-road Nevada, backwoods locations and more.
After completing challenges separately, Gerighty narrated a challenge in which the four separate players came together to take on a cooperative mission. Driving off-road through Miami, from roads to beaches and more, the players had to work together to take down a rival car while eluding police.
The big goal of The Crew is to provide players the ability to play alone and together in a seamless experience, and you might find yourself facing off against AI cars or cars driven by other players. The developers want you to dynamically create “crews” with your friends to take on rival groups of players throughout. You should also expect second-screen capabilities from tablets: during the demo, we heard that Tyler created a custom car that was then brought into the game for her to use.
Last year, Watch Dogs dominated the conversation mostly by being mysterious as well as different-looking. This year’s Watch Dogs trailer was already leaked yesterday, much to Ubisoft’s chagrin — but while it doesn’t show much in terms of gameplay, there is at least a new pre-rendered trailer of scratchy voiced ass-kicking to be had. Executive Producer Dominic Guay introduced the trailer, which you can find below.
Just Dance is getting a new refresh with Just Dance 2014. There’s not much in the way of new details there, but we get to see as many as six players dancing at the same time using Kinect on Xbox One, plus new songs and artists featured in the next game.
After another pre-rendered, gameplay-free trailer of Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag, Creative Director Jean Guesdon hits the stage to talk about the game’s pirate life.
It’s all about being strong and free, Guesdon said, discussing how players will adventure through “the most ambitious open world game ever,” working through smuggler caves, boarding other ships, adventuring underwater and more. Following his description, we get another trailer, this time in-engine — but it still is pretty lacking in details of moment-to-moment gameplay, instead focusing on how pretty the Caribbean looks.
Another quick trailer pops up, this one showing off a new entires into the Trials franchise. As Tyler pointed out, there are two new entries into the Trials series coming out this year: Trials Frontier for mobile devices, and Trials Fusion for Xbox One, Playstation 4 and current-gen consoles.
We’ve heard a bit about what Microsoft is planning in merging games and TV with its Xbox One console with games such as Quantum Break and a new Halo TV show, but we haven’t yet seen what that plan is in action. That changes with Ubisoft’s Rabbids Invasion, which riffs off the Rayman franchise’s psychotic, evil bunnies.
Rabbids Invasion will be both a TV show that kids can watch, and a game experience they can play using Kinect. It sounds as though Rabbids Invasion will basically be a series of interactive, scene-based mini-games: one included a “bwaaah-o-meter” game in which players had to yell at the Kinect along with one of the rabbits to score points. Another had them aiming fingers at the screen to fling eggs at characters as they ran around the scene.
Finally, Guillemot hits the stage again to do what Ubisoft did last year: grab E3 by the throat with a new IP. This one, coming from Massive Entertainment, features another lengthy world-building trailer, just like Watch Dogs, which established a doomsday scenario in which American life is crashed by the release of a virus through tainted money on Black Friday, the most popular shopping day of the year.
Massive Creative Director Niklas Cederstram is on-hand to introduce the title, revealed to be Tom Clancy’s The Division. Up next is a gameplay trailer in which a squad of three players, making up a “classified unit of self-supported tactical agents” known as The Division, head out into ruined New York City and start getting into trouble. What exactly is going on isn’t clear, as the players head to a police station and engage a number of enemies in some third-person cover-based shooter gunplay.
The trailer shows that each player has different abilities, with one rolling out a group heal, one using a rolling, smart grenade to take out enemies, and all of them working together with voice communication in real time. During that firefight, we see another player hop in, controlling a flying drone in real time from a tablet to support the other players briefly before leaving.
Inside, the squad find and rescue some police officers who’d been locked up after clearing out the enemies, and discover some new weapons to bring to bear against enemies. As they leave the police station, they take on a new group of other players, highlighting the openness and connectivity of the game — you’ll be fighting AI as well as competing against other living, breathing agents.
Interesting perhaps that one big thing didn’t get announced during the Ubisoft conference: Beyond Good and Evil 2, something that seemed to be on the docket thanks to new teasers from Ubisoft last week. Perhaps it was just wishful thinking, or maybe the announcement is being held back until later this year. Meanwhile, Ubisoft has set a pretty high bar in terms of games, especially with its new IP. Stay tuned for more details on all the games we saw at the press conference as E3 2013 continues.