Ubisoft’s E3 conference was held this evening at the WiFi-challenged LA Theater this evening and the results were decidedly mixed. Though the publisher showed plenty of great titles from its upcoming lineup, there were a few moments that were less than spectacular.
The evening opened without any preamble or explanation. A lone figure stood in the center of the stage and began playing a Kinect game that combined the concepts of Tempest and Geometry Wars. As he moved his arms around, he took out brightly colored diamonds, giant globular worms, a squid with glowing tentacles and even some bizarre lady popstar. I would say it’s so much like my dreams, it’s scary, but my dreams tend to have a better framerate. The end of the demo revealed that the player in question was none other than Tetsuya Muzuguchi, creator of Space Channel 5. His new epilepsy-simulator is called Child of Eden: Hope and Happiness.
Joel McHale, star of NBC’s Community and E!’s The Soup, was back this year to emcee the proceedings. He kicked things off with an amazing trailer for Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood. The trailer panned across a city as a hawk flies overhead. A voice says, “Remember for whom we assassin’s fight.” The scene shifts to a papal procession outside of the Pantheon in Rome. Ezio, dressed in his finest assassin garb, lingers on the edges of the crowd. As the papal litter approaches, Ezio makes his way through the crowd. He takes out guard after guard, and even seems to have some allies in the distance who fire arrows into the enemies. Once he reaches the pope, Ezio is confronted by his nemesis, a member of the Borgia family who happens to be riding along with the pope. As the pope’s guards come rushing out, Ezio is joined by the members of his Assassin’s Brotherhood.
From here the demo shifts to show the lead in to the fight. It’s now three years earlier and Ezio is attacked by the Templars in his home villa. The fight, which was demoed in real time, showed off plenty of new features, including horse riding and new combat moves for multiple opponents. Most interestingly, the team promised that, for the first time ever, players will be able to play head-to-head in Templar vs. Assassin multiplayer. That’s definitely hot. Gamers will have to wait until November 16 to play the game, but we’ll have hands on impressions from the show.
Shifting gears, the show focused Shaun White Skateboarding. Rather than creating a regular skateboarding game, Shaun and the game’s creators showed off a game that allowed players to reshape the game environment to make for a better trick environment. The basic premise is that the player is skating in a world that has been oppressed by a fun-hating Ministry. The Ministry has sucked all the color out of the world, and it’s up to the player to restore life and color to the world by performing tricks. Successful tricks will also allow the player to reshape the world, creating new ramps and rails to trick off of.
The evening was seemingly interrupted by six attractive people playing Laser Tag. The two teams, Blue Sharks and Yellow Pumas, jumped around the theater shooting each other as their kill scores updated on the big screen at the back of the stage. After the match, Gael Seydoux explained the new game is called Battle Tag. Consisting of guns and sensor harnesses and a few extra accessories, the game allows players to shoot at each in real life without getting the police involved. The really amazing thing is how Ubisoft has taken such a cool idea and tried to fit it in a stage that wasn’t suited to show it off properly.
Next up was Tommy Francois, the director of a new project called Innergy. This title, which is called a game but isn’t, is a bit of software that uses an energy sensor that fits over your finger to track your body signals. We’re not entirely sure what all it tracks because the demo focused solely on getting Joel to breath in a slow rhythm that was tracked by a slowly rising and falling character. The idea is that you can plug this sensor into your computer and use the body signals to reduce your stress and improve your life.
The health benefits of the next Kinect titles seemed a bit more apparent. Motion Sports lets players engage in amateur athletics in their living rooms. Realistic-looking versions of skiing, soccer and football were all shown in a humorous demo reel that emphasized the party aspects of the title.
Your Shape: Fitness Evolved was up next. Demoed by fitness expert Michael George and Ubisoft’s international brand manager Felicia Williams, Your Shape is described as “your own personal gym.” Using a player projection that not only analyzes movements but also reads your dimensions, the new game includes routines to simulate personal training, fitness classes and various other activities. The coach helps by correcting your form, but doesn’t bother to tell you that your avatar is on fire.
Next up was a new Raving Rabbids game for the Wii. This time around, the bizarre bunny things are traveling back in time to help cavemen discover fire, vandalize Egyptian monuments, and frustrate the king-making abilities of a certain sword in a certain stone.
After an hour, the show finally got to Ghost Recon Future Soldier. The new game emphasizes the technology of the futuristic battlefield including optical camouflage and cross com awareness devices. The trailer showed off lots of the technology but we had to wait for a full demo from producer Adrian Lacey and designer Rafael Morado to see the game in action. The level we saw showed the Ghosts landing on a European coast, tasked with attacking an enemy stronghold and taking a particularly high value target. More impressive, the game also includes a new four-player cooperative play in the campaign.
Next up was Driver 3, which not only returns the action to San Francisco and brings back John Tanner and Charles Jericho. Though it has a modern setting, the trailer was full of 1970s goodness drawn directly from movies like Bullett and The French Connection. San Francisco is the perfect car chase city and the trailer really shows it off well. Better still, the game includes more than a hundred licensed cars, including Tanner’s signature Dodge Challenger RT, and they all can be damaged.
To close out the night, Ubisoft’s CEO Yves Guillemot showed up to reveal a few new projects including Dust, a new elemental disaster game that looks cool and a very artistic take on Rayman, [I]Rayman Origins. I was surprised that Rayman didn’t get more stage time, particularly given the amazing art style, but I guess that kind of stuff plays better in France. Ubisoft also announced maniaplanet, a new user-powered PC gaming zone that takes the user created content of [I]Trackmania and applies it to the three popular genres of racing, shooter and strategy.
There are playable versions of many of these games on the show floor, so look for more impressions once the show floor opens tomorrow.
Oh, also, they have a Michael Jackson dancing game.