The day before E3 2011, I attended Ubisoft's press briefing highlighting the stuff they plan to showcase on the show floor of the gaming conference. Last year, they skipped their press briefing, but in 2009 they revealed Assassin's Creed II for the first time. This year, the major showcase was, of course, Assassin's Creed: Revelations, but was it the best game of the briefing?
In this article, we grade each of the games that Ubisoft showcased in terms of interest. That is, how much impact the game will have when it is released.
Rayman Origins: Ubisoft's first popular character returns, with sly and quick-witted humor, as seen in the video shot from the press briefing off-screen. The game may remind gamers why the Rayman games were so popular.
Interest grade: A-. The Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 may finally get a game of the caliber of Donkey Kong Country to enjoy, and the demoed action is promising.
Driver: San Francisco:
It was hard to tell much from the Driver: San Francisco from the teaser shown, but Ubisoft promised "unlimited missions" and "open world multiplayer". The graphics sure looked great, if the teaser indeed featured in-game assets.
Interest grade: B+. An open world multiplayer racer isn't new, as Burnout Paradise and the Test Drive Unlimited games prove, but if it turns out to be Hot Pursuit: Open World, sign us up. Check out our preview here.
Far Cry 3:
This was perhaps the star of the briefing. While many were taken by surprise at the end that this was Far Cry 3, it was plainly obvious to me from the start - the setting, the dialog, and the way the demo-er paused to look at scenery like waterfalls, all betrayed its origin. Besides, the game was leaked way back in February.
That said, holy cow, was the demo hot. The knife kills, the tense stealth followed by explosive gunfire. This demo took viewers by the throat and didn't let go. The main villain is definitely insane, but a quiet, dangerous insanity, as if the Joker stopped being a big ham and became a quiet, introspective philosopher.
Interest grade: A+. Something that was not mentioned was the fact that Far Cry 2 had an amazing level editor. Hopefully, Far Cry 3 will as well.
(ED: By the way "repeating the same thing over and over" aka, not learning from your mistakes, is actually the definition of a psychopath, not "insanity". JUST FYI)
Brothers In Arms: The Furious Four:
Randy Pitchford, whose company just wrapped up Duke Nukem Forever, introduced the game to the crowd. It was over-the-top and dripping with machismo, just like Duke. However, there was no trace of irony in it - it wasn't being stylistically dumb, it was just being dumb.
Interest grade: D. The game just seems DOA. The testosterone poisoned gameplay just screams that trying to be a grindhouse WW2 game is overcompensating for something.
The Adventures of Tintin:
One of the oldest comic book heroes, Tintin, will be hitting screens thanks to Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson, and as a result, a tie-in videogame is being released. The game looks wonderful, and the idea of changing characters (like between Tintin and Snowy), but the action seems awfully generic.
Interest grade: C-. You couldn't really tell whether Spielberg or Jackson were talking about the game or the movie. We'll see if the game can avoid the licensed adaptation curse.
Ghost Recon: Future Warrior:
As you can see in the press briefing gameplay demo, the Ghost Recon formula seems to have been refined, going back to the tactical squad tactics of the original. The implementation of Kinect was woven in well, though you could only see that in Microsoft's conference. The game also has something the original Recons didn't - innocent civilians, who plead for their lives or run in terror when gunfire breaks out.
Interest grade: A-. The free-to-play Ghost Recon Online was a nice touch as well, especially in that the games share stats and achievements with each other.
This was one of the bigger surprises of the briefing. Trackmania has always been the spiritual successor for the classic Racing Destruction Set, and the second game in the series takes it to a whole new level where the player can design everything in the race: the tracks, the cars, the terrain, everything. Not only that, but the actual game part of it looks hot, with beautiful graphics and Burnout-ish racing. This could be a real sleeper, provided it gets the recognition it deserves.
Interest grade: A. The fact that Ubisoft will be also releasing in the future Questmania and Shootmania to do for RPGs and shooters what Trackmania does for racing games... can you say Adventure Construction Set reborn?
Raving Rabbids: Alive & Kicking
Not surprisingly, the Rabbids take advantage of the Kinect sensor in the same way they took advantage of the Wii remote in Rayman Raving Rabbids - they get thoroughly abused by it. As seen in the video above, augmented reality Whack-A-Mole, er, Rabbid is surprisingly pleasing. The party game has other Kinect-related activities, like having four people try to make shapes in a weird variation on Twister.
Interest grade: B-. Kinect needs party games in a big way, and this could be one of the more fun and accessible ones.
Just Dance 3, Rocksmith and Your Shape Fitness Evolved 2012:
We're lumping these three games, since they're all for the casual market interested in self-improvement. Just Dance 3 seems to be a pale imitation of Dance Central, just as Just Dance 2 did. Rocksmith does seem promising, though it overlaps with Rock Band 3 in "real world instrument tutoring through music game", though Rocksmith looks like it'll be more focused on teaching than RB3. Your Shape is the premiere fitness game for Kinect, and looks to stay that way.
Interest grade: C+. Add a grade for Rockmania, however.
Assassin's Creed: Revelations:
Ezio is back for his final adventure, and he's clearly showing his age (in the game, he's in his 50's). The old man still has some impressive movies, as well as new powers, such as infrared vision when using a smoke bomb to pick off his enemies one-by-one. Then there's the story, and Ezio's looking for answers, and it seems the spirit of Altair is guiding him, though it perilously goes into kitschiness of the "footsteps on the beach" variety.
Interest grade: A-. It's "only" an A- because it seems a little like too much more of the same. At this point, we're happy to see Ezio get some resolution, because it's time to close the book on that story and move on to Assassin's Creed III.
We'll be checking out each of these games up close and personal on the E3 floor to get some hands-on time with the games. Stay tuned!