E3 Thoughts: Ubisoft’s Press Conference

French games publisher Ubisoft had Monday’s third presser and by all indications, execs decided they needed more than games to get everybody’s attention because their show had more bloodshed and partial nudity than the day’s others presentations put together.

Ubisoft also previewed “Assassins Creed 3,” being the fifth Assassin’s Creed title for consoles and “Watch Dogs,” which is thus far the most intriguing title of E3. Watch Dogs looks something like a cyberpunk “Grand Theft Auto, and promises to deal with relevant themes such as electronic surveillance, cyber warfare and shooting people.

Snark aside, watch this and think about it:

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E3 Video: Watch Dogs

The nearly ten minute debut of Watch Dogs, a new IP from Ubisoft that plays on information as a weapon…and then some. It’s like a mash up of The Net, Sneakers, a little Cyberpunk, and Eagle Eye blended in gently with Splinter Cell and Grand Theft Auto. So it’s all kind of awesome.

Also, it gets pretty brutal in both language and bodily harm, so be warned. The UK rating stamp isn’t just there for show.

Ghost Recon Alpha

Ubisoft’s Ghost Recon Future Soldier is only a little more than a week away and to celebrate the series’ impending return, they’ve put together a small prequel movie called Ghost Recon Alpha.

It crams more story in the twenty minutes it runs (25 if you count the credits) than some shooters do and it does get bloody, so be warned. This goes to the mat with bad guys and bullets.

Ghost Recon Future Soldier releases on the PS3 and the Xbox 360 on May 22nd. PC is getting its own copy June 12th.

Review: Assassin’s Creed – Brotherhood

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Brotherhood isn’t some ‘multiplayer only’ experiment: the kind of game where it wants to rely on only one online trick to convince customers to part with their hard-earned money because it uses ‘multiplayer’ like a magic word.

When Ubisoft began to talk up Brotherhood in the past year, it was hard to ignore how much of a tease they were making of its multiplayer but not so much of its single-player. The reason, it turns out, is because the single-player is alive and well and needs no introduction.
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Capsule Reviews: R.U.S.E. and H.A.W.X. 2

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I’ve got two short reviews on two Ubisoft acronyms, one taking you back to WW2 and the other taking to the skies in hardware worth millions of dollars. Both are great alternatives to fielding your own army or air force, but whether they’re worth the money is something that I wanted to find out.
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Review: Prince of Persia – The Forgotten Sands (X360)

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When the Prince of Persia’s big screen debut arrived, many were expecting the inevitable game tie-in. Well, there was a game, but it didn’t tie into the movie as much as it rode on its marketing coattails. Instead, while it does have one or two ties to the film such as the Prince’s new duds, it followed its own sandy path as an old school reminder of where it had started from on consoles by going back to the basics.
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London 2032 + robots = one awesome concept

Remember the Ghostbusters teaser from Zootfly? Though Zootfly didn’t get to actually develop their own Ghostbusters game because they couldn’t get the rights, the video showing off their concept work in 2006 created a huge, happy buzz on the ‘net as if pink slime had bubbled up from everyone’s screen in seeing it.

It also helped to convince Sony that there was an audience out there hungry for Ghostbusting. When Terminal Reality, who was already working on their own project pitch, were waiting to hear the good news, Sony was ready to believe them. Atari published the game in 2009 with a multiplatform release.

So what do London and robots have to do with the Ghostbusters? According to Destructoid, a pitch video created by former Ubisoft artist, Fanny Vergne, and a few others at Ubisoft Montpelier had been leaked into the wild and it’s not half bad. It might not be based on a well known IP involving spirits, but it’s still an amazing, if short, piece of digital fantasy. Since they broke the news, however, Fanny Vergne requested that the art and clip be removed from their site, but not before they had already hit other sites that decided to follow the story.

Now here’s where it gets weird. Depending on where you read the news from, the video has also had something of a strange trail to follow with some sites stating that Ubisoft canceled the game when it wasn’t a game cancellation at all. The video link below on Youtube even says that it’s a canceled Ubisoft game (along with others that have uploaded the clip under their own accounts), but it’s not according to Destructoid. Kind of hard to cancel a game when it hasn’t even gotten past the pitch meeting.

But the footage is already out there in the wild along with a few pieces of neat concept art, under whatever header the articles they are featured in want to call them. It certainly looks creative, flashy, and is one of those things that we had gotten a taste of but will probably never get to see as a game.

Unlike Ghostbusters. But who knows?

No manual for you!

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It looks like Ubisoft is ready to deliver a knock-out blow to manuals. At least for some of their games.

Eurogamer notes that Ubisoft’s “green” initiative isn’t without merit: to make a ton of manuals, it takes thirteen presumably standard-sized trees into a process that pumps out 6000 lbs. of CO2 and produces 15000 gallons of waste water. Sounds like something that Dirty Jobs’ Mike Rowe might be caught swimming in.

Splinter Cell: Conviction will also be one of the last games that will actually have one. Going forward, everything you will need will apparently be shown to you in-game and if you really want to read one, a digitized copy will be provided as well. In recent years, RPGs have been doing a lot of this by actually providing plenty of in-game material, such as “books” and scrolls that can actually be read.

It’s obviously a cost-cutting measure, but it also gives Ubisoft a nice “green” checkmark for the environment at the same time. Not every game really needs one as much as they did in the past, either. For someone that has grown up with manuals bursting with details on the PC, it’s something that I’m going to have to get used to.

In the eighties and nineties, before tech had managed to come closer to helping realize the imaginations of the game developers that had shaped their worlds through it, manuals and little extras like actual amulets, crystals, folding maps, and even fake props such as newspaper clippings helped to further immerse the player. Thanks to better tech, that kind of help is probably no longer as important as it used to be when much of that is now in the actual game.

That, and the fact that gaming is so much larger than it had been before with higher sales required for anything to break even nowadays. Creating that many extras can’t be cheap which is probably a big reason as to why most of the interesting ones are found in CEs and LEs.

Eric Wittmershaus at PressDemocrat also points out that it doesn’t make sense for every game to have one other than those with involved systems, such as an RPG like Dragon Age.

Then again, hint guides have been doubling as manuals by providing the basics with their tables and skill tree diagrams, anyway. But if paperless RPGs do come around, I can only hope they don’t follow FFXIII’s lead with a twenty hour tutorial.

Review: Splinter Cell – Conviction

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Revenge isn’t always carried through someone’s force of will. Sometimes, it’s through his skill.

Ubisoft’s Splinter Cell: Conviction spends a lot of time trying to prove this point, transforming one of its flagship characters into an aggressive, precise and predatory instrument of death. Sam Fisher is full of rage, and players get to reap the benefits in a short but very sweet body of work that boasts the most pure fun of any game in the series.

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Ubisoft Apologizes for Downtime with Free Stuffs

Did you lose out when you were disconnected from Ubisoft’s DRM servers? Ubisoft has come up with an apology for those affected by the downtime with an offer of free stuff.

According to Kotaku, it seems that PC players of Assassin’s Creed II who were affected will either get the extra map content for AC2 (like the Arsenal Shipyard) or their choice of one of four games: Tom Clancy’s H.A.W.X, Heroes Over Europe, Endwar, or Prince of Persia.

It’s not quite clear on who got what offer, but as the article points out, it might depend on whether you have the Special Edition or the normal release.

Personally, I’d go with Prince of Persia.