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Ubisoft’s conference was set to be their biggest yet, marking the publisher’s 30th anniversary. It also wound up being the longest event of the entire show – a full two hours.
Problem was, a lot of that two hours was spent with meandering, extraneous interviews and gameplay sequences that went on far too long.
The conference kicked off with a bizarre dance routine reminiscent of an acid trip – complete with a monocle-wearing giraffe. It was, of course, Just Dance 2017, and the only real news coming out of that announcement was that Ubisoft is actually openly touting an NX release next year.
I can’t complain about a lack of gameplay demos, because we got them in spades. From Ghost Recon: Wildlands to For Honor and Watch Dogs 2, Ubi was keen on showing everything they had coming. Of course they had to capitalize on the VR trend with an on-stage demo of the bizarre Eagle Flight. And they even trotted Palmer Luckey on stage as the token celebrity to show it off!
And there were surprise announcements too. Grow Home was the last game I expected to receive a sequel, but there it is – Grow Up. And the cult favorite Trials series is marrying Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon and giving birth to Trials of the Blood Dragon – with a reveal that shot up my list of “Most Bizarre E3 Moments of All Time.” Acid trip count so far: 2.
It all sounds great on paper, but the problem was in how it was presented.
Yes, there were gameplay demos. Fantastic! The problem was, they went on for far too long; and, more importantly, the games just didn’t look that great. Ghost Recon: Wildlands is clearly heavily inspired by Metal Gear Solid V, but it doesn’t look nearly as polished or tightly designed – and this is coming from someone who didn’t like MGSV.
For Honor just looks vapid and clunky, with a premise straight out of an eight-year-old boy’s imagination (a samurai, knight, and a Viking do battle forever!). And Jason VandenBerghe’s clear desire to be a Viking is ridiculous – and what the hell is up with the beard/sideburn separation?
Then there was the yawn-inducing showing of Star Trek: VR Cash-In – I mean, Bridge Crew – complete with an extended interview with LaVar Burton.
And I never played the original Watch Dogs, but the demo of Watch Dogs 2 just looked as bland and uninspired as the first game supposedly was. The Ubisoft open-world formula has become so rote and predictable that I actually wondered at points whether or not I was watching an Assassin’s Creed game with guns.
Another huge sticking point for me with this conference was how far out of the way Ubisoft tried to go in order to be “edgy.” From Aisha Tyler’s dropping of an f-bomb five minutes into the conference, to her constant “girl boner” references, the shtick got old really quickly – and it seems to get worse each and every year.
But by far, the biggest offender in this regard was the absurdly long segment on South Park: The Fractured But Whole. The conference came to a screeching halt for close to fifteen minutes as South Park characters dropped approximately fifty f-bombs over the course of five seconds, used fart attacks, and ranted and raved about parental sex, among a host of other expressions of juvenile toilet humor. South Park is a series that tries to be “edgy” for the sole purpose of being “edgy” and it was disappointing to be treated to such an extended period of what amounted to nothing more than absolute stupidity.
One thing that we can always expect from Ubisoft, though, is a new game announcement to wrap up their E3 showing every year. I personally was expecting it to be the new Assassin’s Creed reboot/reworking that’s due for next year, but they went in an entirely different direction with Steep. Touting it as the first in a new genre – an open-world extreme sports game – Yves Guillemot was excited to show a gameplay demo, but even moreso to announce that it would be out in December.
The trailer was certainly pretty, but the gameplay looks kind of rough around the edges, and after the conference I still wasn’t entirely clear what the purpose of the whole thing is. And unfortunately, based on quite a few impressions I’ve read from the show floor, the game’s not that great.
Overall Ubisoft gave an average conference that was brought down by an abundance of padding, overly long segments of several games, and an annoying attempt to be “edgy.” And while they had plenty of games to show, including some pleasant surprises, nothing looked overly exciting, and there wasn’t really a big “wow” moment during the entire two hours.