The current rage in the game industry seems to be coming out with a strong message denying any political stance at all. Have a game about heavily armed special police forces fighting terrorists and criminals? It doesn’t mean anything. Made a game about a doomsday religious cult taking over Montana just before World War 3? Don’t read into it. Publishing a game about the modern surveillance state and privacy violations along with some slick commentary about Bay Area gentrification? Hey, that’s your opinion, man. And if anyone gets the wrong idea, you’d better publish a statement correcting that notion. You’re not apolitical, you’re just presenting a rich smorgasbord of viewpoints and systems and letting the player decide.
“We are scared sometimes as we are world-building. That was the case for Far Cry 5. It is a great game, but it just wasn’t possible to present all points of view and perspectives. We believe that ultimately, in the future, players should be able to go in the game world, have as many different experiences as they want, experience as many different political views as they want, as many religions as they want … as many different fantasies as they want.”
We get it Ubisoft. You don’t want to condemn or advocate any opinion that might offend some sector of your fans. You’re completely neutral.
This is how you get gamers to cheer. Start your E3 press show by marching Nintendo’s Shigeru Miyamoto on stage to play with goofy gun props and laugh with Yves Guillemot over Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle. Is there anything more infectious than Miyamoto’s smile? Sure, the game is a weird three-way between Ubisoft’s Rabbids, Nintendo’s characters, and XCOM’s tactical turn-based combat (complete with zoom-in views for dramatic shots) but with Miyamoto chuckling along it looks like a good time.
Without Aisha Tyler hosting, this year’s Ubisoft E3 show barreled through game announcements. The Crew 2 adds boats and speed planes to the open-world racing. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like we’ll be getting a mob revenge story in the campaign this time around. Assassin’s Creed: Origins continued to wow folks with its lush recreation of ancient Egypt. Remember how you wanted someone to make a full game out of the piratey goodness in Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag? Ubisoft Singapore took the ship-to-ship combat straight out of that game and made Skull and Bones out of it. It’s pirates and competitive multiplayer on the open seas. South Park: The Fractured But Whole made it’s 156th E3 showing. Elijah Wood and SpectreVision made their virtual reality debut with Transference. Full-motion video and VR? It’s like Lawnmower Man with Night Trap. We got a little snippet of gameplay in Far Cry 5. Hey, your best buddy in crazyland Montana will be a dog! Starlink: Battle for Atlas excited everyone until it turned out to be a toys-to-life game for the Nintendo Switch. Steep is going to going to the Olympics, and by that I mean the game is getting an official 2018 Winter Olympics expansion.
Finally, Ubisoft aired a cinematic trailer for a sequel to The Fifth Element, no wait, it was for Beyond Good and Evil 2. Gorgeous, evocative and exciting, right up until Ubisoft used these dreaded words: “Shared online playground.”
Aisha Tyler, a Queen dance number, Matt Stone and Trey Parker cursing it up, LeVar Burton, Karl Urban, and Jeri Ryan controlling VR puppets on a computerized Star Trek bridge, Frank Marshall doing his darnedest to plug the Assassin’s Creed movie. This must be the 2016 Ubisoft E3 show!
Just Dance 2017 gave us an amazingly odd musical act to kick off the show. Ubisoft showed off some cooperative gameplay from Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands that made the infamous The Division scripted trailer look positively spontaneous. Check your six! South Park: The Fractured But Whole revealed new powers and improved tactical battles. The Survival expansion for Tom Clancy’s The Division was revealed with a trailer that made it seem like everyone’s efforts in New York have not resulted in a better tomorrow. There was a VR capture-the-flag match in Eagle Flight. The host of Reading Rainbow, Judge Dredd, and Ronnie from Boston Public donned VR helmets and played Star Trek: Bridge Crew. For Honor showed how vikings, knights, and samurai square off against one another. A Watch Dogs 2 gameplay sequence revealed just how Ubisoft could make a sidekick character even more annoying.
Finally, Ubisoft premiered a brand new franchise with Steep, an extreme snow sports game set in the Alps. Take one part The Crew, one part SSX, and one part GoPro commercial and you’ve got the idea.
That’s Eagle Flight, Ubisoft’s first game made for virtual reality systems. Assassin’s Creed’s eagle vision taken to the inevitable end. Now you can be the eagle, soaring over towers, racing, and collecting thingamajigs. No need to parkour about. Just fly using the magic of VR and a painfully contrived backstory.
Set 50 years after humanity’s complete disappearance from Earth, Eagle Flight will feature a single-player experience with diverse missions and collectibles to uncover, as well as multiplayer modes for up to six players.
Eagle Flight will be available in 2016 for PlayStation VR on PlayStation 4, and for Oculus Rift and HTC Vive on PC.
ZombiU is too good a game to languish on the WiiU. That’s the thinking behind Ubisoft re-releasing it for the PS4, Xbox One, and PC on August 18th (or “reanimating” it, as they put it in the press release). They’re partly right. But the part they’re right about is the part that only works on the WiiU.
As a zombie survival game, Zombi (awkward…) should be on par with any middling zombie survival game. A little less than a Dead Island, and little more than the half-baked Dead Rising 3, with a touch of Demon Souls for how you play through the risk/reward of your inevitable deaths. Fair enough.
But the real value of ZombiU is as a multiplayer game, in which two players in the same living room go head-to-head. The main action takes place on the TV screen, with one player trying to stay alive long enough to kill a certain number of zombies. Or, better yet, the mode in which one player tries to capture a certain number of flags. This latter mode introduces all sorts of cool strategy about running the map, collecting upgrades, retreating, rearming, dealing with specific kinds of zombies. The other player uses the WiiU’s gamepad for an overhead view, dropping zombies on the map, researching upgrades, and being the zombie god in a head-to-head real-time strategy game. There’s nothing quite like ZombiU’s multiplayer in terms of two people in the same living room having a grand old time with the undead. You and your friends can squander entire evenings this way.
Unfortunately, there’s no way to recreate this on the single-screen PS4, Xbox One, or PC. The main appeal of ZombiU is unique to the WiiU. Fortunately, you can get ZombiU here for $13. The WiiU will cost you another $300.
The parts of Watch Dogs that are terrible are the parts that make a good game great. Characters, theme, meaningful gameplay connected with meaningful storylines, clever self-aware writers working closely with game designers, internal consistency, vision. These are many of the things that define the Bioshock 2s, the Grand Theft Auto Vs, the Metro Last Lights, the Tomb Raiders. These are the things that can elevate videogaming as a medium.
Watch Dogs has none of these things. It is an elaborate trifle, a AAA time fritterer, a playground with skyhigh production values mired in a bog, a dessert tray without an accompanying meal. It is mostly hollow, almost entirely meaningless, and only accidentally relevant. And I’m having a grand time with it.
After the jump, confused Grand Theft Auto V fanboi. Age: 46. Occupation: game critic. Income: $32,700.Continue reading →
Hooray gamers! You win again! Ubisoft has decided to end their Uplay Passport program. According to the news posted on the official blog, Ubisoft will immediately discontinue their version of the online pass program and supply free pass codes for Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. The Uplay Passport program gated mutiplayer features behind a paywall if the player had purchased or borrowed a used title.
Games today are blurring the line between offline and online, between what is “single player” and what is “multiplayer.” Based on that and on the feedback we received from you, we recognized that Passport is no longer the best approach for ensuring that all our customers have the best possible experience with all facets of our games.
It was revealed earlier in the week that the Edward’s Fleet feature of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag was unavailable to gamers that played the game without the Uplay Passport code. There is no official word on how this decision will impact previous Ubisoft titles that required a Passport code.
Ubisoft announced a couple of delays in their upcoming slate of high-profile games. First up, Watch Dogs, is being kicked back to Spring 2014. The open-world hacking adventure is being pushed to next year to “polish and fine tune each detail” in the game. Next, The Crew, Ubisoft’s highly anticipated multiplayer racing game will now launch sometime in Q4 of 2014. Hey, at least you can look forward to Assassin’s Creed 4 later this year! CEO Yves Guillemot explained both delays during an investor conference call.
“In a context of growing successes for mega-blockbusters, the additional time given to the development of our titles will allow them to fulfill their huge ambitions and thus offer players even more exceptional experiences.”
To pile a little more bad news on investors, Ubisoft revealed that both Rayman Legends and Splinter Cell failed to meet sales projections. Ubisoft lowered revenue expectations for the current year from $1.94 billion to $1.38 billion based on Watch Dogs and The Crew being moved to next year.