E3 2016: Ubisoft conference highlights

An interesting breadth of announcements from Ubisoft this year, including some unexpected content, too.

E3 2016: Ubisoft conference highlights

Aisha Tyler was back for the fifth year in a row hosting Ubisoft’s E3 press conference, which started off with a whole lot of dancing to promote Just Dance 2017. That may sound a tad weird, but for fans of the series, which wasn’t available on PC in last year’s iteration, Just Dance 2017 will be available for digital download on PC whenever it releases later this year.

The next big focus of Ubisoft’s show was what it signed off with last year, with a lengthy cooperative play session in Ghost Recon Wildlands. It’s slated for release on the 7th of March next year, but it looks like it has the potential to be a fun open-world game, particularly if played cooperatively. A team of four players went on a behind-enemy-lines mission to capture a shady character and there was a nice mix of stealthy stalking and all-out action as the team worked together to capture their target. It was also nice to see the high time-to-kill factor make a welcome return in a Tom Clancy-universe open-world game.

Next up was South Park: The Fractured But Whole, which was introduced by Ubisoft San Francisco senior producer Jason Schroeder, but quickly championed by South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone. Players will once again take on the role of New Kid whose kingship from the end of the last game doesn’t count for much as the kids of South Park have moved on from fantasy to superhero roleplaying. There was plenty of hilarious dialogue and some neat changes to the combat system, which means the devs have listened to feedback from The Stick of Truth. The Fractured But Whole is slated for release on the 6th of December, but Parker and Stone laughed at that idea. Fingers crossed it doesn’t get delayed multiple times like Stick of Truth.

Julian Gerighty, creative director on The Division, talked more about the first premium expansion for the open-world action title, Underground, which releases at the end of this month. If you’re part of Ubisoft Club and purchase the DLC, you’ll have access to three exclusive outfits from Ghost Recon, Splinter Cell and Rainbow Six, if that’s your kind of thing. Gerighty then introduced a trailer for the second expansion, Survival, which didn’t really seem to highlight too much in the way of new features.

The next section was dedicated to VR with two completely different titles. Eagle Flight lets players soar high above iconic cities that have been retaken by nature. For the demonstration, two teams fought it out in a best-of-three capture-the-flag mode, contesting a rabbit (read: flag) as their eagles shrieked to unload single-shot projectiles that operate on a cooldown. It only takes a single hit is take out a player, and if they’re carrying the rabbit, it falls wherever they died. It looks easy to pick up and play, but not as interesting as the next title.

Star Trek Bridge Crew will doubtlessly be of particular interest to trekkies, but even to casual Trek fans such as myself, there’s an interesting appeal if you could get enough people together with VR headsets. The game puts players on the deck of a Starfleet ship and the team has to split up into distinct roles and work together to survive a variety of virtual hazards that come your way. Star Trek show and film alumni Levar Burton, Jeri Ryan and Karl Urban were showcased playing the game in a video. It’s out in spring and will be available for Rift, Vive and PSVR.

For Honor was up next, and while the initial cinematic trailer was oozing with impressive cinematic visuals, the gameplay trailer felt like a cross between Dynasty Warriors and Ryse: Son of Rome. That doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad comparison, but outside of some pretty visuals, it was difficult to tell how deep the swordplay (or, rather, axe-play in this instance) is, and it appears that defensive controls are separated into three sword positions. I was hoping that it would have more of a Chivalry-like approach to combat, but that didn’t appear to be the case.

There’s a cute game called Growing Up in development at Ubisoft Reflections that lets players control Bud the robot as they platform their way to the moon. It’s coming to PC in August. If you’re not a fan of patience, the Far Cry: Blood Dragon spin-off and Trials have been thrown into the blender for a game called Trials of the Blood Dragon that’s available now. It’s more Trials than Blood Dragon, at least in terms of gameplay expectations, and it’s available on Uplay right now for $19.99.

Renowned movie producer Frank Marshall talked to Tyler about the upcoming Assassin’s Creed movie, before showing off a behind-the-scenes video with an impressive emphasis on practical stunts that also featured some new footage. The Michael Fassbender-led movie hits cinemas on the 26th of December in Australia.

Quite a bit of time was dedicated to Watch Dogs 2, which release on the 16th of November, assumedly to fill the void that the usually yearly iterating Assassin’s Creed franchise isn’t occupying this year. It looks like Ubisoft Montreal has taken feedback from the original game, with an expansion of hacking powers and tools, improvements to free-running movement, and combat that looks to be more satisfying than the last title. Jim Ryan from Sony came out to briefly mention a Watch Dogs feature film that’s in development, and those who buy the limited edition of Watch Dogs 2 will score a radio-controlled robot called Wrench Junior.

The last game was a new one that combines Ubisoft’s love of open-world gameplay with extreme sports. It’s called Steep and challenges players to ski, glide, and parachute around various points of interest in the large snowy game world. It’s easy to join races or set challenges, and there’s a comprehensive replay system for not just tracking your own runs down the mountain, but also to issue challenges to your friends at certain trickier points with set rules. It looks like the kind of game that’s easy to learn and tricky to master, and it was also beautifully rendered, despite the abundance of white.

You’ll be able to see the trailers from Ubisoft’s conference once they’re live, and the easiest place to find them and a whole lot more E3 2016 coverage is on this news hub here.

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