Another Tower: Ubisoft’s E3 2015 Live Conference

June 16, 2015

Ubisoft is comfortable with its established formula. Many of its recent titles have taken place in the open world, have had multiplayer hooks and featured the same sodding towers to climb up. Even its E3 press conferences deviate little from the set routine; Aisha Tyler returned for the fifth year in a row to host this year’s conference and brought with her the familiar willingness to enthuse, ad lib and #meme. However, there were some surprises in this year’s event.

They came from the very first trailer, as Ubisoft announced South Park: The Fractured But Whole, a sequel to last year’s The Stick of Truth. This new title drops the predecessor’s fantasy trapping in favour of a superhero flavour, featuring The Coon and Professor Chaos, and will dive into the origin story of The New Kid. The game will once again be made with South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone.

Immediately after this, we got a first look at the new title For Honor (between this and Dishonored, my Australian spellchecker weeps in terror), a medieval multiplayer arena combat title. The emphasis here is on duelling; players will use the right stick to determine the direction of their swing, and duels almost become battles of attrition as both players try to find an opening. Paradoxically, these duels take place whilst an army of AI soldiers (let’s take the MOBA analogy to its logical conclusion and call them creeps) battle it out around you. As capital-M Medieval as this game looks, it was refreshing coming out of an Ubisoft press event — despite the relevant setting, there wasn’t a single climbable tower in sight!

Things entered familiar territory after this, with a Tom Clancy’s one-two. The Division showed off its Dark Zone mode, a PvP raid where players can run for high-level loot and occasionally encounter other human-controlled squads. Like the World of Warcraft dungeons that seem to have inspired The Division as a whole, this mode will also allow for players to betray their squads and make off with all the loot.

We also spent some time with Rainbow Six: Siege. This year’s press conference introduced a story involving biological warfare and actress Angela Bassett as your team leader, known only as 6 (I wonder who Ubi will cast to play ‘Rainbow’ and ‘Siege’). The game will also bring back the Terrorist Hunt mode from Rainbow Six Vegas. These TerroHunts allow for solo players or co-op teams to take on enemy AI with the same wall-destroying gusto as what was shown off last year.

Among the smaller titles announced included Trackmania Turbo (which introduces the Trackmania franchise to consoles and brings with it one-button random tracks), Anno 2205 (featuring colonisation in space), Just Dance 2016 and the subscription service Just Dance Unlimited, The Crew: Wild Run (an off-road racing expansion) and Trials Fusion: Awesome Level Max (which has a flaming cat riding a rainbow unicorn…so I’m assuming it’s a collectable card game?)

Of course, Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate sneaked into the show, but only in the form of a CG trailer; we’ll probably see more at Sony’s press conference.

Ubisoft’s press conference ended with a new title: Ghost Recon Wildlands. This latest Ghost Recon game utilises the ghosts’ squad tactics to bring down the drug cartels of Bolivia. Unlike previous titles, Wildlands take place in an open world, one which is affected by day/night cycles, weather and varying terrain. With the open world comes vehicles to stealthily hoon around in and even a plane to insert your squad into certain areas. And oh yes, there are multiplayer hooks, maybe there’ll even be a tower to climb.

So now we have three Tom Clancy’s games to act as pillars alongside the annual Assassin’s Creed tent-pole, and odds are there will be more than a few common elements between them. Ubisoft isn’t quite shaking things up as much as the conference openers would have led us to believe, but that’s the thing with the established formula: It might not be exciting but it’s reliable, and Ubisoft’s press conference was very much dependable. We know that Aisha Tyler will deliver an entertaining show with only a handful of corporately mandated moments of cringe. We come to expect that Ubisoft will show off its grand open-worlds alongside a couple of fringe projects. And we knowingly brace ourselves for disappointment as Beyond Good and Evil 2 doesn’t get announced for yet another year.

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