You know it's Ubisoft time when you get crazy guys with murder knives followed by a dance party. Good old Ubi held a particularly schizophrenic press conference this year, but you certainly can't accuse the company of lacking game footage like EA did.
Far Cry games certainly know how to make an entrance. A bus hijacking in the Himalayas that goes out of control is interrupted by a crazy white dude with a murder knife who soliloquizes at the player character, then loads him into a helicopter. That's the first five minutes of Far Cry 4. After that, states our Ubisoft presenter, you're f*cked. But not in the same way you were during the Far Cry 3 trailer.
Ubisoft brought back Aisha Tyler to present the conference this year, and she noted that despite the Internet being full of bullsh*t, she hosts because she loves video games (she really does). I was kind of hoping for a new drunk celebrity host just to switch things up, but hey, I don't mind her nearly as much as some people do.
Then we get a 180 degree tonal shift, into Just Dance 2015. Everybody throws a dance party to Pharell Williams' Happy. Aisha notes that the game can teach anybody to look good dancing, even her. She then proceeds to exit stage left before having to prove that statement.
We get a brief intro to Just Dance Now. It's an any-device version of the game, in case you wanted to use your phone to Just Dance on public transit. Then the stage has a second dance party for no reason. The journalists in the audience do not join in. Neither does Ms. Tyler.
Poor Aisha then has to transition to Tom Clancy's The Division. Couldn't they have thrown some Rabbids in-between? Actually, forget that, I'm ok without the Rabbids. The Division throws up a trailer that wins my nomination for Most Disturbing Game Video of E3 2014. Yes, more disturbing than the crazy guy with blood on his face in Far Cry 4. We have now been thoroughly briefed on the horrors befalling New York in the game, horrors that seem to have little to do with the actual Division gameplay that we've seen. That's likely for the best.
Next, from the Department of Games That Were Supposed to be Out Already: The Crew. It's still a huge MMO driving game. It proves this by taking a crew of drivers through a time-lapse trip through America. Then we learn more about the game, which includes various different ways to race one another. To prove that it really is coming out someday, the game's closed Beta will be open to everyone on July 23.
“Sometimes you just have to make a hard right turn,” says Aisha while trying gamely to make yet another insane teleprompter segue make sense. I hear ya, Aisha. Let's just throw it to our second Assassin's Creed: Unity trailer of the day. This one features the darkest remix of Everybody Wants to Rule the World ever.
After the trailer, we get an extensive gameplay session in which our Assassin takes on several quests at a time. The developers claim that this game allows players to carve a unique path through Revolutionary Paris. Does this extend to storyline choices? They're not saying yet. We did have a chance to see some of the nice touches given to this current-gen exclusive title, including some nice water effects and impressively large crowds on screen. It's shaping up to be a great-looking title.
What feels good after some old-fashioned assassination? Fitness! Shape Up claims to be a fitness game for gamers, as long as they have a Kinect-enabled Xbox One. I'm beginning to suspect that Aisha wrote, “No Kinect demonstrations” into her contract as our demonstrator is forced to play what amounts to DDR without a pad against himself. Then a French and American guy have a push-up battle while the game piles imaginary crazy objects on their back. The American guy wins by doing lazier push-ups. The fitness moves here aren't anything new, but it's colorful and looks kind of fun, and it's true that many of us need to get up off the couch more often.
Finally, we see a trailer for Valiant Hearts: The Great War, a game I've been keeping my eye on. It's an UbiArt game like Child of Light, but with a much heavier subject matter. It's an emotional journey thorough World War I as inspired by the letters sent home by soldiers, all shown in a starkly beautiful art style. The trailer didn't show us how the game is played yet, but it's certainly intriguing.
But wait! We haven't yet heard the word from Yves Guillemot, CEO of Ubisoft. That word is that we need more Tom Clancy! Final actual new announcement. Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Siege looks like a co-op SWAT team simulator, except one team is the bad guys in multiplayer. Between this and EA's Battlefield: Hardline, I'm getting a bit uncomfortable with what some games are asking the “bad guy” side of multiplayer games to do. Actually, the scenes of people tossing about a poor hostage lady like a hot potato just made me uncomfortable in general. At least nobody has to actually play the hostage, I guess.
After EA's presentation, I would like to give Ubisoft a hand for showing us actual games rather than ideas for games. I've got a bit of whiplash from the way they ordered their conference, but I'm sure all the right turns helped keep the audience on their toes, and this year Ubisoft only managed one stupid on-stage stunt. Progress!