Computer industry veterans will always say that E3 was the best of the best. All based in LA, hundreds of games and thousands of gamers all stuck in a hot, sweaty convention centre for several long days. Sounds fantastic I am sure you will agree but with last year’s bomb shell that E3 was to be drastically downsized, many fans were wondering what would happen. It was always difficult to show off your latest games and stand out in an event such as E3 so the only alternative was to have your own E3 and that is exactly what Ubisoft have done with the UbiDays event. A bold move certainly but not really unexpected for a company as high profile as Ubisoft, so let me take you on a quick tour of the event and you will catch a glimpse of what Ubi are planning for this year and beyond.
Holding your first big event in The Louvre in Paris may have been a tall order for other Publishers and Developers but Ubisoft knew what they were doing as they invited over 800 journalists from around Europe to enjoy what they had on offer. Exciting? Most certainly. Absolutely shattering? Without a doubt. Worth the time and effort? Read on my friends. France has many things it can offer a person, The Eiffel Tower, The Louvre, the wonderful French people [No comment -Ed] so what more could Ubisoft do to make this trip even more fun? As we all waited expectantly in front of the large screens, the show comes to life with a short burst of Raving Rabbids 2. I still laugh a little when I see their zany antics and this was more of the same. All of the toilet humour, vagrant disregard for sink plunger safety and slightly disturbing screaming were all present and correct. These are the things which make up the basics for psychotic Rabbid creatures.
Tramp Fisher helps someone with their Contact-Lens.
SplinterCell: Conviction: Splinter Cell has always been a popular brand so when the lights dimmed and the newest game in the franchise appeared I was a little hesitant. In Splinter Cell: Conviction you play Tramp Fisher. (I invented it! All mine I tell you!) Sorry, I mean Sam Fisher. You have been stabbed in the back by the government agency you worked for, Third Echelon. The game rips away the traditional stealth that is found in Splinter Cell of old and you have to react on the fly to new dangers and threats all around you. The environment is still your best stealthy friend but now you have crowds and distractions to help you. The clip of in-game footage showed Sam reducing himself to petty theft by stealing a mobile phone to feed his new found whisky habit. Actually it was more of a distraction to divert the attention of the nearby guards so you could sneak past and root in the bins for your dinner. This new look Sam Fisher is a difficult one to grasp (The hooded top, the bushy beard) because it does not resemble anything the Splinter Cell series has shown before. Conviction has many bold changes which may have die hard Fisher fans up in arms, but could also breathe new life into the stealth action genre.
"The horse must die! Attack!!"
Tom Clancy's EndWar: The name EndWar is not one that is widely known. The game was only recently announced and this is the first new IP from the Tom Clancy brand. It's an RTS built from the ground up using key members from C&C:Red Alert and Rome: Total War, as well as console developers. RTS and console do not tend to mix well and this usually comes down to control. To be brutally honest, it just plan sucks, and no developer has seemed to get past this fundamental issue. Enter Ubisoft with EndWar and the ambitious announcement that the game would have Voice Commands in it to overcome the usually control issue. A fancy CGI video was shown to tease us again but during the speeches, voice control was mentioned as well as MMO (Massively Multiplayer Online) components, which is supposed to have persistent world combat. When quizzed it sounds a little bit more like the online part of Sega’s ChromeHounds as opposed to a dedicated MMO game. That was pretty much all that was known about EndWar and even after the trailer, we all had many unanswered questions.
The word you are looking for is "Nooooooooo!"
Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway: Getting an Ex-Army soldier to come on stage and shout at journalists may not be the best thing to do, but it did the job. Brothers in Arms: Hell’s Highway, from Gearbox Software was shown and this is a next-gen version of the popular Brothers in Arms series. A realistic story and battles all present and correct. Squad based combat in a WWII setting, yes sir! Something completely different to the Road to Hill 30 and Earned in Blood? To be honest there is not a huge departure from the first games but then there was not much need to change an already great game. Will be nice to get some hands on in the future and get into the real depth of this WWII shooter. It was a solid showing but I need to find out more.
Haze: When a man in a combat suit wielding a gun, strides onto stage, people tend to pay attention. Not a bad start to this showing of Free Radical’s Haze for the PS3. 2048 and everything is run by an uber corporation called Mantel. Your phone, the lights, drugs, everything is made by Mantel and you are one of their private soldiers. With a very iconic yellow look to the Mantel Soldiers you have the upper hand on your enemies but using Nectar to boost your performance and killing ability. Mantel is not an evil company but the story is not as black and white as people would hope. Promising a plot driven story and elements that make you question why you play, Haze is really pushing for next gen, not only in terms of graphics, but a next-gen feel for a new shooter. Free Radical are trying to do so much with Haze and it all could go hideously wrong, but there is still so much that is not known about Haze.
Casual Games: When I think about casual games my mind thinks about cards, Monopoly and things like that. Ubisoft have a different take on that and displayed some of their Casual Games. With DS games plentiful, young girls and boys, even the older demographic would be pleased with what Ubisoft had to offer. From My Life Coach helping through how to run your own life without killing yourself, to My Word Coach which aims to help you string sentences together and have a normal conversation with someone. If there is anything I hate, it's people putting Z’s at the end of game names. Enter a new game called Horsez which not only aims to give young girls with an undying passion for horses exactly what they want, but also manages to make me nearly drop my camera laughing. For the market they are aiming, this is a very solid showing of games that do not have the hardcore impact that titles such as Haze, EndWar and Splinter Cell have, but are really targeting a certain group.
Do you have the kung-fu skills to pay the bills? Naruto has.
Naruto 360: I love my Manga and Anime but I really have missed the fuss over Naruto. It has ninjas, spiky hair, big eyes, everything a good game needs. Exclusively for the 360, Naruto will have you playing your favourite or completely unknown character running around the world, talking to people and generally doing ninja stuff. With a mix of sandbox gaming and brutal arena fighting, this could be a great game for Naruto fans and newcomers alike. The combat looks like button bashing from the video, but some more hands on may persuade me that there is hidden depth to this game. Fans will be over the moon with it and it is also a strong brand to bring to the 360. Great for the US and it may spark more interest in Japan, but its response in Europe might not be so receptive.
Assassin's Creed: Two words for you to think about. Assassin’s Creed. After X06’s display, nothing has really been shown of this game. You still play Altair the master assassin and you still look ridiculously cool as you bounce around hunting out your prey. The polish and attention to detail is all there for you to see. A great video and music soundtrack from Unkle really matched the action. Still jaw dropping, still hot and great looking. The game is pretty good as well. I love the look of this game but I hate not knowing anything about it. Jade Raymond did let out that there would be a demo in July. Now try not to get too excited at this. Talking to her after this demo does not mean a Marketplace demo, it means an event for Assassin’s Creed to be held in July at some point and give people time to get hands on with the game. We'll definitely be there, even if it means selling our kids to get to the event - so watch out for a hands-on preview with a lot more depth in July!
Final Thoughts: Overall the UbiDays event was a triumph. Maybe not the huge annoucments people were expecting, but it was good to hear about Ubisoft's commitment to make some damn fine games. Not 100% perfect as there were a few little niggles here and there but considering it was Ubisoft's first big event, it went down well. A good atmosphere was around the event and Ubisoft definitely have a good showing for this year, which will impress a wide variety of gamers. Well done to Ubisoft for arranging everything and putting on a great show. Hopefully they take this as a good sign and start working on UbiDays 2008 for sometime next year. Thanks to Ubisoft as well for giving ConsoleMonster the chance to come to the event and report back on what we found out.