Give this to Ubisoft: Their press conferences are rarely boring. Something about the company's general sensibility lends itself to a certain brand of goofy fun. Granted, last year's press conference was almost a little too loose, with banter between hosts Aisha Tyler and YouTube personality Tobuscus having a less-than-coordinated experience working with one another. Still, when it came to the games, there was good, weird, occasionally unexpected stuff there.
This year's conference featured similarly good, weird, and occasionally unexpected stuff. In fact, much of it was extremely similar, weird, occasionally unexpected stuff to last year's showing. There was a Rayman Legends demo (which we only got because Ubisoft delayed the game half-a-year to make it multiplatform), there was yet another Splinter Cell: Blacklist trailer, we got a Just Dance demo, we got a new Watch_Dogs trailer (which wasn't nearly as exciting as the lengthy demo shown last year), and though it was a different Assassin's Creed, Assassin's Creed IV scratched many of the same itches that the trailers for AC III did in 2012--and there wasn't even a gameplay demo for that one.
Thankfully, there were a few newcomers and surprises peppered into the exceedingly "usual" portions of this year's event. The show opened with the debut of a new Rocksmith game, featuring a freshly shorn Jerry Cantrell playing guitar alongside his own band's tracks, and seeming only halfway sure that Alice In Chains' music would actually appear in Rocksmith 2014. South Park: The Stick of Truth got a brief new trailer which didn't show us much that we hadn't seen before, but did manage to provided a nebulous "holiday" release date. There were even two new Trials games, Trials Fusion and Trials Frontier, which will be released for next-gen consoles and iOS, respectively.
More exciting were the two new games shown at the event. The Crew, a new multiplayer-focused driving game from the studio behind Driver: San Francisco, received a lengthy demo that showed off its premise of players infiltrating different criminal organizations across America. The way the game blended multiplayer and single-player objectives in a lobby-less environment was pretty cool, and though the actual game didn't look nearly like the all-CG trailer first shown, The Crew was, to me anyway, the most exciting thing Ubisoft showed.
Others might have been more enamored with Tom Clancy's The Division, an open-world RPG from Massive Entertainment that takes place during a ludicrously complicated near-future scenario. It literally took three minutes of pure exposition to even get to the game demo, and all I really got from it is that there is some kind of terrible money virus that destroys society for some reason. The gameplay showed players in a tactical battle against some unnamed nefarious force at a police station in New York City. After using cover and some light squad tactics, the team looted the ruined station before retreating outside to face more intense attacks. It's tough to say from the brief demo exactly what it is about The Division that makes it stand out from other combat-heavy games, but it at least looked pretty interesting.
Granted, it looked interesting in many of the same ways Watch_Dogs looked last year. The two games are different, of course, but closing out the show with yet another paranoia-fueled third-person action game was emblematic of the somewhat repetitive vibe of this year's Ubisoft conference. Even Aisha Tyler (thankfully detached from last year's co-host) seemed to be going to the same well of jokes she relied on last year, wearing a #girlwood t-shirt in reference to last year's use of the term. Still, even with a perhaps slightly overly familiar vibe, many of Ubisoft's games ranged from interesting looking to actually pretty exciting. I mean, yeah, we've seen Rayman Legends a million times now, but how great does Rayman Legends still look, right?
As is customary, we'll have more on Ubisoft's lineup from the E3 2013 show floor.