Of Monday's four press conferences, Ubisoft's had the most surprises. When we entered, we were greeted with the regular press conference setup. Nearly a thousand eager gamers were greeted with lots of upbeat pop music, huge screens, and seats that were too small.
First to take the stage was Yves Guillemot, Ubisoft's CEO. He was fresh out of the Microsoft presser, so he kept his remarks brief. He told us that Ubisoft has sold half a billion games in the past 25 years, and remains a strong force in the gaming industry. Then he handed the stage off to the original Rayman Creator, Michel Ancel who, after a bit of joking about Shakespearean theater ("To Ubi or not to Ubi," he said to more than a few groans) introduced Rayman Origins.
The goal of Rayman Origins is to revive Rayman as a character. He's been really overshadowed recently by those pesky Raving Rabbids, but Ancel, says that Rayman Origins will change all that. We then launched headfirst into a live gameplay demo. The game takes the form of a 2D sidescroller, and looks almost like an HD version of Wario Land. The platforming is surprisingly difficult, and we watched as Ancel and a buddy went through five different levels. The first level was a blue level that looked a bit like a cave and featured lots of falling objects. Next up was a Mario-esque lava level that focused on making incredible jumps. There was even one section that challenged the player to jump across falling Tetriminos, which triggered the classic Tetris theme. It was super cool.
An underwater level was next that featured hostile jellyfish and a big sea monster that chased Rayman through some tight corridors. This level looked really challenging, and even Ancel and his partner were having some trouble making it through in one piece. Afterwards, we saw a flying level where Rayman floated above the clouds with an equipped gun that could absorb projectiles and fire them back at enemies. After the demo ended, we were told that the final product would feature four-player co-op.
Ancel then yielded the stage to Aaron Priceman, who is also known as "Mr. Caffeine." He definitely has a very energetic disposition, so it's easy to see where he gets the nickname. However, he then started making some bad anatomy-inspired jokes, and the room groaned.
Priceman then stated that he wanted to go over games that fell into different phrase-based categories. The first?
"Gaming is Adventure"
First up was a trailer of Driver: San Francisco. Apparently this game is still very much in development, and the trailer showed off some cinematic footage of San Francisco's many beautiful vistas. The trailer didn't show off any real gameplay footage, but we were able to glean some features from the voiceover. When Driver: San Francisco releases it will feature plenty of discoverable tracks, environmental ramps, and what has been described as "groundbreaking" multiplayer. However, they did not elaborate on what exactly that groundbreaking multiplayer entails, so you can make of that what you will.
Next up, Dan Hay and Jamie Keen took the stage for the day's first "surprise" announcement: Far Cry 3. We saw the game's opening cinematic and were treated to a live demo of the first 10 minutes of the game. Jack has been captured yet again by hostile forces, and a very scary antagonist informs you that that the definition of insanity is doing something over and over and expecting different results. So while he's tried to kill Jack before, he's going to do so again, and that makes him crazy. Then he throws Jack down a waterfall into a cave with a rock tied to him. But instead of drowning, our hero is able to free himself, grab a gun, and then stealth kill a few baddies. After the stealth kill, the heavy artiliary is brought out, and the game launches into an all-out firefight. The gameplay is looking solid, and Far Cry 3 might be even better than its predecessor when it launches in 2012.
Next to take the stage was Randy Pichford, president of Gearbox. He told us that Gearbox was working on a new take on war games and World War 2 and showed us a trailer for Brothers in Arms: The Furious Four. The trailer featured plenty of slapstick humor and the characters we saw were over-the-top. One of the members of the Furious Four runs around with a Texas brands and "marks" his victims, while another speaks with an exaggerated drawl. Someone even kills a Nazi with an electric shot to the crotch. The Furious Four is coming in 2012.
After that brief trailer up we got another short trailer, this time for the Tintin tie-in game. The trailer featured interviews with Stephen Spielberg and Peter Jackson and highlighted the player's ability to switch between characters on the fly. We even saw some of the game's challenging platforming action. The game is releasing with the movie later this year.
An in-depth look Ghost Recon: Future Soldier was up next. Tommy Jacob, the creative director behind the game presented a live demo that featured plenty of the game's signature stealth mode combined with futuristic fringe weaponry. Our main character went through a ghetto area and used stealth to liberate a few refugee-type characters, and then an all-out firefight erupted. It was at this point in the demo that a panel was drawn back to real that the game was being played by four people simultaneously instead of just one. The four players assisted in the firefight and then the demo ended. The gunsmith customization mode was briefly mentioned along with an AR mode before Jacob left the stage.
Then, in even more Ghost Recon news, GR Online was announced, and this MMO-style shooter will be absolutely free. A short trailer was shown that featured cinematic simulated gameplay. Once it ended, we were told that an open is Beta coming soon and GR Online will link with Future soldier to sync achievements.
Then the next themed phrase was revealed:
"Gaming is Sharing"
To demonstrate this, representatives from Maniaplanet came on stage and announced Trackmania 2, which is coming to PC. After a short cinematic trailer was shown, FPS Shootmania and RPG Questmania were confirmed to be in the works.
Antoine Henry then took the stage and announced Raving Rabbids: Alive and Kicking, which is the first Rabbids title for the Kinect peripheral. This AR game will transform your living room into the game's setting, and will feature a variety of different mini-games. The first we saw was a gopher-like game where the object was to step on Rabbids. Rabbids will be the first title for Kinect to support four-player multiplayer. The next mini-game they showed was a bit like the Cartoon Network show Hole in the Wall. This mini-game gives you a shape, and you and your friends need to create the shapes in order to succeed. A sumo wrestler, a UFO, and Dracula were all demoed shapes. The game also takes pictures of how you make the shapes and you can share pictures on Facebook directly.
The final gaming phrase was then revealed:
"Gaming is Life"
First up in the "Life" series is Just Dance 3. After a short trailer with almost no gameplay footage (but plenty of celebrity cameos), it was revealed that Just Dance 3 is coming to all home console platforms for the first time and will be released on October 11, 2011.
Rocksmith was up next. We were treated to another trailer that was filled with mostly interviews, but we did get a glance at the game's interface with features a complex fret interface that features fingerprint icons and long streaming notes. I don't play non-plastic guitar, so I wasn't sure what all these represented, and unfortunately, nothing was demoed live and the trailer explained nothing.
YourShape Fitness Evolved 2012 was announced next with another trailer with no gameplay (just a bunch of happy people jumping around). The only new feature that was revealed was an online goal-tracking system.
The last game Ubisoft showed off was the one everyone in the room was waiting for: Assassin's Creed Revelations. Alex Amancio and Martin Schelling took the stage and introduced Ezio's final chapter. We then treated to a cinematic trailer featuring Ezio in prison. We then saw Ezio in a variety of settings including a boat, a mountain, and a desert. We also saw some brief mirage-like flashes of Altair. And when you consider that technically Desmond is having dreams of Ezio who is having dreams of Altair, it's like Inception. We have to go deeper.
We then were treated to a live demo. Among the things we noticed were a new targeting system with ranged weapons and faster swordplay. In a particularly cool scene, Ezio used a smoke bomb to temporarily blind enemies, following that up by using eagle vision to take out his targets. We also saw a moment with the grappling hook, and Ezio ziplining down boat riggings was undeniably cool.
After the Assassin's Creed demo was over, it was time to clear out. Ubisoft definitely had a productive conference, and the surprise announcements of Far Cry 3 and Brothers in Arms: The Furious Four certainly were the highlight. We'll have hands-on impressions of these titles later this week, so make sure you keep it locked here.
By Amanda L. Kondolojy
CCC Senior Contributing Writer
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central.*