And then, after a brief montage of some of the other titles coming to Wii U, it was time for more big releases: we were shown Assassin's Creed III in, appropriately enough, three parts. First, a CG trailer of Connor stealing a horse from a revolutionary encampment and assassinating a British general with aplomb. Then, the gameplay demonstration, in which we saw Connor climb trees (remarkably fluid), hunt deer, stave off hungry wolves, and work his way into a British encampment. The frontal approach met with resistance, which allowed Ubisoft to show off the improved combat. The enemies appear noticeably more aggressive, and Connor is able to counter multiple foes in fluid succession, much as one might do in Batman: Arkham City. After going around the back way, Connor detonated a gunpowder stash in the British camp and chased down his target, Silas, ripping through enemies who stood in his way with nary a stop (another new combat feature) before leaping from a platform, musket in hand, to impale his prey on its bayonet (Ubisoft's year of the bayonet, perhaps?)
In the third part of the trailer, we were shown more gameplay footage (recorded, this time) that demonstrated the game's weather system, which would shift not only from moment to moment, but season to season as appropriate. The world looked completely different in spring than it had in winter, for example. It's worth noting that Assassin's Creed III, as with Farcry 3, was shown on the PlayStation 3, indicating that this is likely the lead development platform for both games. Also, the HUD in Assassin's Creed III, while familiar for the most part, had only the X and O buttons listed in the corner, instead of the full "puppeteer" overlay. A change in the way the game is controlled, perhaps, or just a purely aesthetic decision?
Next up: E-sports. In this case, Shootmania, which was demonstrated by two teams of pro gamers (boys versus girls, of course). Everything about this game screamed "E-sport," from the visual design to the abstracted nature of the shots fired by the game's "rocket launchers" and "railguns" (bright blue or red bursts or lines of color, as appropriate), the lack of an arbitrary nature for hits (two hits from a rocket, one from a railgun to die, without variation) and the method of play, which appeared to spawn players in the exact same places each time a round began, rather than risk any sort of "lucky spawn" advantage. It's possible that it will catch on in a scene that demands absolute balance (like E-sports), but it doesn't seem to bring much new to the table for the average consumer.
The most incredible part of the conference, though, came at its end. Not simply because of what was shown, no, but because the last game has been successfully hidden from the notoriously rabid gaming press in this age of prolific media content. Calling back to the "scanning" done earlier in the conference, Ubisoft unveiled a new third-person action game (which appears to have open world elements) set in a very near future, the entire United States (and possibly beyond) being linked by the sort of technology we currently take for granted, an overarching AI of sorts, called CTOs. They collect, compile and interpret data about every facet of our lives, which can be accessed by the player character to, on the fly, survey his social and physical surroundings, as well as hack into the technology of the people about him and alter situations in his favor. In the end, the hacking comes off as simply another form of special ability tied to puzzle solving and, other than that, it appears to be a competent action game. What makes Watch Dogs (that being the titles) infinitely more compelling, though, is the fact that co-op will, apparently, be an extremely fluid thing, allowing other players to aid the main character (controlled by another player) from behind the scenes. This asymmetrical, morphing form of co-op isn't quite like anything we've seen before, and is something I'd love to see expanded upon in the coming months as further details on the game (hopefully) trickle out.
Ubisoft's ambitions may not be the most far-reaching of any company's, but they certainly seem to hit on the broadest notes of the gaming community, with something for the casual gamer, the hardest of hardcore, the E-sports fanatics and the bleeding edge technology fans alike, with extremely vocal support of the Wii U (the only individual publisher with a press conference that has devoted an entire segment to Nintendo's upcoming system).
Date: June 5, 2012
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central.*