So I've had just under a couple of days to reflect on Ubisoft's E3 conference and put into perspective. I've tried to accommodate for how I've sometimes found it hard to get on with recent Ubisoft Montreal games like 2007's Assassin's Creed and 2008’s Prince of Persia. I've gone back and forth, considered it from every angle, but whatever I way look at it, that conference was distinctly average.
There were plus points. Though we only saw Child of Eden in brief trailer form, the announcement of another trippy rhythm game from Rez creator Tetsuya Miziguchi is only welcome, and how it will effectively use motion controls fascinates me. The game has received impressive write-ups in previews since, but I prefer to keep these conference reviews to what we see and hear in the press briefing alone. After all, as Sony was careful to touch on in its conference the day after, for many E3 represents their yearly check-in with the video game industry.
Other strong or at least intriguing reveals included more information on Assassin's Creed Brotherhood and its multiplayer, although I certainly raise a concern at whether it will work and indeed whether it’s necessary, but it seems all strong single player games need multiplayer these days. The return of Rayman: Origins in 2D is good to see, and the vivid, colorful art style looked tremendous. A new game from Another World creator Eric Chahi is also to be celebrated, so thumbs up to Project Dust. The new Ghost Recon also showed off well, although by that point I was already sick of the phrase 4 player co-op. Lastly, the reveal of TrackMania expanding into user-generated platforms in the first-person shooter, racing, and role-playing genres is to be applauded if also a little doubted.
Unfortunately there were some very odd and troubling moments in the rest of Ubisoft's presentation. For starters, the return of Joel McHale as host was not a good move. McHale, host of E!’s The Soup, came off as someone who was being forced at gunpoint (or a big cheque) to be there, so feigned was his enthusiasm at times. I suppose sometimes it's hard when you have uninspiring material to work with. Still, for all his jokes that hit, twice as many didn't. I cringed every time an Ubisoft employee forced out a nervous laugh at one of his many superficial put downs.
Then there was the remainder of the content. We got treated to more YourShape, and by more YourShape I mean the same exact demo we sat through for the Microsoft conference - classy. Moments before we'd suffered through a sea of beautiful people playing Laser Quest across the audience and stage as an introduction to Battle Tag, which is indeed essentially Laser Quest as hosted by your games console. Any scoffs caught in the back of my throat were released during the Driver: San Francisco demonstration when it was revealed that the game's return would take place in someone's coma-addled mind, in which our hero will gain the mysterious power to switch from one car to another at any time. Suffice to say I don't have high hopes. Shaun White Skateboarding could well prove strong – I do like the concept of mixing a de Blob-like colorful rebellion vibe to a skateboarding sim, it obviously marries well – but the dreadful interplay between Shaun White himself and McHale marred the whole thing.
Finally, the perfect climax came: beautiful drones dancing under the banner of a recently deceased man's name. Maybe the reveal of a game with Michael Jackson’s name attached to it was supposed to blow us away, but with no details to it and on the back of a poor conference up until then, all it did was make me shift uncomfortably in my seat. It was a faux pas that summed up Ubisoft's awkward conference succinctly.