I’m just going to go out and say it, Ubisoft won E3 2012. While it’s not saying much considering how incredibly safe and lackluster all the big boys played it (I’m looking at you Nintendo) but Ubisoft managed to become the diamond in the rough this year with their press conference. Despite continuing the trend to redefine the word awkward, they did deliver on one thing that was lacking this E3: the good old fashioned thrill and excitement of a well-kept surprise.
Let’s start off with the bad. So you’ve got a room full of media and journalists from all over the globe to cover the latest and greatest in the gaming industry and you need to do an introduction. How does one do this you say? Open big with a trailer for Assassins Creed 3? Perhaps a live demo of Rayman Legends on the Wii U? Wrong, you kick if off with rap star Flo Rida performing a track that no one gives the slightest damn about. And while you’re at it, let’s try to get some audience partition going in a crowd clearly not interested in getting out of their seats. It blows my mind that someone over at Ubisoft actually thought that this was a brilliant idea. Aside from a shameless namedrop opportunity, the game that Flo Rida was ‘promoting’, Just Dance 4, wasn’t even demoed nor showcased (no, that video playing in the background does NOT count). Hell, I would of even preferred Flo Rida trying to play the game; at least it would have been somewhat funny.
While we’re on the topic of funny, the choice of hosts this time, are clearly not. Actress Aisha Tyler and Youtube star Tobuscus took the reins from ‘Mr Caffeine’ this year round and although they’re definitely an improvement, lets just say Aisha Tyler needs to do everyone a favour and quit doing stand-up (yes she actually does stand-up ‘comedy’). Terrible, terrible jokes were abundant throughout the entire presentation, resulting in a train wreck similar to any Dane Cook gig. No laughs, no cheers; just a whole lot of dead air. For the love of god, stop trying to be cool, hip or even the slightest bit funny. I’m sorry, but it isn’t working out.
Now you’re probably thinking “was there anything good about this conference?” Believe it or not, Ubisoft nailed its game demonstrations. Even though we only saw four actual on-stage demos (not counting that atrocity of an e-sport they’re calling Shootmania), Ubisoft dropped a royal flush literally out of no where, netting them the attention of journos and the internet alike. Things started out fairly predictable through a trip down insanity lane with Far Cry 3, giving a glimpse into impressive looking open world jungle and the gazillion ways you can stab your enemies to death. The Rayman Legends demo for Wii U showed off some fantastic ways to utilise the Wii U Gamepad and was light years more exciting than anything shown at Nintendo’s snore-fest of a conference. Assassins Creed 3 also made its grand gameplay debut giving us a taste of the new nature environment along with some slick combat mechanics, reassuring doubters that it isn’t another ‘Revelations.’
However the main star of the show and without a doubt the biggest surprise of E3 was of course kept to the very end. Take Assassins Creed, throw in some GTA, a little touch of high tech gadgetry and Max Payne and you have yourselves this beauty of a game called Watch Dogs. Not a reboot, not a sequel, but a brand spanking new IP, and it looks nothing short of incredible.
We knew The Last of Us was going make an appearance, Halo 4 was a guarantee, and even Beyond: Two Souls was leaked before its reveal. How then Ubisoft managed to keep Watch Dogs under wraps for nearly two years is beyond me but I’m glad they stuck to their guns. Nothing is more exciting than ordering a small Big Mac meal, only to discover that you received a large. And that’s exactly what Watch Dogs did – nothing like a good old surprise.
A love hate relationship is the best way to describe Ubisoft’s press conferences. With every promising game shown, we get slapped in the face with either a not-so-funny host or an unnecessary celebrity. 2010 was Joel McHale. 2011 was Aaron ‘Mr Caffine’ Priceman. 2012 was sadly a combination of both. Despite Watch Dogs’ surprise announcement and the remainder of their extremely solid line up, Ubisoft really need to wake up and smell the roses. These tasteless antics aren’t exactly helping them out. More Watch Dogs, less Flo Rida please.