Ubisoft E3, A lesson in lowering expectations.
Sitting down to watch Ubisoft’s 2019 E3 press conference for the 3rd time, I wanted to make sure I didn’t miss something that might excite me, and make me think “Hmm, maybe that’s something I would enjoy.” Unfortunately, the answer is a resounding “Nope.” The conference started with a small orchestral arrangement featuring the music of Assassin’s Creed. I have nothing against Assassin’s Creed, it’s not a favorite franchise of mine, I respect the impact it has on the industry. I was left feeling a bit deflated that the orchestra wasn’t promoting a new AC game, but rather, their own tour. I like orchestras, but this is E3, this is where you show off new games, new hardware, new things to get excited about in the world of electronics; not to sample music we’ve already heard in games shown at previous E3’s.
This brings us to the first game, and what should probably have been held until the end: Watchdogs Legion. I’ll admit, I only played the first Watchdog game a little bit when I was still working at Best Buy, and it was basically my job to push it onto the consumer. Thankfully, it was good enough to do my job for me. I have no doubts that this new title will do fine as it has quite the following, but from an outsider’s perspective, the footage didn’t really do much as far as making me want to spend money on the title. It certainly didn’t make me want to go spend money on the previous installments to get caught up. In all honesty, it just looked like GTA: Body Snatcher’s Edition. The graphics were, at best, passable by today’s standards. The story, while not uninteresting, got a bit watered down by the over saturation of the word “Fuck”. Look, I’ve seen Kitchen Nightmare’s UK, I know British people curse, but that doesn’t mean every other word needs to be an F-bomb That just comes across as trying to be edgy for the sake of edge. I’ll give this game’s ambitious claim props though, if they do it right. The idea of being able to be “Everyone in London” seems a bit hyperbolic, but judgement shall be withheld until more footage is released. Overall, the Pirate’s Hype level is maybe 2 cannons out of 5.
Our third, shall we say, Demo, wasn’t a game either. It was an Apple TV ad about making a video game. Now I’m not some cynic who is going to hate on what is probably going to be a moderately funny show. Based on the Production staff, which includes Charlie Day and Rob McElhenney of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” it’s got potential. I enjoy It’s Sunny, so I’m optimistic about the comedy content, but after watching the trailer, Mythic Quest just comes across as Brooklyn-9-9 at Blizzard. Not saying it won’t be funny, but at the same time, it doesn’t really sell itself, and it being an Aapple TV+ exclusive doesn’t help the cause. Pirate’s Hype level 0 out of 5 cannons, because I don’t, and won’t, sub to Apple TV+.
We’re going to lump all the Tom Clancy stuff here, since probably 50% of the presser was dedicated to it. Jon Bernthal has a dog, and I would rather watch the dog eat grass, than sit through another round of Tom Clancy game footage. After 30+ games, it all just starts to blend together. So much so that aside from Quarantine, I actually lost track of which game was which. Thankfully, or, not so thankfully, they did break them up over the course of the conference. Hype level, ?/10 because Quarantine looked neat, but gets lost in the forest of other TC titles.
Brawlhalla recruited Jake and Finn from Cartoon Network. Sure, why not. Moving on.
Just Dance’s trailer broke the 4th wall in ways the Kool-Aid man wished he could. What better way could there be to promote a new dance game than with live dancers? Oh, I don’t know, maybe showing the game, and some of its features? This is what they did last time, and it’s probably what they’ll do next time. Pirate Hype, 1 cannon.
For Honor: Shadows of Hitoriki, now this one perked my interest. See? Told you I’m not a cynic. I am fully on board for a good bloodbath set in a Feudal Japan world. Story in a nutshell: badass Samurai chick comes to save the day, gets corrupted, kills those she went to protect. Now we have a bunch of pissed off ghosts controlled by said badass Samurai chick. Sadly, after the brief story voice over, and some “not in-game footage”, Ubsoft decided to move on. Really, Ubisoft, really? You made us watch an entire dance routine, but you couldn’t be bothered to spend maybe 5 extra minutes talking about For Honor: Shadows of Hitokiri? Well, Hype is 3 cannons despite you not giving it the attention it deserves.
Next up, we got treated to a nice middle finger. Ubisoft, repeat after me, “No one wants another subscription.” Now, say it until it sticks. Uplay+ is yet another $15 a month wallet leach that gives you access to a bunch of games you’ve probably already played, and the games that are yet to be released. No one asked for this, and the “cheers” the crowd gave sounded as forced as a laugh track on Two and a Half Men (post Charlie Sheen). Hype level: the ship sank, and the cannons are rusted over.
The penultimate game of the conference was roller derby sans lesbians. By which, of course, I mean Roller Champions. The good news for the game, it got a cute nickname: Lucioball. Don’t know what that is? Lucio is from Overwatch, now you know what the game looks like. You play on teams of three and try to put a all through a ring on the side of a skating rink. That’s it o really, that’s it. This is what they decided to damn near end with. This was what they thought would be better to do AFTER Watchdogs. A quote from the presenter, “We firmly believe you will be screaming as loud as our colleagues did back in Montreal”. Umm, sure, they were probably screaming, I was ready to scream. Probably not in the positive way this guy deluded himself into being for this pile of crap. But hey, we are the, super super super stars.
The last game teased was Gods and Monsters, a cheap, albeit smooth looking, Breath of the Wild ripoff. I love Greek Mythology, and I want to be hyped for Gods and Monster. I truly do, but Ubisoft did NOTHING to help me with that hype desire. Instead, we see our feminine but mostly androgynous protagonist standing on a hilltop, then a generic flying monster shows up, gets jumped on and defeated. We fade to black, see the title, and that’s it. Desired Hype level: 4 to 5 cannons, actual Hype level: 1 cannon.
Overall, if it’s not obvious by this point, I want those 4 hours of my life back. Had maybe they changed the arrangement to feature Roller Champions and Gods and Monsters first, and held Watchdogs till the end, it would have been better. At the very least, it would have been more satisfying. Tom Clancy games are cool, but there is such a thing as over saturation, and after a point, they lose their sparkle. Much in the same way a plushy at a carnival loses its value if you keep winning the balloon popping game. TV shows are cool, but don’t really need to take up prime billing at a gaming expo. Maybe I’m too harsh, but as I stated, I sat through this slog three times over trying to find some hype, and was left wanting.
So that’s my summary, but let’s hear from you all out there. Did you want more from Ubisoft? Was Watchdog Legion good enough to carry us forward? Did you go in wanting to shout with joy, but were left shouting with rage? Let us here at TOC know your thoughts in the comment section below!