Last year we saw our first glimpses of Assassin's Creed 3, Far Cry 3, and ZombiiU, all promising games that went on to achieve critical and commercial success. Judging by how great the games on display at Ubisoft's 2013 E3 press event looked, lightning may just strike twice.
The stage show opened with a guitar solo from Jerry Cantrell of Alice in Chains. Cantrell rocked out for a minute or so before offering to "bring the band onstage" and switching on Rocksmith, with voice commands via Microsoft's new Kinect sensor.
Cantrell proceeded to play with backing tracks played through the Session Mode in the new Rocksmith 2014, the follow-up to Ubisoft's mildly successful Rocksmith guitar training game that came out in 2011.
Rocksmith 2014 is due to be released in October, and stage host Aisha Tyler--who popped on stage shortly after Cantrell finished his solo--bantered with Cantrell for a moment about the game before formally opening the Ubisoft E3 press conference.
Tyler's return suggests that Ubisoft is paying more attention to its fans than many gaming corporations, as she is one of the few celebrities at E3 who seems to actually, you know, play video games regularly.
Here are more games update from Ubisoft.
Splinter Cell: Blacklist: With the prerequisite glitz and glam out of the way, Splinter Cell: Blacklist was finally given a decent gameplay trailer and a concrete release date: August 2013.
The game will feature stealth action gameplay, multiplayer co-op missions, and the cult classic multiplayer mode Spies vs. Mercs. For PC, PS3, Wii U, Xbox 360.
Rayman Legends: Rayman Legends is a cartoonish action game that we first saw last year. This time around we were promised that the game definitely is coming out on September 3rd.
Tyler even cracked a joke about making up for the delay with a trailer for the next Rayman game, a vibrant multiplayer platformer with musical maps and over 120 levels that looks like nothing so much as a lush 2D cartoon. For PS3, PS Vita, Wii U, and Xbox 360
The Mighty Quest for Epic Loot: This game is capitalism writ large across the dregs of Tolkien-inspired fantasy cartoons.
The goal is to steal as much loot from your neighbors as possible without losing your own loot. You do so by designing your own 3D castle replete with traps, guards, and magical wards. You'll also create your own hero; you can directly control the hero to defend your castle or sack other player's castles.
The tone of the game's trailer was light-hearted, funny and deliciously ribald; hopefully the jokes don't wear out by the time this game actually comes out. Check out the free beta.
South Park The Stick of Truth: Ubisoft kept the lewd cartoon train chugging along with another trailer for this a role-playing game written and produced in collaboration with South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker.
Of course, we saw this game last year; The Stick of Truth was actually going to be published by THQ before the company collapsed earlier this year, and Ubisoft snapped it up. We weren't given a better release date Monday than "sometime this holiday season." For PC, PS3, and Xbox 360.
Ubisoft goes next-gen
The Crew: Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot then took the stage to banter a bit with Tyler about the power of the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 consoles before segue into a trailer for The Crew, Ubisoft's new racing game done in conjunction with Ivory Tower.
Julian Gerighty, Ivory Tower's creative director, bumped Tyler off the stage to talk up The Crew's ability to blur the lines between single-player, co-op, and competitive multiplayer gameplay. The game sports a huge open-world map that is modeled on the actual United States. In it, you can drive across alone or with friends, and meet up with other drivers to perform races and other missions. It all looks a bit like a next-gen Burnout Paradise, and that's more than enough to get me excited.
The most impressive part of the demo came when the player on stage parked his muscle car in his garage and ripped it apart from the chassis up, swapping out parts--the suspension, car body and transmission--to build a sporty off-roader using muscle car parts. While the demo ran, Tyler claimed to have been backstage customizing her own car using an iPad app.
Watch_Dogs: Ubisoft took advantage of the talk about mobile apps to segue into Watch_Dogs, an open-world action game starring antihero Aiden Pierce (image at top of story). Pierce hacks a fictional computer network in a near-future Chicago to conduct his own crusade. Ubisoft Montreal Senior Producer Dominic Guay hopped onstage to introduce a new Watch_Dogs trailer and...not much else.
Watch_Dogs was one of the most surprising games we saw at E3 last year, so it's no surprise that Ubisoft trotted it out again. What is surprising is how tight-lipped Ubisoft remains about important details like, say, its release date. Hopefully we'll learn more as the show progresses. For PC, PS3, PS4, Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Just Dance: If Watch_Dogs isn't something you're excited about, you might get jazzed up hearing that Ubisoft is developing a new Just Dance game for the next generation of home game consoles. Even if you aren't, Ubisoft showcased a trailer for the game that showed off new gameplay modes, Wii U tablet controller integration, and plenty of contemporary jams.
Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag: Ubisoft slipped back into enthusiast gamer territory with an over-the-top trailer for Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag.
Creative Director Jean Guesdon joined Tyler on-stage for a now-familiar banter session, promising that Black Flag protagonist Connor Kenway will spend much of his time boarding ships, raiding outposts and generally living the pirate life. For PS3, PS4, Wii U, Xbox 360, and Xbox One,
Trials Fusion: Had enough yet? No? Ubisoft hadn't either, showcasing a comedic trailer for Trials Fusion. If you haven't heard of the Trials games, well, that's probably for the best.
Trials and Trials Evolution were maddeningly challenging dirt bike racing games on Xbox Live and PC. Trials: Fusion looks to continue the legacy on Xbox 360, Xbox One, and PC, while a new Trials: Frontier is a Trials game built for smartphones and tablets.
Tom Clancy's The Division: Yves Guillemot then jumped back on stage for a "surprise sneak peek" of a new open-world RPG from Massive Entertainment.
It's called The Division, and it's an open-world RPG-slash-third-person shooter set in a sort of post-apocalyptic America. Creative Director Nicklas Cederstrom claims it takes place in the wake of society's collapse, after the supply lines of modern society collapse due to "Dark Winter", a mysterious calamity.
The tactical squad-based shooting in the game looks enticing indeed, and you'll have the opportunity to explore a desolate New York City, battling AI opponents and other squads in PVP action alike.
Ubisoft TV show
Not to be outdone by EA announcing a Need for Speed movie, Ubisoft took a moment to announce a "Rabbids Invasion" TV show being developed in partnership with Nickelodeon.
It looks sort of like an interactive cartoon accessible via next-gen consoles and based on the goofy Rayman Raving Rabbids games. Adrian Lacey (in business development for Ubisoft French Studios) claimed viewers will be able to solve puzzles and interact with the episodes using tablets, the Kinect sensor, and other devices.
Confused? So am I; hopefully we'll learn more about this game/show later this week, but for now it's clear that Ubisoft is happy to take advantage of Microsoft and Sony's efforts to reimagine their gaming consoles as all-in-one media dynamos.
All in all, Ubisoft did an excellent job of showcasing excellent games that appeal to players of all ages across all platforms, including PC, Wii U, current gaming consoles, and the next generation of hardware. Hard data like release dates, gameplay features and prices was scarce, but it always is at these events; what's important is that Ubisoft proved it has something for everyone in the coming year.
Whether you're curious about Watch_Dogs, can't wait to play Trials on your iPad, or are seriously considering buying a new console just to play The Crew, Ubisoft is shaping up to be a potent force in the 2013 gaming market.
It's just too bad the company didn't confirm the long-rumored sequel to cult classic Beyond Good & Evil.