By Marcus Yeatman-Crouch and Lewis Empson
With the inability for massive conventions like E3, Gamescom or PAX to take place due to the coronavirus pandemic, many large publishers have taken to hosting their own online conferences, giving fans a host of trailers and talks about the games we can expect this year as we transition to next-gen consoles. Ubisoft recently hosted their own, dubbed Ubisoft Forward, and we’re here to offer our opinions on the games that were announced, those we got to see a bit more of, and our general expectations for the publisher as they prepare to debut on the PS5 and Xbox Series X.
Ubisoft Forward was an exciting chance to see advanced gameplay footage of some games we’d previously only received short trailers for. I was really interested in seeing more of Watch Dogs: Legion, and it didn’t disappoint. The idea that our ‘character’ in this game could be anyone in the entirety of London is very appealing for a series that’s always been about bringing down ‘the man’ with the power of the people. The advancement in technology in-game is also encouraging for a game so focused on hacking – each instalment in the series has increased the limits on what we can manipulate in the world, and in this near-future, tech-centric London it looks like boundaries are set to be broken. Some gaming news publications and online content creators have already had a chance to get to grips with the gameplay and much of the feedback has been incredibly positive, and with a 29th October release date the hype couldn’t be much greater for the third game in the Watch Dogs series.
Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla also got some fleshing out during Forward, with new cinematic footage and, most crucially, a first-look at gameplay. Initially, it looked like the game was taking a lot of hints from its previous title, Odyssey, as it featured a very similar HUD, but the similarities seemed to end there. There’s definitely been some graphical upheaval, and the combat and traversal mechanics seem almost tailor made to suit a burly, not-so-subtle viking warrior. Hitting someone has a weighty look to it, and climbing is more fluid than the last two titles, while also having some extra heft to suit a character who is clearly not as inclined to stealth just yet. That is one issue I found with the gameplay, however – in over 20 minutes of footage, there was little to no stealth. Fans of a series that has long prided itself on its sneaking and, obviously, assassination, are still waiting for some solid evidence that this is a true continuation of the franchise. We did hear from developers that the hidden blade will be an important feature, and the small glimpse of it we did get showed that it’ll take some more skill to use, with precise timing needed for a perfect assassination. Overall, things look positive for Valhalla, as Ubisoft attempts to pull the series in a more RPG-like direction, while promising – but not yet delivering – on fleshing out the much loved stealth mechanics that are so important to the legacy of Assassin’s Creed.
I found Ubisoft Forward to be a great success, and a marker of the type of conferences publishers can hold during these times where conventions are not possible. With games other than Legion and Valhalla being shown, like Hyperscape, a new Tom Clancy mobile title and of course, Far Cry 6, Ubisoft can confidently say their first ever Forward conference went down well with the fans.
In between its decadent and flashy displays of next-gen, triple-A sequels, Ubisoft gave us an insight into its new free-to-play multiplayer shooter, Hyper Scape. And well… it’s another Battle-Royale so my interest was lost faster than you can say “any games you buy on current-gen, you will receive at no extra cost on next-gen” which is a nice touch – thanks Ubisoft! In all fairness Hyper-Scape attempts to push boundaries with some satisfying melee combat and a city environment with plenty of places to run and hide from someone about 50 levels above you on the inevitable battle-pass. I’m sure there’s lots to like about Hyper-Space but I can’t help getting some “Battle-Royale deja vu”.
Ubisoft decided to conclude their special event with a cinematic reveal of Far Cry 6, the next installment in the mind bending, morally dubious, first person action series after it went all post-apocalypse in Far Cry: New Dawn. This appears to be a more traditional return to the franchise after the departure seen since Far Cry: Primal. It’s all back to the series’ classic exotic locations, brutal violence and corrupt leaders – this time with the menacing Dictator Antón being portrayed by Breaking Bad and The Mandalorian star Giancarlo Esposito. The region of Yara (a fictionalised South American country inspired by Cuba) is ready to be liberated by a group of guerilla fighters in an attempt to overthrow the dictator in a violent revolution to free its people. The game promises the largest ever Far Cry map to explore and explode, new environments like cities within that map, improvised and upgradeable weapons to take down the corrupt leaders of Yara and most importantly, a lethally adorable sausage dog called Chorizo who’s ready to fight for freedom in his doggy wheelchair and bandana. It’s all standard Far Cry affair and there’s promise of plenty of explosive action and freedom fighting when it releases on the 18th of February 2021 (my birthday? – Oh Ubisoft you shouldn’t have). I can’t wait to hop into the action as Far Cry has been a favourite series of mine for a while and after some decent, but not quite up to par with Far Cry 3, entries in the series, this could be the game to get it back to its former glory.
Now that Ubisoft has received my praise they shall now receive my wrath. It has been 7 years since the launch of Splinter Cell: Blacklist… 7 years. All of your iconic series are having their time to shine on this next generation of consoles; Assassins Creed, Rainbow Six, Far Cry and Watchdogs all seeing sequels – where is my boy Sam Fisher? I shall tell you where – in a god-damn mobile game. 1 word, “unacceptable”. Although the idea of all of Tom Clancy’s creations coming together in an Avengers style team-up game sounds great and something I would never be opposed to; a mobile game is where I begin to wonder where they went wrong.
However, with all that in mind and the (completely justified) criticism I have just dealt out, Ubisoft Forward has easily been one of my favourite digital conferences in the E3 shaped hole that’s been left thanks to COVID-19 and I’m genuinely impressed and excited to hear more about these upcoming titles, especially Far Cry 6 and the ambitious Watchdogs: Legion.