EA and Ubisoft both have reputations for interesting conventions. By that, I mean that they’re not on Cringe Channel for nothing. Both companies are also known for rehashing franchises into the ground, with Ubisoft turning Assassin’s Creed into some kind of cash circus and EA doing that exact same thing with any IP they get their grubby mitts on (RIP in peace, Westwood). However, this year had much potential to be something different: EA had the Star Wars license to show off, and Ubisoft has two hard-hitting games on the way in the form of The Division and Rainbow Six: Siege. Did these titans of gaming deliver on the hype?
After Microsoft’s conference (read our recap of that one here), EA was up next. They opened with a trailer for their new Mass Effect: Andromeda, backed expertly with Johnny Cash’s ‘Ghost Riders in the Sky’. The game looks to be set, fittingly, in the Andromeda galaxy. This opens up an entirely new array of possibilities for new environments, plotlines and enemies, and should please fans of the series. After the crowd died down, EA CEO and our resident ‘Strayan for the day Andrew Wilson took to the stage and welcomed everybody who was there. He also mentioned that they had 300 local high school students in the audience. Okay then. Good for you.
The conference moved on to another game, this time showcasing the latest in the Need For Speed franchise, called…Need For Speed. Very basic trailer, but you’ll no doubt get what you pay for. Sleek cars, blaring music, and dark streets. Marcus Nilsson of Ghost Games, the development team behind NFS, then popped on stage to say that the game will have a strong story, fast cars, “and more”. Then, we got some gameplay. Car customisation, live-action cutscenes, and a typical race were shown off. These latest Need For Speed games aren’t really my cup of tea, but it looked pretty enough and should deliver more of what fans of the genre expect. The game arrives on November 3rd.
Then, we saw something unbelievable: EA were still trying to keep the TORtanic afloat! The Old Republic’s previous batch of content was last December, and player numbers aren’t pretty to look at, but bless ’em for trying, I suppose. The pre-rendered trailer showed a pair of Jedi fighting and growing up together, unfortunately without any hint of what it’s actually about. The expansion will launch in October, if anybody’s still playing by then. Oh, and a Hearthstone clone was announced too. Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes is hot on the trail of The Elder Scrolls: Legends, another online card game announced in Bethesda’s conference.
EA executive Patrick Soderlund arrived on stage to signal what else EA were up to, mentioning their “player-first” buzzword that they’ve given in every interview at E3. EA calling anything “player-first” is the definition of the word ‘laughable’, but that’s another can of worms. Soderlund mentioned an upcoming indie game, Unravel, that looks like “nothing you’ve seen before,” except it’s the same indie platformer we’ve seen several thousand and one times on Steam. That doesn’t mean that the game doesn’t look like the cutest thing ever though! EA also brought up one of the developers of the game to talk about the little yarn creature that functions as the player character in the game. His hands were visibly shaking and it made me feel proud of him for being so brave, kind of like your mum watching your first school play about the food pyramid. This was an obvious emotional ploy by EA, hoping to clamor at your heartstrings like they did with those high school students, but I’ll give it to them.
Now, before I talk about the next game featured, I want to remind you about the reputation of these kinds of conferences. Remember what I said about them being painful in parts? The next game was Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare 2, previously unveiled at the Microsoft conference. Let’s just say that I never want to watch Top Gun again, because ‘Danger Zone’ may trigger ‘Nam flashbacks to whatever this is:
After wiping my eyes with bleach, the gameplay was thrown at us. Four-player co-op mode is showcased along with new classes, powerups, and a single-player mode that has split-screen capability. Furthermore, if you played the first game (which you probably didn’t) your characters will carry over. The game launches next year. And now came something everybody was here to see: Sports. Lots and lots of sports. Hockey? That’s a sport. Golf on the frostbite engine? That’s a sport. Basketball with a facial copying app and “thousands” of new animations? Ooh, you better believe that’s a sport. Then EA started talking mobile. We’d have preferred if they didn’t, but they did anyway. EA’s conferences have always been more about pleasing and enticing stockholders than actual gamers, and oh boy did it show here. They ranted on and on about how popular and great their mobile games were and it was all very boring. Then they showed off a Minions game. For mobile. If there was a way to bottle and sell disinterest, EA would have stored enough from just these five Minion-riddled completely crowd-silent minutes to keep a monopoly going for thousands of years. But enough of that, more sports! This time it’s soccer! With a cameo from a “legend of sports”! I wonder who they HOLY SHIT IT’S PELÉ! Yes, the FIFA 16 trailer was dominated by a literal god of the sport: Pelé himself. I was honestly very excited because I knew how goddamn famous he was, but then he talked to the presenter for ten solid minutes. Maybe more, I lost count. The game will feature all kinds of mundane new features, but a solid inclusion was women’s teams. Women’s sports are pretty much never represented in anything besides old chick flicks starring Madonna, so this is a nice change.
It’s here that we move on to probably the most promising game of the entire conference: Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst. This game, a representative from DICE says, will look into the origin story of protagonist Faith and will feature no loading times and no level structure (which means open-world). Colour me excited, because the game will launch on Febuary 23rd next year. Now, did somebody say more sports? Madden was up next, and I was pretty pissed. You don’t talk about the new Mirror’s Edge that we’ve waited for for the longest time, then move on to more sports! In any case, Madden was Madden and gridiron was gridiron. If you like it, that’s nice.
Now, as the conference drew to a close, the final game was shown and it was the one everybody had come to see: Star Wars: Battlefront. A lady with the heaviest East European accent I’ve heard in a while came on stage and talked about her personal experiences with Star Wars. The impatience in the air was unbelievable, but we finally got our wish. However, as soon as the gameplay started, I noticed something. Battlefront looked an awful lot like Battlefield. In fact, it looks identical. My worst fears were confirmed: the game is a reskin! The objectives are the same, the mechanics are the same, and even the weapon animations are the same. The game attempted to show off as much of the aesthetic as possible in order to help put aside such fears, but the regenerating health and extra points for headshots were right in my gaze.
I began to breathe heavily with despair as Luke Skywalker arrived to do Jedi things to Stormstroopers, then clashed swords with Darth Vader. And just like that, I collapsed into a sea of perfect apathy. After another speech from Andrew Wilson, the conference was over and so was my patience. I’d spent around two hours listening to the most mundane stuff I thought I could ever hear. I thought that even Ubisoft, with its reputation for embarassing itself, could be better than this.
I thought wrong.
Ubisoft’s conference was next, opening with a sequel to South Park: The Stick of Truth. This game went by the name of South Park: The Fractured, But Whole. Looks like more of the same, but that’s never a bad thing considering how fun and genuinely funny the first game was. In addition, it’ll shift from the boys playing fantasy to playing superheroes. Aisha Tyler returned (oh god not again) to the Ubisoft stage, and made a couple of unfunny jokes. Oh boy. She then brought on Matt Stone and Trey Parker, who proceeded to look old. Damn, son. BASEketball was 17 years ago. Now I felt old, and I’m only 23! They talked for about five minutes about making premature promises and only too late actually learning how to make video games, and then left as quickly as they came.
Aisha points out some “Ubisoft Star Players” and then never explains them. Who are they? Where did they come from? Did they make the dankest memes? Did they pull the most jokes about “assassin” having the word “ass” in it twice? The world will seemingly never know. Next up was Yves Guillemot, a dude with an awesome beard, the coolest-looking first name in the world, and a sword. He arrived, presumably on some kind of war horse, to announce a medieval combat game called For Glory. In it, you can play as either a Viking, a Knight, or a Samurai. The combat styles of each are represented perfectly, and the gameplay itself (which was shown after a brutal trailer) looks like a mix between Chivalry: Medieval Warfare and Dark Souls. Next up were two expansions: The Crew: Wild Run, which features more off-road events and monster trucks, and a Trials: Fusion expansion featuring a cat riding a fire-breathing unicorn through rainbows and explosions. By the time it was over, my face had melted into my palms to create some kind of permanently embarrassed being who had no face and must scream.
After this was The Division, the highly-anticipated last game from the late military porn enthusiast and Michael Bay-inspiring Tom Clancy. It seems to be focused on becoming Ubisoft’s answer to Destiny, and showcased how a raid will work. Turns out that it’ll be incredibly similar to how any MMO raid works. A Wilhelm scream was heard in the trailer, which didn’t really do its job in making me take this game seriously. The Division doesn’t look nearly as impressive as it did last year, which is disappointing, but that may be a case of Ubisoft learning from how badly the unrealistic expectations we got of Watch_Dogs went. The game also has a release date: March 8th 2016.
Anno 2205 was next in line, and it looked impressive. If you’ve never played Anno before, think Sim City in various points of history and you’ll be on track. You’ll be colonising the Moon this time, and looks to be every bit as good as Anno 2070 was. No release date yet, but I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on it, stay tuned! Tyler then talked to an obviously-not-paid-to-be-there cosplayer for Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate, which came up later in the show. She talked about memes for a few minutes, and I wish I didn’t have to write that sentence. Nor these next ones about Just Dance 2016, which arrived quite suddenly and took care of the celebrity cameo that Ubisoft seems to need every year: Jason DeRulo arrived on stage to sing that song where he says his name at the start like any well-adjusted artist does, whatever it’s called, that just hit number one on the charts. Aisha let us know that, too, for whatever reason. The game will also feature a system that allows for new songs to be downloaded to your console, and is probably going to be expensive and run Uplay. Joy of joys.
Now, we got to the good stuff: Rainbow Six: Siege arrived with a pre-rendered (?) trailer and revelations of a single-player/co-op mode. Next, we got another gameplay trailer with totally realistic (cough cough) voice chat between its players in typical Ubisoft fashion. It’s the same type of thing we saw last year, so no surprises here. Its release date is October 13th. Next up was TrackMania Turbo and the ugliest fedora I’ve ever seen. Bad fashion choices aside, the game looks as fun as the previous games and promises a new randomly-generated track feature. No release date yet, but we’ll keep you updated. Surprise surprise, Assassin’s Creed made it into the conference. The newest entry, Syndicate, will be set in late Victorian England and feature more “ello guv’na”s and “u wot m8”s than ever before. No gameplay shown, but a very long-feeling CG trailer was. It’s Assassin’s Creed, ho-hum, coming this holiday season for you to buy then regret buying.
The final game at the conference was the newest entry in the Ghost Recon series, another Tom Clancy license. It revealed the setting (fighting all kinds of crime across the globe) and showed off the various ways you can pull off missions: sneaky-like, getting your Duke Nukem on, or simply setting a big ol’ trap. Nevertheless, looks all right. With that, Aisha bid us farewell and I attempted to retain some form of sanity.
So there you have it: EA’s and Ubisoft’s conferences at E3 2015. Mostly disappointing and filled with cringe moments, it’s everything I expected and less. If you stayed up, like me, to watch every conference this year, I’m so sorry. Hopefully next year’s offerings will be a little bit better.