LOS ANGELES--Ubisoft had solid intentions for its 2009 E3 press conference, scoring a couple of hours of famed film director James Cameron's time to promote some of the first 3D footage of the critical bomb-in-waiting Avatar: The Video Game. However, the director's presence amounted to not much more than a long-winded expatiation on the development process and backstory of Avatar--sans any form of gameplay footage.
With funnyman Joel McHale (The Soup, Community) set to reprise his hosting duties at this year's event, gamers' fingers are crossed that Ubisoft's big draw will be more than just a famed movie director. And Ubisoft certainly has a number of upcoming wares that have caught the industry's eye.
Foremost for many will be Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, a stand-alone expansion to last year's critical and commercial dynamo Assassin's Creed II that will feature a new single-player storyline and, a franchise first, multiplayer. At last year's event, the publisher unveiled the ship date for Assassin's Creed II, which portends well for those waiting to hear exactly when they'll be able to step back into the soft-soled shoes of protagonist Ezio.
Other top-tier titles that Ubisoft has on hand at this year's show include Shaun White Skateboarding and Ubisoft's first crack at the Driver franchise. Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Future Soldier, which got bumped to Ubisoft's January-March quarter last month, may also be on hand at the event.
[5:02] Ubisoft's presentation begins with a Natal game. A man on stage controls a cursor in a Rez-like game, shooting down enemies as techno music thumps in the background.
[5:03] The enemies and the music get increasingly complex as he plays. By moving his hand around slowly, the crosshair "locks on" to each enemy it passes over. He then makes a quick swipe gesture and missiles fire out to destroy the enemies.
[5:05] The man waves at the screen, clapping his hands occasionally and casting them out as if summoning spells.
[5:06] Vibrant colors and geometrical shapes dot the screen, taking the form of serpents and spheres. Successful shots explode the geometry into scintillating explosions.
[5:06] In the center of the screen, a woman grows, and is…vanquished?
[5:06] And yes, Tetsuya Mizuguchi announces Child of Eden, for which he is the director.
[5:07] He is on stage now talking to the official host of Ubisoft's E3 event, Joel McHale.
[5:07] Mizuguchi departs, and it is now McHale's stage, returning to once again host, and saying he's glad to be back because he walked out of here last year with a dufflebag full of free games.
[5:08] "My Christmas shot was done in one afternoon."
[5:08] McHale seems to be off-script this year, as opposed to some of his more canned moments in 2009. Also, he's a bit stuttery.
[5:09] McHale exits, the lights go down, and we're seeing a trailer unspool for…
[5:09] Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood!
[5:09] Looks like Ubisoft is trotting out its big guns fast and early.
[5:10] The overhead shot shows a 16th century town, before a contingent of Assassin's are shown.
[5:11] After concept art is shown, the trailer looks to be the same one that Ubisoft rolled out for E3 recently.
[5:12] As Ezio marches confidently toward his mark, other men of his cloth take out the city's defenders.
[5:13] A developer takes the stage to explain the premise of Brotherhood to the audience. He says Ezio is older and wiser, but still a ladies' man.
[5:14] That leads to a cutscene with Ezio and a woman in bed, their time together interrupted by cannon fire laying siege to his town.
[5:16] Ezio makes himself decent, then meets with his uncle to devise a plan of attack. After a quick exchange, it's time for gameplay as Ezio jumps on a horse to race across town.
[5:16] Ezio makes his way up a defensive structure and mans a cannon for a few moments, taking out the enemy's siege weapons.
[5:17] Ezio will have "multiple new gadgets and machinery at his disposal" over the course of Brotherhood.
[5:18] The developers want players to take the offensive in Brotherhood, so they're giving the player new moves and fight mechanics. They're also making the AI more aggressive, so sitting back and waiting for counters may not be as viable as it was previously.
[5:19] In one fight, Ezio grabs an axe from an enemy, and hurls it directly into another's chest from close range.
[5:20] The Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood live gameplay demo continues, as Ezio is shown now in his iconic robes, overlooking the city.
[5:21] And that wraps the demo.
[5:21] And McHale is back. He was apparently part of the Brotherhood at one point, but kept stabbing his kids with his wrist blades. Darn.
[5:21] But! He can join the multiplayer Brotherhood, which will be shown at Ubisoft's E3 booth this week.
[5:21] And that does it for Assassin's Creed.
[5:22] The lights go down for a trailer to Shaun White Skateboarding.
[5:23] And Shaun Whtie, the man himself takes the stage to talk about the game.
[5:23] McHale greets him on stage. "So you've had a decent year, winning your seventh X-Games medal and second Olympic medal."
[5:23] "It's been a trip," the locquacious athlete responds.
[5:24] Ubisoft staff trots out four white cubes, "straight from France," according to McHale.
[5:24] "Snowboarding isn't very exciting on gravel…and dirt."
[5:24] White, of course, began skateboarding and snowboarding at the same time.
[5:24] He's won several X-Games vert medals, apparently.
[5:25] He is apparently heavily involved with game development, reading the script, approving art, etc.
[5:25] They were apparently unsuccessful at mo-capping his well-known carrot-top hair.
[5:26] McHale and White are joined on the cube by the game's creative director, and it is time for an interview session.
[5:26] He is explaining the game, saying that Ubisoft wanted to created a playground where skaters can do what they want to do and go where they want to go.
[5:27] They are now showing a demo for the game.
[5:27] Transforming the environment in real time is central to the game.
[5:28] The "enemy" in the game is the Ministry, who are removing the fun from the game world.
[5:28] And it is your job, of course, to add life, passion, fun, and excitement back to life.
[5:28] As he grinds and ollies his way through the street, colors emerge.
[5:29] Other skaters are seen cruising through the town.
[5:29] It would appear as if Shaun White Skateboarding is playing fast and loose with reality. In-game White grinds on a rail, and then is able to morph it using the controller's thumbstick.
[5:30] He slides high up into the air before dismounting, and a nearby tree responds by sprouting foliage.
[5:31] Developers worked with Shaun a lot to make sure the weight and feel of the character in-game corresponded to the actions onscreen.
[5:31] The organic rails that grow apparently only last for a certain distance, as counted down by a number onscreen.
[5:31] Once it hits zero, it's time to dismount.
[5:32] The game will apparently include licensed songs as well… Jet's "Are You Gonna Be My Girl" is accompanying the action.
[5:32] There are also massive transformations that take place once you've brought enough life to a certain area.
[5:33] The action onscreen shows a sterile office building completely collapsing in on itself, with a skater-friendly building--replete with ramps and rails--arising in its place.
[5:33] And that does it for Shaun White Skateboarding. There is a demo playable in 3D, and on the Wii, at this year's show.
[5:35] And during his speech, the lights starting flashing, as what appears to be laser tag players take the stage.
[5:36] With ray-guns ablaze, they dance around to the sounds of "pew pew pew."
[5:36] Gael Seydoux, producer, is here to talk about Ubisoft's new… laser tag game?
[5:36] It doesn't appear to interact with any kind of gaming console. Has Ubisoft begun its transition to a toy company?
[5:37] On screen above the stage is a toy gun, black and white, with a safety nub on the muzzle.
[5:38] "I love a show where I'm given a gun," McHale chirps, as the producer hands him one of the devices.
[5:39] McHale is being challenged with completing an obstacle course, scanning a seperate device, and then turning to shoot a target.
[5:39] The two run back and forth across the stage, swapping in and out what appear to cartridges, before shooting a stationary target.
[5:40] The distance covered is perhaps 30 feet.
[5:40] "You'll have to wait until the end of the year to play again."
[5:40] Two guns come with each package, as well as a handful of cartridges and targets.
[5:40] Up to eight can compete in the action.
[5:41] Yeah, that does not involve a gaming console at all, but they did say it connects to the computer.
[5:41] And we're moving on!
[5:41] Tommy Francois is here to talk about Innergy, which is about "having fun and feeling well."
[5:41] It deals with stress, apparently…perhaps a Wii Vitality Sensor game?
[5:42] Nope, it looks like Ubisoft has its own Innergy Sensor, complete with an Ubisoft logo.
[5:43] The "game" begins with a breathing exercise.
[5:43] There is a bar that represents how well you're doing…because the best way to unwind is to be judged while doing so.
[5:44] Onscreen, a droplet navigates a wavelength track, that is shown in psychedelic colors.
[5:44] The Innergy sensor can be plugged into any computer, the Ubisoft rep says.
[5:44] He is demoing on the stage through a laptop.
[5:45] Practicing every day will apparently have dramatic beneficial health impacts.
[5:45] OK, that's it for Innergy. Perhaps we'll get back to video games now?
[5:46] Now a promotional video for Ubisoft's game developers to talk about Ubisoft's slogan, "Games You Can Feel."
[5:46] It's about creating a body-centric approach to creating games, a developer notes.
[5:47] And it isn't just about a solo experience, another says. It's about building social experiences.
[5:48] The player is a design pillar, one of Ubisoft's designers notes. They are all talking about the new inputs introduced with Kinect and Move.
[5:48] Now it's time to talk about the Kinect titles.
[5:49] The first shows wannabe sports stars putzing around their house in ridiculous costumes.
[5:50] Two players face off in a skiing bout, and as they go down hill, one throws an imaginery snowball at the other, a move that results in a real snowball on screen.
[5:50] The game, called Motion Sports, will be exclusive to the 360.
[5:50] Now, they're talking about Your Shape Fitness Evolved.
[5:51] Felicia Williams and celebrity trainer Michael George showed this game during Microsoft's press conference earlier today, and the two are back to show what looks like the same demo now.
[5:52] Yep, this is the same demo, though at least this time McHale is making comments at once lewd and snarky.
[5:53] Williams goes through the same routine as this morning, having Kinect take her measurements, and then selecting an exercise program to work through.
[5:53] The online services and available DLC will be endless, Michael says.
[5:54] There will apparently be an onlne component, where players can challenge their friends both through Xbox Live and various social networking sites, such as Facebook.
[5:55] In a demo of a workout, Williams is shown doing basic gym cardio moves, such as squats. However, a fighting routine--the same shown this morning--shows Williams attacking blocks that explode once contacted.
[5:56] McHale continues to heckle the two, but they seem to take it in stride.
[5:56] Michael's noting that "The experience may be virtual, but the sweat is real," recieves a "Yes, I can smell you from here" from McHale.
[5:57] And now the two are gone, giving way to Rabbids.
[5:57] The jumbotron screen shows a trailer now for a time-travelling installment in the Rabbids franchise, as they go back in time to annoy a caveman.
[5:58] Riding in their handy-dandy time machine, which is shaped like a washing machine, they then journey to ancient Egypt and the Dark Ages in England.
[5:59] The game will be out November 9, exclusively on the Wii.
[5:59] Ghost Recon: Future Soldier time!
[5:59] A trailer rolls, as a voice over says, "The face of war is ever changing."
[6:00] On screen, the audience is shown soldiers decked out in exoskeletons, cross-com eye patches, smart-ammunition, and more.
[6:00] Adrian Lacey and Rafael Morado, producer and game designer, respectively now take the stage.
[6:01] The soldiers are spec ops, a highly tranined precision unit equipped with the most advanced equipment.
[6:01] Ubisoft talked with various military experts from around the globe to figure out where warfare is headed in the future.
[6:02] These include active camouflage… and the best way to see it is in game, he says.
[6:02] The in-game footage shows a coastline, with a dilapidated hotel that has clearly suffered an explosion on the horizon.
[6:03] The camouflaged soldier sneaks up behind an enemy and knocks him out.
[6:03] The enemy-identifying red rectagles appear onscreen as the soldier surveys the battlefield.
[6:04] As the soldiers approach the pier of a destroyed town, they begin to gradually execute the occupying force.
[6:05] A turret gunner proves no problem, thanks to the camouflage, which appears to pop off as soon as the player takes an aggressive action.
[6:05] Employing stealth, the man controlling the demo is able to dismantle the enemy combatants or sneak by them without alerting the other enemy soldiers.
[6:05] A voice over the soldiers' com chimes in helpfully, "Take him, now."
[6:06] The demo highlights the group effort in the game.
[6:06] Through a coordinated effort, the team of ghosts completely dismantle a small contingent of four soldiers, three through headshots and the final in hand-to-hand combat.
[6:07] Now, the ghosts are holed up in an office building, with two enemy choppers dropping in soldiers and what appears to be a tank.
[6:07] The ghost in the building snipers the copter pilot, sending it into a tailspin.
[6:08] Now, they are showing a pitched battle, employing the game's cover system.
[6:08] The tank opens up on the player's hiding position, ripping his shoddy cover of crates to shreds.
[6:09] The game is available for play in four-player co-op, and stereoscopic 3D.
[6:09] Now, we're on to the new Driver.
[6:10] It's Ubisoft's first crack at the Driver franchise, and a trailer on screen shows classic cars, and a 1970s-style soundtrack.
[6:12] An armored car battles a cop car in what appears to be a cutscene. The armored card is driving across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, before the screen chagnes perspective to what appears to be a Shelby GT500 muscle car.
[6:12] The trailer ends with the muscle car and the armored car crashing head-on.
[6:12] Martin Edmondson, creative director, is here now to talk about Driver: San Francisco.
[6:12] The team went back to the roots of the original game, bringing back John Tanner from the original. His arch enemy from the second game, Charles Jericho, is his rival in the racer.
[6:14] Time for in-game footage: Tanner and Jericho are tearing through the Embarcadero, Porsche versus Shelby GT500.
[6:14] There are well over 100 licensed cars in the game, "and we do damage them," Edmondson notes.
[6:15] The game's visuals have a very soft feel, with bright, vibrant colors.
[6:15] Tanner, apparently, is in a coma, and doesn't realize it, making it possible to jump from vehicle to vehicle at will.
[6:15] Players can pull up a bird's eye view, letting them hop to nearby vehicles.
[6:16] Alternatively, they can pull all the way out, and see San Francisco in its entirety.
[6:17] McHale is now introducing Ubisoft president and CEO Yves Guillemot to the stage.
[6:17] Guillemot is congratulating his teams, and also says he's here to show three new projects.
[6:18] First off is Project DUST, which is for digital distribution.
[6:18] A trailer begins to play, and depicts some kind of ancient civilization.
[6:19] The ground seems to open up, swallowing the seas, as indigenous shamans dance around, praying to their gods.
[6:19] It is coming spring 2011 to the 360, PS3, and PC.
[6:20] Now, he is showing a video for tools to create a variety of art projects.
[6:20] Artists use these tools to create "unique and interactive" works.
[6:21] With the tools, a group created a new Rayman game…
[6:22] Footage is shown of a 2D actiopn platformer, complete with mischievous humor.
[6:22] He is joined by a blue…something or other… who complements Rayman's antics.
[6:22] Only five people have been working on the project, apparently. No release date was given.
[6:23] The third project is a platform, Guillemot says.
[6:23] ManiaPlanet puts you into the center of a world, where you can create "gameplay that you will be able to use," Guillemot cryptically says.
[6:24] A video runs, showing the user-generated content created for TrackMania, the developer of which was recently acquired by Ubisoft.
[6:24] ManiaPlanet will be available for the PC.
[6:25] Shootmania, Trackmania, and Questmania are the games it encompasses, and they are all built off the model established by the original TrackMania.
[6:26] The Trackmania 2 beta is set for the fourth quarter of this year. The others will get betas in 2011.
[6:26] Guillemot is now talking about a new game, which will be launching later this year.
[6:27] It appears to be some kind of dancing game starring Michael Jackson.
[6:28] A trio of dancers take the stage, busting moves as the King of Pop's "Beat It" plays over the speakers.
[6:28] Three more dancers join them, and it appears we're in for a dance off.
[6:29] The dancers continue to do their thing, with "Beat It" blaring and lights illuminating the smoky theater.
[6:30] The lights come up and McHale returns to the stage to thank the crowd. And that's it![UPDATE] After its press conference, Ubisoft announced a few more details about its Michael Jackson game, saying it would arrive this holiday season on the Xbox 360, PS3, PSP, Wii, and DS. It will support the Kinect motion-sensing camera on Xbox 360, and the Move controller on PS3. The game will include a number of the King of Pop's best known songs (including "Beat It" and "Billie Jean"), and challenge gamers to keep up with his dance moves and sing along at the same time.