E3 2012: Watch Dogs is Ubisoft Montreal’s next IP

By Patrick Garratt
4 June 2012 16:21 GMT

Ubisoft fronted a solid line-up at its E3 2012 press conference, but surprised audiences with the reveal of a new cyberpunk action-adventure.

At A Glance

Just Dance 4 announced for Wii

Far Cry 3 demonstrated

Splinter Cell: Blacklist trailer repeated from Microsoft’s presser

Rayman Legends announced as Wii U launch title

Killer Freaks from Outer Space has become ZombiU

New Assassin’s Creed III gameplay shown as a live demo

ShootMania Storm demonstrated

Watch Dogs, a new IP from Ubisoft Montreal, was announced and demonstrated; no platform or release information was given.

As usual, Ubisoft kicked off its show in theatric style, but this year the stage full of dancers and a live performance from Flo Rider was unusually relevant to the publisher’s line up – Just Dance 4 is now official, once more for Wii.

“The number one dance game brand in the world,” host Aisha Tyler emphasised. Youtube sensation Tobuscus was on-hand to co-host from backstage.

From the casual to the core, Ubisoft leaped straight into Far Cry 3 with producer Dan Hay and lead designer Jamie Keen.

The demo kicked off with a topless woman; it looked like the same presentation Nathan saw, so check out his impressions here.

After some baffling dialogue our hero was off, swimming through gorgeous topical waters before climbing a rickety dock and leading into a typically luscious jungle. The presenter took down his first enemy with a vicious – and blood-splattering – machete to the neck, before whipping out a bow to silently take down another at a distance.

Later battles involved combinations of bow, machete and guns. The demo also showed off Far Cry 3’s sprint to crouch. Our hero was trapped in a burning building but escaped through a ladder o the roof to engage in an all-out gun battle.

After battling a tiger, which was on fire, the presenter proceeded up a ramp to take on a guy with a flamethrower – a grenade cleared the path. But once inside, stabbed with some kind of glowing knife, our hero collapsed, segueing into a trippy dream sequence. The ending of the demo certainly lived up to Far Cry 3’s “Face Your Insanity” tag line.

“Far Cry is all about freedom,” Hay emphasised. “With an entire archipelago of islands for you to discover. And that’s just single-player.”

Next up was Splinter Cell: Blacklist, previously announced during Microsoft’s presser. Creative director Max Beland returned to discuss the Ubisoft Toronto effort.

“Blacklist is the biggest Splinter Cell we’ve ever done,” he said, discussing the game’s multiplayer modes.

The debut trailer was shown again; check it out here.

Kinect and Wii U exclusive Avengers: Battle for Earth was next up, with a trailer showing Wolverine taking on Venom, joined by Spider-man, Magneto, Storm, and finally the Avengers themselves.

Having already shown the Wii U logo once, Ubisoft moved straight onto its development slate for the next Nintendo console.

Senior game manager Michael Micholic arrived to talk up Rayman: Legends. The gameplay demo which followed was undeniably lovely, graphics-wise – as is to be expected. A new character, Murphy, was shown – Murphy is a dedicated Wii U Game Pad character, with specialised touch screen controls and moves, but the game was also demonstrated with the Pro Controller, and is compatible with WiiMotes.

“A combination of sticks and buttons and touch screen play create an infinite number of co-op combos,” Micholic said. Murphy catapulted Rayman across the screen to demonstrate.

On the main screen, control prompts showed a Pro Controller, while the Game Pad screen showed appropriate equivalents.

During a fast-paced downhill section peppered with zip lines, the flying Murphy was used to collect items the platforming characters would otherwise have missed.

Rayman Legends was apparently confirmed as a Wii U launch title, as was the next game shown, ZombiU, which “drops you right in the middle of a zombie apocalypse”.

To the strains of God Save the Queen, we saw slow motion, near photo-quality ceinmatic footage of zombie attacks and some sort of biological agent taking over inside a body. The graphical detail was pretty astounding – sweat drops on pebbled skin, tears, and tiny textures.

The shooter was revealed to be the remains of Killer Freaks from Outer Space, which apparently evolved over its development cycle from sci-fi to horror.

In a quick montage, Ubisoft showed off the rest of its planned Wii U slate – Rabbids Land, Your Shape Fitness Evolved 2-13, Sports Connection, Just Dance 4 and Assassin’s Creed were among the logos and snippets shown.

Moving onto Assassin’s Creed III, the new cinematic trailer showed a bald eagle watching over a battle between redcoats and resistance before winging off through a forest – where a glimpse of a leaping figure soon cut to Connor riding across the battlefield on horseback.

Diving among the redcoats, Connor laid waste in typical style, with counters and quick stabs, once hitting a soldier in the face with his own rifle butt, before breaking out his tomahawk.

The commanding officer seemed quite impressed, but as troops closed in, Connor leapt over their heads and took him down with an arrow; in the distance, George Washington looked thoughtful. Then there were some ships and some eagles and I kind of lost my shit with excitement and missed the rest.

Producer Francois Pelland arrived on stage to talk about the game’s new historical setting, name-dropping historical figures before cutting to a live demo.

We saw Connor stalking deer through a snowy canyon before leaping from a ledge to traverse through the branches, When he got close enough, he dropped to crawl through undergrowth and fired off an arrow. After a short chase he got a buck – but in a short cinematic sequence, he was attacked by wolves.

Fighting the wolves seemed to work just like fighting soldiers, with carefully-times moves dispatching them rapidly. Connor then wandered off, encountering a few soldiers trekking away from a camp. Connor picked up a quest from a medicine man just by overhearing his request, and turned in some buck meat to complete another. Speaking to a patriot, Connor refused to engage in a mission against the British, instead demanding information to help him take down a Templar.

We saw Connor ride through deep snow; soldiers moved much more slowly, bogged down in it. Once dismounted, Connor was also slowed – but he leapt to the trees and took off again. targeting a group of soldiers, Connor strung one up using his ope weapon, then switched to classic Assassin’s Creed combat to take the rest. The kilted Redcoats didn’t last long. Chasing down a lone sentry, Connor again showed off the superior speed of tree-parkour versus slogging through snow.

Climbing a cliff in several stages using nearby trees, Connor infiltrated a fort. The target, Silas, was having a cup of tea on the other side of a crowded camp, so Connor used a firearm to explode stacked crates of explosives, cueing a chase. An Air assassination ended it, and the demo.

Ubisoft then emphasised that the game takes in 30 years of history and includes enemies from both sides, before cutting to a montage showing Connor in snow, fighting a bear, in cities, in rain-filled forests, in battlefields, in wheat fields, hunting and more.

Turning to eSports, which Ubisoft clearly differentiated from its AAA console business, ShootMania Storm was demonstrated with a live 3v3 match.

Nadeo’s Joe Miller and Counter-strike world champion Miss Harvey introduced two teams of eSports champions and pro-gamers. The mode shown had attackers equipped with rail guns which dispatch one-hit kills, while defenders have rocket launchers. The match was over in seconds.

Ubisoft emphasises its connectedness and community features with a showreel of Trials Evolution, The Settlers Online, and Ghost Recon Online. At the end, a number of logos highlighted the publisher’s console network offerings.

Yves Guillemot arrived to introduce a surprise – Watch Dogs, a new IP which has been in the works at Ubisoft Montreal for two years. A concept video introduced a world in which all information is connected, humans are not individuals but clusters of data, and hackers are a serious threat to the world.

Watch Dogs was given a brief blurb by creative director Jonathan Morin before cutting to a demo. A computer simulation of a city cut to GPS surveillance footage tracking a single car while a voice over promised to “find you and expose you to the world”. Gameplay looked like an open-world, third-person affair, but our baseball cap and coat-sporting hero had some neat abilities – he used something like a portable EMP pulse to knock out nearby people’s phones, and button prompts showed he was able to hack NPCs somehow, as well as pull up information on them and listen in on phone calls.

The main character, apparently called agent Pierce, had a mysterious conversation in a nightclub before picking up on the fact that he’d been spotted. Targeting a single security guard, Pierce took him out – brutally – with an extendable truncheon and escaped into the rainy night.

Throughout the demo, NPCs reacted to events with appropriate dialogue and actions; at one point, Pierce responded to a man’s panic, asking him to stay low. Running into trouble in the streets, Pierce pulled a handgun and engaged; during the battle, he used slow motion to target specific enemies. Caught near an explosion, the audio died momentarily, but Pierce pulled his mark from a car by smashing the window and pulling him through it. Masked, Pierce asked the target to deliver a message, and then shot him.

The camera pulled out to another character watching from afar, who received orders to protect Pierce; the presenter took control of this new character briefly before the demo ended to serious applause.

“Remember, connection is power, but be careful what you do with it,” Morin concluded.

Ubisoft’s E3 press conference aired at 3.00pm PST/6pm EST/11.00pm BST/12.00pm CEST/8.00am AEST. Our live blog of events is below.

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