What Kotaku UK Thought of the Ubisoft E3 2019 Briefing

By Kotaku on at

By Kim Snaith and Rich Stanton.

Rich: Every year I enjoy Ubisoft’s E3 show, and this was no exception. It opened with an awesome montage of music from across the Assassin’s Creed series. Compared to the kind of ‘man walks on stage / highlight reel’ vibe at many other conferences, this felt… classy, albeit it was also a plug for the AC tour. I enjoy Ubi’s E3 shows because the company, and I accept I’m probably reaching here, feels like one of the big publishers that still has a soul. It’s an enormous global business like the rest of them yeah, but Ubisoft still has a good bit of gallic spirit to it.

Kim: Say what you want about Creed games but there’s no denying they have some absolutely amazing soundtracks. It gave me goosebumps!

Rich: And then… well, Ubisoft followed that up with what I already think is gonna be one of the most exciting things we’ll see at this E3. And not from a series that has ever excited me quite like this before.

Kim: I think I’m still in shock from that Watch Dogs Legion reveal. Hell-fucking-yeah.

Rich: OK: I think we need to go through some other stuff quick here, then return to Legion, because I feel exactly the same way. Let’s roll through the rest before we go crazy for Watch Dogs: Brexit Edition.

So there was an Adventure Time game announced, sadly I don’t watch that show so I don’t have strong opinions there, though it did look pretty funny (maybe I should watch it!). What I did think looked pretty great was Mythic Quest, the upcoming show about a game studio from Always Sunny creator Rob McElhenney. All I’ll say is that shows featuring games almost never make me laugh, jokes about games never make me laugh, and when I saw the trailer-within-the-trailer in this, I did laugh. It looks like it might be great!

Kim: It’s always nice to see something a bit different at least, interesting to see how that one turns out. Ghost Recon: Breakpoint is looking tasty... although I still need to find time to play Wildlands before that comes out. I’m also pretty stoked about the new Division 2 content. I do like Ubi’s focus on supporting its games over time. Well, for the games I care about, anyway!

Rich: Yeah agreed, with Division 2 especially it seems to have really learned from the first game and, this time round, knocked it out the park. Also: free trial! Never to be sniffed at.

Rainbow Six: Quarantine came as no great surprise, it leaked a good while ago, but Siege is the base for this and a superb FPS so I’m definitely up for it. Though we only saw the CG trailer, so it’s hard to judge without some juicy gameplay.

Kim: Yes, a little more meaty info would be nice, but I have no doubt it’ll be great.

Rich: I feel that with Uplay+ there are just now too many of these services. It’s not Ubisoft’s fault but I am one man and there are only so many hours in the day. And there’s Netflix, and Amazon Prime, and Xbox Gold, and Nintendo Online, and Playstation Plus, and it goes on and on and on. All of these things are small fees individually but soon you’re paying out hundreds a month and, while I have nothing but respect for Ubi’s slate, I’m not sure it can support a subscription service, especially at that price of around £12 a month, in such a crowded market.

It’ll be available on Stadia from 2020, which might make a difference to some people.

Kim: They were a little coy with the format details there – I think Uplay+ is coming just to PC for now, with Stadia coming next year. I’d be tempted if it was on console, but $15 a month is way too steep with how much competition there is now. But Ubi does put out a lot of excellent games, and if that bags you pretty much everything it releases, it’s decent value if you’re a fan.

Rich: I was pleased to see Roller Champions, which was another game that leaked, isn’t simply a roller derby game but a kind of future sport inspired by roller derby: for me, that was always going to work better as a video game. Even better is that they backed-up with the reveal by announcing a free demo on uPlay today for PC players. There’s nothing I love to hear more from an E3 stage than “you can play it now!” Whenever some suit says late 2020 I die a little inside.

Kim: OK, can we please talk about Watch Dogs Legion now? I HAVE SO MUCH TO UNPACK.

I’m a big Watch Dogs fan anyway, and I’ve been excited since the London setting first leaked last year but… wow. This looks phenomenal. The scope is unbelievable — more than I ever could’ve expected. That recreation of London looks absolutely stunning. I wonder to what scale it is? Judging by the glimpses we got of some locations in the reveal, it’s a pretty accurate representation.

I thought Assassin’s Creed Syndicate’s Victorian London was amazing, but this is some real next level stuff. It’s also a bit uncanny valley in a sense too; it’s all so recognisable – black cabs, red buses, phone boxes, tourist tat for sale – but the dystopian overtones are pretty terrifying. Did Americans feel the same way about Chicago and San Francisco with the first two games? Now it’s brought ‘home’ it feels much more believable. Uncomfortable almost, but incredible. Have I already said incredible? I feel like I’m saying lots of buzzwords. BUT IT JUST LOOKS TOO GOOD.

Rich: I think Clint Hocking is one of those design leads that’s capable of leading a team to something special and unexpected. Obviously the credit belongs to the whole team and not just him. Before this, Watch Dogs was never particularly my thing — and I know you feel differently because you’ve upbraided me in the past for it! That said, I’m sure you’ll agree, this not only looked fantastic conceptually but seems to mark a genuine leap forwards for the series’ ambitions and potential.

Kim: Absolutely. It’s a giant leap for the series — and I’m glad that you non-believer folk are excited about it this time around, too haha. That ass-kicking granny! I’m totally down for that; she gave no fucks. I’m still not entirely sure how I’ll feel about constantly swapping characters – I like to really get to know the protagonist I’m playing as – but it seems like there’s a really colourful cast that’ll more than make up for it.

I’m happy to see a return of the gadgets and tech toys that Marcus had in Watch Dogs 2, but I’m even more happy to see that stealth isn’t the only viable option here too. I like to go in and mess stuff up, Aiden Pierce style. Permadeath is an interesting choice, but I love the way it feed into the story; the characters saying “the last guy didn’t make it” in the cutscene really shows how dynamic this new world is. If you can’t tell, I am completely sold already.

Rich: At this point I’d like to insert the comment we received from one Shaun Robbins when posting your story to Facebook. I’m even going to reproduce the typo: “I better to able to have that old lady as my main, screw the others.” All I can say is, brother, that hits me where I live.

Kim: Preach, Mr Robbins! I’m just disappointed I have to wait another nine months. Damn you, Ubisoft - you usually love October release dates! Two days before my birthday though: I know how I’ll be celebrating. Hohoho.

Rich: I especially loved, outside of the fantastic gameplay we saw, Hocking had no hesitation at all in straightaway linking this to Brexit. It’s not like this is A Brexit Game, but Watch Dogs is all about that near-future surveillance-state where society’s on the edge… and you don’t have to look long into London’s future, under ludicrous scenarios like No Deal, to see that the UK could intentionally or otherwise move in a more authoritarian and scary direction.

I respected the fact he came right out with that as the subtext, and linked London’s fate to the global future as a whole. To me that’s what makes this much more exciting than the usual slightly anonymous near-future city. This one has roots in the now. We live in the UK and we can see how insane Brexit is: it’s gonna be so interesting to play in a virtual world that will give us an idea of what it looks like from the outside.

Kim: Yeah, no beating around the bush there. I agree; it is scary, and that makes it exciting in a way that the other Watch Dogs games haven’t come close to.

Overall, it was a solid showing from Ubi, as it usually is. There were some good games shown off, but everything was overshadowed by Watch Dogs. I think everything at E3 full stop may be overshadowed by Watch Dogs. Watch Dogs Watch Dogs Watch Dogs.

Rich: That’s a whole lotta Watch Dogs, one could even say a Legion, but you’re completely right. This was a great slate of games, a few surprises as well as the expected updates, and then one title that looked, quite frankly, on a different level. And I don’t mean a different level to Ubi’s slate. It’s by far the most impressive thing I’ve seen at this E3 yet. Good old Yves, his gang always delivers.