Enter The Division: Ubisoft's E3 Event

For the first half of the Ubisoft conference, I had to check the time and date three or four times.

Not only because it felt painfully boring, but because of just how much it felt like their 2012 conference. You’ve got returning host Aisha Tyler reprising her infamous “girlwood” comment from last year thanks to a T-Shirt now hashtagging the line, another live performance from a famous musician to promote a game (Alice in Chains member Jerry Cantrell for Rocksmith 2014) and yet another bloody trailer for Splinter Cell: Blacklist.

Hell, the now recently multiplatform Rayman Legends got new trailers, and South Park: The Stick of Truth got a minute long tease for a release window. Aisha Tyler talked about how she’s also totally legitimately a gamer and tried to create stupid hashtags. If Tobuscus had actually showed up, I could’ve sworn it was a repeat of the 2012 show, with Watch_Dogs and the expected Ubisoft annuals (Assassins Creed, Just Dance) yet to come.

And then Yves Guillemot, Ubisoft co-founder and current CEO declared the start of their next-gen showings. Shortly after that, things quickly picked up with the announcement of The Crew.

On paper, it not only seemed to mirror what Ghost are trying to do with Need for Speed: Rivals, but also seemed to fill the increasingly more explicit criteria of what “next-gen” is. It has a second screen experience allowing you to customize your cars, it runs at 60 frames per second, it has almost no loading whatsoever, and it plays in an always online persistent world.

What sold it though was that it was a live demo. It was the only one at Ubi’s event that had this, and one of two games to get some form of extended gameplay.

It was just the right level of chaos and excitement that looked like an absolute blast to play. Hell, the action gave off a Driver: San Francisco vibe, which had an amazing multiplayer. Then once we learnt the game is being developed by Ivory Tower, comprised of many developers from Eden Studios, most of whom worked on Test Drive Unlimited, it certainly had my attention.

However, that attention was slowly dwindled thanks to the following game showings. Watch_Dogs was nothing more than a trailer (and one that had been leaked prior to E3, mind you), Assassins Creed IV: Black Flag got its annual CG trailer (and lengthy “hey this is why our game is awesome” speech from the creative head), Just Dance 2014 got announced for just about everything, and just when it couldn’t get more uninteresting, the Rabbids returned to bring the conference to a grinding halt with interactive television.

Thankfully, things picked up again with the announcement of not one, but TWO Trials games. Trials Fusion, which is heading to practically every console, has a new scoring and trick system and looks to take place in the future. The other game, Trials Frontier, heads to mobiles and marks the first time RedLynx have brought that series to mobiles. Both are hitting in 2014.

At this point, it looked like Trials was going to end the show, but then Guillemot reappeared with a “one more thing” announcement. At this point, everyone was assuming it was the return of a plucky reporter and her pig uncle. After all, if Mirrors Edge 2 can get announced, why not right? Then a rep from Ubisoft Massive took the stage, showing an expository trailer that was near identical to the initial Watch_Dogs trailer

But out of that sucker punch we saw Tom Clancy’s The Division. It’s an MMORPG hitting the PC, PS4 and Xbox One in 2014. It was also arguably the best thing Ubisoft showed off at the conference.

Again, it fit not only the idea of next gen (another player can join groups piloting a UAV), but also the Tom Clancy mold (UI elements showing up in the game world, real world military tech) but also showed off really well. The recorded player banter did help to build a pretty interesting world and scenario, and attention to detail on the animation is pretty damned astounding. Plus, it’s great to see an MMO that’s set up in such a world that doesn’t feel run into the ground.

With that said, Ubisoft was an interesting enough show. The Crew and The Division were definitely the highlights for me, as was seeing a new Trials game. I can mostly take and leave everything else, but it’s good to see Ubisoft doing what Ubisoft do best: Thinking outside the box with some pretty great concepts. Let’s just see if they can make them work.