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Ubisoft (#110 of 10)

Creeping Through Egypt Previewing Assassin’s Creed: Origins

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Creeping Through Egypt: Assassin’s Creed: Origins Hands-On Preview

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Creeping Through Egypt: Assassin’s Creed: Origins Hands-On Preview

For the first time since 2007, I had to learn how to play Assassin’s Creed. Sure, each game in the series since the premiere of the first title has brought its own tweaks, changes, and the occasional new control scheme. Black Flag’s ship-to-ship combat injected some fresh blood into the world. Assassin’s Creed: Origins, on the other hand, makes Assassin’s Creed feel like a completely new series for the first time in 10 years.

Ezio Auditore, Assassin’s Creed’s best, most charismatic protagonist to this day, carried this series on his shoulders through sheer force of charisma for three games. Afterward, even when the series was at its best (Black Flag, Rogue, Syndicate), there was always a hint of stagnation at its heart. The locales changed, and characters were fresh and exciting, but you still mostly traversed every world, made every kill, and played every side mission exactly the same. Origins, on the other hand, feels like an entirely different game.

Ubisoft Reveals Assassin’s Creed Origins and Confirms October Release

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Ubisoft Reveals Assassin’s Creed Origins and Confirms October Release

Ubisoft

Ubisoft Reveals Assassin’s Creed Origins and Confirms October Release

The Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) is often full of surprises. But it’s not uncommon for news to come to us from the frontlines that confirms countless rumors we’ve heard leading up to the event. Case in point: Few were probably taken aback when, today, Ubisoft announced the next installment of the Assassin’s Creed franchise, Assassin’s Creed Origins, which has been in development for the last four years. The game, according to the team at Ubisoft Montreal, crafts a new beginning for this popular franchise.

Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands New DLC, Fallen Ghosts, Gets a Trailer

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Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands New DLC, Fallen Ghosts, Gets a Trailer

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Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands New DLC, Fallen Ghosts, Gets a Trailer

We weren’t crazy about Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands. From Aaron Riccio’s review of the game:

In actuality, there are clear limitations on what players are allowed to do. The game’s regions are all accessible from the start, which makes it easy to jump into a co-op session if you dislike working with AI partners. Everything else is gated, which means that you can’t just track down El Sueno or the 16 buchons who’ve carved out Bolivia into a series of discrete territories. Instead, players must follow a scripted gameplay loop in order to identify and locate each target, tediously working their way up the cartel chain.

Today, Ubisoft announced that Fallen Ghosts, the game’s second expansion, is now available for season pass owners across all platforms. And given Ubisoft’s official description of the DLC (see below), perhaps some of our qualms with the game will be addressed.

Review: Rayman Legends

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Review: Rayman Legends
Review: Rayman Legends

Right now, the next-generation consoles are in a state of simply needing their fires stoked once in a while until the big guns—Thief, Titanfall, Infamous, etc.—start trickling in, and it’s easy to see the influx of prettied up re-releases as little more than stalling for time until that point. Last year’s Tomb Raider redux, at the very least, felt like a game that needed a little technological breathing room and got it, resulting in a genuinely breathtaking update of a decent enough title. Rayman Legends needed no such enhancement, as the game already ran at 60fps and 1080p on the Xbox 360 and PS3. The new edition has uncompressed textures and new 3D effects that lend a noticeable crispness to the proceedings, but it doesn’t necessarily make the new systems sweat any trying to keep up.

The new version also completely unburdens itself of any load times, which is welcome, but the effect isn’t mind-blowing. The new features are a couple of new Assassin’s Creed- and Far Cry 3-based costumes, some special Xbox One exclusive challenges, and the ability to use the PS4’s touchpad to pan/zoom for screenshots, none of which should make anyone jump out of their seat to buy it, especially considering that the WiiU version was able to use the touch controls for so much more. So, why exactly did this get a next-gen port? Because only 320,000 people—across all platforms—jumped out of their seat to buy it to begin with.

E3 2011 Press Conferences The Biggest Loser

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E3 2011 Press Conferences: The Biggest Loser
E3 2011 Press Conferences: The Biggest Loser

Widely regarded as the most important trade show for the video-game industry, the Electronic Entertainment Expo brings developers and media every year to the Los Angeles Convention Center, giving large hardware companies space to show off consoles and innovations, and publishers an opportunity to parade new games and reveal future software lineups. There’s an enormous show floor where trailers are screened and upcoming games can be played, but for the gaming press E3 is mostly about running back and forth between live demos, presentations, and press conferences. These conferences have become so prestigious that they can now be streamed live over the Internet, giving gamers the chance to experience new announcements at the same time as the media.

Two thousand eleven is an important year for video games. Compared to other mediums like film and television, video games are relatively young, and the industry is still trying to figure itself out, struggling to adapt and survive. Just years ago it would have been unfathomable that a graphically underpowered movement-controlled “gimmick” device would outsell mainstream games and consoles, yet Nintendo’s Wii annihilated its competitors in sales, carving out an entirely new audience separate from core gamers. Ditto the rise in mobile games and Apple’s handheld devices as exceptionally popular—and exceptionally profitable—gaming platforms. Trying to rationalize these changes and simultaneously appeal to a core and mainstream audience is the problem faced by the holy trinity of industry juggernauts (Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo) as well as the hundreds of publishers and developers struggling with the rising costs and team sizes required to create games. Games themselves present a series of quandaries, with so many different platforms and genres and budgets, from mobile games to big-budget blockbusters to smaller indie and arcade games; achieving success and profit can involve walking a fine line between familiarity and innovation, but neither originality or pre-established interest guarantee success in the current difficult market.

Bust a Move with Just Dance 2 Just Check Self-Respect at the Door

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Bust a Move with Just Dance 2, Just Check Self-Respect at the Door
Bust a Move with Just Dance 2, Just Check Self-Respect at the Door

On the heels of the Dancing with the Stars craze, as well as the continued trend of workout games like Wii Fit, it should be expected that a dancing game like last year’s Just Dance would spawn a sequel. While the first one (which sold very well) met absolutely deflating reception, the second one’s a big improvement, and is pretty fun to play—that is, if you’re really, really self-assured. Or really wasted.

You see, unlike other games of this type, like the wildly popular Dance Dance Revolution series, in which you simply hopped up and down to a song’s beat, Just Dance 2 requires you to actually dance. Well, what they call “dancing,” anyway. In all honesty, you’ll probably look like airport ground crew, trying to direct a plane while having a seizure on a moving treadmill. Some of the choreography is ridiculous, as are some of the graphics—specifically a few of the on-screen dancing avatars, whose moves you must mirror. (The Wii remote detects your motions. The more in sync your writhing is, the more points you’ll get.) For example, if you select Wham!’s “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go,” you must shadow a doughy, mullet-sporting display of foppish androgyny in hot pants, who flails about as if Carlton from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air is playing Whack-a-Mole.

A Game of Chicken in Uncanny Valley H.A.W.X. 2

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A Game of Chicken in Uncanny Valley: H.A.W.X. 2
A Game of Chicken in Uncanny Valley: H.A.W.X. 2

With either a terrorist plot of assassinating the president or the threat of global nuclear war being a daily occurrence, the Tom Clancy universe is ripe with military conflict. For that reason, I’ve always felt that the Tom Clancy franchise of video games always looked to attract those that never quite outgrew their “G.I. Joe phase.” Games under the Tom Clancy banner like the Splinter Cell or Ghost Recon series have always teetered on the line between banal insanity and credible plausibility when it comes to creating a war-torn virtual battlefield. That is, after all, their “thing.” They create experiences where a player feels like an army of one, effortlessly mowing down countless terrorists, in its somewhat plausible reality. This idea encompasses every aspect of the Tom Clancy games and H.A.W.X. 2 is no exception.

For those who aren’t familiar with the H.A.W.X. series, it’s the Tom Clancy universe’s take on the video game flight sim. Much like the other Tom Clancy games, the series’s last iteration was known for its arcade-like feel in a real-world setting. H.A.W.X. 2 follows very much the same formula: You choose from a plethora of fighter planes to accomplish certain tasks, which run the gambit from escort missions to bombing runs. While the game’s various backdrops and dog-fighting sequences look spectacular, playing these missions becomes quite monotonous. Some of the later, intelligence-gathering operations add a little variety to the mission selection, but there are far too many times in which the objective is to shoot down anything that makes the reticule on the screen turn red. And while the mission objectives might be lacking in variety, luckily the act of flying in H.A.W.X. 2 is quite exhilarating.

Mind Games of a Tactical Kind R.U.S.E.

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Mind Games of a Tactical Kind: R.U.S.E.
Mind Games of a Tactical Kind: R.U.S.E.

Over the past couple of years, an interesting trend has taken over the real-time strategy genre. As more RTS games have come out, the genre has gotten, well, faster. What was once a genre that relied on thoughtful tactical precision evolved—or devolved, depending on who you ask—into memorizing the fastest build orders and knowing idiosyncrasies of individual units. So as more genres started to emulate popular games like the Halo or God of War series that revolved around the philosophy of constant action with constant reward, the RTS genre followed suit with games that focused on a more action-based experience. In turn, these slower, yet more tactical, focused experiences that put more emphasis on thoughtful strategy than on how efficient one could create an army were being phased out. While this reason alone would make Eugene System’s R.U.S.E. standout from the glut of other RTS’s, it’s the game’s specific mechanics that’s so memorable.

An Unambitious Retreat Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands

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An Unambitious Retreat: Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands
An Unambitious Retreat: Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands

Given that video games are usually better than the movies based on them, it makes sense that the new Prince of Persia game would be just as happy to ignore the chestfest of a movie as I am. Instead, Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands is inspired by the popularity of the last generation’s Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time trilogy, ignoring 2008’s poor, unloved, colon-less Prince of Persia (which I’m just going to call PoP-08 from here on, as though it was a Japanese energy drink). But for all PoP-08’s controversial elements, it was creatively trying to build on what had worked in previous PoP games and throw out what didn’t, and PoP: TFS left me longing for its relative success.

PoP-08’s all-quick-time-event gameplay was an acknowledgement that platforming control had never worked very well on the animation-heavy PoP games, where you’re frequently pushing a button and then waiting for the character to catch up. Instead, it went for eye-dazzling flow, a playable rollercoaster where you pushed the buttons in rhythm and enjoyed the show.

Ambitious Shadow Play Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Conviction

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Ambitious Shadow Play: Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Conviction
Ambitious Shadow Play: Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Conviction

Admittedly, Ubisoft Montreal’s series of Splinter Cell games has never enticed me enough to be involved with them more than as a casual curiosity. There is a level of intimidation that is hard for a “gamey” gamer such as myself to get around; that is, the temptation to mess about and not take myself seriously during a game’s mimesis outweighs the gravity that my sometimes foolhardy actions will have on the structure of the mechanics themselves. And the Splinter Cell titles are made for the invested, not the curious. The success of main protagonist Sam Fisher, the gruff talking battle-wearied agent of the “Third Echelon,” a fictional black-ops branch of the U.S. National Security Agency, rests solely on your ability to engage with the games’ earnest shadow play, hiding from direct human contact and utilizing improbable spy tech with the utmost sincerity. Which isn’t to say that video games aren’t capable of being heavy or dramatic, but giving the player any semblance of freedom while simultaneously dictating a specific attitude they must possess carries with it some obvious challenges in design.

What interested me in Conviction and led me to play through the single-player story mode of this chiaroscuro sneak thriller was the marked stylistic shift from the slick black-suited trifocaled Fisher that dominated the earlier Splinter Cell titles to a more haggard and beaten-up character, preoccupied with the death of his daughter (a continuation of the story arc from the previous game, Double Agent) and forced to improvise more on location—in other words, a tad more flawed and human. Double Agent introduced a darker, grittier tone to Splinter Cell, but Conviction has solidified it, also bringing impressive production values that reinforce higher storytelling over spy-op gameplay catered solely to the hardcore.