E3 2012: Pressers and Pickers – Part 2

So. Post-Microsoft, I had a few hours to kill before Ubisoft’s press conference so I spent some time walking around downtown L.A. There’s always an interesting parade of bizarre shop windows and unusual character types. I passed this somewhere in the so-called Fashion District.

It was a home furnishings store/gallery full of oddness. I actually dug the chair and could totally see sitting in it, answering the petitions of rural peasants.

Passing an arcade, I saw one of those eerie fortune telling machines. Like photo booths, I somehow can’t pass one of these without putting money into it.

Zoltar wanted $1 to tell my fortune and having nothing smaller than a five, I went into the dark, shabby arcade. I put the fiver into a change machine, noticing a split-second too late that the machine didn’t give money – only tokens. I got stuck with five bucks’ worth of ‘em since there was no place to exchange tokens for cash. I got my stupid fortune (which said “good things are on the way” but should’ve said, “you just paid $5 for this useless piece of paper) and made the best of things by giving the rest of my tokens to a young guy and his elderly mother who were enjoying a game of air hockey.

I found a place to get a sandwich, the LA Cafe, which turned out to be a great find. Most of the places downtown are grungy and greasy but this little place was really cute and had great selection. For $7.50, I got a sandwich twice the size of normal, human sandwiches and a big plate of home-made chips. Look at this thing! You could make a lift raft out of it.

Delicious chicken salad sammich

I sat outside at a small table and shot the shit with a crusty AV guy who’d been working the E3 show, setting up lighting and sound the last few days. At 1:30 I bid him adieu and made my way to the LA Theater for the Ubisoft event.

Ubisoft followed Microsoft’s lead, trying to start their show off with a bang by having rapper (and alleged drunk driver) Flo Rida perform his horrifically catchy hit single, “Good Feeling” to promote upcoming Wii U title, Just Dance 4.

Flo Rida - yeah that tiny dot is really him.

He had slightly better luck than Usher, and people actually cheered some when his song was finished. Host, actress/comedienne Aisha Tyler also fawned over him a little bit, so that probably made it worth it for him. I for one, actually enjoyed Aisha Tyler’s hosting, (she cracked me up referencing hot girls and encouraging everyone in the audienc, even women, to appreciate them. “We’re all a little bit gay. Let’s admit it now.” ) although I could really have done without her obnoxious co-host who was the epitome of “trying too hard.”

Like, Microsoft, Ubisoft really had too many titles to adequately give coverage to so they glossed over a good number of them: Zombi U, Rabbid Lands, Your Shape: Fitness Evolved and Sports Connection got nothing more than a passing mention so the company could focus on the big titles like Far Cry 3. That one immediately grabbed everyone’s attention with a trailer showing a topless tribal woman obviously straddling the (first person pov) player. The justification was that the player had been initiated into a local tribe as one of its warriors and was leading them to resist a band of thugs led by local madman, Vaas.

The game I admit, looks really amazing, with boatloads of tropical vegetation and even the occasional prowling tiger. It takes a strong psychological angle and one utterly surreal section (that reminded me of some of the Max Payne dream sequences) piqued my interest in the game more than its straightforward combat sequences.

Of course, for me the winner of the conference hands down was Assassin’s Creed III. The demos I saw (both here and at Sony’s presser) showed that the Assassin mechanics are going to transition from the middle ages to the American Revolutionary War more or less effortlessly. Where Ezio would have run along ledges and dived off towers, Connor (the new Native American assassin–so cool!) balances along snowy tree branches and scales cliff sides. The game’s wilderness, military camp and settlement environments really convey a convincing sense of the U.S. in the 18th century and even better–lets you take the fight to the high seas.

One of the demos showed Connor piloting his own pirate ship (actually, I’m not sure it’s a pirate ship. I want to believe it is.) through what started as crystal waters and quickly became raging swells. Lightning flashed and the ship heaved as Connor’s ship exchanged cannon fire with two other galleons and I couldn’t wait to try it myself. I love the series and can’t wait for III. I’m also intrigued by its accompanying PS Vita title, Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation (although that’s part of the Sony conference) which features a female assassin.

Post-ACIII, Ubisoft staged a bizarre tournament, boys on girls, between professional game competitors in order to demonstrate its new E-Sports title, Shootmania: Storm. It’s a counterstrike-ish thing that honestly, looks about as thrilling as standing in line at the DMV. Granted, I’m just not a pvp shooter kinda gal.

The big surprise of the conference came when Ubisoft co-founder and CEO, Yves Guillemot announced a brand new IP called Watch Dogs. Tapping into our collective paranoia about being data-mined until we become nothing more than useful marketing targets, the game takes us to a near-future world where cities are controlled and manipulated by computer mainframes. The demo looked graphically spectacular, with really naturalistic character models and AI, not to mention beautiful rain and cloth effects. Of course, these things don’t make a fun game, but they’re nice to have. The gameplay itself could prove really interesting since the hero has the tech not only to see information about every person he encounters (age, occupation, criminal record, etc), but can interfere with things like traffic lights and cell phone signals.

Watch Dogs promises to be something truly unique in a marketplace saturated by similar action titles and I’m definitely looking forward to it. I especially like that it appears to feature drop-in co-op. Watch the trailer here.

Once the Ubisoft thing was done, it was off again to the Sony presser. On the way out, Ubi gave us all a 20 lb Assassin’s Creed encyclopedia to take home (it’s really nice, but man…heavy) and something I appreciated even more – a cold drink.

Ahh....lemonade.

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