E3 2008: Ubisoft gives us the business

Ubisoft has got a hell of a lineup coming. And for once I am convinced of the necessity of having a headset to get the best out of a game — and believe me, with EndWar it’s a good thing. I also got to see the new Prince of Persia in action, and Far Cry 2 was in effect as well. Click below for shots and impressions.

Talk Delta to me, baby

So when after I conned my way into their special little meeting rooms (no appointment, heh), the first thing I saw was Tom Clancy’s EndWar. Sounded familiar, and when I entered the little space I was disappointed: “Oh yeah, some RTS in the Tom Clancy universe, whatever.” But I sat down and in a moment I realized that this was that game where you freaking talk to your units. You don’t have to, of course, you can do everything with your controller or keyboard, but as soon as the demo guy showed me how it worked, I couldn’t see any other way to go about it. The voice commands work perfectly, quickly, and are versatile and powerful. “Deploy gunships! Unit two, move to bravo. Group 3, attack hostile 4.” It really works and you feel cool, not nerdy, when you’re doing it. Well, maybe a little nerdy.

In addition to the voice command thing, there were two enjoyable aspects about EndWar. First, your units gain experience (and so get better) and you gain money to spend on a bunch of upgrades for them. Love that. Second, the online play is based on a world map where depending on what side you play for and the outcome, the global map which everyone chooses games from will shift and change according to the balance of power within the game. Awesome work on this one, I have to say.

Pretty in Persia

Next I snuck into the Prince of Persia booth. I’ve always liked the PoP games so I was probably biased to begin with, but it’s hard not to like something that looks like this:

It really does look that gorgeous, and I can’t wait to see it in high res on my monitor. The acrobatics are enhanced by a claw which allows for new movements on walls and a mystical companion (“Elika”) who saves you occasionally and also lets you double jump. The combat is, as you’ve heard, redesigned to be entirely one-on-one, and it looks like most battles in the game will be more like boss battles than anything else. Looks amazing.

Hot death and a gun buddy

Next I went over to Far Cry 2. I just finished Crysis (finally) so I was ready for more of the same. And that’s kind of what I got.

It looks fantastic, obviously. The desert environment is rendered very well and the barren nature of it makes for different fundamental tactics. When the demo guy died, an NPC friend (who you choose at the beginning) comes and helps you up, shoots his way out with you hanging senseless off him, and gives you his extra gun after you knife the bullets out of you (in-game, ouch). It’s a cool way of having you not die, although apparently your friend can, and if he does, no revive for you! Another excellent feature, not documented in screenshots, is the way fire catches and spreads all over. It’s a dry climate and everything’s made out of wood, so a single molotov cocktail can annihilate an entire enemy stronghold.

We have a winner!

I don’t think it’s premature to say that these three games basically were a knockout for Ubisoft . There were some cool things which I’ll be writing up shortly, but the combination of these three high-quality, innovative, high-production-value titles really put Ubisoft ahead of the pack this year. If one has piqued your interest, check your favorite games site for more info.