The Ubisoft booth at E3 is exactly what you expect E3 is going to be like. It‚Äôs loud, it‚Äôs hot, it‚Äôs ridiculously crowded, and seems to pulsate with the message ‚Äúwe are power players in this industry‚ÄĚ. Throngs of people walk around open mouthed bumping into each other, and soaking up the spectacle.
Promoting Just Dance 2014 dancers shake their groove things on a circular raised stage in the middle. Spare a thought for these poor colourfully dressed souls ‚Äď they must have to go lie down in a chest freezer on their breaks.
Of course, on my arrival at lunchtime on Day 1 of E3 there was only one game I really wanted to see in this haze of hype. Assassins Creed 4. Arrrrrrrr. (Disclaimer: I find pirate talk hilarious, so there may be multiple occurrences throughout, me hearties.)
I was lucky enough to be allowed, with about fifteen others, to file into a hot little room. We sat down in front of the screen and were given headphones to wear. We were addressed by Ubisoft‚Äôs Lead Content Developer, Carsten Myhill, who talked us through the short demo.
The main thing he wanted to impress upon us was the sheer scale of the game; the largest AC world Ubisoft have ever created. Showing us a brief scan around the map, we could see Cuba, Florida, Haiti and Mexico highlighted, amongst others. Aye aye, Matey, she‚Äôs big alright.
Once we got into the world, it looked gorgeous. The water was crystal blue and textured, the vegetation lush, and the boats and wharves creaked with authentic looking, artfully shaded planks.
But enough about what it looks like. What‚Äôs new, and likely to shiver our timbers?
Aboardship, Cap‚Äôn Edward Kenway has a new front firing charge shot added to the arsenal. He also has a new weapon in the blow pipe, which provides non-lethal darts in two flavours: sleep, and berserk. The sleep is obvious, but the berserk causes your target to go berserk and attack the people around him, creating a neat diversion for Edward.
There are also no load times or cut times between land and sea, something that Carsten seemed quite proud to be able to announce. Seamless transition between modes was something required by the audience, and they have had their wishes granted.
Events can be sent to your friends. The example given was if you see a rare whale, you can notify your friends of your discovery. For the next six hours they will be able to see the same whale in the spot where you found it, sharing in your triumph. Then they can kill it if they want.
In our 15 minute demo, Edward found a treasure map, then sailed to the island to retrieve the booty. (Arrrrrrr.) The island was already inhabited by Spanish troops, so Edward stealthily snuck around them. This was particularly highlighted as a feature of AC4, as stealth had gone out of the window a little in the latest iterations of the franchise.
He also mentioned that there was a companion app playable on your tablet (a common feature of other upcoming games at Ubisoft and other developer stands this year) that you could use to view maps on screen. He didn‚Äôt go into a lot of detail, so I assume there are other uses for the app other than just map display, but don‚Äôt have confirmation on it at this stage.
In the previous Assassins Creed titles, aside from weapons collection and expansion, upgrading the hero‚Äôs home, and the village, etc was a big driver for the gamer. In AC4, you‚Äôll be updating Edward‚Äôs pirate ship, the Jackdaw. As the game progresses, the boat must become more powerful to be able to take on fiercer foes, and more heavily fortified enemy bases, so you can‚Äôt progress throughout the game without upgrading as you go.
You will also have to keep a close eye on your crew, as they can be killed in battles, during boarding of other ships, and also in storms. You can recruit new crew to join the merry band on the Jackdaw if you rescue them from enemies, or capture them from enemy crews.
Boarding ships definitely seemed like it could be a lot of fun, with the ability to free roam around the ropes and rigging, and then leaping into the fray to stab, slash and rampage your way thrugh the enemy crew.
So that‚Äôs the information I managed to glean from my fifteen minute demo. I‚Äôll be looking forward to this title coming out in late October this year, and seeing if Ubisoft have actually managed to put together a compelling story to match the pretty visuals seen today.
I‚Äôll be watching with interest. From the crow‚Äôs nest.