Ubisoft cover

Ubisoft has developed a reputation for having odd E3 conferences, and their 2016 show was no different. The publishing giant took to the stage to show off their line-up of games, as well as their plans for the next year. There were bad jokes, strange dance numbers, gameplay footage aplenty, and a few surprises.

The conference started out as weird as it could get. A troupe of dancers poured onto the stage and did a pretty sweet routine to a Queen song. One was in a lion suit, another was dressed as a giraffe. I like to imagine there was a choreographer backstage who had the honour of yelling “release the giraffe!” The bit was to announce Just Dance 2017, which will be launching this October for practically every console. This includes the Nintendo NX.

Aisha Tyler entertained as MC for her fifth year running now. Her particular brand of comedy and presentation hasn’t always hit home with attendees, but she had a few jokes about what the Internet has said about her. That’s respectable – she’s rolling with the punches and taking the criticism in her stride, making her the most lively E3 presenter yet.

The next game detailed was Ghost Recon Wildlands. They showed off a pre-rendered trailer detailing the villains of the game, the La Santa Muerte cartel. Ubisoft went on to call the game “the largest action adventure open-world Ubisoft has ever done”.  Wildlands is hitting PC, PS4 and Xbox One on March 7th 2017.

After a year of radio silence, we were finally shown more of South Park: The Fractured But Whole. The game picks up right where Stick of Truth left off, except the kids of South Park are playing superheroes instead of fantasy.

The story is a tongue-in-cheek jab at superhero movies. The kids want to make money through lucrative movie deals of their hero personas, but they have a falling out over how to proceed, leading to what you could call a “civil war”. The New Kid (you) is drawn into this conflict, creating an alter-ego from one of a dozen classes. The biggest change is with combat, as players can now move around a grid-based battlefield to flank enemies and reposition themselves. This allows for taking cover and using environmental hazards to your advantage. The Fractured But Whole is available for PC, PS4 and XBO on December 8th 2016.

Next up was some The Division news, particularly its upcoming expansion packs. The first, Underground, takes players (you guessed it) underground to tackle new challenges and randomised missions. It launches June 28th for PC and XBO, and August 2nd for PS4.

The expansion following that is called Survival, and it promises to change the way you play the game. The gist is that a terrible winter has set in and survivors in Manhattan are running out of food and other resources. Perhaps it’ll incorporate some resource management, or the need to eat to live. There’s no release date on this one, just a gritty teaser trailer.

And now for some VR. Several Ubisoft employees sat down with Oculus Rift headsets to play Eagle Flight‘s multiplayer. Imagine a game of capture the flag, except the flag is a rabbit, and the arena is actually an overgrown Paris, and everyone’s an eagle. That’s Eagle Flight, or at least, that’s the part that was demoed. Ubisoft also announced that Eagle Flight will be coming “to all VR devices”.

Staying with VR, Star Trek: Bridge Crew was revealed. It’s a cooperative game wherein each player fills a role on the bridge of the Aegis. It all looks very true to the source material and the idea of each player having a different, equally important role is an interesting one. Star Trek: Bridge Crew will be available on “all VR devices” later this year.

Next, For Honor got two new trailers. Ever since seeing this game in action last year, it’s been my most-anticipated Ubisoft title. The first trailer provides some backstory. It’s alternate-history stuff, focusing on a big “what if?” scenario involving a thousand-year war between the game’s Vikings, Samurai and Knights.

There was gameplay too, offering some footage of how the Vikings get business done. The animations and fighting stances are wonderful, but the weapon designs are a little too exaggerated in my opinion. The trailer shows the Vikings wrecking the Samurai army, so I expect hordes of weeaboos to sh*t their ramen while watching. For Honor is launching on February 14th 2017 for PC, PS4 and XBO.

The adorable platformer Grow Home is getting a sequel called Grow Up. It once again stars Bud on a quest to collect star seeds, but this time he’ll be growing all the way to the moon. Grow Up is launching this August for PC, PS4 and XBO.

Have you ever wished that the Trials series had more ’80s nostalgia and neon dinosaurs? No? Well, wish granted anyway! The next game announced was Trials of the Blood Dragon. It looks insane in a very good way, and is available right now for PC, PS4 and XBO.

Filling the cowl-shaped void this year was a short behind-the-scenes look at the Assassin’s Creed movie, presented by movie producer Frank Marshall. It shows off some of the stunts being filmed and gives some new details about the film. The movie hits the big screen on December 21st 2016.

Watch Dogs 2 got some time in the limelight with an in-depth gameplay trailer, showing Marcus Holloway and cohorts infiltrating a fundraiser and hacking some incriminating data. The new location of San Francisco looks lovely, far more vibrant and colourful than the previous game. However, I have to question some of the character designs, especially the guy with LED goggles (watch the trailer, you’ll see). It seems like all the characters are trying too hard to be edgy and cool, and their overabundance of personality looks like it might start grating before long.

Lastly, a new IP called Steep was announced. It’s basically an open-world, socially-driven, action-sports game. Players can freely ski, snowboard, wingsuit and paraglide their way across the Swiss Alps, choosing where to start a run and what activity to perform.

Steep seems to strike a balance between serenity and adrenaline. Gently gliding above the slopes, watching other players ski and snowboard below you, looks incredibly calming, while actually being on the snow barreling down the mountain at breakneck speeds looks like a rush. The social elements allow you to review any route you’ve taken, rate it, post it as a challenge to others, or just save a replay with the game’s robust video tools. Steep was quite a surprise and looks like it’ll have a lot to offer. It’s expected to launch later this year.

That brought Ubisoft’s E3 2016 press conference to a close. All in all it was a good show, with plenty of onstage energy and enthusiasm, backed up by some great-looking games. 2016 also marks the 30-year anniversary of Ubisoft, in case you’re interested.