By Brendan O'Connell
San Diego Comic-Con is generally known for promoting and selling the latest and greatest in television, movies, and comic books. Lately though, more and more videogame developers have joined the convention. This year, Ubisoft showed off new projects like Watch Dogs, and continuing franchises such as Splinter Cell, Assassins Creed, Rayman, and Just Dance.
Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag sets our protagonist in the Caribbean, looking to make a living as a pirate. Like the last game, Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag will have missions taking place in forests, cities, and the sea. The demo we played was the multiplayer portion of the game, and only showcased a small seaside town with modest buildings and narrow streets. For the six people playing in the match, it felt like a tightly-packed affair. This is not necessarily a bad thing, because you can find enemies quickly and hide easily, but that didn't take away from the overall cramped feeling.
Multiplayer ran well apart from a few glitches – it is unfinished after all. Unfortunately it’s not much different from the past few iterations, however. It looked great on the next-gen hardware, but the demo was lacking the hook to make me want to keep playing.
The latest iteration of Splinter Cell, subtitled Blacklist, has two types of multiplayer modes including Co-op, which is a separate storyline, as well as the return of Spies vs. Mercs. The Co-op story fleshes out the single-player story with a new character named Briggs. Only one mission was available during the demo, taking place in a mountain region with enemies that sounded of Eastern European descent.
Spies vs. Mercs has been a fan favorite since it’s introduction, years ago. As a spy you have night vision, a stun gun, flash bangs, and a takedown skill. Mercs have flashlights, big guns, plenty of ammo, and frag grenades. Three stations are meant to be hacked or protected, then the roles swap. It's like tactical hide and seek, sharing aspects of both stealth and heavy gunning which help to round out the experience. The map was a factory-like area with multiple large rooms that need to be protected. There are plenty of spots to hide and if played well, there are spots that can’t be seen by the mercs.
Of the games on display, only Watch Dogs felt truly next-gen. While the demo Ubisoft showed was a familiar one, the developers also displayed what a randomly generated mission might be like. Missions in Watch Dogs have numerous ways of reaching the same outcome. Reputation is awarded in variable amounts based on how the mission is accomplished, who witnessed it, and your particular performance. Using randomly generated scenarios, it essentially ensures each player gets a unique playthrough.
The actual gameplay on PlayStation 4 looks and feels so much better, making minor issues with physics easy to ignore. Like other games, objects such as trees and fire hydrants are immovable, even when hit by a car. It’s a very minor flaw, but when everything else looks so realistic and natural, it’s odd that a small tree doesn’t at least bend when a car crashes into it. The level of quality in Watch Dogs vastly outweighs minor flaws or questionable development decisions.
Ubisoft is bringing a lot to next-gen gaming through a variety of new and familiar franchises, in addition to creating fun games for the current generation of consoles. Besides these three titles making an appearance at SDCC, high profile titles like The Crew and The Division are also on the horizon. With a wide array of serious adventure, FPS, racing, dance, and platformers, Ubisoft is trying to appeal to both serious and casual gamers alike.
Brendan O'Connell is a Associate Editor for 1985FM.