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Ubisoft E3 2019 review: The House of Guillemot is on top form in LA

The French publisher has new IP, is toying around with existing franchises and trying to realise its multimedia vision

It’d be very easy to write off Ubisoft‘s E3 2019 showcase as Tom Clancy’s Tom Clancy Fest: The Reckoning but all-in it was a pretty balanced conference that showed off the French publisher’s full range.

Sure, there was a lot of content featuring the Tom Clancy name. There was new Ghost Recon title Wildlands, starring Walking Dead and Daredevil star John Bernthal – who appeared on stage with his very good dog, Bam Bam.

After that we had Tom Clancy’s Elite Squad, a mobile title that lifts characters from various points in the universe that has popped up around the Tom Clancy name. Oh, and then there was a new Rainbow Six title, Quarantine and more content for The Division 2.

These all carry the Tom Clancy name but it’s how Ubisoft is using them that’s interesting. There’s an iteration on the new Ghost Recon formula set out in 2017’s Wildlands.

There’s the French publisher continuing to experiment in the mobile space, as well as toying around with what has so clearly worked in its games-as-a-service online shooter, Rainbow Six: Siege, in making a three-player co-op tactical PvE title. It’s this freedom that gives me faith in Ubisoft long-term.

Outside of new Tom Clancy content, much of the announcements at Ubisoft’s show had leaked. Watch Dogs Legion broke cover a few weeks ago thanks to an Amazon listing and was the first title on Ubisoft’s stage.

Legion wasn’t the only new title on-stage that had leaked ahead of time. Roller Champions was one of the show’s closing reveals, taking the colourful multiplayer fun of Rocket League and putting a very Ubisoft spin on it.

This is the first time that Ubisoft Montreal hasn’t headed up a Watch Dogs game, with the lead studio reins being passed to Ubisoft Toronto and Far Cry 2 maker Clint Hocking. Where before the central gimmick of Watch Dogs was hacking, now it’s about building a team of freedom fighters with unique skills from every day folk on the street. It’s ambitious, but if it works it’ll be an amazing time.

That being said, having Hocking on-stage talking about the game’s post-Brexit setting did make me feel very uneasy given that this is something we as a nation are wrestling with. Seeing a proper geezer of a man mowing down cops in London’s Piccadilly Circus was a bit of a jarring moment, too, given that, well, we’re not really about gun violence here!

Legion wasn’t the only new title on-stage that had leaked ahead of time. Roller Champions was one of the show’s closing reveals, taking the colourful multiplayer fun of Rocket League and putting a very Ubisoft spin on it. An alpha test is available now for PC.

There was one new title that wasn’t leaked ahead of time – that being the show closer Gods and Monsters This is from a new team at Ubisoft Quebec and is set to launch on February 25th, 2020. Little is known about the title, save for that you are playing as someone awesome with a sword beating up monsters. Excellent stuff.

This year’s E3 also showcased Ubisoft’s continuing transmedia ambitions. Early on in the show, Rob McElhenney of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia fame took to the stage to chat about the comedy he has been working on with Ubisoft for Apple TV.

It’s called Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet and looks set to be an interesting look behind the scenes of games development… though the feeling I got was that it was more of an office comedy set in a games studio. We’ll see when that launches!

“The French publishing giant has done a solid job in establishing its games-as-a-service franchises… But it’s also not resting on its laurels or being risk adverse.”

That was on top of the announcement that The Division is also getting the silver screen treatment. Well, the small screen treatment, to be honest, with Ubisoft teaming up with Netflix on a film with Jake Gyllenhaal and Jessica Chastain in starring roles.

And finally, Ubisoft unveiled its rumoured subscription service, UPlay+. For $14.99, PC players can access a library of over 100 titles from the French publisher’s history. Between subscription services becoming more common and the changing PC games landscape, it’s hardly a surprising move in making the most of its back catalogue. That will also be available on Google‘s Stadia platform next year – subscriptions on subscriptions!

Which is a weird way of summarising Ubisoft’s press conference at E3 2019 – the French publishing giant has done a solid job in establishing its games-as-a-service franchises, which are likely bringing in the money and will be updated for years.

But it’s also not resting on its laurels or being risk adverse. It’s launching new IP as well as making ambitious leaps with its existing franchises and trying to make the most of the valuable IP it has made – both in the games industry and out.

We were only watching Ubisoft’s show for the Just Dance bit, though.