22nd October 2010 - This years annual UbiNight - an event held by Ubisoft to demonstrate some of their upcoming game releases - was a particularly important one. Mainly because it was the first time many people here in Australia would get a chance to have a go at Microsoft’s upcoming Xbox addition; Kinect. It was also demonstrating some rather big titles, such as Assassins Creed: Brotherhood, Michael Jackson: The Experience and Shawn White Skateboarding among others.
So sit down, strap in and prepare yourself as I tell you why Ubisoft are about to make a bang!
Assassins Creed: Brotherhood
The first room I seen as I entered Brisbane’s GPO Hotel just so happened to be the one demonstrating Assassins Creed: Brotherhood. I made my way inside with low expectations and little hopes, as I have never really been looking forward to this game - I don’t know why, as I love the last two Assassins Creed games. What was on demonstration was actually the games new Multiplayer mode, thought. Probably the one thing about the game that threw me off the most. Reluctant, I was greeted by some very friendly Ubisoft representatives in some very revealing shorts… who sat me down, handed me a controller and continued to point some other people in the same direction. So what I was experiencing here was the first game of Assassins Creed: Brotherhood of the night! Hooray for me!
When a full 8 players had joined, the game began. We were given a character select screen where we could peruse some of the character skins and some of the special powers we could choose from. I went for a rather sinister looking jester character with a disguise ability and a hidden firearm. The first thing we’re told when the match starts is who we are supposed to be killing. It seems that the Brotherhood multiplayer is very similar to the original idea of what Splinter Cell: Convictions multiplayer was going to be like all those years ago - and its brilliant! Each player is given a target to eliminate for points. And another player is hunting you down at the same time, only thing is; you’re not told who. And when the busy streets of Assassins Creed are filled with hundreds of matching characters from the small amount of skins available, stealth and cunning become more than close friends. You are also given to aid you, a compass of sorts. It’s a circular ‘radar’ which points you in the right direction of your target. Get close, and keep those eyes pealed and stay calm, as if your target spots a crazy man running toward them and jumping over buildings and pushing down civilians, they are obviously going to get the hell outta dodge… thus my first chase begins.
One new feature I liked very much in Brotherhood was the cool chase stoppers. These babies came in the form of gates, doors and the like, and were very useful. If you’re being chased, make your way to one of these bad boys and it will close and lock behind you, rendering your opponent stuck for the time being and giving you some much needed thinking time. As I chased my target through the streets, he managed to activate two of these chase stoppers within a minute of each other. But some quick acrobatics and quicker wits seen me not back down and keep tail. I was meters away, inches even while I tried to get as close as possible to execute my kill… then BAM! It seems my hunter had been laying in wait for me to run past and seconds before I score my first points I get a knife to back of the neck. This continued and I ended up losing the game in the end, only killing my man once. But what I learned from this experience is that I had misplaced my thoughts of this game. When you don’t expect much you get the fuller extent of its pure awesome, and Assassins Creed: Brotherhood blew me away. I walked away happy, but wanting more of what I just had.
Just Dance 2
The only other game in this Assassins Creed room was Wii’s Just Dance 2. Its your typical dancing game, requiring you to follow the on screen moves as best you can to earn points, which in turn you must rack up to beat the other dancers. I didn’t play this game at first however, because as Dr. Sheldon Cooper from the Big Bang Theory once said; “ I believe in the multiverse theory and I can assure you that in every one of them, I am not dancing.” or something along those lines. So with a strict no-dance policy about myself, I sat back and watched the sparks fly as a surprising amount of people lined up to dance their heart away. With a total of 4 players connected to the game, Just Dance 2 is a great party game, assuming everyone at said party likes to shake it. After selecting one of the many noticeable and iconic dance tracks, players then get down to business as they hold the Wii Remote in their right hand and follow the on screen dancer as they bust all manners of moves that relate to the song and/or the real dance moves one would expect pro’s to bust out with.
Like I said, im not a big dancing fan, but this game looked fun… So I bit my tongue and went for it. Maybe it was the booth babes who were dressed as skimpy maids for some reason, or maybe it was the free beer getting to my head, but God as my witness, I went for it. With a few others by my side, the song agreed upon was the often hilarious Monster Mash. Yeah, you know the one! And so off we went, and while trying not to make a complete fool out of myself, managed to make all my moves as simple and accurate as possible. How? Not by actually following the dancer, but I found that if I just put my right hand where his was, then I stack up points faster than anything, resulting in me winning the dance. Honestly! Me? Winning a dance? My pride was overcome by the guilt of exploiting bad motion controls and a silly idea. All up, this game may be fun to those who like to bust a move, but I found it irritating and the simplicity of how to cheat your way to victory further puts me off. Dance Central - now there is a Dance game one can feel good about winning (but still one that will never even get the chance to gather dust on my shelf). Too bad that isn’t a Ubisoft game and wasn’t here.
Michael Jackson: The Experience
This was the other dance game on offer. It was everything you would expect from a game with Michael Jackson in the title; catchy music, dance moves and strange backdrops. All tied together by.. Wait, what’s this? The same mechanics as Just Dance 2? Not quite, but very similar. Too similar in fact. This game was demonstrated on the Wii rather than the Kinect or Move, and from what I seen (my great distaste for Michael Jackson absolutely forbids me from touching this one) played exactly like Just Dance 2. You have the Wii Remote and simply must follow the dancers (Michael Jackson for Player 1, if more players come into it, more dances get added to the mix) right hand. The idea to me is rather terrible and unless you are a die hard MJ fan, I think this one is a big miss. Sorry, Mikey, RIP bud.
Shaun White Skateboarding
Now, this one I liked. As I made my over to the console it was on, I couldn’t help but notice the visuals. I stood there, staring blankly at the screen for about a minute thinking to myself ‘boy, this game has the worst graphics I’ve seen since before the N64’ That’s when the friendly chap from Ubisoft handed me a very slick pair of 3D glasses. That’s right, Shaun White Skateboarding was being demoed in 3D and was a blurry heap of mess before the magic of 3D was unleased in this electronic head accessory, and to say the least, it was beautiful. The 3D really shone through, and was very detailed. Everything from the character to the environment was rendered nicely in 3D. This is the first I’ve personally experienced playing a fully 3D game, and while its very cool and certainly looks the part, playing it for a good 15 minutes pretty much persuaded me to never dig so deep for this experience. Its just not something I think I could do for the big gaming marathons I am accustomed to and after a while the glasses become unsurprisingly uncomfortable. So while the shock of awesome 3D visuals wore off, im happy to say the game didn’t.
This is more like the classic Tony Hawk games just as they were starting to enter more open environments’ then the more modern ones and especially the deep realism of Skate. I’m not a skateboarding fan at all, but that doesn’t make me fail to enjoy a genuinely fun and casual encounter with a game like this. Its something I could definitely see myself perched on my lounge playing for hours on end and well worth keeping an eye on for any of you who have gone off the modern way of Skating games and miss the pure fun of the likes of Tony Hawks Pro Skater from the 3 / 4 era. I don’t know who this Shaun White guy is, but I like his style.
Raving Rabbids: Travel in Time
If you have played any of the previous 4 instalments of the Raving Rabbids series, you’ll know what to expect from this one. It’s a typical party game that we’re far too accustomed to seeing on the Wii, but that’s not to say its not fun. No, it seems after all these years, there is still some fun to be had from the average party game. Get 4 players together and this can be full of top-quality entertainment. During my hands-on time with game, I played a number of cool little party games with a few fellow Journo’s and a Ubisoft rep. He seemed to be going easy on us, as it was clear when his score was ahead of ours he pretty much backed off and let a few of us pass him, which was a good way of letting people enjoy it a bit more, because we’re guilty of not being happy with a losing score.
The first mini-game I played was a very unique type of game where you must shake the Wii Remote up-and-down as much as possible to break these multicoloured blocks that were blocking the forced descent while using the nun chuck to navigate a winding yet simple course. Different blocks were worth different amounts of points and some even deducted points from your score bank. It was very basic, but still a lot of fun as the scores built up and rivalries formed. The same could be said for most of the games on Travel in Time.
However, not every game was full of the exciting competition as the aforementioned block-breaker. One such lull came in the form of a power-up and speed-boost based flying game one could compare to Mario Kart in the sky. While the concept was on pitch, the execution of poor level design, lack of speed and some bad controls essentially brought the whole thing down. So from my short hands-on time, it was easy to see that Raving Rabbids: Travel in Time is just like the rest of the series and pretty much every other party game in the Wii; some of the mini-games are spot on enjoyment, but there are an equal amount of dull and unexciting mini-games that really divide audiences and strain the thought of digging out to buy the final package.
This is the first time I experienced Kinect. And it was in a small room with an intimidating fit Ubisoft rep who was showing people the ropes of Fighters Uncaged and Your Shape: Fitness Evolved. On the same Xbox as Your Shape was a game I hadn’t heard of previous to this night; Motion Sports. But ill get to the two later games in a moment. Now, let me tell you a bit about Fighters Uncaged.
It’s a fighting game. For Kinect. It uses the stunning technology to read your body movements and does its best to recreate them with your on screen fighter as he pummels, and get pummelled by the opposing fighter. As a strong believer that Kinect wasn’t going to cater to the needs of the ‘core’ gaming community, this game was a surprising relief. As I prepared myself to have my first attempt at using this new technology, I noticed there wasn’t anyone waiting behind me for a turn themselves as it was getting on in the night. So I used this quite time to have a chat to the Ubisoft fellow by my side. Since I hadn’t read into this game at all, I didn’t know that much about it, and he was kind enough to fill me in.
Fighters Uncaged gives you access to over 70 unique fighting moves with your arms, legs, knees and elbows. This allows for quite a few awesome moves that you really shouldn’t try at home… unless you’re playing this game at home. Anyway, the demo was just of a single player fight with a few different environments available. When questioned about the games Multiplayer capabilities, this guy seemed to completely avoid the question , instead just telling me about how I seen moments ago himself step in for another player to help navigate the menu’s as a second cursor. I don’t know what he was getting at here, but it was obvious he didn’t want to tell me anything to set in stone. Typical.
So enough of the questions, as I was not just getting into it! My first few punches landed in quick succession and with surprising haste in turn with my hand movements. Pleasant. I beat down my opponent very easily using some very basic and simple attacks, and then decided to give it another go to try something a little more complex. Straight up, I ducked down - do did my character. I stood up again - so did my character, just narrowly avoiding a hefty haymaker. This was awesome, my character is doing pretty much just what im doing… as long as im standing still. I then tried something a little more advance and went for an uppercut - this is when my character dodged left then tried to do some sort of roundhouse kick thing leaving me completely open. Again, I tried something more advance, a mid/high kick with my left foot - my character then attempted a haymaker. It landed luckily, but its not what I was going for. It seemed like the Kinect, or perhaps the game, simply wasn’t good at reading fast movements and advance attacks, despite being able to read “over 70 different fighting moves”. Sigh, my neat experience was then ended on this down note. But as I mentioned earlier, I was still left quite satisfied. Why? Because this game was evidence that developers are at least trying to come up with some great core game experiences for the Kinect. I may have been let down by some of the trickery that is motion technology, but all up there is still high hopes that developers will continue to develop core games for the Kinect and come up with exciting new ideas for it.
Your Shape: Fitness Evolved
Another Kinect game. Being right next to Fighters Uncaged, I simply wandered over a few feet to the now empty stall for Your Shape: Fitness Evolved (most people had made their way to the Assassins Creed consoles in hopes of getting some more playtime with the awesome multiplayer). There was now a Ubi-girl explaining this game to players, so with a quick menu set up for myself and some game mode selection screens whizzed through, she put me right into an exercise. I had been keeping an eye on this game ever since Wii Fit disappointed me so I was very much looking forward to this.
By following the on screen fitness professor or sorts, I was able to see my very own outline next to him as I did my best to keep up with his wild shadow-boxing and air-punching antics. This proved relatively easy and surprisingly fun. The heads-up-display and whole menu system and set-up of this game is very stylish, and like with Dirt 2, such a trivial thing can actually make a lot of difference to the experience. I was then shown some other exercises that I may enjoy by the kind lady, one of which sounded like a bit or a work out and stole my attention. Selecting this - of which the name escapes me - proved to a good idea as I got further experience with just how well Kinect can track the players skeletons with great haste and accuracy, leaving me to believe that the Fighters Uncaged problems I experienced were to do with the game, not Kinect - a great relief.
The work out required me to do some sort of weird knee lift things as I attempted to keep up with the instructor and twist and turn my body along with him. This time I was a bit more hard-pressed to keep up and ended up not doing too well, but in this type of game its not a matter of winning or losing, it’s a matter of simply doing the best you can and trying to better yourself for your own personal gain, in both real life and in the game.
So as my time with this game comes to an end, I can honestly say I was impressed. Not only is the game great for getting a work-out and eventually fitter, but its also great fun to play while you do it. A rare mix and pretty awesome if I don’t say so myself. This is one game I will definitely be getting on the Kinect, and if you weren’t satisfied with the lack of genuine exercise of Wii Fit or just want something a bit different, consider doing the same.
As I finished up on Your Shape, I motioned to walk away. That’s when the Ubisoft girl at this particular Xbox yelled after me to try yet another game. She was already restarting the console to boot up another for me. I wasn’t aware there was any more on show was I was intrigued. Turns out there wasn’t enough room or hardware for a whole other console setup so they were just doing the rounds on the one. The game? Motion Sports.
Just like the Wii had its flagship Wii Sports, and Wii Sports Resort, Kinect has Motion Sports. It’s a collection of different sports made into games that makes full use of the Kinect technology while also providing up-to-date gameplay and graphics. In short - its pretty awesome! It’s a great way to show off some of the things Kinect can do, and it’s a great way to move units of the hardware, too. Everyone loved Wii Sports, and those that never had access to a Wii will surely be interested in this little game.
Unfortunately I was only given a few plays at one sport during my hands-on time. The sport was Skiing (not what you were expecting I bet?), and while I may have never had the pleasure of Skiing in the real world, I didn’t think there would be much too it, at least in this game version. And how right I was! The idea of the game was simple, to try to score the most points/beat the best time on a good sized track. And the gameplay made use of your entire body; arms legs, torso - the lot! You’ve all seen movies with Skiing, or even participated in some casual Skiing at some time in your life so you all know the basics; you keep your feet straight to pick up speed and use a pair of hand-held sticks to guide yourself in whatever direction takes a fancy, as long as its down of course. The game was just as simple, having you just keep your legs straight and using your body to pick up and slow down speed, and your arms and torso to turn. It came very naturally and felt quite good seeing how easy it was to go so fast with good accuracy.
It was unfortunate that I was only able to test the game for a short time and without the promised multiplayer features, as there was a crowd gathering to take on over, but I did enjoy what I seen and am very anxious to see what some of the other 5 sports have in store in this package (there are 6 in total). They are; American Football (NFL), Horseback Riding, Hang gliding, Boxing, Football (Soccer), and Skiing - which ive briefly covered above. If the game delivers on its promises of fully functioning body sensing and motion control like I witnessed with the Skiing portion, then its certainly something special and a good addition to the very short list of games that aren’t necessarily centred around children.
The night comes to an End.
After a few exciting hours of game-playing, mingling and downing as much free beer as my stomach would allow, I feel good to say that Ubisoft is definitely shining through on delivering more quality, less quantity. They may cater to every console on the market and practically every genre out there, but they still manage to make their titles all play very well, and for the next few months, this is certainly not going to stop.
They seemed to have nailed Kinect’s motion sensing abilities, and although let down a little by Fighters Uncaged, seem likely to continue great work with the new medium. Shawn White Skateboarding was a nice change of pace for the Skating genre, and the few dance games I mentioned in the article are definitely going to get some teens hot under the collar; with solid lists of tunes and great new visuals, both Just Dance 2 and MJ: The Experience are sure to please many. I surprisingly enjoyed Raving Rabbids: Travel in Time for some pure party shenanigans.
The undoubted highlight of the show for me was Assassins Creed: Brotherhood. After experiencing all their was to be had, I made my way back to the Assassins consoles to get some more playtime. It was a great surprise and one Im sure will take a lot of people away from the usual Halo and Call of Duty online communities for a decent amount of time.
There you have it folks! So now if you’ll excuse me, I must now scrape together some spare change and head to my nearest game shop to lay down some pre-orders! Thanks for reading!
Article Written By John Elliott