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Ubisoft focuses on hardcore at its E3 showing

Ubisoft focuses on hardcore at its E3 showing Exclusive

June 4, 2012 | By Tom Curtis

June 4, 2012 | By Tom Curtis
More: Console/PC, Business/Marketing, Exclusive, E3

During its press conference at E3 2012, Ubisoft knew its audience -- it didn't put much emphasis on social games or casual titles, but rather on the genres, and established franchises that E3's typical hardcore audience gravitates toward most.

In a departure from Microsoft and EA, which opened their respective conferences with bombastic gunplay and violence, Ubisoft chose to capture its audience's attention with a bit of sexuality.

The show opened with a dance number showing off the upcoming Just Dance 4, though the event put far more emphasis on the scantily-clad dancers than the looping promotional video.

"And don't lie, we were all looking at the hot girls," joked actress and Ubisoft presenter Aisha Tyler. Just moments later, the presentation switched focus to Far Cry 3, which in turn kicked off with a gratuitous topless scene -- a bold move, though again, it's clear Ubisoft was going after the stereotypical male audience.

On top of Far Cry 3's expected violence and gore, the new trailer for the game further dabbled in sexuality with a series of hallucinations featuring male pole dancing, implied sex, and more. It's not often we see games handle sex so openly, and while it might not have been the most complex portrayal of sexuality, it'll be interesting to see how things shake out in the retail product.

Segueing from the fast-paced combat in Far Cry 3, Ubisoft showcased a new trailer for the recently announced Splinter Cell: Blacklist, which like Splinter Cell: Conviction, appears to push the series further away from stealth and more towards the fast-paced, blockbuster shooter market.

After a brief trailer for the action-focused Avengers: Battle for Earth, Ubisoft moved on to showcase its latest efforts for Nintendo's highly-anticipated console, the Wii U.

To show off its efforts on the new platform, Ubisoft showcased the hardcore-friendly (yet decidedly casual) Rayman Legends. On the Wii U, the side-scroller adds some new touchscreen functionality that promises to give the classic platformer gameplay some additional variety. In essence, however, the game appears to be quite similar to last year's highly-regarded entry.

Next up for the console was the Wii U-exclusive Zombi U, which builds upon the legacy of Ubisoft's very first game and fits fight in with the other violence heavy games we've seen at the show so far. The bloody CG trailer, however, revealed very little about the game itself.

Of course, Ubisoft couldn't go through its conference without discussing its upcoming Assassin's Creed 3, and this time the publisher revealed some apparent gameplay footage in the game's more spacious, outdoor environments.

This time around, the game appears to take some cues from Rockstar's highly-regarded Red Dead Redemption, giving the players the chance to explore the wilderness, hunt animals, and take in an environment that's decidedly more sparse than the series' typical cities and fortresses.

While the game mechanics look very much in line with the previous annual Assassin's Creed titles, the new outdoor setting could breathe some fresh air into the prolific series by offering more open environments in which to fight and maneuver, and giving the game a much more solitary, almost serene tone.

Next up, Ubisoft debuted the previously-announced ShootMania, positioning the title as a prime candidate for the heavily competitive e-sports community.

The game, which comes from Trackmania developer Nadeo, appears to play a bit like fast-paced classic shooters like Quake or Unreal Tournament, and features plenty of spectator modes to allow for easy live streaming and commentary. It's a game that's clearly trying to become the focus of online game tournaments, though time will tell if the game itself meets the high expectations of the picky e-sports competitors.

Closing out the series of hardcore-focused offerings, Ubisoft co-founder and CEO Yves Guillemot took the stage to introduce a brand new IP: Watch Dogs. The title, coming from Ubisoft Montreal, is an open world game that -- according to Ubisoft -- emphasizes surveillance, the sociological implications of the web, and other heady ideas.

What that means for the layman is that players control a hacker that can manipulate electronic devices to find and assassinate targets in a modern, urban city. Think Assassin's Creed, but with an emphasis on subtlety and tech over primal brute force (well, okay, there's plenty of that too).

With this new title, Ubisoft is clearly targeting the players that already love its other action-focused console games. At this latest show, it's clear Ubisoft wanted to demonstrate its commitment to its hardcore players with games that build upon the strengths of its prior successes.

Historically, Ubisoft has offered plenty of casual games to appeal to the less-dedicated game audiences, but that certainly wasn't the focus at this show. Nearly every title targeted the die-hard game fan.

Ubisoft's press conference this year was lean and efficient -- it cut away most of the hit-and-miss humor of previous years, and emphasized only the games that would appeal to the fanatic E3 crowd. That type of content might not appeal to every type of player out there, but here at E3, the press conference fit in with exactly what its audience was looking for.

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