Posted by Zac Elawar on Apr 12, 2013

Ubisoft Autumn Digital Days 2013: Hands-On Coverage

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Yesterday, I attended the inaugural Ubisoft Autumn Digital Days 2013 event. This event has been held in the past – specifically in France as the Spring Digital Days – but this was a first for Australia and the Southern Hemisphere at that. Present were a total of 8 titles ready for hands-on time, and another that was included in the brief opening presentation, but was curiously missing on the floor. Although I didn’t get to play every last one before I had to leave (which bummed me out), I will be giving you my impressions of the ones I did play, along with newest assets, in this article.

For the remaining titles I simply observed, click here for my hands-off impressions as well as overviews and brand-new assets.

Note: These are titles across multiple platforms that, come release, will be available for $20 or less – except for Might & Magic X Legacy. That said, the RRPs have not been set in stone just yet, but that’s the official projected price range that you can bank on.


 Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon

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Let’s start off strong, shall we? We were treated to the official reveal trailer (embedded below) for Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon before the pleasant surprise announcement that it would also be playable! There were six stations housing the title, and as soon as the presentation was over, almost everyone flocked to them. This game is just pure awesome. In Ubisoft’s words; “Think of it as the third movie in an action franchise… it’s got a bit tired and long in the tooth.” In this case, that’s a good thing because it’s all tongue-in-cheek…a homage to the action films of the 80s, but also a parody.

Playing the game will be 100% familiar to Far Cry 3 owners as the gameplay is identical. But that’s not to say it doesn’t feel fresh, or like a worthy experience to be had. Literally everything else has been altered to reflect a retro “VHS reality”; the art style, the cheesy dialogue, the old arcade-like 2D cinematics, future-tech weaponry, new animations (Colt rests the shotgun on his other forearm and reloads by lobbing the shells into the chamber), enemies have been melded with cybernetics (as have the local fauna…Cyber-sharks, anyone?) and mutants and cyborgs populate the lands as do actual blood dragons that shoot lasers from their eyes!!

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You now “pilfer” Omega soldier corpses in order to acquire their “Cyber-hearts” which you must throw like the rocks of Far Cry 3 (still in-game, but are dice now) in order to lure away the blood dragons. And don’t forget the ability to flip-off your enemies! Double bad-ass! I also need not mention how amazing it is to hear Michael Biehn’s (Terminator, Aliens) voice and delivery of lines such as “I’ve arrived at the Dam. Goddamn it’s big!” and the simple classic “Fuck yeah!”.  The tutorials are also delivered in a hilarious way as they pop-up continuously one-after-another, disallowing you the chance to even try out the related action before asking “Annoying, isn’t it?!”. I laughed at an early instruction that said; “Press ‘A’ to demonstrate your ability to read.”

The presentation has also experienced a facelift, with menus looking like those old DOS interfaces. The level upgrades system has been retooled as you are given new skills automatically after reaching a certain XP level (0, 1-5, 6-10, etc.). Collectibles and side missions return, but you now instead collect VHS tapes, TV sets and scientists’ letters. The soundtrack by Melbourne-based music group Power Glove (how appropriate) is amazing, sounding exactly like the inspirations they and the developers looked to. Finally, according to Creative Director Dean Evans, “the game has about 8 hours of content”, so soak that in. I can’t wait for May 1st.

“Mark IV-Style Motherfucker!”


Flashback

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This was a genuine and welcome surprise… a re-imagining of the original title of the same name, which was released way back in 1992! It’s still a side-scroller, and what’s encouraging is that a third of the members of the developer VectorCell were part of the original’s core team, and trust me – you can put your faith in them because it feels like Flashback. As someone with experience with the software, I instantaneously recognised the Unreal Engine behind the updated graphical façade and controls. Conrad has aged well in this modern era of gaming too.

It was entertaining to see so many people gush at how true to the original and nostalgic this game is. The only environment available for play was the opening jungle section, but the reveal trailer below indicates that we will be travelling to much more diverse landscapes come release. We’ve also been told that, while many familiar faces will make an appearance, the story has a fresh and shiny coat of paint and will be introducing new characters and twists that you will not easily forget.

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Early Concept Art

The demo version we played was on the Xbox 360. The controls are simple enough: ‘A’ to jump (+ left thumbstick upwards to grab onto a ledge), right thumbstick to aim and ‘RT’ to shoot, ‘B’ to roll and ‘LT’ to crouch. Those are the basics. You can also pick up explosive fruit with ‘X’ (your action button) once you begin to encounter them and aim and throw them like a grenade. Initially, there are attack drones and electrified platforms that pose physical threats with a deeper emphasis on puzzles.

While the original utilised ‘flip-screening’ (a limitation of the tech), this one has an attached camera that moves with you once you reach the edges of the screen. I enjoyed my brief session with the game, and was assured of a considerable XP progression system which I glossed over in the ‘back menu’ as it wasn’t fully implemented yet. Through it, character and equipment upgrades can be can be managed. The heart and soul of the franchise is intact and fans will absolutely love this iteration.

The game does not have a solid release date just yet, but it will be hitting XBLA and the PSN store sometime this year.

Reveal Trailer


Rayman: Jungle Run

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Rayman: Jungle Run has been out on iOS and Android platforms since September 20th of 2012, but what warranted it’s presence at the event was the availability of the latest update content, which includes 20 all-new levels. There were two iPads available for play. I had never played the game to begin with, so my impressions are on the overall title. I found it to be very fun and surprisingly comfortable to play on the iPad (I’m always surprised by great iPad gameplay). There are two mechanics you need to be aware of and that’s it: attack and jump, which have dedicated ‘touch-buttons’ in the corners of the bottom of the screen.

Basically, all you have to do is time your jumps to gather as many coins as you can throughout each level’s course, and attack certain obstacles/environmental elements that then react and evolve to become a part of the gameplay – such as these pods which blossom into bouncy flowers when hit. Elements such as wind come into effect and change your direction, and with this new free DLC update, new powers and worlds are introduced such as the Pirate Ship and Land of the Livid Dead. Boss battles have also been integrated, although in this context they are pursuit/escape sequences (get a glimpse in the screenshot above).

I found it to be very elegant and intuitive, and will definitely be purchasing it for my iPhone 5 now. As I mentioned, the mammoth update with the aforementioned content is free, so you already own the game, there should be absolutely no reason not to download it. Check out the update’s dedicated trailer below as well as a small gallery of key art and new screens.

iOS Update Trailer


Prince of Persia: The Shadow and the Flame

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This is a game that I don’t think many would have expected, or particularly wanted if I’m being Frank (who’s Frank?!). The revamp of a classic in Prince of Persia 2, the Shadow and the Flame preserves the same characters and story, but adds new weapons and powers and is a little more concise and modernised, especially in the control scheme as made ostensibly clear by its reincarnation on the iPad. I played parts of two levels and quickly became frustrated by the lack of intuitiveness in using the right hand side of the screen as your jump panel and the left for your movement. You don’t just tap the screen to jump; you must swipe in the desired direction.

Luckily, the game is much more forgiving than the original in terms of how it handles trial and error – and you will be thankful for this as falling or missing a platform jump is common. The same gesture-based controls apply to combat, which gets tedious fast. To be honest, this was my least favorite game in Ubisoft’s digital line-up…it wasn’t fun and just plain agitated me at times. Ubisoft Pune – the developer – has suggested to us that there will not be any new levels or environments per se, but replay-ability will be pushed via in-store purchases which enhance the experience. Yeah…if it hasn’t lost you already, it probably has now.

Check out the reveal trailer below. Prince of Persia: The Shadow and the Flame will be available on “smartphones and tablets”. Release date is TBD.

Reveal Trailer

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