When I received an invitation from Nintendo to what they'd only referred to as a third-party developer presentation, I very quickly accepted. And after the revelation of the Wii U, I assumed that it would have to do with a third party developer proclaiming their support of the new console. Turns out, the developer in question was Ubisoft, and they described three of the five titles that they currently have in development for the Wii U.
And while I remain skeptical that the large tablet controller won't scare away the hardcore gaming audience, Ubisoft's presentation went a long way towards making me feel better about only seeing tech demos for the Wii U. So what did they show?
First up was Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Online. The main bullet points for this Wii U title were the massive use of the touch pad in gameplay, and the "always on" online service. Their goal is to use the Wii U controller as what they called Crosscom 2.0, like the real-life Crosscom used by the military. It can display an interactive tactical map, guide missile strikes with the gyroscope, steer a drone around the map, and customize weapons.
They demoed a one-on-one multiplayer match, and while the large HDTVs showed each player's game, the smaller ones below them displayed what the Wii U controller screen did. The overhead map is still in 3D, so you can tell how tall the buildings are. At one point, one of the players used their touch pad to maneuver their drone to search out his opponent and tag him for easier tracking. Ubisoft was somewhat vague about the actual online aspect of things, probably because Nintendo hasn't announced any kind of online strategy for the Wii U yet. However, there will be a personalized Ghost Recon Online account that you will have, along with a friend list, online ranking and matchmaking. What they're calling the "Ghost Feed" is their online service where you can use the controller screen to check out what's going on online while watching TV or whatever.
The game's graphics looked nice, but nothing to write home about. After some thought, it occurs to me that since this is a PC online game, they probably meant to keep the textures on the simple side to keep the framerate up. The use of the touch screen might not have been the most innovative, but at least it made sense with the game and didn't feel like a tacked-on gimmick.
Ubisoft's next title was Killer Freaks From Outer Space, which is an FPS where aliens have taken over England. After a trailer that was fun, but full of live action footage and no gameplay, I was pleased to see that the demo they began playing on stage looked pretty good. The guy playing Killer Freaks never even really looked at the TV, because the controller screen had the same display as it. And you had to keep your eye on the touch screen because you aimed the reticule by moving the controller around you physically like with Face Raiders on the 3DS. It's an interesting concept, but the guy demoing the game either wasn't very good at it, or it's not really a good control scheme.
When they demonstrated a one-on-one multiplayer match, one used a Classic Controller Plus attached to a Wiimote while the other used the Wii U controller. Using the touch screen, the "Real-Time Enemy Director" can see a map of the area and dispatch creatures at the beleaguered human player in the hopes of overwhelming them. It was kind of a fun twist on the traditional FPS deathmatch. There will also be online multiplayer where up to four players can face off against the Enemy Director. And seeing someone using a Classic Controller on the FPS side of the game leads me to suspect that more traditional control schemes will be implemented along the way. Which would be nice, because I worry that having to hold up the touch screen controller the whole time would get tiring.
Also amusing was that the little alien creatures swarming around England looked like evil gremlin versions of Ubisoft's Raving Rabbids. During the Q&A section at the end, someone asked about the similarities, and the response was that after working on games with those Rabbids, you kind of want to just shoot them!
They seemed to be closing with Assassin's Creed, but not really, since there wasn't anything to say about it because it's so early on in development. There was just a lot of talk about the Wii U's processor and memory and how these technological advancements would help make this the best Assassin's Creed game ever. They claim that the touch screen will be used for an on-screen map, fast weapon selection, puzzles, the database of locations and such, and Eagle vision/sense. Of course, there's no evidence of anything because all they had were big ideas. Nothing to show for them yet.
I appreciate Ubisoft stepping forward to show off some games that are actually in development for the Wii U. It's nice to see something other than the tech demos. And while Ghost Recon Online doesn't do anything for me, Killer Freaks looked like a fun game, and the graphics were very impressive. I still feel like Nintendo may have jumped the gun announcing the Wii U so early just to have something to show at E3 this year, but at least we didn't have to wait too long to see actual games being played on the system. It's just too bad that it happened at a small invite-only presentation and not in the press conference.