Ubisoft had a gaggle of games on display at PAX Prime 2013, but there were just two that I needed to know more about: Watch_Dogs and Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag. I was promptly crammed into a few small theaters to watch guided hands-off demos of Ubisofts holiday heavy-hitters in action
Watch_Dogs cross-platform multiplayer challenges
Watch_Dogs pioneered the now-tired trailer tactic of pulling out the camera at the end of a trailer for a single-player game to reveal multiplayer elements. Ubisoft remained mum on Watch_Dogs' multiplayer since its 2012 reveal, until now.
The PAX Prime demo consisted of one person playing the full PC version of Watch_Dogs, while another zipped around an interactive map of Watch_Dogs' near-future Chicago on an Android tablet. Players who connect the Watch_Dogs ctOS app to their Uplay accounts will be able to see their friends roaming around the map in real-time, provided they are connected to the internet and not in the middle of a story mission. After a few quick taps, the tablet user extended a challenge to her friend on PC, who quickly accepted. What followed was a quick race through downtown Chicago. As wanton chaos erupted on the big screen, the tablet player guided helicopters, spawned cop cars, and raised traffic blockade with swipes of her finger.
There was no latency between issuing commands on the tablet and having them play out on the big screen, though I am skeptical of how it will fare when players aren't on the same Wi-Fi connection right next to each other. While it is certainly the most intriguing tablet-console game interplay I have seen yet, it is still tertiary to the main game, and it's hard to tell if this use case will ever realistically pop up when everyone is devouring the main story mode.
Watch_Dogs is releasing on all current and next-gen consoles and PC on November 19th.
Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag Lives A Pirate's Life
After the Watch_Dogs demo, I was quickly whisked into another theater to see the latest on Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag. What followed was a 12 minute video narrated by the creative director, showing off various side activities that play to Black Flag's pirate setting. Yes, that includes seaside tavern brawls, naval combat, finding treasure in hidden caverns, and using a diving bell to plunder shipwrecks at the bottom of the sea. The demo, shown on a PlayStation 4 development kit, looked phenomenal in motion on the big screen. Like Assassin's Creed III before it, the scope of the naval combat in the Black Flag demo was similarly awe-inspiring.
And yet the demo did little to sell players like me, who have soured on the series after yearly releases since 2007, on diving right back into a parkour and stab-heavy adventure. Sure, with the colossal sales of Assassin's Creed III, Ubisoft is just fine playing it safe and ticking off the "bigger, better, and more badass" boxes necessary for a AAA sequel. But especially with Watch_Dogs and new consoles around the corner, I wish they showed something that pushed the boundaries of the series a bit more.
Assassin's Creed IV will launch on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 on October 29th, with PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions coming on launch day for those systems, and a PC version in Q4 2013.