I can’t help but have strong feelings for Ubisoft. Theirs is a studio and publisher responsible for some of my all-time favorite games, from PlayStation 2 classics like Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time and Beyond Good & Evil to more modern favorites like the Assassin’s Creed franchise, Valiant Hearts, and Watch Dogs. There have certainly been misfires (I’m looking at you, Assassin’s Creed Unity) but in the end, Ubisoft is the kind of company I really can’t stay angry at forever. Visiting Ubisoft has always been a highlight of my E3 adventures and I’m pretty pleased with the games I got to try out.
It goes without saying that Rocket League enjoys its popularity and well-wearned success. Taking the simplistic, team oriented nature of soccer and turning it on its head with the addition of race cars and a physics engine creates an exciting competitive experience that is just as much fun to watch and play. So much so that Rocket League has its own eSports championship series. When I sat down to try Roller Champions, it was difficult not to immediately draw comparisons to Psyonix’s car-based sports game and cynically assume that Ubisoft Montreal was merely hungry for their own PvP spectacle.
What surprised me the most about Roller Champions is how it has strong legs. This Rocket League-inspired version of roller derby is just as fun and competitive as car-based soccer can be and operates under its own set of rules that makes it really fun to play. Developed as a free to play game (which is smart), Roller Champions pits two teams together in a contest to see which can score the most points. Teams must run laps around a circular track, their skates leaving behind small energy trails that made me think of TRON, avoiding tackles from the opposing team as they fight to toss a ball into a giant hoop to score. The gameplay is pretty simple and accessible and there are mechanics in place to make the game feel truly competitive, action-packed contest of luck and teamwork.
At the start of the match, the game ball is shot onto the track and the first team to catch it is guided, through a series of light up arrows, to race around the track. As the ball carrier tries to complete a single, full lap, they must avoid the other team trying to intercept the ball by tackling them. If a team manages to complete a lap, the giant goal hoop lights up, which indicates a scoring opportunity for a single point if the ball goes through. Pretty simple and straight forward, no? For that extra risk/reward flavor, the ball carrier can choose to ignore this scoring opportunity and run another full lap for a shot at an automatic three points. If they complete a third lap and toss the ball through the hoop, they get an automatic five points. Only luck and a really great time will help you get you that far, so learning how to pass between players and keeping an eye on the other team is essential. Should the opposite team gain ownership of the ball, they must run a lap in the opposite direction in order to activate the goal hoop for themselves.
After the initial “wait, isn’t this clearly a knock-off of Rocket League?” reaction, I found that Roller Champions offers a lot of fun and playability to the free to play PvP space. My knee jerk reaction to all this was, “Wow, this seems a bit silly,” but by the time my demo session was over, I was shouting, hooting calling out for passing, and cheering not just for my team but for everyone there playing the game.
Strap on those knee pads and ready your pair of energy skates because the Roller Champions arena opens in 2020.
Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Breakpoint
As a follow-up to Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands, Breakpoint sees you (and up to three other players) infiltrating the military installations, testing facilities, and secret corporate hideaways that have taken root on the Auroa Achipeligoa, located somewhere in the South Pacific. Led by Jon Bernthal as Cole D. Walker, a special forces group has gone rogue and taken over Auroa, gaining access to robotics and AI research conducted by drone manufacturer Skell Technology. Yeah, that’s bad.
I’m not all that great with these stealth-based, tactical military shooters because, well, I don’t have the patience for sneaking around. Like Han Solo, I prefer the straight up gun fights instead of crawling around compounds, tagging targets and tracking patrol routes. More often than not, the firefights I engage usually end up being one-sided, as I’m butchered by unseen enemies I was too impatient to track. A game like this is better with friends because, at the very least, you know someone is looking out for you.
The demo session I had with the game put me, a Ubisoft rep, and two other players in charge of rescuing a kidnapped scientist forced to aid Walker in weaponizing Skell’s drones. This process involved traveling to our target and setting up a bivouac, a small camp that we used to choose loadouts, consume food and drink for timed perks, and select the time of day for the operation. From there we proved ourselves a pretty efficient killing squad by taking out a patrol and neutralize armored foes and those equipped with rockets who could easily obliterate our squad if left unchecked. Aiding in our stealthy approach is a sort of adaptive camouflage that lets you them blend deeply with the environment when prone, making it almost impossible to be spotted. With a combination of adaptive camo, tagging targets, and firing silenced weapons, we cleared the Skell compound and found the scientist who instructed our group to strategically place explosives that would level the facility. Before we could make the extraction and trigger the explosion, our team was waylaid by the presence of gun-toting aerial drones a small, futuristic looking battle tank, all of which were fairly easy to take out together.
With the drones defeated, the scientist safe, and the facility destroyed, the mission was a success! At this point, we could move on to the next mission or engage in a series of open ended activities. The helicopter flight away from the mission area showed us just how large the game world is and while we didn’t see it, Auroa was home to different biomes that not only provided a change in scenery but also affect gameplay. Since we had some time left in our session, we took on a side quest that involved battling a giant drone tank equipped with a nasty set of weapons. It took us a couple tries to defeat but through proper teamwork and communication, we eventually tore it to shreds and enjoyed the spoils of war: an assortment of loot whose quality fell within the classic common/rare/epic spectrum.
Using gameplay mechanics to simulate real-world combat and environment traversal, Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Breakout is shaping up to be an exciting game for the hardcore, tactical military shooter crowd. It may not be my cup of tea but I can’t deny that what I played was incredibly slick and cool.
Ghost Recon Breakout is scheduled for release on October 4, 2019.
Librarian by day, Darkstation review editor by night. I've been playing video games since the days of the Commodore 64 and I have no interest in stopping now that I've made it this far.