Fan Expo Canada 2014

By Jorge Figueiredo - September 3rd, 2014


At Fan Expo, Ubisoft likes to make an impact. This time, they hit their fans before they even entered the main hall with a graffiti-art mural just outside of the main room in the South Building. I didn’t get to see it fully completed, but what I saw was really impressive. The Ubisoft booth is always one of the most visible among the large number of displays. It was not difficult to see it from far away (seriously, it could be seen from the entrance). When I arrived at the large booth, I stopped to marvel at the life-sized guillotine (complete with French soldier standing guard). Further in, people were playing Far Cry 4, and checking out the latest Rabbids commercial, playing on a television mounted on a retail wall (full of Ubisoft goodies). As usual, Ubisoft had it goin’ on.

The Set Up

Ubisoft packed a lot of content into every available spot on their footprint. You already read about Ubi Workshop the other day. Adjacent to Ubi Workshop was a Just Dance area where people could step in front of the crowd and get their groove on. This is always a great show, seeing as more than half the time the folks up on the stage are in full costume.

People love dancing.

Around the back corner was a display featuring Sennheiser headphones. There were a number of stations with various Ubisoft games, where passers-by could pick up a controller and a pair of Sennheisers and enjoy a round of whatever game was free. Folks seemed to really be enjoying playing games like Trials Fusion and Valiant Hearts: The Great War – it was a fairly busy display, but everyone seemed to be cooperating well.

Along the back of the display, folks were engaged in Far Cry 4, which is a very impressive looking game; superbly animated with an impressive colour palette, watching people move through Kyrat is quite the experience. A number of interesting game-play innovations also really add a lot to the game. It was easy to see that Fan Expo attendees really seemed to gel with the game and are going to have a hell of a time waiting for November when it finally comes out.

People trying out games with Sennheiser headphones.

Assassin’s Creed: Unity

A lineup of people caught my eye, and after a few minutes they entered a closed-door screening room in which Assassin’s Creed: Unity was being shown. The guy at the door waved me in, as there were two seats left, so I took advantage of the opportunity to whet my appetite for what will be one of this year’s holiday addictions.

The Unity demo was being run off of a PC, and it looked pretty fantastic. Graphically, the game is demanding, and boasts some of the largest crowds that I have ever seen in a video game. As I wasn’t in control of the action, I couldn’t stop and check out the people that made up the civilian population; suffice to say, though, that I was left with the impression that the populace was made up of a fair number of individuals (though, I look forward to checking this out personally closer to the holidays).

A cool Mega Bloks model of a ship from Assassin’s Creed.

The environment was even more impressive, with highly realistic-looking buildings (a few of which had fully rendered navigable interiors, rather than the mini-cutscene shortcuts that I am used to from the past few Asssassin’s Creed games). The mission that was being shown took place in and around Notre Dame – and it looked absolutely gorgeous. On the outside, the structure looked highly accurate; inside, the buildiNg was no less impressive, with light shining in through the windows, playing warmly across the various surfaces while the crowds on the floor milled about.

The new parkour mechanics have been totally reworked, allowing for more realism and nullifying the requirement to have so many “staged” areas (crates and carts – all for the purpose of getting you up above street level). Now, Ubisoft has created a character that can run up walls at odd angles to get himself some more altitude. It looks more realistic and cooler than previous Creed games.

Nothing but awesome behind that wall.

Missions can be completed using different methods, allowing you to employ your own individuality. Skill sets (like lock-picking, for instance) can be utilized to make quicker work of some of the different barriers in your way (pick the lock via a mini-game if you have the skill, rather than hunting for the key and then stealing it). This elevates the stealthy nature of the assassins, since continuously interacting with enemies can be hazardous, and can lead to one’s discovery.

Assassin’s Creed: Unity looks like a worthy successor to the Assassin’s Creed name, and I can’t wait to try it out.

The Crew

Ubisoft’s The Crew was my third driving game demo at Fan Expo. When I was standing in line to wait for my turn to play it, the gent in front of me (who had played it already) described the feel of driving in this game as “slippery”. “However, ” he said, “once you get used to that, it’s a lot of fun.” And he was totally right. During the race (which followed our brief tenure in the queue), I did find that the cars handled a bit like they were on ice – but it didn’t take long to get used to this driving mechanic.

Good times racing in The Crew.

Out of the three driving games that I played during my trip to Fan Expo, The Crew was probably third in terms of graphical quality. Of course, while that might make it sound bad, it’s not. The Crew is definitely easy on the eyes (and ears). All the more impressive is the size of the driving area. In the brief time that I had with the game, it was fairly easy to see that one of the game’s strengths is its open world nature. I’m pretty sure that I could have easily won the race that I participated in (I placed second) had I taken a shortcut (at one point I took a wrong turn, headed down the wrong street, and then hammered the parking brake while jerking the wheel to one side to take advantage of my momentum and compensate for my error).

The overall vibe of the game reminds me a bit of the Need For Speed series, or The Fast and the Furious. Having a story behind the action can make for a more entertaining experience. Couple that with a flexible open-world setup and you have yourself an entertaining driving game that you’ll be able to play for a long time to come.

Other articles from Fan Expo Canada 2014 can be found by clicking this link.

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