E3 2008: Ubisoft

Managing an hour per meeting is pretty hard to try to see all titles showcased by each company. At Ubisoft's room, while we didn't get to go butt-surfing with those crazy Rabbids, we picked three other titles for a closer look: Shaun White Snowboarding, Prince of Persia and Farcry 2.

Shaun White Snowboarding (X360, Wii)

We had a glimpse of Shaun White Snowboarding during the Nintendo press conference, but at Ubisoft's meeting room we got to take a closer look at the Xbox 360 version, and I even hopped on the balance board for a quick race down the slopes.

Louis Lamarche talked to us about the game's features and origins. Basically, the goal was to convey what snowboarding feels like, on the mountain and on the halfpipe, with Shaun's input of course. The game isn't about doing tricks, it's about having fun and enjoying yourself while you play.

There are four mountains available to explore, Alaska, Utah, Europe and Japan, all of them open from the very beginning. The game automatically connects you to friends, placing them in the same mountain. You will me able to see them and locate them on your map, and everyone can continue doing whatever independently.

The mountains are part of a wide-open free-roaming game world. You can move around the slopes by taking the chair lift or the helicopter, but you can also cut across the woods to get to other places. You can even hop off the board and walk around, like in Tony Hawk. The mountains are separated into peak, back country and resort area.

The communication features proximity chat, which means you can talk to whoever is in your area. You can also race them and push them out of the way if you wish.

Progression obviously includes new gear, new boards and better performance. There are 75 challenges and you can bet your reputation against your friends. The mountains are also accident-prone, with cliffs, crevices and avalanches, and the landscape looks amazing and quite massive. It should take you about 10 minutes to go down any slope.

Character creation allows players to pick a male or female snowboarder, and tweak everything from the face, hair, hats, gloves, pants, jackets, backpack, board, goggles and boots. The catalog features the 2008/2009 winter fashion collection.

The controls aren't based on button presses. Insteda, everything is done by using the analog sticks and triggers to create combinations of jumps and grabs. The trigger jumps are pressure-based, so if you press it lightly you will do a small jump, while pressing it all the way will make you jump higher. The progression is slow to teach new players the basics of spins and grabs. And while in the air, you are able to shift the board and your feet to perfect your landing.

The Wii version is tricky and takes quite a bit of practice. Or at least for me, since I have the worst balance of all the people I know. Still, it was pretty interesting trying to control my snowboarder downhill by shifting my weight from one leg to another, leaning to the sides to turn, and pushing up to make her jump. It's not easy, let me tell you, especially for someone who never snowboarded in real life before. But I enjoyed seeing how the character reacted to the shifting of my center of balance.

Shaun White Snowboarding should be out in October for all console platforms, including DS and PSP.


Far Cry 2 (X360, PC)

After the snowy slopes, we moved on to some African savannah shooting action with Guillaume Frechette showing us around Farcry 2.

Far Cry 2 is all about playing the way you want. Like picking from a restaurant menu, you will chose one of the available pre-set weapon combinations to suit your style of gameplay. As you play, you will visibly see how equipment and weapons degrade. Rust and damage become visible, weapons will also jam on occasion.

The map shows you a square kilometer area, but you can zoom out to a 25 square km area. It will take you about an hour of walking to cross it from side to side, without encountering any combat situations. Driveable vehicles will be available to help with the longer distance travels.

The bed is your save system now. You can lay down and set your clock to change the time of day, a bit like fast-forwarding time. The game has dynamic real-time day/night cycles as well as dynamic weather.

The story is mission-based (some being optional), and you will have some ally characters helping you out. They can revive you once per mission (think of it as an extra life), but this puts them in danger and they can die. Events and enemy AI aren't scripted, which ads to a surprise factor, and ally characters dying will have an impact on the storyline. With all missions completed, you are looking at over 50 hours of single-player gameplay, plus a multiplayer component.

Far Cry 2 will be available this Fall.


Prince of Persia (X360, PS3, PC)

The story in Prince of Persia revolves around the prince-to-be. He isn't officially a prince yet, but on his way to become one, he decides to help Eleka on her quest to drive darkness out of her land.

The game goes in a very different direction from previous Prince of Persia games. The fighting system has been reinvented and is much more cinematic, while the art direction takes an illustrative look. The game features an open-world structure where you have different paths to get to a certain area.

Elika is an AI-controlled supporting character with magical abilities. You will never have to wait for her since she doesn't fall behind. She will never be a nuisance and get in your way, and she can basically do the same moves as the Prince, plus a very neat co-op jump from jump pad to jump pad, for distances that would seem impossible without her help.

The dynamic camera work assures that there are no interruptions or cutscenes, so the game flows better. The acrobatics use the Assassin's Creed engine, and you can see that in some of the character's movements while climbing walls or dangling off edges. The Prince also has a gauntlet that allows him to slide down walls (all the while causing little sparks to appear as the metal scrapes the stone).

The first "boss" character will be crossing your path several times. You won't be killing it, just basically driving it away, and you can use the environment for your advantage, for example, to knock it down off a high platform. On the walls and ground you will see blobs of darkness, called tremors, which are like traps. If the Prince gets caught in one of these, Elika once again will help, pulling you out onto the previous closest safe ground. This basically eliminates dying and creates a sort of checkpoint, since there are no save points at all.

The story assures 10 to 15 hours of action adventure gameplay, with plenty of collectible life seeds along the way, which you use to unlock new areas and purchase things.

Look it up this Holiday season for PC, PS3 and Xbox 360.