25 Years Later, Has Ubisoft Risen To The Top?
All the way back in in 1986 a man named Yves Guillemot fresh out of completing his business studies launched Ubisoft Entertainment alongside his four brothers. The company wasn’t so much known for their games but rather for their role as a publisher who distributed games for the likes of Electronic Arts if you can believe that. Initially Ubisoft were only distributing games in France where the company was originally set up but eventually branched out into other territories such as North America.
It wasn’t until the early 90′s that Ubisoft began developing their own games, I think the original Rayman is perhaps the earliest memory most will have of Ubisoft. It was a little cute 2D platformer with plenty of charm, probably one of the childhood games you grew up with if you’re currently in your 20′s. Since then Ubisoft has continued to grow both as a publisher and as an upcoming developer.
If I had to pick a specific point in time when Ubisoft started to turn heads it would have to be 2002′s Splinter Cell. When that game came out, it just blew me away in a way little games could at the time could. Unmatched from a technological point of view and it basically made Metal Gear Solid 2 look like a terrible stealth game by comparison. The original Splinter Cell was a turning point for the company and since then, Ubisoft have been delivering some great titles with most of their hits emerging from their Montreal based studio.
The following year Ubisoft won the hearts of gamers all around the world with Prince of Persia Sands of Time and Beyond Good & Evil. Neither title was as commercially successful as it should’ve been but I don’t really know anyone who played and didn’t enjoy those titles, it was simply a case of the marketing team not doing enough to get gamers interested. Prince of Persia Sands of Time is one of my all time favourite games, it’s a videogame version of Aladdin and an extremely well crafted title so definitely check it out if you’ve somehow missed it ten years ago.
Over the years Ubisoft have proven themselves to be quite a capable developer, in fact Ubisoft games are now usually more interesting than the stuff they publish meaning the company has evolved from what it originally was set up to do. The question that I then started asking myself is, how good are Ubisoft? It’s easy to not pay much attention to everything they do but when you add it all together, it does seem like Ubisoft are firing on all cylinders.
There’s actually one game in particular that had me decide to take a closer look at Ubisoft and that would be Far Cry 3. I played Far Cry 2 and whilst I enjoyed myself, I knew the game had plenty of little things holding it back such as the stupid malaria mechanic. My expectations for Far Cry 3 were pretty low, coming after Blacks Ops II and Halo 4, I assumed Ubisoft were just wasting everyone’s time with a FPS no one would care about. Sent to Die 3 seemed like a fitting title.
Long story short, let’s just say that if someone walked up to me and told me they enjoyed Far Cry 3 more than Black Ops II and Halo 4, I wouldn’t laugh at that person.
Ubisoft appears to be doing all the right things as of late, they have a great diverse library of intellectual properties at their disposal. The Assassin’s Creed series is a massive money maker for the company and given how Ubisoft pump these out on a yearly basis, it’s quite surprising it’s managed to maintain a solid quality level with them, until Assassin’s Creed III came along anyway. For what it’s worth, Assassin’s Creed IV appears to be building directly on what was good in Assassin’s Creed III meaning we might be seeing the series return to form rather soon.
Rayman Legends is an absolute gem of a game, I’ve demonstrated the game to my friends and not one of them walked away unimpressed. With Rayman Legends, Ubisoft have done what Nintendo have not and that’s showcase the Wii U’s unique GamePad with an absurd level of creativity. How often do you see a 3rd party developer outshine Nintendo on their own system? There’s no doubt in my mind that Rayman Legends will likely be the most well designed and mechanically sound games you’ll play in 2013. It’s not an exclusive anymore but I still think it’s the killer app for demonstrating what the Wii U is about, 3rd party developers and even Nintendo, TAKE NOTE, THIS IS HOW IT’S DONE!
Where do I even begin with Watch Dogs, the game that came out of nowhere and stole E3 2012. Just when you think Ubisoft is an Assassin’s Creed factory they blow you away with a new game. No one saw it coming and it’s EXACTLY what we need in the industry, new IP’s not just from indie developers but from the major players. We still don’t know much about it but the two gameplay trailers released thus far look amazing, we could be looking at the next Assassin’s Creed in Watch Dogs.
As you can see from the images across the post, Ubisoft have got some potentially great stuff coming and that’s just this year alone. Rainbow 6 Patriots I’m assuming will make an appearance at E3, if not then let’s pretend it will anyway for the sake of this post.
Ubisoft do churn out a lot of shovelware, games like Just Dance are shockingly awful when compared to something like Dance Central but this isn’t a bad thing. Just Dance sells extremely well and sure, we the “hardcore” gamers know it sucks but if the money made on it helps fund games like Watch Dogs then what’s wrong with that? As with any company, Ubisoft are here to make money. If their “lesser” games helps keep them afloat then let it be, you have the opportunity to stick to the “good” titles. Your girlfriend could pick up Just Dance and whilst you pick up Rayman Legends, everyone wins including Ubisoft.
One of the great things about Ubisoft is their support for all the major systems, it often leaves like no one is left behind. Whether you own an eight year old Xbox 360 or plan to pick up a new PlayStation 4, Watch Dogs will be available to you. Unlike EA, Ubisoft isn’t letting bad blood get in the way of game development and is a firm supporter of Nintendo systems. Most of the industry is taking a “wait and see” approach with Wii U, Ubisoft on the other hand dived right in and wasn’t shy about taking advantage of the GamePad’s unique capabilities as seen in Rayman Legend and ZombiU. The upcoming Splinter Cell Blacklist appears to have some pretty neat uses for the GamePad.
I sometimes think 3rd party developers come across as lazy, present them with something original and they’ll turn it down just because they’re unfamiliar with it and too uptight to admit it. Ubisoft on the other hand were extremely eager to get started on something like a Wii U and had nothing but encouraging words about the possibilities the GamePad could bring. Whilst others around the world complained about “horrible ” and “slow” CPUs, Ubisoft instead focused on the good aspects and got to work. This is the kind of attitude that you would expect from 1st party developers who are stuck with the system, not a 3rd party developer who are free to do as they please.
So coming back to the original question I posed, are Ubisoft the best 3rd party developer in the world? Take some time to look around online and see what games you’ve enjoyed in recent years, take a look at games you’re looking forward to this year and beyond. How many of them are Ubisoft developed? Let’s not forget, Ubisoft totally had the best E3 show last year, how many times can you say E3 was won by a 3rd party developer?
Do you agree or disagree? Feel free to post your thoughts or just write about how awesome Michel Ancel is, either one is good with me.
Note: I love Platinum Games too but they need a little more time and some more games before I start to consider them the best in the world. Ask me again in a few years and we’ll see