It's gone midnight, I've had a long day, there's a funeral I have to go to tomorrow and I'm more than a bit tired, so, excuse me if this round-up sounds embittered. I know what I'm about to write will serve as a perfect example of what Hardcore Gamers like to call bias, as symbolic of joyless, liberal, feminist agendas which are sucking all the fun out of games. But, God, I don't care.
Did you see the Ubisoft press junket? I might be slamming my foot hard on the hyperbole pedal here, but I'm pretty sure that everything wrong with the faltering so-called culture of games was compressed into that show. Misogyny, laziness, insincerity, childishness – it was all there, and the audience loved it. I've been playing videogames my entire life but after that, honestly, I'm ready to pick all of my consoles up and hurl them through a closed window.
Where to start? Well, how about Aisha Tyler? Within three minutes of being on stage she'd made jokes about weed ("420 up in this bitch") and black people. Then she moved on to riffing on how sweet and awesome gamers are, before crying – physically crying – at how super amazing Rainbow Six: Siege looked.
It started out cringey, then went depressing. By the end I guess I was sort of laughing, but only in the hysterical way people do when they realise there's no way to prevent the destruction of Earth.
Speaking of which, apocalyptic squad-shooter The Division had a fuller reveal and that, admittedly, looks pretty good. If there's one thing you have to hand to Ubisoft it's that it has seriously expert team of crafts-people on board. If that game turns out anything like those trailers, it'll be really something special.
But back to the bad stuff. Valiant Hearts, a cartoony platformer game supposedly about World War 1 was clearly meant to be Ubisoft's connoisseur offering. There was an extremely awkward segue between the announcement of Shape Up, a new fitness game that looks like non-fun for the whole family, and Hearts, but once that passed, it looked for a moment like something special was about to take place.
And yes, the ambition behind Valiant Hearts seems noble and fair play to Ubi for having a stab at this. But points off – major points off – for turning The Great War into what looks like a Pixar short. There's some subject matter that you really shouldn't dick with, some topics that if you're going to approach them, you have to do it earnestly and honestly. Valiant Hearts, for all its visual splendour, looks like a gentrified, euphemistic take on the war – like it's going to do for WW1 what Braid did for the Hiroshima bombing. We'll have to see, of course - it might be dead good. But right now it just seems like another example of gaming's Peter Pan syndrome.
Rainbow Six: Siege
Rainbow Six: Siege might be good also if, that is, Ubisoft completely rethinks its treatment of women. Even from the brief video shown during the presser, it was evident this was a game borne from the same sexist/fridging/women as prizes school of design as Mario or Watch_Dogs. Two teams – Spec Ops and terrorists – battle it out for control of a hostage, played in the video by a young blonde woman known simply as "Hostage." So far so gaming industry, but the Siege gameplay reached terminal sexism when the person "holding" the hostage got killed, and a big message appeared on screen saying "HOSTAGE DROPPED", as if she was the flag in a game of CTF.
This woman was just an item, to be picked up and put down by the manly men with guns. Back and forth they went, grabbing the woman and then dropping her again, and all the while she just yelled generic dialogue like "get me out of here!" It was a massive blemish on what looked like an otherwise good game. Here's hoping Ubi gets enough flak between now and launch that it decides to change things round.
Assassin's Creed: Unity
The final thing that needs mentioning is of course the new Assassin's Creed, Assassin's Creed: Unity. How does it look? The short answer is it looks like the other Assassin's Creed games. The long answer is that it really, really, really looks like the other Assassin's Creed games. The historical backdrop has shifted to revolutionary France and there's a new option to have four players work together in a co-op mode. But apart from that, it was totally as per. Maybe there's more to it. We'll have to see.
So, that was the Ubisoft conference, a veritable arse ache complete with misogyny, old IP and a presenter half as funny as Norman Wisdom.
Sorry if that seems like a reductive summary, or if this round-up comes across as pure venom, but I covered Ubisoft's junket last year and it was exactly the same. Games are better than this. It's embarrassing that when it comes to putting on a face for the public, this is what the industry goes with.