It’s something it keeps bringing up every now and then, but in kicking the hornets nest on it once again recently, Ubisoft has said its games are not political and that if nothing else, they’re apolitical. It’s a statement it even doubled down on through its website.

Try telling that to the game that has an authoritarian state set in post-Brexit London with human trafficking or a game about making sure Washington D.C. isn’t destroyed, respectively.


Legion rises and falls

Before talking of the big massive elephant in the room, let’s stress the good about this. Watch Dogs: Legion, out March 6 on PS4, XB1, PC and Stadia, looks to be as ridiculous as the last game. It had a grandma doing parkour and even, in what might be one of the funniest moments of the entire E3 this year, tapping a guard and shooting him in the face as he turned around.

Ubisoft Toronto is handling main duties on this one, with Clint Hocking – the director of Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory and creative director of Far Cry 2 – set to release his first game in well over a decade. Watch Dogs has only gone from strength to strength and that looks like it’ll continue here with Legion. On that regard, March can’t come soon enough.

(That said, with Toronto and Hocking working on this game, where has the original Watch Dogs team in Montreal and franchise creative director Jonathan Morin disappeared to?)

Yet, there is a massively ironic and especially hypocritical message that is front and centre to it that also disputes the apolitical nature of Ubisoft’s messaging. Legion takes place in a post-Brexit London that is run under an authoritarian, surveillance state with the demo at one point showing human trafficking.

That’s not to say Ubisoft doesn’t have games that are political despite it saying otherwise, but Watch Dogs: Legion is so blatant in showing its political nature that it’s now the lighting rod where if Ubisoft dare tempts to say again in interviews this week that its games are apolitical, people just point to Legion.

There is a part of me that wants to say it’s a shame we’re focusing on the messaging rather than the game itself because it genuinely looks like it’ll be a fun and great game. But this is something that should be discussed. It’ll be discussed with Ubi execs in interviews, it’ll be discussed with Hocking and other dev team members in interviews and it’ll be discussed as a whole around the show in interviews with developers and publishers not named Ubisoft.

To quote Radiohead, you do it to yourself, Ubi.


Other Notes

– THE GANG HEADS TO E3! Rob McElhenney appeared on stage to debut the new Apple TV+ comedy he’s working on with Ubi, a satirical look at games development, Mythic Quest. As much as it’ll be a comedy – and considering this is one of the co-creators of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, it will be funny – I do hope it’ll pick upon serious topics on the industry like crunch.

– The next character class for Rainbow Six Siege as it starts its fourth season tomorrow is a James Bond-type character. Ubisoft actually played up the Bond stereotype for it. In other Rainbow Six news, it also announced Rainbow Six Quarantine, a three-player co-op PvE game coming in Early 2020. But it had no gameplay shown.

Brawlhalla has Adventure Time stuff in the game now! That’s it. That’s the line.

– Ghost Recon: Breakpoint had Jon Berthal come out with his dog and we’re now in a four-way race to see who wins E3: Jon Berthal’s dog, the Watch Dogs: Legion grandma, Tango Gameworks Ikumi Nakamura and Keanu Reeves. AI companions will be added to the game post-launch and a beta will drop in September. Also, it has its own Terminator team up and what is it about games and The Terminator this year?

– Tom Clancy’s Elite Squad is a mobile game and is the only new sighting of Sam Fisher we’ve seen all year. Next year, gang. Next year.

– Just Dance 2020 is coming to Wii, but not Wii U and there really is something laughable about that. Also coming to the current platforms too, obviously.

– For Honor has a live event going on right now with a new mode and map. Also, it’s still going.

– Ubisoft Red Storm announced The Division movie was coming to Netflix, The Division 2 would be F2P this coming weekend and detailed the three upcoming episodes of DLC for the game. Episode 1 takes place on the outskirts of Washington D.C., Episode 2 takes place within The Pentagon and Episode 3 sees us return to a less cold and much warmer New York City in Early 2020. I should get back on that game.

– The confirmation of Ubisoft’s subscription service UPlay+, coming to PC in September and Stadia in 2020, was confirmation that, for me anyway, we’ve hit subscription service saturation. For me, I can make do with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, PlayStation Plus + Now and maybe EA Access. But beyond those, nuh uh.

That roller derby game Roller Champions is a thing. And a demo is out now on PC. Will definitely check that out when I get a moment.

– Gods and Monsters was announced as Ubi’s one more thing. A brand new IP from Ubisoft Quebec based on mythology and a need to go beyond Assassin’s Creed, it looked absolutely pretty and very Breath of the Wild looking, as previously teased elsewhere. But there wasn’t a whole lot shown beyond a quick 60 second trailer, especially for a game out early next year. It’s out February 22 on PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC and Stadia.

– An Assassin’s Creed symphony started the show and with Sony not being here this year, Ubisoft stepped in to take its orchestra slot. It was brilliant, though.


Ubisoft’s show was very average this year. It had appealing content and some great stuff, but some of its pre-show messaging about its games being apolitical (when they’re not) contradicted what was shown, a lot of the show leaking out ahead of the time (there didn’t feel like a massive surprise throughout) and it didn’t feel as charming as last year did (except for Jon Berthal’s dog because wHO’S A GOOD BOI!? YOU ARE! YES YOU ARE!).

It might be time to sit down, take stock and change tune on that messaging.

5/10

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