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Ubisoft: keepin' it next-gen

Ubisoft: keepin' it next-gen

If there's any publisher that's living in the future, it's Ubisoft. While a couple of its titles will be available on the PS2 and Xbox, every one of the games on display in the company's booth are being developed, first and foremost, for the PlayStation 3, the Xbox 360, and the Wii.

Assassin's Creed was probably the best game available in the Ubisoft booth, and it's no surprise, considering it's a hybrid of the company's two best franchises: Prince of Persia and Splinter Cell. Assassin's Creed made use of the former's seamlessly controlled acrobatics and the latter's extensive stealth options. The ability to traverse across building tops was quite amazing--the assassin leapt across support bars without the need for button presses and crawled up the side of a building by grabbing onto slightly outcropped bricks-- you'll definitely look at a formerly daunting wall a little differently after playing Assassin's Creed. It's due out in 2007--first on the PS3 and later on the 360.

Brother in Arms: Hell's Highway is a shooter that equally emphasizes squad tactics and squad storytelling. The game uses the brutality of war to emphasize the story. A scene at the beginning where soldiers make small talk and bond in an abandoned storefront is dramatically altered when an explosion destroys the building and the camaraderie. The increase in nonplayer character (NPC) civilians also heightens the tension. On the gameplay end, the squad-based commands have been strengthened and simplified--just point to a location and press the left trigger, and your squad will move to it. The game's aiming, particularly while sniping, has also been much improved from the two games released on the PS2 and Xbox. This new version will come out for the PS3, the 360, and the PC at the beginning of next year.

Rainbow Six: Vegas brings Ubisoft's storied franchise to Sin City, a place I can say they captured pretty accurately with a great level of authority (I went to CES! Once!). The city is best captured from above, as new missions are received in real time en route in the helicopter; when you arrive at the location, you're provided with the game's tactical OPA system. The first stage is Observation--you can use a snake cam or an enhanced cover system to scope out a situation. From there, you move onto Planning--as an example, you can reach the ground floor of a casino by heading down the stairs or rappelling down the side of a building (most folks'll pick door number two, methinks). On the Assault front, there's a casino-floor firefight highlighted the ability to pretag enemies for ally attacks. The terrorists are now much smarter, with the enemy team having its own leader coordinating the attacks. Kill that leader, and the team becomes a shade more disorganized. Rainbow Six: Vegas will released for the PS3 and the Xbox 360 before the end of the year.

Haze is one of the biggest mysteries on the E3 show floor. Though the title was only two months in development when shown on the floor, it still managed to look quite impressive. The game has been helmed by a dedicated screenwriter and the Free Radical design studio--the team behind TimeSplitters. While the story could be impressive and the use of film techniques such as filtering can alter moods and emotions as the game progresses, the moral decisions presented in Haze stood out the most. After a teammate gunned down a pleading enemy, your character was faced with a decision: reprimand the soldier or forget about the event. A butterfly landed on the gun barrel soon after the accident happened, an event the developers said was mysteriously tied to the choice. Quite mysterious and very intriguing. Haze is scheduled for March 2007 for the PS3, the 360, and the PC.