Why Do Ubisoft's Handheld Games Suck?

By Colin Tan on May 10, 2011, 12:48AM EDT
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It's not news that the handheld scene sees a plethora and over-saturation of games that hit the market. Most of them aren't that great and the good ones are really quite far and few between. Ubisoft is easily one of the more notable publishers that constantly fart out really shoddy handheld titles, most of which are usually movie tie-ins or mere after-thoughts of the big boys on PS3 and Xbox 360.

From the one-too-many Prince of Persia titles on the PSP and DS to the Tom Clancy spin offs, Ubi doesn't have that great a track record when it comes to handhelds and as a handheld enthusiast, this is quite disconcerting considering the publisher is trying to sell themselves as real competition for the number one spot which is presently between EA and Activision. Granted, they have the creative talent, but it seems to be an utter waste of time and resources, especially when games like Assassins Creed: Bloodlines and Splinter Cell 3D are spewed out the pipeline, both of which raised the bar on how much a game can fall short of having any semblance of fun.

Bloodlines was quite the joke. At first glance, it was impressive what Griptonite achieved, modelling an entire city, albeit with less details, but a whole city nonetheless, complete with Assassin's Creed's signature free running/climbing mechanics. That is, until you discover yourself wandering around a ghost town with glitchy gameplay and awfully mundane mission scenarios. Ghost Recon: Predator is no different. Not only did it have some of the worst visuals on the PSP to date, but the gameplay just felt broken. Considering Syphon Filter and SOCOM: Fireteam Bravo 3, both games of the same vein - and perhaps Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker to a certain extent, managed to deliver a tactical experience with action packed narratives, solid gameplay mechanics and controls that actually worked, not to mention robust multiplayer modes, there really is no excuse for Ubisoft to put out games like Predator or Bloodlines.

The list of disappointing games goes on and on. Rabbids Travel in Time 3D, Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands, Raving Rabbids, Rainbow Six, Ghost Recon, Asphalt, Driver, EndWar. These are all key franchises in Ubi's portfolio and it's really quite disappointing the way they handled them. Even the latest outing on the 3DS was less than spectacular. Splinter Cell 3D was quite a poor port of Chaos Theory, which was easily one of the best Splinter Cell games to date. Ubisoft dropped the ball with this one. Instead of establishing themselves as a serious contender in the handheld market, their software lineup speaks volumes to consumers as to how much they care about the platform.

Perhaps it's a bit unfair to just list their shortcomings. Ubisoft has had their fair share of handheld hits. Lumines was a blast. Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars received pretty decent scores. Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars, another one of Ubi's 3DS titles, was a proper experience, more so than Splinter Cell 3D. Heck, even Tenchu: Shadow Assassins was a really fun experience, despite its flaws.

What Ubisoft needs to do is to start putting out games of similar calibre, if not even better. A portfolio of sub-par games and shoddy ports only show how little care and thought is given to the handheld market. Despite what many think, great handheld games do exist. God of War: Ghost of Sparta, BlazBlue and Street Fighter IV 3D, Monster Hunter, Kingdom Hearts, Phoenix Wright, DJ Max, even EA's Medal of Honor, these are just a few exemplary titles to grace both the PSP and 3/DS. Considering the portable market share is growing steadily, especially with the rise of smartphones and dollar apps, this is a market that Ubisoft cannot ignore if they wish to be number one.

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