This generically named Wii U launch title actually looks pretty interesting, and it's fun as well.
I had no particular desire to play Ubisoft's Sports Connection at E3, but I happened to see it in the publisher's booth and decided to play it as a matter of duty to the website. Turns out, the demo was impressive in its own quiet way. I'm as tired of mini-game collections as anyone, but since we now know that Nintendo will not have its own sports package for the Wii U launch period (opting instead for the broader-themed Nintendo Land), Sports Connection fills a useful slot in the line-up.
More importantly, the game delivers some clever uses of the Wii U GamePad and the asymmetric multiplayer potential of the system as a whole. The first sport I played was two-player baseball. The pitching player uses the GamePad touch screen to draw each pitch's trajectory. You can choose where the ball will enter the batter's box, if at all, and how much it will curve, rise, or fall on the way there. Longer, more complex paths will result in a slower pitch, so you need find a balance between evasive and speedy. The drawing interface was buggy in the E3 demo, not always recognizing my curve balls, but the concept is elegant and fun -- should work really well if the implementation is fixed. The batting player holds a Wii Remote (with MotionPlus) and makes a realistic swinging motion, with the added mind games of batting against a real person improvising every pitch. Short ground balls and home runs automatically advance players around the bases, but things get interesting with pop fly balls. The pitcher's GamePad screen switches to a first-person view for the nearest fielder, who gets an indicator arrow pointing towards the oncoming ball. The defensive player must move the GamePad around in space (similar to Face Raiders on 3DS) to follow the arrow and look for the ball. If you point roughly in the right direction, the catch is made automatically, but it's deceptively challenging with only a couple of seconds to react. After three outs, players simply swap controllers to change the field. In this way, you can play an entire nine-inning game, which is a more appealing option than in Wii Sports due to the addtion of active fielding and custom pitching.
Golf was the simpler of the two modes at E3, but I still liked the execution. In this cooperative game, one player swings with Wii Remote, while the other serves as a helpful caddy. The GamePad screen lets you zoom around the golf course in first-person, placing marks on the ground and gauging distances to obstacles and the green. Then, you can recommend a strategy and club selection to the active player. The swing mechanics are very much like you'd expect from a MotionPlus golf game, with backswing and foreswing angle/force measured accurately. I had just as much trouble nailing a perfect swing as I do in my dad's copy of Tiger Woods: The Masters for Wii. As in baseball, players switch controllers depending on who hits next (based on distance from the hole). This mode should accommodate popular team golf rules like Skins and Scramble, but it's not clear how the caddy functions might work into a competitive mode.
The high-definition visual presentation for both sports was noticeably better than anything seen in Wii Sports, including individual characters in the stadium crowd for baseball as well as detailed trees and grass in the golf simulation. The other sports to be included in this package are soccer, American football, tennis, and go-karting, but none of these were shown at E3. A Ubisoft representative at the demo told me that all of them would include both aymmetrical multiplayer and single-player modes (using the GamePad, at least in a support role). There wasn't any information about online gameplay (leaderboards have been confirmed) or whether MotionPlus is required, but we should hear more soon, because Sports Connection is planned for a Wii U launch release.