previews\ Apr 9, 2012 at 11:22 am

PAX East 2012: Assassin's Creed III preview


Let me begin by saying I've never been interested in the Assassin's Creed series.  For some reason, it just has never appealed to me.  However, at PAX East, behind a massive booth, lay hidden video footage of the in-game action of a highly anticipated Assassin's Creed III, and I just had to see what it offers.

While I am familiar with the Assassin's Creed franchise, this new game takes a brand new direction introducing not only a new environment, but a new protagonist.  Assassin's Creed III takes place in America during the Revolutionary War.  You play as Connor, a half-British, half-Native American assassin on a quest to bring down the Templar order.

Arriving on horseback at the American forces camp at Bunker Hill in 1775, it was immediately noticeable how, even in the current build, Assassin's Creed III is visually stunning.  An improved graphics engine allows the developers to increase the amount of characters on screen from 500 in previous games to up to 2,500 in Assassin's Creed III.  This was necessary to create an authentic experience where entire armies would literally line up and mow each other down.

After hearing the famous "don't fire until you see the whites of their eyes!" speech to rally the troops, Connor heads to the side of the hill and does what the Assassin's Creed series are known for — scaling the environment.  Unlike the previous titles, in which the cities often felt scripted and mapped out, Ubisoft's aim for the trees was to be as natural as possible.  To do so, instead of having trees accommodate Connor, they added all-new animations so that Connor may accommodate the shape of any individual tree.  The tree climbing and movement was very realistic and fluid as Connor utilized his environment to get into effective positioning for an ambush.

What happened next literally sold the entire audience on the game.  As a British patrol arrived, the game paused and a "rope-dart" was selected.  I didn't have to wait long to see what happened, as Connor latched the rope around the enemies neck and dropped from the tree, quickly and effectively hanging the British soldier from the tree branch.  The audience immediately cheered, but there were still five soldiers remaining.

At this point, creative director Alex Hutchinson introduced a new "shield" mechanic to help with some of the longer range gunfire gameplay elements.  Connor quickly grabbed one of the soldiers and used them to block oncoming fire from the enemies.  Ubisoft aimed to recreate an experience as authentic to the American Revolution as possible — this means proper firing formations.  As Connor, the best thing to do is get up close and hack and slash the enemies.  As quickly as he moved in on them, he made waste of the British patrol making use of all of his dual-wielding expertise.  Some brutal and exciting kills were demonstrated, which I won't spoil.

From there, Connor continued his mission, jumping branches and scaling rocks.  After showing off the fluid motions, we ended up at a British camp.  Another new feature which allows you to sneak through bushes was shown off.  When in shrubbery, or other "stalking zones," you can simply walk and Connor will automatically crouch and remain hidden from enemies.  This allows you to carefully set up planned ambush attacks.

This was all building to the final assassination of Major Pitcarin, a British commander.  At this point, the audience was blown away, but not before Ubisoft chose to show off just how fluid the combat is.  You can smoothly jump from one kill to the next.  This was shown off by having Connor sprint into the camp and jam his famous hidden blade (yes, it is in the game) into the spine of a soldier and roll forward, tackling a soldier and killing him.  After getting up, he jumped onto a boulder and lunged toward the general on horseback, tomahawk in hand.

It felt like a cinematic.  Could this really be gameplay footage?  "Take my money."  Those were literally the first words that were shouted by the audience following the video.  And though the game was not playable, the video walkthrough got me on the Assassin's Creed III bandwagon.

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