Oh, Ubisoft, you are such a tease. You know I want to actually get my hands on Assassin’s Creed III.
When the PAX East show floor opened up to the media an hour before the public was allowed in, one booth caught my eye. A giant Assassin’s Creed III logo stared at me as I descended the escalator, begging me to peek behind the curtain.
As I wound my way through the intricately constructed booth, adorned with images of new protagonist Connor, my anticipation grew. Behind closed doors was the smell of lumber; rough hewn boxes served as our seats for a first look at the Assassin’s Guild’s first adventure in the new world.
The guided demo was narrated by the game’s Creative Director, Alex Hutchinson, who provided both insight and macabre humor to the footage. As the demo reel began, we saw Connor on a horse, approaching a battlefield. He moved among revolutionary troops, overlooking an expansive, open battlefield, more alive than even the streets of Rome.
The battle: Bunker HIll, 1775. Location: Charleston, South Carolina. The target: Pitcairn, a British Templar. Don’t be mistaken, though, just because this target happened to be wearing a red coat, it doesn’t mean that you won’t be rooting out secret members of the society seeded within the rebellion.
Hutchinson’s narration pointed out that this game was tailor made with new animations and combat techniques. This should please those fans that feel that the series has grown stale after three iterations with Ezio Auditore at center stage.
To that end, you’ll see massive battles, with up to 2.500 troops on screen. The audio and visual impact of cannon fire is unmistakable as Connor flinches and recoils, taking a moment to get his bearings. As this game takes place during a war, Ubisoft spent a great deal of time ensuring that military strategy and tactics of the era are reflected. Soldier behavior differs greatly from that of guards in past series entries.
As Connor worked his way toward Pitcairn, he was forced to traverse a number of trees to stay out of sight of British troops. Hutchinson pointed out that great care is being taken to mimic the natural growth and shape of trees. He was adamant that maneuvering through them should not feel like climbing man-made rooftops.
Connor’s animations while moving above the ground were both appropriate and detailed. He even sports the ability to swing forward from branch to branch without stopping; something Ezio couldn’t do. Along those lines, climbing rock faces is more open ended than mantling up buildings has been in past games. Ascending is far less limited, giving players more opportunities to make their own path to the target.
As Connor approached Pitcairn for the kill, we were informed that everything about this new character is about motion. Emerging from “stalking zones,” the new hero can move forward through enemies, assassinating with hidden blade and tomahawk without stopping. Rolling, sliding and jumping forward means that you can reach and murder your mark without having to first dodge or kill everyone in your way… just those in direct line of sight.
When we got to see Connor engage in combat, we were privy to some new tricks and tools. Using a rope dart from a tree limb will have him spear an enemy and hang him from a tree. From there, Connor needed to close the distance quickly as British troops lined up in formation to shoot. Thankfully, the sheer worthlessness of firearms from that era is reflected. All Connor need do is close the gap, grab a human shield or commit the bloodiest executions in series history. Using a tomahawk to remove an enemy’s face is both enthralling and frightening.
You’ll get to plant your own axe in unsuspecting heads on October 30, 2012, when the game arrives for PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.