Gamescom 2012: Hands On with Assassin's Creed 3
|FEATURES - VIDEOGAMES|
Forget Ubisoft's peculiar numbering - Assassin's Creed 3 is going to rock the boat all over again...
The very first thing you notice with Assassin's Creed 3 is that Ubisoft seem to have adopted the ‘whatever the heck we want’ approach to numbering their titles. As the fifth game in the series, calling it the third seems rather odd. But never mind, because we were able to get our hands on a short demo of the game today at Gamescom, and it’s looking like an absolute stunner.
Set in Colonial America before, during and after the revolution, Assassin's Creed 3 is set to pick up, expand and finally conclude the story of Desmond, our troubled protagonist. In fact, this instalment of the series is promising much more Desmond than ever before, something that may or may not please the fans. But we didn’t see any of him today; today was all about Connor Kenway. Half British, half Native American (his birth name is apparently Ratonhnhake:ton, or something equally unpronounceable) and the fresh new face under the very familiar off-white cowl. While we don’t yet know too much about Connor and his plight, from what we have seen today, it is going to be an epic journey.
The hands-on began with a short video preview of the game, where we were treated to a landslide of new facts and figures. Almost everything within the game has been reworked and overhauled, polishing each individual aspect to a brilliant shine. The most noticeable area of this is in the way Connor moves: all the physical animations have been rebuilt from the ground up, and are more smooth and realistic than ever before. Connor now ducks, slides, climbs and runs with convincing fluidness. These new motions are most obvious while he climbs around the terrain, which now includes trees, rocks and other natural obstacles. He slides around the trunks of trees, leaps nimbly between branches, and crams his fingers into rocky crags for purchase. These new motions all come together seamlessly to create one of the most realistically moving characters yet.
Combat has also been reworked, and although guns are now commonplace, they are as terrible and unreliable as they were at that time, leaving you to mostly utilise good old fashioned hand-to-hand combat. As a ‘dual wield specialist’, you have a vast range of moves and attacks to work with, from the new Tomahawk to the classic Hidden Blades. There are also a host of new weapons, from the obvious flintlock guns to Connor's rope dart, each providing new and unique ways of dispatching your prey. The idea of movement has been brought into the combat too - it is now pretty unlikely to be caught standing still and exchanging blows with an opponent; now you roll, leap and whirl around your foes, carrying your momentum from kill to kill.
But it is not just the the characters that are pleasing to look at. Ubisoft have done an impressive job of the game world and scenery, from the lush and fertile fields and woods to the raging seas and barren rocks, it all looks textured, deep and real. The characters that inhabit these environments are good too. Ubisoft have overhauled and redesigned the engine they use to generate crowds, upping their maximum number of characters from around 250 to a staggering 2,000. The reason for this huge jump is that in previous titles city guards were the main enemy. Now, it can be entire armies, with hundreds of men on both sides fighting it out across massive battlefields.
And it’s not just on land that this game takes place. The playable part of the game we experienced today was set aboard a massive naval ship, battling it out to board an enemy ship. Typically ‘vehicle’ sections like this are pretty terrible, especially with something as unrelatable as a wooden ship, but Ubisoft have done a pretty impressive job of recreating the size and power of these vast vessels.
The controls and navigation of these ships are also well executed, with the option to sail at half or full mast, fire all of the cannons in a volley, or to aim at specific targets with a swivel cannon. When fire is coming your way you can order your men to brace for impact, sheltering themselves and protecting the crew from damage. There is also a variety of different shots you can load the cannons with, including the infamous chain shot, used to demast enemy ships before boarding them.
The playable section of the game tauntingly cut out just at the moment of boarding the enemy ship, but if the videos we have seen are anything to go by, it looks like a fierce melee of brutal, fast-paced hand-to-hand combat.
Everything we have seen and played so far of Assassin's Creed 3 would suggest that we're in store for a thrilling and epic conclusion to the saga; and we can’t wait for our next, more complete encounter with Connor Kenway and the vast and impressive environments that he inhabits.
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