At E3 this week, I saw a behind closed doors demo of Assassin’s Creed III not shown during the Ubisoft or Sony media briefings. Though it was relatively short, the demo was so packed with new information that not a single second was wasted in showing off the huge changes realized for this threequel. There wasn’t much in the way of story or an actual mission in this demo, as it was meant to demonstrate new features and technology that hadn’t yet been seen by the public. Cutscenes and dialogue were likely omitted in the interest of time.
The demo opens with Connor, our new assassin hero, wandering 1773 Boston. British red coat soldiers watch the streets carefully. Connor can now shield himself from view by holding his arm near his face, similar in function to walking like a monk in the original Assassin’s Creed. The visual representation of blending in has changed to appear overhead instead of on the ground, and only requires you to be between two people instead of a large, preset group. Connor can also now lean on walls and other tall objects to blend in, similar to sitting on benches in previous games. Animals join the crowd this time around, and followers are back again with brand new strategies. We were shown that followers could now wear disguises and pretend to have captured Connor to pass him through security checkpoints. This isn’t a guaranteed success however, and anything more elaborate than simply walking by will can cause guards to become suspicious.
Our demo continues as Connor brutally assassinates an unsuspecting guard, initiating combat. Enemies are no longer extremely hesitant to attack. Combined with the return of kill chains, the overall combat system is significantly faster than previous entries in the series. We were also promised a wider variety of enemy types in Assassin’s Creed III, though only a few were shown in the demo. After the first wave of British soldiers was defeated, a larger group began to approach from the distance. This looked like a good time to escape, so Connor bolted toward a row of buildings. As seen in the recent gameplay trailer, Connor ran through a second story house interior, swept his legs over a table, and dove out the window on the other side. Upon landing, Connor struck a pose, a stylish way of indicating that the chase had ended.
The team went on to highlight the game’s animation system. It was demonstrated that Connor’s legs properly adapt to their height when walking on a slanted surface, such as a rooftop or jagged frontier landscape. Connor then traveled to a dock area to commandeer a ship, showing that he could climb on, through, and up ropes in a way similar to what we had seen him do with tree branches.
Assassin’s Creed III combines great art direction and new technologies to become a visual beast. Admittedly, the shadowing and view distance haven’t improved due to hardware limitations, but the repetition of world objects and structures is much less apparent, giving the setting a much more authentic feel. Both water and character models have made a major leap in quality. Reflections of light from wet surfaces are now believable, and distinct facial features are much more pronounced and recognizable. Overall, the series has made an incredible graphical improvement in a very short amount of time.
I was disappointed that I wasn’t able to play the game myself, but what I saw convinced me that it’s shaping to be the best entry in an already excellent series. Assassin’s Creed III is due for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC on October 30th, 2012. A Wii U version is also in production.