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'Assassin's Creed 3' first-look preview

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Assassins Creed III screenshot

© Ubisoft


Assassin's Creed III is the first true sequel in the best-selling franchise after several years of Ezio-led games. It offers a new protagonist and North American setting, as well as a number of gameplay changes, from a fully explorable wilderness, new climbing and combat abilities to vastly improved technology for weather effects and improved cutscenes. We take a first look at the impressive sequel at a hands-off press briefing.

After several years of European-set entries, Assassin's Creed 3 takes place in a whole new setting, the American Revolution, telling the story of a different assassin over a 30-year period. Connor, the offspring of an English father and Native American mother, will be working independently of both sides in the war in his quest for justice in one of America's most violent and unsettled periods.

Assassins Creed III screenshot

© Ubisoft

Assassins Creed III screenshot

© Ubisoft



Tracking and hunting in the Frontier

The American Revolution's most tantalising new setting is the Frontier, a wilderness filled with trees, rocks and natural formations that can be fully explored, opening up multiple new stealth and combat opportunities. Trees are fully climbable, allowing you to quietly track targets from above in the same way you would with rooftops, while steep cliff faces can be climbed to reach new areas, which usually house small camps filled with targets or new missions.

Wildlife will flesh out the Frontier, from deadly encounters with bears to tracking down and killing rabbits and deer for their pelts, not unlike Red Dead Redemption. Interestingly, the method of execution matters: death by musket will provide a messy pelt pocked with holes, while an up-close kill with a blade will provide a better-quality skin that can be sold at a higher price.

The addition of weather is not only a cosmetic change, it affects several of your skills. It allows the player to engage in more social stealth, from easily tracking footprints in the snow to a blood trail from a wounded target. Deep snow will affect Connor's mobility, however, requiring longer, slower strides on foot, and even the occasional stumble, which could prove troublesome when confronted in combat. How it can prove helpful; muskets won't work in the rain, allowing Connor to avoid ambush from afar.

'Assassins Creed III' screenshot

© Ubisoft

Assassins Creed III screenshot

© Ubisoft



Two new cities - New York and Boston

While you'll be spending plenty of time in the Frontier - which is said to account for a third of all missions - you'll mostly be roaming around the game's two major cities, Boston and New York. While the European locales of previous Assassin's Creed games were similar to how they are today in many regards, the period of the American Revolution was one of change, so besides the occasional landmark and geographic feature, they won't resemble the bustling metropolitan areas that we know today.

They will have plenty of character, though; Ubisoft has described the cities as characters of their own, partly down to their more advanced crowd systems. Citizens will react to Connor and one another in more ways than before. One section at a dockyard showed a man pestering Connor in an attempt to sell him something, and soon after, a woman dropped a crate of apples, which a thief then ran away with. At this point the player can decide to intervene and pursue, or simply leave them be. Elsewhere, dogs and children will also be introduced for the first time in the series.

City layouts will also prove to be different to previous games in both their layout and traversal. Streets will be far wider, meaning roof-to-roof leaps and chases will prove more difficult. Instead, Connor can now cut inside building interiors as a shortcut, and make use of trees lining avenues as a means of crossing over roads from above. Meanwhile, moving carts can now act as stepping stones on to higher platforms, and can carry bales of hay for the all familiar Leap of Faith.

Assassins Creed III screenshot

© Ubisoft

Assassins Creed III screenshot

© Ubisoft



Musket-filled battlefields and two-handed combat

As suggested in the teaser trailer, active battlefields will also be encountered as part of the story. One mission sees Connor travel to Bunker Hill, watching a general deliver the famous rousing speech about not shooting their weapons until troops "see the whites of their eyes", one of the many steps taken to ensure the game's historical accuracy. A discussion with the General following the speech also shows the lengths taken with cutscenes to make them more emotive, with performances captured from motion, faces and voice all at once, a first for video games.

While Connor won't directly participate in the battle (he won't take sides in the Revolution), he must cross through it in order to reach the enemy's camp, and his target. Traversing and surviving shows several new gameplay opportunities. Not unlike a third-person shooter, the advancing army fires timed musket rounds at friendly forces, with the lengthy reload time giving Connor room to advance and cover by rock formations between shots. It's teased that some of these scenes will show up to 2,000 participants on-screen at once, all while cannon fire is raining down from above.

Once out of the battlefield, Connor makes his way to the bustling and enemy-packed camp. This specific moment sees the developer choose the specific option of Connor making a break straight out into the open, hacking at enemies on the way before assassinating his target and fleeing.

In less frantic circumstances, combat also offers a number of new opportunities. Muskets play a significant part in how you first approach foes, with Connor having to keep his distance and behind cover (whether natural or a helpless enemy), and once fired, he can then rush in and go toe-to-toe with his tomahawk and hidden blades. Two-handed combat, a first for the series, offers faster and more varied attacks, while slow motion moments and finishes have been removed entirely, which is said to offer a significant change to pacing.


As well-received critically and commercially as Assassin's Creed had become, its move into becoming a yearly franchise began to show signs of fatigue with last year's entry Revelations, which offered few innovations and changes. But Assassin's Creed 3 is already proving to be a genuine step-up in almost every regard, from the all-new technology behind its world and cutscenes, to how players and the world react with one another, offering the most anticipated Assassin's Creed yet.

Assassin's Creed 3 will be released for Xbox 360, PC, PlayStation 3 and Wii U on October 31 worldwide.

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