Assassin’s Creed 3 Preview (@ZathUK at E3 2012)

assassins-creed-3-cover-artHaving been suitably impressed by Ubisoft’s showing at the pressers yesterday I went in to get a better look at what Assassin’s Creed 3 had to offer and how the franchise is innovating in small, but important ways. The first thing to notice is that the graphics are looking sharp as hell – the engine upgrade has certainly had its effect. But the additions are more than skin-deep. Almost every facet of the game has been improved.

Combat, along with some fantastic new weapons like the rope dart which allows you to lynch your enemies, has been modified to allow the player to use two weapons at time, increasingly the fluidity. As ever, the plethora of kill animations are gruesomely satisfying, my favourite being the bayonet rifle double kill – impale one soldier with the bayonet then hit the trigger to fire through both him and his friend standing behind. Unnecessary? Perhaps, but it’s what we came for.

Traversal of the environment has gotten a new lease of life as well. No longer will the free-running assassin be dumbfounded by trees, as they’ve been worked into the climbing system along with cliffs and rocks, which has meant overhauling the animations to look more natural.

In terms of the urban environment, all the old parkour tricks are still in there, but for the first time, they’ve added in building interiors to clamber through, complete with the surprised screaming lady who was putting her washing out to dry. Of course, trusty piles of hay make a comeback, but this time they’re on the back of moving carts, which you can craftily assassinate guards from as well.

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The general environments look incredible. In our preview we saw Boston (3 to 1 scale in game) and it was bustling with many different NPCs all carrying out different little tasks – the city felt more alive than ever. Due to the extensive variation in NPCs (now including animals and children), blending in is a little different this time, you’ll just need a large crowd to become inconspicuous. And instead of benches, you now lean up against stalls and feign chatting to traders – looking all the more natural.

It also seems that the Brotherhood are back, and sharper than ever after they figured out that running around in assassins’ costumes isn’t conducive to maintaining a low profile. Dressed as redcoats, we see them pretend to escort Connor into the docks past customs as a prisoner. Having done that Connor then proceeds to wreak havoc and take over a British ship. The authenticity of the setting and the potential the new and unannounced features provide is undeniably exciting.

After Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, I felt a real uneasiness about the future of the AC series, as the yearly outings began to add little to the experience and seemed to be running the risk of spreading the goods too thin and skimping on innovation. However, having seen the presser trailers and this demo, any AC fan can sleep safe in the knowledge that the future of the franchise has not been compromised, as is evident from the various graphical, environmental and feature-set innovations Assassin’s Creed 3 has already displayed.