In: Reviews by Nick "Alsop Live" Dinicola6 Apr 2012
Let’s just get that out of the way now. Assassin’s Creed III is an appropriate title because this is more a sequel to Assassin’s Creed II than Assassin’s Creed: Revelations. In fact, production began on this game before Revelations was even a thing, which is not say it doesn’t take Revelation’s story beats into account. More accurately, it says that you won’t be doing any tower defense in III.
The demo at PAX East dropped new assassin Conner right in the middle of the Battle of Bunker Hill, just as one of the men in charge is giving the “whites of their eyes” speech. He’s tasked with finding and killing the Templar, John Pitcairn. It’s a familiar Assassin’s Creed mission, but the environment is entirely unfamiliar.
There are no narrow streets — or narrow anything, really. The battle takes place on a wide hillside, with the British high up shooting down on the revolutionaries. Thousands of NPCs are lined up for both sides, taking turns shooting at each other. There are two paths Conner can take: One more stealthy and one more action-oriented. He takes the action route, putting him right in the no man’s land between the two sides. The guns and cannon fire are not just for show. As a cannon ball explodes in front Conner, he falls back and puts up his hands to protect his face, and he has to run from rock to rock to keep out of the gunfire. Pitcairn is at the peak of the hill, but Conner can’t charge the line or he’ll get cut down. So he takes the path less traveled: Up a tree.
And it’s not just trees, but also cliff sides. Conner climbs like a pro, sticking his hands between the cracks in the rocks. Colonial America might not have as many buildings as Renaissance Italy, but this environment is no less interactive. The forest is not just for show, and it’s impressive how natural the trees look while still giving Conner multiple climbing options.
Since you’ll be spending lots of time in the treetops, Conner has some new weapons that are best used from there. The rope dart is one such weapon: A throwing knife with a rope attached to it, allowing him to string up his enemies and hang them from the branches. This is great way to stay stealthy if there’s just one guy below you, but in the demo Conner had to face a group.
Your enemies have guns, and you have to be aware of this. If they spot you from long or medium range they’ll line up, just as they’ve been trained to do, and take turns firing at you. To survive, this new assassin can take an enemy hostage and use him as a human shield.
In the demo, Conner hid behind the poor sap until the other group had to reload, then he rushed forwards to close the gap. At this point combat became more familiar. Enemies surrounded the assassin and attacked one at a time, and he countered and killed each one. But there was one new trick: When two enemies attacked at once Conner took them both down in a single fluid animation. This time you don’t have to kill guys one at time; if they come at you two at once, you can kill two at once.
There are new stealth elements as well with the introduction of Stalking Zones. Bushes aren’t just for hiding anymore, but stalking as well. Conner doesn’t automatically dive into a bush when you walk up to it, instead he ducks into it and keeps moving through it. This allows you sneak through enemy territory rather than killing every single guard you see.
Conner snuck through the enemy camp until he got an angle on Pitcairn. The target was sitting atop a horse, overlooking the entire battlefield, but he was a good distance away. In Assassin’s Creed III you’re encouraged to go straight for the target instead of killing everyone around him first. Conner has a special set of moving kills that allow him to take out anyone in his path without losing speed.
He jumped from the bushes and made a beeline for Pitcairn, running past most of the other soldiers milling about. He somersaulted over one guy, killing him, and then leapt off a nearby rock to bury a hatchet in Pitcairn’s face (Nice little detail: The hatchet is shaped like the Assassin’s symbol).
Assassin’s Creed III looks like a rebuilding of the series from the ground up. The core concepts and mechanics are still there, but everything around them has changed. And that’s a good thing. This third game might not represent as big a leap as Assassin’s Creed II was from Assassin’s Creed, but it’s certainly close.