Assassin's Creed 3 Preview
Assassin's Creed 3 divides itself up over a variety of areas, with cities like Boston acting as the major stage for the action, but there's also a wide-open 'Frontier' area where Ubisoft reckons players will spend a full 30 per cent of the game. Here, snow blankets the ground in varying thicknesses and wild animals of all sizes can be seen prowling the woods.
While the snow and wildlife bring new challenges however, especially when it comes to fleeing a bear through heavy, slowing snowdrifts, they also bring new advantages. Hiding in the treetops aids hit and run attacks on Colonial patrols, for example, while fleeing soldiers can be tracked by the blood trails they leave in the snow. Animals can be hunted too and, while it doesn't seem to add the depth that Ubisoft's hyperbole insists, it does yield rewards such as skins and furs - which can then vary in quality depending on the method of slaughter.
The Frontier is home to more than just icicles and wolves though; one mission we see involves traversing a massive battlefield to tackle the general on the other side. The task begins with some careful and painfully predictable bullet dodging, with Connor taking cover behind boulder after incongruous boulder in between enemy firing burst, but it gets a lot more interesting once he reaches the treeline. Here he clambers up into the branches and begins traversing the forest from high-up and, while many of the trees are clearly identical and Connor's movements quickly become repetitive, there's also an heady freedom in his agility.
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Returning to ground level after dispatching a small patrol, Connor breaks into a brazen run through the enemy camp to show off his major advantage over Ezio and Altair - that he can kill without slowing down. His direct charge into the base, while arguably overpowered, is a brilliant, lethal rush that puts three enemies down before he leaps into the air and tackles his quarry.
Subsequent servings of footage demonstrate action from other areas in the game, most notably a chase sequence through Boston's port district, but these fail to make as profound an impression. There's much talk of new innovations and features, with Ubisoft's rep pointing to how Connor can now enter buildings as he chases or flees his enemies, but after the battlefield charge it's pretty underwhelming. It's clear too, even from the single chase we saw, that Connor can't really enter
buildings, but can merely take advantage of specific, already-open buildings.
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It's clear that the core of the series remains unchanged too - that Assassin's Creed 3 neither innovates nor iterates drastically away from the free-running, grumpy-killing systems that have proven so successful for it. We didn't really expect it to of course, but it's worth pointing that out in case you're under the impression that moving the series to an age where gunpowder was prevalent will suddenly transform the series. It doesn't - guns are, in fact, of only limited effectiveness by the looks of it.
With that in mind and with the only limited amount of information that's currently available, we're finding it hard to get excited about Assassin's Creed 3 on the whole. There's doubtlessly some brilliant set pieces in there - we've seen as much already - but there's also some apparent confusion over what the game is trying to do. Will Assassin's Creed 3 close off the series at last, or will it just be an effort to pad the franchise further? It's that last point which may shape our thoughts about the game - and which we'll wait to see. Calmly.