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PREVIEW

ASSASSIN'S CREED III

For those seeking the bare facts of Ubisoft's new Assassin's Creed, here are some figures to mull over.

1. Assassin's Creed III is set over a thirty year period - 1753 and 1783, charting Connor's life against the American Revolution.

2. There are two main cities: Boston and New York.

3. The two are divided - and connected - by a vast expanse of unexplored countryside known as the Frontier.

4. That expanse measures two kilometres by two kilometres square.

5. The Frontier is 1.5 times the size of Assassin's Creed Rome, and thirty percent of the game's missions will take place there.

6. Eighty percent of the characters in the game are based on historical figures from the period.

7. Eight different studios are aiding in the development of this, the company's biggest project yet - and the Assassin's longest development time.

Those figures formed just part of an hour-long presentation by the studio as is charted the life cycle of Assassin's Creed III, stretching from 2010 sketch and video concepts all the way through to gameplay clips captured last month.

Assassin's Creed III
Note the Assassin logo that shapes the tomahawk blade.
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You can tell Ubisoft laboured over what it'd show at this first early reveal, but it was surprisingly more detailed than first look events usually are and gave us a better idea of what the studio is attempting to achieve here.

Notably we saw more of Connor's abilities, and were given a rough outline of his personality - justice, Connor's justice, is what drives the half-British, half-Native American to join the conflict. We see how the new assassin is more adept to scaling and running along forest canopies rather than buildings, yet is hampered by snow drifts. The characters he'll interact with, and their context within this span of history.

We got details and examples on the Animus 3.0 and how the team are making it more apparent you're in a simulator through new integration between menus and your prolonged flashbacks. It exampled his interaction with wildlife - "the new crowd life", and name-checked Red Dead Redemption as Rockstar's Western get a head start in hunting and skinning.

And finally, we witnessed three sections of the game in action that closely matched a pre-rendered video of concept, shown earlier on, which was the basis for the team's direction and work.

AN ASSASSIN AND HIS TOOLS

Assassin's Creed III
The tomahawk can be embedded into soldiers, who can be used as human shields against gunfire,

As you've seen from the first artwork and trailer, Connor adopts the same clothing as his predecessors, though with his own cultural variants.

We note during clips he's seen with multiple versions on his outfit: a blue-rimmed take signifying his allegiances (and giving rise to the theory he may be able to change said colours to blend in with the other side if needed), a heavy fur pelt around his shoulders suggesting skinning animals has multiple benefits, and a raggy set of trouser skins that show frontier, rather than cultured, spirit.

The Assassin's blade makes a return, though if weapon options cycled through mid-demo don't lie, it won't be the only returning one. That's joined by a tomahawk (the metal blade forged to show the Assassin logo), bow, musket, dual pistols and a rope dart.

The last originally designed and named more sinisterly as the chain blade, which may be a nod to the Prince of Persia: Sands of Time Trilogy, staff members of which are working this project, but deemed too fantastical. The change reflects a weapon with historical background in Chinese martial arts - though the studio still need to explain how it was imported across the waters.

It's looking likely to be Connor's main choice due to its versatility. The metal dart's attached to a five meter long rope; we only see one use, that to skewer a soldier while in a tree above, and use our branch and his weight as a makeshift pulley to glide to the ground.

Combat looks a lot more fluid: that move starts a battle with the soldier's comrades. One's used as a human shield from musket fire, and due to a slow reload time of exaggerated realism (historically a minute, but shrunk in game for reasons we'll see later) sees the fight go hand to hand. Connor takes out multiple foes at once that suggests someone's been studying at the same Rocksteady school as a certain Dark Knight, unloads dual pistols into another, and finally pulls off a finisher that sees him kick a musket under its reloader's chin and slam the firing mechanism. Pop goes the noggin.

AN ASSASSIN AND HIS PARKOUR

Assassin's Creed III
Branches are great for lining up takedowns. Note the rain - the studio said combat will be more difficult due to weather conditions.

Movement is more fluid too, a fact that factors into combat, as we see from the climax of the three-part demo, Connor charging through an enemy encampment killing multiple combatants with his blade without breaking his stride, ending in the iconic slow-mo strike as he leaps from cart onto horse and enemy commander, blade extended.

That fluidity is needed not just to evolve the character's abilities, but to match his new environment as parkour goes native. Later on we do see classic chase sequences through towns and across rooftops as Connor dodges Boston's version of customs, but it's running through the great outdoors that tantalises the most.

The studio half-jokingly acknowledge how it's idea of the frontier was superseded mid-development by the reveal of Rockstar's Red Dead Redemption. But it's precisely that comparison that makes us know this is where we're going to spend and enjoy most of our time. It's wholly different in atmosphere and design than previous games were countryside was a means to get from point A to B. Here, there's a lot more care and attention - teeming with wildlife to watch, avoid or kill, and a playground of new places to find and climbs to explore.

And our Assassin is adapted to it. Running through the varying terrain will see Connor's movements respond realistically. This roughshod interaction with the natural world makes the Assassin, and by extension, us, feel more integrated into the experience.

We could see the structured pathways of building climbs and ledge leaps like cold mathematical equations. Despite the snow drifts and the wind whipping the heat from Connor's body, the frontier's character is more warm, personable. Straight lines and linear paths replaced with crooked branches, sprawling canopy roads that curve, rise and fall by nature's design.

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