by Matt Porter
previewed on PS3
Rock the boat
Ubisoft had a sizable space on the show floor at Gamescom this year. Assassin’s Creed 3 is probably the biggest of Ubisoft’s franchises right now, and a five hour queue to see the game had already accumulated on the morning of the first public day was evidence of this.
Behind closed doors, Ubisoft showed the newly added naval battle gameplay which is a controversial addition to the franchise. We saw the level being run side by side on a Wii U and a PS3 and the graphics looked very comparable. As for the gameplay, the new protagonist, Connor, takes the helm of a ship and first has the objective of defeating a fleet of enemy ships with the help of some allies, and then to assassinate the captain of the final boat.
Several types of cannon shots were demonstrated, from the standard round shot, to chain shot which is used for taking out masts, and heat shot, which is actually able to set the opposing boat on fire. Once all the enemy boats had been dealt with, the fog rolled in and it became about creeping through the fog trying to find the assassination target. Once found, a boarding sequence was shown, with a short cutscene which then led straight into what would be described as a traditional Assassin’s Creed level. Some of the new combat mechanics were shown, such as the enemy firing line, where a group of soldiers will clump together to take a controlled cluster of shots at you. To combat this, Connor is able to take a human shield to protect himself. After dispatching the soldiers using the standard combat style of attacking, dodging and countering, he is then able to free run around the ship, over beams and around masts to finally assassinate his target. Connor then has to escape the burning ship, and the demo ends with him making a heroic leap through the flames and back to his vessel.
While the naval battle demo showed Assassin’s Creed 3’s diversity, it didn’t quite quench our thirst for seeing the game in action. As Ubisoft had nothing more to show in its press booth, we went to see the public demo. This featured an impressive battle sequence taking place at Bunker Hill in 1775. The first thing to note would be the large crowds that the game engine is able to render. The new game boasts a potential 2500 characters on screen at one time, a massive increase from the two hundred or so from the previous games. Connor’s target here is Major Pitcairn of the British Army, who also happens to be a Templar. We are shown the multiple path technique that Ubisoft has implemented, with one direction being more of a stealth path, and another being more action oriented. The game seems even more polished than usual, with new reactive animations added, for example with cannon and musket fire exploding all around him, Connor often flinches if shrapnel gets too close.