PAX EAST 2012: ‘Assassin’s Creed III’ Preview

Published 2 years ago by , Updated April 14th, 2012 at 2:18 pm,

Assassins Creed 3 Booth at PAX East 2012At PAX East 2012, Game Rant had a chance to sit down with Ubisoft (and The Frag Dolls) and take in a delicious 15 minutes of new gameplay from the hotly-anticipated Assassin’s Creed III.

There has been much talk of late about the gameplay balance in the upcoming title, specifically regarding how much more Desmond action we will be enjoying this October. With that in mind, we were expecting Ubisoft to showcase some Desmond-specific gameplay sequences. What we got instead, though, was much more impressive.

The Assassin’s Creed III presentation lasted a little over 15 minutes and took place within a mission called “Bunker Hill,” circa 1775. The gameplay opened on the in-progress Bunker Hill battle, with the American and British forces facing off against each other on opposite sloping hills across a colorful and detailed valley. Although the number of soldiers in this skirmish wasn’t anywhere close to the promised “2,500 on-screen characters” flaunted in the demo stats, there were most definitely enough participants on-field to make this feel like a genuine Revolutionary War battle.

Ubisoft are imbuing AC3’s military units with behavioral AI that enables each soldier to line-up into square formations and firing lines, and employ the general military tactics of the time-period, when appropriate. Because of this, the battle scene that lay before us in the demo resembled an old painting of the Revolutionary War in a very authentic way.

Our new assassin, Connor, climbed down from his horse and slowly made his way through a small group of American soldiers as they received a rousing pep talk from their unit commander. As Connor gradually moved through the battlefield and down the hill, he avoided the rifle fire and cannon shot impacts by taking cover behind rocks. It didn’t take long before he’d safely made his way through, and out of, the battlefield.

Then, Connor ran through the trees.

The beginning of the assassins creed 3 gameplay demo

One of the concerns gamers have about Assassin’s Creed III’s new setting is that there simply weren’t that many tall buildings and places to free-run during the American Revolution. One obvious way around this is to move free running from the towns and cities to the woodland. Apparently, the Assassin’s Creed team has spent a considerable amount of time and effort replicating the natural growth patterns of trees, and re-working the traversal mechanics to enable free-running in this environment. The result is very impressive. Connor moves effortlessly through the forest by seamlessly switching between running along branches, jumping, “monkey-swinging,”and “trunk-rounding,” in which he hugs the trunk of a tree and slides around it in one smooth motion to reach footholds on the other side.

The developers say they wanted to give players a more predatory experience when engaging the military this time around. In many ways it looks as though Ubisoft has taken a queue or two from Rocksteady’s Batman: Arkham Asylum, especially in one particular scene involving five soldiers and one of Connor’s new weapons: the Rope Dart.

Connor sat perched on a tree limb that stretched over a dirt path some 20 feet below. Five soldiers appeared, one taking point and four in formation behind him. Connor threw out the Rope dart — literally a dart on the end of a rope — and buried it in the neck of the lead soldier. Connor then jumped backwards off the tree limb while holding the rope, which pulled the soldier into the air, suspending him from the tree. The crowd we saw the demo with screamed with delight, but Connor wasn’t finished.

He wasted no time grabbing the next soldier and using him as human shield while the remaining three quickly formed a line and fired. Of course, all three shots hit the human shield, whom Connor let slide to the ground. The soldiers were then defenseless, since the rifles of the era required a lengthy reload period after each shot. Connor seized this opportunity by moving in close-quarters, and demonstrated some new two-handed tomahawk melee combat. It’s hard to describe exactly what happened next, but it was spectacular, everyone died, and one guy lost his face. (If you’re familiar, it was very reminiscent of the pistol-whipping gun-kata scene in the movie Equilibrium.)

two handed tomahawk melee in assassins creed 3

We then followed Connor up a rock face, which gave Ubisoft an opportunity to show-off the game’s new rock-climbing mechanics. These seem to work similarly to existing wall-traversal, but the natural rock formations the team has built for AC3 means that players now have to adopt a more strategic approach, aping the way a rock-climber would have to carefully plan footholds and handholds to avoid getting stuck or climbing themselves into a dead-end.

As Connor reached the top of the rock face, he appeared on the outskirts of a British encampment that was encircled in a new game feature: Stealth Zones. These small patches of ground will only be found in natural areas where stealth can occur naturally, such as tall grass. Although there weren’t any obvious visual clues indicating what was and was not a stealth zone, we saw Connor crouch while moving slowly through one, which allowed him to get extremely close to the enemy without being detected.

For the demo’s finale, the team demonstrated an improved mechanic that is sure to impress all fans of the franchise. One of the perceived failings of previous Assassin’s Creed games is that the player’s locomotion stops abruptly when performing an assassination move. Regardless of how Altair or Ezio approach a target, their assassinations end with them standing motionless, requiring the player to re-initiate the movement their assassination interrupted. Ubisoft have masterfully remedied this by blending animations and allowing players to perform assassinations while in-transit.

To demonstrate this, Connor burst out of the grass stealth zone and ran through a group of soldiers to get to the ultimate assassination target of the Bunker Hill mission. By running into a crowd and hitting the “assassinate” button while running, Connor will perform assassination moves while maintaining speed. One soldier was knifed in the throat and body-slammed as Connor barrel-rolled over him and dual-stabbed two soldiers on either side. Still moving, he fired his gun at point-blank to drop the last soldier in his way, sprinted up a rock and jumped at his final target, tomahawk already in mid-swing.

From the 15 minute vertical slice we saw, it is clear Ubisoft is still very much invested in the Assassin’s Creed franchise and taking it in new directions, without compromising the quality or soul of the previous games. Fans of the series can rest easy knowing that a great followup is on the way, but there are so many new features here, not to mention and entirely fresh location and color pallet, that even gamers who found the previous Assassin’s Creed games a turnoff could very well be intrigued enough to give this one a try.

Assassin’s Creed III launches October 30, 2012, for Xbox 360, PS3 and PC. A Wii U version is due at a later date.

TAGS: Assassin's Creed, Assassin's Creed 3, PAX East 2012, PC, PS3, Ubisoft, Wii U


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  1. WOW!! Few questions though, what system was this demo running on?

    Assuming it’s a console, were there slow-downs in frame rate or any concerns with so many NPCs on screen??

    • Good questions!
      The demo did not feature context button popups that I recall, and usually that’s the only way to tell which system a demo is running on.
      As for the framerate – all I can say is it was high, an stayed high. I didn’t perceive any difference in frame rate to the precious AC games.
      Even with the battle going on and the smoke from the muskets and dirt kicking up from canons, it all stayed solid. No dipping that I could see.

      • Thanks!

  2. This all sounds very impressive, but I think taking the assassin out of the city environment, is quite possibly a mistake. It’s a whole if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, and it certainly wasn’t broken, the formula was perfect.

    That said, the reason I love these games is the story and characters, so hopefully they will be able to match the previous installments on that regard at the very least.

    • Personally I find this to be interesting as we haven’t really had a good predator game for a long time…well this doesn’t count but yeah.

      Essentially, I don’t really see much of a difference here, the trees are almost the same as buildings in how they function, as are the rock faces…plus there will be smaller towns and whatnot(Boston and such) so I doubt that it’ll be completely gone :3

      • @Glandor, we’ve had Batman: Arkham City, that’s a good predator game.

    • Seriously? The combat in those cities were becoming as stale as month old bread. AC was long overdue for a greater change in the landscape, environment, and scenarios. The formula was “far” from perfect–just ask a random gamer why they aren’t an avid fan of the series. The overall response would be linked to redundancy in some way or another. This is a refreshing breath into the series.

  3. I am Familiar! Loved Equilibrium. Did Connor use their rifles against them? Or did he slap them away in defense of the bayonets? Thanks for the review. I love the fact that all of your guys’ reviews (movie, tv and game) are so great. I always come here first to find out the inside scoop on anything new.

    • Thanks for the complement, sir or madam.
      The picture i was trying to paint with that analogy was the way Bale’s character takes out everyone around him with a pistol butt in each hand. That two-handed attack style, where more than one person gets attacked at once.
      Connor didn’t slap the shotguns 90 degrees around or anything like that.

  4. Everyone to YouTube!

  5. Sweet, one question, did the game look just like those official HD ingame pics that were released or were the new leaked images not actually “low quality compressed crap” but that’s how the game actually looked? Sorry, but they kinda scared me. >.< Oh and also I noticed some corpses on the pics were lying straight-flat on the ground, as if planking, even on parts of the ground which were set lower than their head, their head looked as if it was floating. Can you please clarify these? Thanks. :)

    • Yes the video looked way better than those screenshots. For some reason those screenshots look softer and over-colorized. The demo looked crisp, colorful and everything you’d expect them to be.
      During the demo I did notice one body to Connor’s right during the battle scene that looked to be just straight as a board on the ground. Otherwise they all ragdolled when then cannonballs hit, and fell realistically when shot.

      • Oh wow, thanks a LOT for clarifying these, I’ll share this with my friends who were kinda worried. Anyway, I believe what happend was the original low quality leaked video was wayy too bright and blurry and compressed already, so in order to make it sharper people edited the video and increased the contrast, thus this is the final result we’re left with. xDD The one flat guard I suspect must’ve been a bug then, really glad the rest of em ragdolled. I’ve know lost some of my worries now thanks to you. ^^

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