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SDCC 2012: Assassins Creed III Panel
Ubisoft's Assassins Creed III panel centered around a very impressive live demo that took place in Boston. As one of the two major hubs in the game, Boston will represent a significant chunk of time for players. It's based on real-world maps from the American Revolution and clocks in at around one-third the scale of the real city at the time, meaning that players will have tons and tons of space to explore. Ubisoft showed us just a tiny snippet of this world, and even that small portion of the city was bursting with life.
The demo began on a rooftop looking down on a busy street bustling with pedestrian activity. We were introduced to a neat little addition right away, as a horse-drawn hay cart below quickly became a mobile hiding spot for Connor. He dropped down from the rooftop into the hay cart and was spirited off down the street. Of couse as all Assassins Creed fans know, assassins can kill stealthily from the hay. Even as it moved down the street, this still proved to be true. Connor reached out, stabbed a guard, and yanked him into the hay cart even as it moved down the street.
It was a rousing and humorous start to a demo that only escalated from there. As Connor navigated through the back alleys of Boston, civilians approached him and asked for help. Unlike in past games, where the civilians became a nuisance with all of their begging and panhandling, the NPCs in Assassins Creed III will often bestow their problems on you in the form of side quests. In our demo, that meant an NPC crying out for help when he was cornered by three guards. Connor took out the three guards in typical Assassins Creed fashion, using a mixture of acrobatic knife play and brutal counters. After the battle, the NPC came up and thanked Connor with cash and experience.
All of the bodies lying on the ground proved pretty conspicuous to a group of passing guards, though, and before long the battle was on again. This time, however, Connor didn't want to kill the guards. They hadn't really done anything wrong, after all. This is where Assassins Creed III's non-lethal takedowns come into play. For the first time in series history, you will be able to knock enemies out instead of kiling them, adding a whole new element of non-lethal play for those willing to pursue it. The attacks will still be brutally satisfying, though. See: the brutal blow that saw Connor smacking an enemy's head against a table corner.
This non-lethal combat style will extend to traps as well. Ubisoft promised that traps would be useful when hunting in the wilderness, but they also exhibited a rope trap that can catpture enemies alive, stringing them up from tree branches Batman-style. Once hanging there, the enemy can be used to lure other bad guys over, at which point you can unleash a deadly ambush.
When escaping your ambush, you will again find yourself trying to blend into a large crowd. Blending has been improved in Assassins Creed III, as you can now move between any two people and blend with them. An example was shown in the demo in which Connor hid from a group of guards by blending between two people in the midst of conversation.
Connor quickly found himself back in combat again, though. He looted a British rifle from a rack near the port, and charged up the gangplank where two British soldiers were in the middle of a conversation. Connor surprised the first soldier by impaling him from behind with the bayonett. This naturally surprised the second soldier, but he didn't have time to react. Connor pulled the trigger on the rifle even as it remained impaled through the first guard's body, sending the second soldier tumbling over the side of the ship.
This of course initiated more combat. At this point, the Ubisoft rep pointed out that Connor would dual-wield at all times. Whether that's using a rifle, the tomahawk, dual blades, or what have you is up to you. What this means in terms of gameplay is simply more flexibility when you attack, and flashier finishing moves when those attacks hit. When a group of enemies armed with rifles approached, Connor took a human shield just in time to absorb all of the hits. Fleeing the scene, the Ubisoft rep showed off one last new feature, called the "pass through." He guided Connor up to an open windowsill, pushed through it, and bam! Connor sprinted through the open window, past a shocked woman doing chores, and out of the window on the other side of the house.
The demo ended around there to thunderous applause. Met with even more applause was the announcement that a PC version was progressing nicely and would take advantage of many features of DirectX 11. Everything about Assassins Creed III, from the visual presentation to the open world to the combat, looks to be vastly improved from its predecessors. As long as the game plays as good as it looks, we'll be in for a treat come October 30th.