Assassin’s Creed 3: Gamescom Hands On Report
Ubisoft treated us to a 5 minutes video featuring previously unseen footage of the Battle of Bunker Hill.While the lead developer voiced over all of the improvements that Ubisoft were making to AC3. The new protagonist, Connor, will be able to duel wield pistols, he will also have a bow, a tomahawk, and of course his signature hidden blades.
As with all Assassin’s Creed games, the protagonist is actually fighting against the Templars, therefore Connor will be constantly “switching sides” in terms of the American Civil War, depending on who his target is. During Bunker Hill Connor is fighting against the British, but Ubisoft were very keen to point out that this was not a political statement on their behalf.
The game engine is vastly improved which allows for way better crowd mechanics. In previous Assassin’s Creed games there could be up to 200 NPCs on screen at a time, now there can 2000-2500 NPCs on screen, which is something that they have improved so that they can create those epic battle scenes.
Ubisoft have also improved the various gameplay options that players will be able to choose from. In most scenarios, players will be able to choose to take a direct action and combat route, or choose to take the stealth path, the developers have also added Stealth Zones, upon entering these zones, Connor will automatically assume a crouched position to avoid detection.
Obviously Assassin’s Creed 3 takes a vastly different setting to the previous games. This meant that Ubisoft had to change the way the “bad guys” behaved. Connor will be fighting against armies, and not the guards that Ezio had to face, therefore it was necessary for Ubisoft to employ military strategy physics to the combatant NPCs. For example, many are armed with pistols, which of course only fire once, so the enemies have to line up in order to shoot with maximum coverage.
Other improvements that have been made include clarified controls, with a guide in the bottom right hand corner, the animations are improved, for example Connor now flinches/ braces when explosions happen near him, and Ubisoft claim that the leap and climb mechanics have been fixed – though, I think the jury is still out on that one.
During the presentation, the lead designer made an important point about trees. In previous games trees did not play a major part, but obviously in this game they are a key feature. Joking that the development team did not want to make the player feel like Tarzan, Ubisoft have designed the tree climbing mechanics so that the leaping, climbing is a lot more realistic and believable. The trees are incredibly well done in my opinion, they are very well drawn and rendered. They are not just straight trunks with twigs or clouds on top lollipop sticks, they are very realistic, and the shape of each tree affects how Connor grapples on to it, Connor can make use of a few new tools now, for example he now has a dart on a rope that he can fire from trees while in stealth mode, that effectively hangs enemies, we also saw gameplay footage where Connor used an infantry soldier as a human shield. Other climbing mechanisms that have been improved are the way that Connor can now tackle cliff faces. The designers actually studied real rock climbers to see the techniques used, and you can see how these carry through into the way that Connor climbs himself.
Ubisoft claim to have rebuilt the core combat system, by which they mean that they added guns. However, lets face it, the guns are truly terrible, Connor will still have to get in close, close the gap in order to melee. In order to prove this Ubisoft treated us to a really nasty kill cam animation of a tomahawk to the face, in all its blood splattering, bone crunching glory. Ubisoft actually removed a scalping mechanic, because it was not historically accurate which, having seen the above animation, is a real shame.
After the presentation it was time for us to get our hands on the game itself. On offer was one scene from the single player campaign or a bit of multiplayer. I have to admit I am not a massive fan of multiplayer in general so I opted to check out the single player campaign. In it Connor had to take control of a war ship and set chase. Once he is out into the wider ocean he realises he’s been ambushed by two marauders. The task is then two destroy the two ships within three minutes. This is easier said than done as it requires turning the huge vessel, that has a turning circle of a 20 year old Volvo with a dodgy transmission. There is also a weather system at play that makes visibility very tricky.
The canons are on the sides of the ship (obviously) so it is your job to line the vessels up properly to get a good shot. The game was demoed on the PS3.
Overall I was very impressed, I have to admit I have been a little sceptical of AC3, but given the remarkable year that Ubisoft have had, and the bits that I saw at GamesCom, I am certainly more inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt.