Assassin's Creed III - Preview

Assassin's Creed III on PS3, Xbox 360, PC at GAME

Big ambitions

Not every Assassin's Creed fan was in favour of creator Ubisoft's decision to annualise the franchise, but the company has reasoned that the big creative leap promised by Assassin's Creed III wouldn't have been possible if it hadn't shifted the series to an annual release model.

The success of 2010's AC: Brotherhood and 2011's AC: Revelations have enabled Ubisoft to invest heavily in its biggest AC game to date. The development team is twice the size of that used for any previous AC game, and it has been working on the ambitious project for almost three years.

History lesson

As in previous games, the overall story revolves around the war between the Order of the Knights Templar and the Assassin Order. Throughout the entirety of recorded history, the former has been striving for the power to save humanity from itself by destroying free will, while the latter has been fighting to preserve it.

The latest entry in the historical action series feature a new open-world Colonial America setting, plus a fresh protagonist in the form of half Native American, half British assassin Connor, and is set across 30 years of his life from 1753 to 1783.

Preview of stealth action in Assassin's Creed 3 at GAME

Out in the wild

The biggest star of an open-world game is often its setting, and AC3's looks set to play a headline role. As well as the densely packed cities of Boston and New York, AC3 features a vast wilderness area known as the Frontier, where Connor will stalk both human and animal prey, killing the likes or wolves and bears for food, clothing and other valuable resources.

Players use the trees, cliffs and ledges to traverse the environment and set up kills much as they do the rooftops and man-made structures in urban locations. The game also boasts a dynamic weather system and shifting seasons; in the winter, soldiers will move more slowly and stumble in the snow, while lakes and rivers will freeze, giving players new terrain to adapt to and use to their advantage.

Stealth or action

Ubisoft says it plans to retain the series' traditional balance between action and stealth gameplay, even if trailers released to date have focused largely on open combat. Packed with crowds of individuals with their own appearances, motives and agendas, the streets of Boston shown in a recent gameplay demo are a good example of this.

ACII on PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC at GAME

Fleeing from a bunch of British Redcoats, Connor leans up against a market stall selling fish. Viewing him as a customer, the owner starts chatting away to him about what she has to offer, and the deception pays off as the soldiers file past in search of their target. Using your surrounding environment and its inhabitants will be an important element of survival.

Tomahawk bang

But Connor's certainly no slouch when all hell does break loose, even if the odds are stacked against him. Capable of incapacitating or killing enemies, he uses a combination of vicious counter-kills, parries and straight-up blows with a new weapon, a tomahawk, to dispatch foes.

Like the game's free-running sections, in which Connor glides through environments with the grace of a panther, combat is free-flowing and graceful. He darts from enemy to enemy during fights, is capable of assassinating on the run using a concealed blade, and can snatch an opponent's weapon and slay him using it without breaking stride. It's breathless stuff for the player, but Connor's exertions look effortless in motion.

Many of the questions we still have - about how AC3 ties into Brotherhood and Revelations, and how Connor develops throughout the tale, for example - may not be answered until October's release, but early showings of the game have left us impressed, and somewhat reassured that this year's series entry will move the franchise forward more than the last few efforts both in terms of gameplay and story.

SKU: Previews-181278
Release Date: 02/08/2012