Or more accurately a tomahawk job. Definitely a tomahawk job and with that decision made another redcoat bit the dust before I disappeared into a passing wagon…
I say me, but I’m actually referring to Connor, the new protagonist in Assassin’s Creed 3, a game that many have been looking forward to and, thanks to those lovely people over at Ubisoft, I got to have a hands on with a little while ago in what turned out to be some surprisingly appropriate surroundings at the Tower of London.
It was the PS3 build on show and “Sequence 06″ was to be our stomping ground for the afternoon. At this point in the game Connor has acquired all of his abilities and weapons so we were able to get a good feel of what you’re eventually going to be capable of within the game world. Any one who’s played one of the AC series will know that it can take a lot of play time to unlock your characters full potential, so playing here instead of the earlier levels was definitely going to be more fun.
So after spending three hours roaming around inside this death dealing toybox, what can I tell you? Well, fans of the series are not going to be disappointed. The time period and location shift have done nothing to hurt the gameplay that we’ve come to know and love at all. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say it’s a very refreshing and welcome change after spending a substantial time in Italy.
As usual with an AC game there’s plenty to do, from the obvious assassinations to a spot of hunting in the forests (rabbit pie anyone ?), all navigable from the map screen so you could happily spend hours playing and not touch the main story line missions.
The mission structures appear to be pretty standard – head to location and acquire item/take out target etc. – but to be honest there’s nothing wrong with that, so let’s move on to the weapons at your disposal shall we? And what an arsenal of toys you’ll have to chose from.
There’s the aforementioned tomahawk, which no self respecting native American would be seen without, and the customary hidden blades we’ve all gotten so used to dispatching people with after a well timed leap from a building or pounce from the shadows. Add to this a silent and very effective bow and a rather vicious rope dart and you’re good to go. But the fun doesn’t stop there, there’s guns too! They are however accurate to the time period, so no silenced deliverers of leaden death doom here. No, these are good ol’ fashioned flintlock’d boomsticks. Let one of these off in a crowded space and all elements of stealth can be kissed good bye as the townsfolk go running and the military bear down on you… Although at this level it’s quite fun to see how many you can take on at once. The close combat mechanic is glorious with well timed strikes, blocks and changes of target rewarding you with a veritable ballet as your foes fall around you in some very spectacular, and also in places quite gory fashion. Definitely not one for the kiddies here folks, but you knew that already didn’t you? Miss-time a block and it is possible to get back into the groove, but too many failures and you’ll find yourself punished painfully, and unless you fancy dying your only option is to have on your toes and leg it, bringing us to the other thing that the AC series is known for – the free-running.
For starters they’ve made things a little easier. All you need to do now is pull the trigger to enter the mode and off you go. The system will perform all the “safe” jumps automatically, so no need to press X to jump when you want too. When you get to an “unsafe” jump, Connor will stop at the edge, but you can still force the jump if you want to by pressing X. Admittedly you might find yourself only making it by your fingertips clawing at a ledge, or falling a bit too far and taking some damage, but the choice is there if you want to take that risk. If you don’t and you chose your route carefully, you’ll find yourself traversing the world in a very liberating fashion, one that’s very easy to get lost in and forget what you were actually going to do. Whether it’s the city of Boston or the surrounding forests, it works beautifully. Stalking your prey from the tree tops is particularly good fun, and the fun doesn’t stop there.
Out in the woods there’s hunting to be done and wildlife to encounter. My first wolfpack encounter resulted in surprise and a rather toothy end for me. I was ready the next time though and with a quick QTE sequence I emerged the victor and then skinned the little furry devils. Well, an assassin’s got to pay the bills and those furry pelts will help nicely to the upkeep of the homestead.
Much like the familial home introduced in AC2, the homestead here serves the same purpose, a base of operations of sorts to store goodies acquired and track progress made. But getting it fully up to scratch costs money (doesn’t everything?), hence the selling of those pelts…
Three hours was all I had, and I barely scratched the surface of what was laid out before me in this one sequence of the game. There’s so much to see and do it will keep you going for ages. And the game it self looks amazing, whether it’s the red bricked buildings of Boston or the luscious forests and cliffs of the wilderness, it all looks fantastic. In fact, I defy you not to enjoy the view after climbing up a cliff as I did, mainly just to see if I could get to the top.
I think this might actually be my favourite Assassin’s Creed yet. I find myself wanting to start from the beginning and to earn the right to those skills properly, to explore more of the world on offer. I didn’t get a chance to try the naval sequences as I ran out of time. Yes you read that right, this assassin goes to sea so you best pack those seasick pills as well as the concealed blades. This game’s got so much to offer it and more importantly it delivers it well.
Sit back and enjoy the New World that’s been laid out before you, lay waste to the redcoats invading your land and deliver old world justice when the time is right, all from the comfort of your couch. Fans of the series will not be disappointed, and newcomers won’t be alienated either.
Now if you’ll excuse me I need to go and oil my trigger mechanism and sharpen my tomahawk…