Assassin's Creed III
Assassin's Creed III Hands-On Preview - How Sequels Should be Done
Written Monday, September 24, 2012 By Lee Bradley
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It’s just before midnight in an exclusive hotel bar in downtown Boston and two prominent members of the Assassin’s Creed III development team are laying flat on their backs, their right legs pointing towards the ceiling. They’re surrounded by a boisterous group of colleagues who cheer them on, drinks held aloft.

The team are in town to show an almost finalised build of Assassin’s Creed III to the world’s press and there’s a celebratory buzz in the air. After three years crafting one of gaming’s most ambitious sequels for one of the industry’s biggest franchises, the hard work is over. Now it’s time to unwind.

Following an excitable countdown the two developers lock legs and begin to push forward with all their strength. One forces his leg down so powerfully that his competitor flips backwards on the hotel’s marble floor. Cheers go up and a victor is announced. With big grins on their faces the two foes rise into the arms of the team and stagger back for more drinks.

The developers of Assassin’s Creed III love Indian Leg Wrestling. It’s their current obsession. On the occasions that the studios from Shanghai, Canada, France and Romania converge, they leg wrestle. It’s what they do. There’s even talk of leagues, brackets and - terrifyingly - Lycra costumes. The launch party will be quite a spectacle.

Such unity goes against the popular conception of a multi-studio behemoth like Assassin's Creed III. It’s videogame development on a vast scale, with a staff of well over 600 scattered across the globe delivering a fourth title in four years. Yet the latest instalment of the series isn’t just a production line sequel, churned out by anonymous drones like a cheap factory toy. It’s the result of a talented team of individuals working in unison to create the best sequel possible. And it looks like they’re having a great time doing it too.

So while last year's Revelations trod water, failing to freshen the experience in any meaningful way, ACIII simultaneously streamlines, refines and builds, taking the experience in new directions yet distilling what made Altair and Ezio’s adventures so thrilling in the first place. Hugely ambitious, this is how triple-A sequels should be done.

To that end we have a new protagonist - the part-British, part-Mohawk, Connor. We have a new setting and a new time period too – the bloody, revolutionary birth of America. There's also a brand new engine, new naval warfare and homestead missions, new combat and traversal mechanics and the introduction of vast swathes of forested rural land, a first for the series.

Assassin’s Creed games were once dominated by European and Southern Asian cityscapes, but AC III features a sizeable chunk of gameplay in the wilderness. In this environment hulking bears flap at jumping salmon on rocky waterfalls, huge stags rut, and rabbits hop around the hills and woodland. Meanwhile, you’re nimbly skipping around the branches above, watching and waiting.

This time out the free-running traversal has been simplified, cut down to a single button input. With the right trigger engaged you’ll be able to shimmy up tree trunks, swing and freely dance from branch to branch. Coupled with Connor’s built-from-the-ground-up animation set, the result is wonderfully fluid and goes some way to selling our new protagonist as the ultimate in stealthy killers.

In Assassin’s Creed III you hunt. Of course you’ve always hunted but now you’re on the track of wildlife. And just like your Templar enemies your prey isn’t passive. Alert a bear to your presence and it will let forth a terrifying roar, the screen blurring and shaking disorientingly. In a genuinely scary flash, suddenly you’re the prey. Even a blast from your gun isn’t enough to down them with one hit.  As with any assassination target you must tread carefully.

There’s a right way and a wrong way to kill the animals. In keeping with Connor’s heritage and his reverence to animal spirits, if you just randomly run amok in the forest, killing for no reason, you’ll lose synchronisation. Meanwhile, if you perform a slick, clean takedown you’ll be able to remove an undamaged pelt and sell it on for cash and items. In this way there’s a pleasing cohesiveness to the protagonist, the setting and the timeline. It just feels right.

Indeed, the new AnvilNext engine has been employed to great effect, used to layer on detail after detail to create a believable world with a real sense of place. Move from the wilderness to 1770’s Boston and you’ll encounter a young city alive with activity. Steps are swept, children play, in the docks workmen saw and hammer and graft. And all the while  livestock and pets wander aimlessly.

Most impressively, however, you can feel the tension. This is a city that soon will erupt into bloody revolution and it’s palpable. Tax collectors bang at doors, men on street corners give impassioned speeches against the British, Red Coats stroll ominously. This is a very convincing representation of a boiling point in America’s history and you’re right there in the middle of it.

It’s in this environment that you’ll engage in the game’s diverse set of missions. While your ultimate aim to track down the man who is threatening to steal your people’s land, you must also liberate Boston from British rule, take to the high seas in search of naval glory, free slaves for relocation at your customisable homestead and defeat those dastardly tax men. 

Much of this will be achieved, of course, via mastery of the game’s three-button combat system.  You can now dual weld and an effort has been made to make fights far more strategic, with an emphasis put on tricky counters, double counters and multiple takedowns. During one battle I snatched the rifle and bayonet from a British soldier, stabbed him with it and blasted the soldier behind him in one flowing movement. It was one thrilling taste of a rejuvenated system.

Indeed, that’s the most heartening thing about Assassin’s Creed III. Despite spending countless late nights with previous iterations of the series, a couple of hours with Connor just wasn’t enough to get to grips with everything the game has to offer. It’s so overflowing with iterative improvements, brand new ideas and compelling environments that I didn’t even get the chance to hit the high seas for naval combat, as so beautifully described by Rich in our latest preview.

There’s more too. At the start of one of the gameplay sessions, Creative Director Alex Hutchinson bemoaned the way movie trailers revealed a film’s secrets, saying that he was determined not to spoil Assassin’s Creed III by sharing too much. You can expect plenty more surprises once the game arrives next month. We couldn’t be more excited.

So remember, if one of those secrets turns out to be Indian Leg Wrestling mini-games, you heard it here first.

Assassin's Creed III is out on October 30th in North America and October 31st in Europe.


User Comments

Forum Posts: 73
Comment #1 by The Ju1ce
Monday, September 24, 2012 @ 11:02:11 AM
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should read: Assassin's Creed III Preview

Forum Posts: 556
Comment #2 by RedDragon4275
Monday, September 24, 2012 @ 11:03:57 AM
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@1 That's what I noticed as well. I was going to say the same.

Forum Posts: 46
Comment #3 by LeeBradley [STAFF]
Monday, September 24, 2012 @ 11:04:55 AM
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*waves Jedi arm*

I don't see any typos. ;)

Forum Posts: 10
Comment #4 by kaiyo penguin
Monday, September 24, 2012 @ 11:06:24 AM
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looking forward to killing some red coats...and pretty much any other sod who gets in my way. :)

Forum Posts: 19
Comment #5 by Len lfc
Monday, September 24, 2012 @ 11:07:57 AM
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It's strange, ACIII is looking a lot better than the last 2 AC games, & I'm really looking forward to it, but I have not been following it at all, sadly :( But I guess I'll have a lot of lovely surprises when I play it in the next few months I suppose :)

Forum Posts: 108
Comment #6 by Slayinfool
Monday, September 24, 2012 @ 11:12:21 AM
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I was all but dried up on the AC franchise. But Ubi really seems to be pulling out all the stops for this one.. Liking what I'm seeing..

Forum Posts: 15
Comment #7 by Jack Flak
Monday, September 24, 2012 @ 11:16:53 AM
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I don't see any typos. This isn't the article I was looking for. You can go about your business. I'm going to go home and rethink my life.

Forum Posts: 56
Monday, September 24, 2012 @ 11:37:06 AM
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The first game I will bother getting a season pass for.

Forum Posts: 1181
Comment #9 by CyberPunch83
Monday, September 24, 2012 @ 11:42:03 AM
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Revelations felt like a stopgap more than anything else. If this doesn't get or come very close to Game of the Year, I'll eat several hats.

Forum Posts: 2
Comment #10 by Gamingnonstop
Monday, September 24, 2012 @ 12:02:45 PM
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@8 doesn't it come with one when you buy the a copy brand new?

Forum Posts: 4
Comment #11 by Leviathan v2
Monday, September 24, 2012 @ 12:07:09 PM
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So happy I pre-ordered the best freedom edition a few months ago, I knew it was going to be good, but this just looks amazing

Forum Posts: 1083
Comment #12 by ImaginaryRuins
Monday, September 24, 2012 @ 12:12:23 PM
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Really can't wait any longer for this! I think I'm going to take a few days off from work to play this on day 1

Forum Posts: 296
Comment #13 by Snowed
Monday, September 24, 2012 @ 12:26:34 PM
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AC games always get huge discounts by Christmas. I'll get it then for like $30-40. No reason at all to buy it new.

Forum Posts: 5
Comment #14 by Son of DC
Monday, September 24, 2012 @ 12:35:50 PM
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Can't wait to check it out

Forum Posts: 856
Comment #15 by i got squeezed
Monday, September 24, 2012 @ 12:49:52 PM
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@ 8&10 I honestly don't know where you guys are hearing this false information.

Forum Posts: 2
Comment #16 by GeekSven
Monday, September 24, 2012 @ 01:07:19 PM
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I pre-ordered Halo 4, Black Ops 2 and Assassin's Creed 3, but I think I won't be needing Halo and Black Ops any longer... I'll shove my AC3 disc in my Xbox so hard, I'll never be able to get it out again. Period.

Forum Posts: 24
Comment #17 by Agent00047
Monday, September 24, 2012 @ 01:07:54 PM
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Loosing sync for random killing an animal seems kind of harsh. Somehow the killing of humans is just not as important or morally incorrect as killing animals...
Anyway allready preordered it and looking forward to some Indian Leg Wrestling :)

Forum Posts: 92
Comment #18 by PluralAces
Monday, September 24, 2012 @ 01:13:06 PM
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Still nothing about multiplayer *sigh* they must not want my preorder :(

Forum Posts: 233
Comment #19 by Cinderkin
Monday, September 24, 2012 @ 01:20:42 PM
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I am extremely excited but because this is coming out at the end of October I am going to suffer 1 month and pick it up the day after thanksgiving as I know it will be reduced in price. I love AC, but so many games are coming out I have to buy smart.

Forum Posts: 62
Comment #20 by Beeg Beef
Monday, September 24, 2012 @ 02:20:49 PM
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Assassin's Creed: Now With Bears

Forum Posts: 56
Monday, September 24, 2012 @ 02:24:19 PM
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@10 Look up what a game "season pass" is. I think you assume I meant "Online Pass" or something.

I did not.

@15 False information? Maybe... but here's where I heard it is likely, and probable.

Forum Posts: 291
Comment #22 by ViNyLek
Monday, September 24, 2012 @ 03:48:20 PM
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Shame I will have to wait a bit longer. I gave in and my wife is getting me the $120 copy of the game with Connor's statuette for Christmas. Somehow, I will endure extra month=P

Forum Posts: 2405
Comment #23 by Iceskater101
Monday, September 24, 2012 @ 05:17:00 PM
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I love history so I am glad to see that they are making this game at least a little historically realistic.

Forum Posts: 5
Comment #24 by Epic Templar
Monday, September 24, 2012 @ 05:25:02 PM
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@3 I do. In the form of "dual weld" unless you can weld 2 weapons together? xD
Looking like a good game, already got my preorder sorted :)

Forum Posts: 15
Comment #25 by Jack Flak
Monday, September 24, 2012 @ 05:41:41 PM
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@18 Sad. You do know the multiplayer is just on the side, right?

Forum Posts: 155
Comment #26 by ckingvengence
Monday, September 24, 2012 @ 10:05:41 PM
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for people looking for multiplayer info.
5 min interview with gameplay:
5 min interview about campaign and multiplayer with gameplay:

Forum Posts: 4
Comment #27 by aim of kronic
Monday, September 24, 2012 @ 11:12:48 PM
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love me some AC.. comes out the day after my bday

Forum Posts: 12
Comment #28 by TheSilvermaster
Tuesday, September 25, 2012 @ 01:13:21 AM
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@25 Agreed people put way too much emphasis on multiplayer these days anyway. So if this is Assassin's Creed 3 does that mean technically that Brotherhood and Revelations where spin offs. It seems that Ezio Auditore was more popular than Ubisoft thought he would be and after AC 2 they they intended to make this but put in on hold to make some more money off Ezio with two more games while they developed this. I would say they planned to to make Brotherhood and Revelations because AC 2 ended on a cliffhanger but then again so did AC 1. It doesn't matter now but this looks better than Brotherhood and Revelations combined October 30th can't get here fast enough that much is for sure...

Forum Posts: 6
Comment #29 by mystic mosh
Tuesday, September 25, 2012 @ 01:49:29 AM
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My fav series of all time, this instalment looks awesome. Throw in NFS, MOH WF, and FORZA as well and it looks like I might as well take the rest of the year off!. Happy times:)

Forum Posts: 499
Comment #30 by AirborneRichard
Tuesday, September 25, 2012 @ 04:25:29 AM
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I don,t know why some ppl didn,t like Revelations that much, i just finished it awhile ago and enjoyed it, mabye the ottoman empire setting wasn,t one for everybody i geuss. Besides that i enjoyed the old Ezio and kinda sad his story is done, i,m glad with a new setting and a new caracter aswell and conner and the american revolution sure are a good choice as a background for a game with also a new engine. They not give away if they got rid of those annoying 100% sync sections per mission. As it may be fun at start it tends to get annoying after awhile and seems to put away abit of fun of realy playing a mission and just focus on the things around you instead trying hard to meet the 100% sync parts.
Connor def got the potential to be even better then Ezio, and with the ability to dual wield weapons and the new combat system. Still almost a month to go and hopefully all the hype isn,t for nothing :)

Forum Posts: 503
Comment #31 by Big Stoz
Tuesday, September 25, 2012 @ 04:43:03 AM
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@30 The problems with Revelations was it was way too short story wise. I think the hype about Ezio and Altair been in the same game made people expect too much. While I enjoyed the campaign it was over too quickly, the Desmond Memories were just totally pointless and I'm not a huge fan of the multiplayer which the game seemed to place all it emphasis on. I would have much preferred the ending to Revelations be like "Embers" and would have been a far more fitting tribute to say goodbye to my old friend Ezio. Really looking forward to the next installment though be interesting to see how the story progresses.

Forum Posts: 92
Comment #32 by PluralAces
Tuesday, September 25, 2012 @ 08:24:01 AM
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@ 25 & 28

Yes, I understand that Ubisoft tried multiplayer and they failed. But when you are good at the multiplayer like I am, it sucks to see it fall by the wayside like it has. I am not saying I am not going to get this game, but now I can wait till it drops in price because the multiplayer is the only thing that would make me consider preordering it because with multiplayer you need to play it right away while the number of users is high. Any single player game I can wait for the price to drop to like $20 and save me money.

Forum Posts: 116
Comment #33 by Requiem Kata
Tuesday, September 25, 2012 @ 10:23:23 AM
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MIght have to check this one out, always heard good things about the franchise

Forum Posts: 0
Comment #34 by dborrell
Tuesday, October 02, 2012 @ 10:58:19 AM
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I just think that it looks, and is going to be just so incredibly amazing, that it makes the other Assassin's Creed games look just good, when they too are amazing!

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Game Info
Ubisoft Montreal


US October 30, 2012
Europe October 31, 2012

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