Newly released pre-alpha game footage shows snowy vistas and snappy uniforms are the order of the day in Assassin’s Creed III. The first real glimpses of gameplay tell us a little more about the American Revolution-set sequel, with stalking from treetop vantages, climbing sheer cliff faces and duking it out with bears just a few of the activities on offer.
Musket-bored Union Jacks fly limply while weary looking soldiers troop around the docks, eyeing protagonist Connor warily, as pre-rendered footage is mingled with actual gameplay in the usual cunning way – making the whole thing look fantastic but perhaps sheltering you from seeing too much of what the actual game looks like, as the action switches to a smoke-filled battlefield.
Connor slides under branches as he legs it around the exploding green plains, and then climbs all over the landscape, way up in trees and on icy rock faces, barely stopping to hang a British soldier on the way, knifing a few of his mates for good measure.
Talking of hanging and knifing, weapons seen in the trailer are varied: the exciting prospects of the tomahawk, sawtooth sword, bayonet and grappling hook tempered slightly by the fears over the previously seen pistols, and the all-new age-old muskets.
I think I’m right in saying gunplay has not been entirely successful thus far in the Assassin’s Creed series and it’s difficult to know how fair Ubisoft will take any presumed improvements in this area. Other games do shooting so much better, and Assassin’s Creed’s strengths are found in close combat so let’s hope for one of two outcomes: Ubisoft integrate guns smoothly into the new-feel gameplay, or leave them as a relatively minor part like the hidden gun in Assassin’s Creed II.
One of the most interesting prospects seen in the new trailer is the sight of Connor barrel-rolling through a block of apartments to emerge the other side and leap into the next street. If this action makes it into the final game it opens up a multitude of possibilities.
Previously in AC, it was as though buildings were a separate part to the game to be entered necessarily at certain times, but never fully integrated into the rooftop-orientated action. If this allows us to seamlessly escape pursuers, perhaps by dashing handsomely through the homes of buxom young Patriot lasses (probably recently widowed) then it will certainly be great fun.
There are still question marks for me over this release, coming so relentlessly hard on the heels of the underwhelming Revelations. An emphasis on slightly more ground level battle amid forests and fields is a slight worry, as perhaps is the prospect of waiting about five minutes just to load your musket – perhaps one historical accuracy they’ll find easy to dispense with.
Even with these reservations though, the American setting, promises of fighting bears, and the idea of finally getting all simian; getting out of the city and into the trees of no small appeal. Assassin’s Creed 3 is out on PS3, Xbox 360 and PC on October 31.