Assassin's Creed 3 Preview from E3 2012 -- Multiplayer Hands-on and Boston ExplorationBy Adam Rosenberg - Posted Jun 11, 2012
Assassin's Creed 3's multiplayer mode was open to the public on the floor of E3 2012 with players lining up at a series of stations to try out the new 4v4 mode, Domination. Fans of Call of Duty's similarly named mode (to name just one example) will be on somewhat familiar territory here. There are three control zones on the map, marked A, B,and C. The goal for each team is to collect points by controlling these zones, a feat accomplished by standing inside a marked area while a meter fills up.
The Assassin's Creed twist, of course, is that you're supposed to keep as low a profile as you can. The same strategies that apply in the franchise's other multiplayer modes remain true here; you want to move your character around in an approximation of an AI-controlled character for as long as you can. The map is filled with mirror image copies of the avatars on each team, so you're never really sure if when you're hunting or being hunted by a live person.
The other twist is that you're always safe from being killed as long as you remain inside a zone that you control. Members of the opposing team can stun you for a period of time, but not kill you. If you and an enemy attack simultaneously in a zone controlled by your team, you'll still be stunned, but you'll also score a kill in the process.
This particular demo was set on a snow-and-ice-covered map highlighted by sailing ships and what appeared to be some sort of trading post. It all looks great, delivering a mixture of the wilderness that fans will see a whole lot more of in the story portion of the game and the civilization that we're so used to from previous outings.
The E3 show floor is hardly an ideal setting for the uniquely slow-paced and stealth-oriented multiplayer that Assassin's Creed offers, but the mode itself feels like a welcome addition the familiar game types from the previous games.
Roaming Through Boston
The city of Boston is one of two confirmed urban settings that players will be visiting in Assassin's Creed 3. We've still not gotten even a glimpse of New York, but the American Revolution-era Massachusetts settlement was given the extended-look treatment behind closed doors at E3.
Boston is similar to the melange of sights and sounds that highlighted urban centers in the previous games, with the major difference being--for U.S. audiences, at any rate--that there's a hint of the familiar in what you're seeing and hearing. Everything from the building architecture to the social stealth opportunities is grounded in early Americana, a fact driven home by the fact that the shouts of the people around you are heard in mostly unaccented English.
The cities of Assassin's Creed 3 are also home to several new game features, such as moving haystacks. Connor will now be able to leap into horse-drawn carts filled with piles of hay, and even assassinate passing redcoats or other enemies while on the go. There remains a one body-per-haystack limit, but this mobile hiding place promises new opportunities for infiltrating secure areas undetected.
Players will also run into optional missions as the explore the cities. In one example, a woman in an alley asks Connor to help free a man from nearby stocks. He hugs up against a corner as a lone redcoat approaches, dispatching him quietly with a stealth assassination, and then moves forward into a spread of waist-high bushes, automatically ducking down to take cover.
Making his way forward, he scales a tree and uses his rope dart tool to take care of another solo redcoat on the ground below, using the man's corpse as a counterweight to lower himself to the ground. As two more enemy soldiers stroll over to investigate the commotion, Connor slips around them and frees the imprisoned man from the stocks. Events like this occur randomly and are entirely optional.
Social stealth continues to be a huge part of the Assassin's Creed experience, and I got to take a peek at a few of the options that will be available to Connor. You can now slip between a pair of idling pedestrians, leaning against a part of the environment. It's sort of like the benches from previous game--they return as well--but the conversations you have can actually lead to valuable insights about the goings-on in the world.
There are also new options for calling in your brother assassins. Ubisoft isn't talking much about how you'll go about recruiting new followers, but once you've got them you'll be able to call them in for support just like you could in Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood and Assassin's Creed: Revelations. One of the new assassin abilities allows you to call in four followers dressed as redcoats. You can then slip in among their ranks and pose as a prisoner, opening up easy access to otherwise secure areas.
Once Connor is spotted, he can stay and fight using his new two-handed combat style--complete with new assassination animations--or he can turn tail and run. Fleeing players should keep an eye out for musket racks; it's possible to grab one of these and use it as a single-kill weapon. One particularly neat assassination involves stabbing one enemy with the musket's bayonet and then shooting through the body at another enemy behind him. Connor apparently has a better sense of deadly style than his predecessors.
There are also chase-breaking pass-throughs that you can rely on for a quick escape that immediately shut down any alert level you've picked up. Keep an eye out while you're on the run for open doors and windows; slip through one and you'll watch a canned animation play out in which Connor runs through the building and emerges free and clear on the other side.
Humans aren't the only beings that you'll encounter in the cities either. An array of animals can be found in the game, both as hunting fodder in the wilderness and as window dressings in the cities. During the demo I caught glimpses of chickens, rats, goats, and dogs. You can even stop and pet a dog, for no apparent reward other than the joy of interacting with man's best friend.