Assassin's Creed 3 Comic-Con 2012 Hands-on Preview -- Welcome to the Wolf PackBy Stephen Johnson - Posted Jul 13, 2012
Whether it's the focus on history, the super-tuned controls, or the overall presentation, the Assassin's Creed series has always been a subtlety and refinement instead of brute strength and firepower, games for cultured people who like cold blooded murder. As you'd expect, Assassin's Creed 3's answer to horde mode is as different from the "Kill Everything!" ethos of most games as a suave assassin is from a machine gun-toting gorilla. Wolf Pack takes a stylish, individualistic approach to getting together with your pals and murdering people.
The hook of Wolf Pack is that you and up to three friends marraud around different heavily populated urban areas pulling off assassinations of designated targets, with a time limit. With a clock ticking down, you work together to pull off team kills and avoid being spotted by your enemies. You're not just making quick kills, though. The trick is to kill with style.
Better kills reward you with more time, so it benefits players to strike from the shadows, to blend into the crowd and take people out without being seen, to swing down from a rooftop and slide your blade across a throat. Not only is style essential, so is timing. The best kills are done in perfect tandem, so lone wolves will not survive very long.
You begin with the choice of a character--you choose from among a full selection of 18th century personages, including American Indians, female characters who look like ladies of the night, and other assorted badasses. After choosing a loadout, you enter the game.
The level I played was set in an urban area, very populated, the perfect place for "social stealth." A radar shows the location of your target. They are very easy to find. This is not a game of "find the enemy." Since there were two of us, we had two targets. The first kills were a bit sloppy, with targets killed at off times, and the inconvenience of running down escapees, but before long, the basics were learned, and it started to get interesting.
As we became more skilled at dual-killing, the flow of the game went from a frantic, slightly slapstick, chase to something like ballet. Me and my new pal would approach our targets at a run, our capes flying, then, we'd simultaneously slow down and disappear in a crowd behind them. With a quick button push, we'd each mark our individual prey, and simultaneously slit two throats before melting away--murderous synchronicity. When it works, it's beautiful, and when it doesn't, it's fun too, because you'll go from suave, 1700s assassin to screaming "OMG! You Suck!" in two seconds.
Wolf Pack seems easy for the first few levels, but it very quickly becomes apparent that real skill is required to do well. We played a couple of matches. In the first, we reached level five (not too horrible for a first time), and by the second we'd conquered level nine. There will be 25 levels, and I can't imagine the kind of assassination skills you'd need to even get to 20.
It's a hard game, but for once, it's not hard because there are too many bullets flying at you. It's hard because you need to find artful ways of dispatching your prey in tandem, and you need to do it fast. I expect nothing less from Assassin's Creed 3, and I can't wait to get together with some friends to work out perfect murder routines when AC3 launches this fall.