Assassin's Creed 3 is the anticipated full sequel to Ubisoft's acclaimed open-world franchise after several Ezio-led iterations. Following our recent first-look preview, at the E3 2012 gaming expo we observed new hands-off demonstrations of two of the locations during the American Revolution - the wild Frontier and Boston.
We present eight of the most impressive features we saw coming to Ubisoft's revolutionary sequel.
More fluid, faster-paced combat
Assassin's Creed 3's combat has been rebuilt from the ground up, resulting in far faster and more fluid fights. Scraps against multiple enemies see new lead assassin Connor seamlessly switch between close-quarters dispatches and quick-fire pistol draws against staggered foes on the periphery. Beasts also come under the same scrutiny, with swift dodges and gunfire making easy work of a pack of circling wolves.
Silent or loud, but always very deadly
While close-quarters combat has had an overhaul, from afar you also have several new options. For those who enjoy the Rambo approach, black powder kegs provide a historically accurate version of the ever-popular exploding barrel. Otherwise, a bow - the weapon of choice for any self-respecting blockbuster releasing in the next year - permits far more silent and stylish takedowns of distant targets.
Assassinating on the go
Assassinations are now equally as fluid. When chasing a target, you can now pick up weapons and kill enemies while moving at speed. Meanwhile, the series-staple Leap of Faith from tall structures into piles of hay now applies to moving carts, and once hidden inside, even allows you to sweep up and abduct unsuspecting enemies on the road as your vehicle makes its way through the streets.
While any weapon can now be used to dispatch foes, our favourite was the rope dart. Sitting in a tree, the roped projectile can snag a person and hang them from a branch as Connor jumps down to the ground. These rope mechanics can also help with speedy escapes, too, as weighted cargo suspended by rope can be cut loose, sending Connor shooting into the air and out of sight.
A more free-form, dynamic world
When it comes to traversal, the Frontier is the most dynamic and freeform seen in any Assassin's Creed game. With the designers no longer constrained to gridded layouts, the wilderness takes on a more uneven approach, with sloped ground making combat and traversal more difficult, and scalable tree branches that intertwine and wildly buckle. The freedom is a little overwhelming at first, but the designer's goal is that if it looks climbable, it most probably is.
More complex, RPG-like missions
Side quests are described as becoming more 'role-playing like' in their approach, with multiple layers to their completion. Two examples in a Frontier encampment were locating a doctor's missing shipment, and procuring a number of different meats for a butcher by hunting animals in the wilderness. Main missions, meanwhile, will offer more approaches, whether it's sneaking over a fort's walls with the aid of tree branches, or opting to bullishly head through a heavily-guarded front door.
The Animus provides a helping hand
With some hints of Metal Gear Solid 4, Animus details now more prominently display enemy information for the player. You can observe your notoriety with local guards, while spindly, sharp lines shooting out from Connor alert you to the enemy's nearby location. It also nicely outlines nearby targets for easier detection. Meanwhile, the Wii U version will use the controller's screen to display more helpful supplementary information, such as Animus codex entries and a map.
A little help from your friends
During one mission in Boston, a helpful citizen created a distraction, shouting for a guard's assistance and luring him down an alley with Connor waiting in the wings. Also, in mission-specific moments, Connor can also call upon his brotherhood of assassins to surround him with a red coated entourage to help him pass through checkpoint controls undetected.
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Assassin's Creed 3 will be available on Xbox 360, PS3, Wii U and PC on October 31.