Assassin's Creed III – hands on preview

We honed our killing skills at the Tower of London with Ubisoft and Assassin's Creed III. Click on through for our deadly first impressions...

Assassin's Creed III preview – overview

We donned our hidden blades and took a trip to the Tower of London courtesy of Ubisoft to delve through more than three hours of Assassin's Creed III gameplay before its release on October 31st. Is it a day-one purchase? Read on to find out.

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Read our Assassin's Creed III kneed to know guide

Assassin's Creed III preview – story and setting

It's been one year since we we rained death on our enemies from the rooftops of Istanbul in Assassin's Creed: Revelations, and we were more than happy to slip into the new mocassins of Connor the Native American assassin and explore the American wilderness and the streets of Boston in this newest outing.

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We jumped straight into sequence 6 as a fully-fledged assassin, caught up in the heated scuffles between the British and Americans during the American Revolution. After free-running through the wilderness we got down to business proper and continued the main mission, which culminated in us riling up the townspeople before committing tea genocide in the infamous Boston Tea Party. Take that, Earl Grey.

Assassin's Creed III preview – frontier and free-running

We started off our preview session in the wild American frontier – a far cry from the bustling tightly-woven streets found in previous Assassin's Creed titles. Any doubts we had about the wild being too barren were immediately put to rest the minute we began to swing through the treetops like an ape on steroids.

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Movement felt fluid and fast, and thanks to the fact that jumping is now taken care of automatically, Assassin's Creed III provides the most seamless free-running experience yet.

The environment also plays a big factor – wading through water or heavy snow slowed us down, and you can now hide in overgrown vegetation to avoid detection – a fact that we wish we discovered before being relentlessly mauled to death by wolves.

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That's right – you're not alone in the wild and there are plenty of animals for you to hunt (or flee from). After savagely murdering rabbits we moved onto deer, tracking them via freshly scattered pellets before ending their existence with a few well-placed arrows.

The highlight of our foray into the wilderness however was meeting a rather irate brown bear head on, and plunging a knife into its neck with deadly accuracy. Would PETA approve? No. Was it fun? Yes. Yes it was.   

More after the break...

Assassin's Creed III preview – Boston

The main city we frequented in our preview was Boston. Unlike the cramped streets of Istanbul or Rome, Boston has wider streets and a more organised layout but still feels alive thanks to the multitude of AI characters, stray dogs and ominous Redcoat drummers roaming the streets.

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British flags, faded well-worn shopfronts and a melting pot of accents from British, to French and even Scottish all combine on your senses to transport you back to the 1700s quite effectively.

Due to the less-cramped nature of the buildings however, we found ourselves running around on foot more often than in past iterations. That's not necessarily a bad thing as we got to our destinations quickly enough, but more closely-packed rooftops would have been nice for clambering junkies.

Still, the ability to run through open windows mid-chase – scaring the corsets off of women in the process – is a nice little touch, even if we couldn't hang around a little to chat with them (it's an automated animation).

Assassin's Creed III preview – graphics

Graphically, Assassin's Creed III is a step up from its predecessors thanks to an all-new game engine which treats your eyes to stunning natural visuals from rustling trees to fleeing wildlife, adding to the sense of realism and depth that was present in past titles.

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The biggest improvement comes in the form of facial animation however, where characters' lips actually match their spoken words – a much-needed improvement which Ubisoft have thankfully delivered on in spades.

The HUD has also been streamlined, allowing you to immerse yourself in Connor's world like never before with less on-screen information on display. We also liked the reassuring British Pound symbol in the money indicator – a simple addition that made us feel at home among the American foliage.

Assassin's Creed III preview – combat

Put simply, the combat system in Assassin's Creed III is the best in the series yet. Everything is slicker, smoother and just a joy to behold.

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Our combo of choice was the new tomahawk and rope dart, two new weapons which are as fun to play with as they are deadly. Flinging a rope dart into a victim, dragging them towards you then burying an axe into their skull is as satisfying as rolling around in a room lined with bubble wrap, and ten times as bloody. Hemophobics need not apply.

The counter-attack system is back and better than ever, with vastly improved and varied kill animations that make you feel invincible. From slit throats to rifle-butt smashes to the face, you'll be pleasantly surprised  each time you manage to off your victim in a new manner.

Assassin's Creed III preview – first impressions

We wish we could have spent more than a few hours with Assassin's Creed III and we're counting down the days till its release, eagerly waiting to redden our tomahawks once again. Now if you'll excuse us, we're off to sharpen our blades and practice our window jumping. And, possibly, see a therapist.

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