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I took the time to paste all the info from the articles on to their titled areas. Paragraphs aren't split up, but you will just have to deal with that. I don't have the time to go through it all, sorry.
"We're going to drop you guys into Memory Sequence six - that's about half way through the game," says Steve Masters, lead game designer on Assassin's Creed 3, who introduces my very first hands on with the game. "And basically, you can just do what you want from there". The rest is white noise. I've stopped listening. No offence, Steve, but the enormity of trying to sum up the intricacies and key features of a game that lasts 25 hours minimum - with a game map that covers most of America's north-eastern coast - is grinding my mind to a fine powder. What's more, there's no context. As I sit, pad in hand, Connor Kenway stands in front of his homestead in Davenport, New York, just waiting for me to fulfil his destiny, to unpick the knotty Templar conspiracy that is bringing conflict to his home, and help him birth the new world via the cutting edge of his tomahawk.Yet I'm clueless about what happened in Memory Sequence five. Has he just killed a British General turning the tide of war forever, or has he spent three hours hunting a deer in the woods so George Washington can have venison burgers for lunch? Given the lack of meaningful context or consequence to anything I can do, I decide to just behave like a dick. For three hours. FREE AS A BIRDOkay, that sounds more flippant than it is. A large part of Assassin's Creed 3 - as I quickly find out - is discovery and side-missions. While previous games provided concessions for those who wanted to explore beyond the central story, AC3 is the first in the series to go truly open-world. Here, you've got two cities (New York and Boston), sea battles, and a vast open expanse of New England countryside to explore. It's vast. No, really: VAST. The map itself is one huge area, and you can zoom out with L2 to reveal the entire north-eastern coast, or zoom in with R2 to see specific spots inside major cities. (We played it on PS3.) The first thing I decide to do, though, is frolic in the trees. Connor's gaff is in the middle of some beautiful woodland, so I head into the nearest copse of trees to check out the new one-button free-running (just hold R1). He nips pleasingly quickly through the branches; it's effortless. Pretty soon, I spy a deer minding its own business, chewing grass. I put an arrow into its cute face (using L1 to aim and Triangle to shoot). It tries to run away, but collapses in a nearby stream, so I nip out from my vantage point and skin it. Deer meat, deer hide, deer marrow - delicious. Now 'familiar with the controls', and with plenty of deer-based good to sell, I use fast travel (you can fast travel from anywhere) to go in search of Sam Adams in Boston, who can help me find out why some rich white guy is trying to mess with Connor's native village. I arrive at the docks, where a smattering of grimy men are hacking at things with pick axes.I immediately pick the pocket of the nearest worker, yielding... a piece of charcoal. Oh. He seems upset, so I sprint around the corner and hide in a trusty stack of hay. From here you can whistle to attract attention, but there are no Redcoats around, so I quickly get bored and start heading towards the mission start marker on my mini-map. On the way I bump into a crowd of people in the docks, and they ask in a fierce northern accent if I want a fight. The population of Boston seem more reactive than in previous games - some even taunt you because of your native Indian heritage. I sprint off, trying to avoid conflict and keep a low profile, but spot a viewpoint marker on my map and head towards that. The building is easy to climb, and I'm at the top in seconds, pressing Triangle to synchronise the view. Boston appears authentic, but there are few distinct buildings - unlike the Florence of Assassin's Creed 2 and Rome of Assassin's Creed Brotherhood. I dive off the top into a hay stack and carry on towards my meeting with Sam Adams. He's expecting me, and we walk and talk through the streets of Boston. It's a familiar, gentle introduction to a fresh plotline, and the only rough stuff happens at the end of the walkthrough when Connor and Sam witness a Frenchman called Stephane Chapheau having his shop repossessed by a bunch of Redcoats. Unable to ignore the injustice, I get involved and butcher the Redcoats with my tomahawk. Combat has been simplified too, just like the free-running. Connor automatically enters a combat stance, and attacks with Square. Counter-strikes are mapped to Circle, and you know when enemies are about to strike when an exclamation mark appears over their head. It seems the developers have been playing Batman: Arkham City. My bloody work done, I stroke a passing cat and head towards the tavern where Adams is waiting for the second part of the mission. Along the way I bribe a newspaper seller to decrease my notoriety (although I could have just ripped down a wanted poster), and wander through a farm that someone has set-up in the middle of the city. It's a bizarre experience, but historically sound, and I take the opportunity to pet a sheep and feed a pig, hoping that it balances my karma after murdering that deer at the start. After arriving at the tavern, I'm told that Connor's village is being bought by a man called William Johnson who is making a killing smuggling tea past the blockade in the harbour. See, this Memory Sequence takes place around the Boston Tea Party - in fact, in a later mission, Connor boards a British boat and lobs a bunch of tea crates into the sea.My task for now is to destroy several shipments of tea on the dock, which is done by picking up carelessly discarded barrels of gunpowder, placing them next to the tea, and blasting them with a pistol. This part of the mission lacks subtlety, but the next is more interesting. Here, I need to track down couriers who are distributing the contraband tea throughout the city, which is easy enough, but a secondary objective of the mission - remaining under a notoriety level of two - proves tricky. In fact, one assassination leads to a bloodbath, and I achieve a notoriety of three, which means tougher Redcoats start tracking you down and it's tough to walk anywhere without conflict. After completing the mission, I spend a few minutes tearing down wanted posters and finding a herald to bribe. And feeding pigs. While searching for wanted posters, I spy a 'treasure' chest guarded by a barking dog. Pretty sure there's a non-violent way to access the chest, but time is precious, and I shoot the hound with an arrow to stop it yapping (and drawing attention to me). Opening the chest means a simple lock-picking mini-game using thumbsticks. It's easy, but time consuming - so it's tough to get locks open under pressure, quickly. Inside the chest? Recipes for various items that can be crafted using the materials you'll find throughout the game. My favourite was a recipe for 'a wig'. The next mission, which I grab after returning to the inn again and telling Sam Adams that I'd destroyed all the tea, is my favourite of the day. Stephane Chapheau is back, and he's pissed off. The Redcoats have finally seized his shop on a trumped up 'non-payment of tax' charge, so he heads out on the town in a rage. He taunts and attacks random groups of Redcoats, and it's up to Connor to protect him. I oblige, quietly pre-empting his rants and knifing guards in the back with my hidden blade as they walk towards him. A nice touch, I see random pedestrians cheering Chapheau on as he fights his oppressors, and some even wade in to kick the fallen bodies of the Redcoats. At one point, I manage to incite even more chaos by encouraging a group of disgruntled Bostoners to riot. They shout and start fighting nearby guards, great if you're in need of a distraction. By now I've seen enough of Boston, and probably stroked all the cats in the city, so I fast travel to the New England countryside to do some manly hunting. COUNTRY GENTArriving in the countryside, I feel unprepared, so decide to trade in the coins and items I've collected in Boston for something substantial at a local shop. I buy Connor a natty Charlestown outfit, which has a pleasing red trim, and some extra arrows. There are so many things to buy and trade, it's intimidating, but now I feel ready to take on the wilderness. Heading into the nearest woods Connor spots a clump of flowers and investigates them. They've been chewed by a hare, and after looking at them Connor is pointed towards his prey and given a rough estimate of how far away the animal is. I find the hare, shoot it, skin it. Ok, so hares aren't the biggest of beasts, but later in Assassin's Creed 3 tracking down larger animals will require more time and skill. Whilst tracking another deer through the woods, I get a message asking if I want to loot a nearby Redcoat supply wagon. Figuring it would be rude not to, I head to the trees and quickly get into position above the road. As the wagon rumbles under me I leap onto the guards at the front, killing one with tomahawk and flowing quickly into an instant takedown of his buddy. Before the Redcoats at the rear can react, I'm on them, and they're soon dead. In small pockets like this combat is almost too easy. The wagon brings in a nice haul of money (interestingly, the currency is £ sterling). As I stand over the bodies of the wagon guards I spot a windmill in the distance, and feel a great urge to climb its rotating sails. Doing so looks great, but it's fiddly as gravity shifts when the sails turn. My slight disappointment is tempered by finding a feather on the roof of the windmill - annoying collectibles confirmed. This was one of five in the specific region I was in, but New England is split into all kinds of territories so expect to be hunting feathers for hours. After climbing down from the windmill, I look for a Redcoat fort to attack, and there's one nearby. I hug the coast until it looms into view, built half into the woods, and half on the cliff-edge. I've seen the E3 demo, I know how this works. Approaching the fort puts you into a high-alert zone, so if you're spotted guards will attack on sight, which they do as I blunder towards the front gate. Dispatching the sentries is easy, but the soldiers inside sound an alarm and the gates are locked, meaning I can't simply storm in through the front door. I look for an alternative route in, and there's a back door accessed by scaling the cliff-face. Here the free-climbing falls apart a little. It wasn't obvious where Connor could and couldn't grab, and although it's tough to fall off I managed it, and spent a couple of minutes trying to climb out of a crevice. No fun. Finally inside the fort, there's more fighting before I set fire to the gunpowder store and blow the place to pieces.Seems like a good place to end, right? No, there's even more stuff to be done, and I've got 10 minutes of hands on time left. I fast travel to Connor's homestead in Davenport, and poke around the house. It's a little bare, but there's a man inside called Achilles, who asks Connor to record rural life around the homestead for his book, the Encyclopaedia of the Common Man. I think about it, but consider it too grand a work to complete in 10 minutes, so I give him a few vague assurances and immediately head off to do something else. Sorry chum. There's a ledger in the homestead too, which lets you arrange wagon deliveries (an extra stream of income) throughout the whole of New England. I send a wagon off to some nearby shop, hoping to sell a consignment of deer marrow. Apparently I stand to make £10, but the probability of a successful is only 30%. Hmm, hardly seems worth it. Finally, I decide to head to the beach to spend my last few minutes gazing out to sea at some ships. Here I meet a salty seadog with a peg-leg, and challenge another land-locked mariner to a game of Checkers. He smashes me, and I lose the £10 I bet on the game. Hope that consignment of deer marrow makes it, or I've lost money. And that's where it ends. An anticlimax perhaps, but a perfect snapshot of how easy it is to simply get distracted and waste time in Assassin's Creed 3. After this session I can't tell you how the character of Connor develops, what the hell is happening with Desmond, or how the war is going - between either the Brits and Americans, or the Assassins and Templars. The story remains a mystery. However, I do know that this is clearly the most ambitious Assassin's Creed yet - the scale and depth dwarfs past entries - and although it's currently rough around the edges, this is a game large enough to hold your attention for months, regardless of how many pigs you decide to feed along the way.
Ubisoft could not have chosen a more fitting setting for Assassin's Creed 3 than the American Revolution. The series feels on the brink of change, ready to shed some of the uglier points of its history.The first thing I do in Assassin's Creed games is climb. I find the highest building I can and scale it to the very top. Below me, every time, lies the true star of the series (sorry, Desmond). Be it the original Assassin's Creed's sparse Kingdom, Florence or Venice from its sequel, or Brotherhood's superlative Rome, every rooftop or spire is a surface to be explored.Last year's Constantinople skyline once again laid a whole city out before players but, five major games in, it had begun to feel like a roadmap of ritualism. Players plodded through familiar missions and travelled in familiar ways. Delving deeper only uncovered additional infuriating layers: renovating shops inexplicably increased your notoriety, which pushed you closer to the game's unnecessary tower defence mini-game.Assassin's Creed 3 has excised all of this and corralled its growing tangle of in-game systems into a tighter framework, one that feels rewarding to the player. At the heart of this lies the game's new Homestead area."Homestead is our take on the American dream," associate producer Julien Laferrière tells Eurogamer. "It's our take on building your own little town." The rise of new half-Native American hero Connor will be reflected in the growth of this settlement, as his personal journey echoes that of past historical protagonists. Like Ezio, Connor is forced into action after tragedy strikes those close to him. And like Altair, players will see the character mature under the watchful eye of a mentor figure. In Connor's case this is Achilles, an older master assassin of British and Caribbean descent."He's not your Leonardo da Vinci," Laferrière explains, referencing Ezio's huggable inventor friend, despite an obvious rapport between mentor and protégé. Achilles will remain at the homestead while you're off adventuring, although he will play a part in several quests."Many of these systems existed before... but never before has their inclusion been so synchronised."The two characters' roles are encapsulated well in a moment when the hot-headed young Assassin strides out to battle. As Connor leaves Achilles, he buries the head of an axe into the ornate woodwork of a nearby doorframe. It is a custom in his tribe, he explains, that the axe remains embedded in wood until he returns successful. "Couldn't you have used a tree?" Achilles sighs.Laferrière describes the Homestead as a "personalised" base for Connor, but this will not mean playing Assassin's Creed: The Sims with your villagers. "It's not 'can I change the colour of the bricks, or roof'," he explained. Instead, your settlement will be personalised by the people who join you, whose stories you will grow to become part of. In return for your help and shelter, they will reward you with quests and offer you their skills, be that as a farmer, lumberjack, or woodcrafter. And they're definitely not slaves, Laferrière was quick to add. Connor is "more their general manager".Staffed up, the Homestead demonstrates Ubisoft's new grasp on the game's systems. Inhabitants can harvest or craft items based on recipes found in treasure chests throughout the game world. The end products can then be sold to shops you've unlocked. Goods can be moved further afield in convoys, which shuttle about the game's trade-routes, part of a larger continent-wide economy. To establish this you'll need to go on missions clearing bandits from roads or fighting naval battles to defend sea routes from pirates.Many of these systems existed before - unlockable shops, an economy based on the world map, treasure chests with items as rewards, even a basic ability to see a settlement grow as you progress in Assassin's Creed 2's Monteriggioni. But never before has their inclusion been so, for want of a better word, synchronised. The approach of harmonising series elements carries throughout the game. Navigating the environment is smoother, as Connor slithers around tree trunks and slides under obstacles with a grace never before possible. You no longer need to hold two buttons down to run. And you can finally fast-travel from anywhere to missions and significant locations, any time.Don't think the series has gone soft on you, though. There are now multiple optional objectives for each mission (such as staying below a certain notoriety level, limiting sneaky firearm usage, locating additional targets and doing all of the above in one playthrough). You'll need them all to achieve that precious 100 per cent synchronisation.Hardcore players will be kept very busy, and a glance around the map indicates dozens of mission types. There are Red Dead Redemption-style hunting challenges, courier missions, a new collectible type which unlocks adventures in far-off exotic locations, plus a whole section exclusive to PlayStation 3 players where you get to lark about with revolutionary traitor Benedict Arnold.Long-term Assassin's fans will be rewarded, too. One of the game's most interesting - and devious - weapons is the ropedart, which allows you to hang your unfortunate foes from the nearest tree branch. Achilles delivers it to Connor, informing him that it is a product of legendary Chinese assassin Shao Jun, who appeared in Ezio epilogue animation Assassin's Creed: Embers.So too of George Washington, who was outed as a Templar way back in Assassin's Creed 2's lore. Will Ubisoft stay consistent, despite early footage showing Connor palling around with the revolutionary leader? "If players play the game that way [wondering] - it's going to be cool," Laferrière hinted. "Part of the game is knowing who is on each side."The story of the Assassin's Creed series has always been about history mixing with the present. It's also true of the many finely-tuned components in Assassin's Creed 3. They distil the best bits of the series so far, smile knowingly at those who've stuck by it from the beginning, and aptly serve as a fresh place to look and wonder.The first thing I did when I played Assassin's Creed 3 was to find a tree and climb. It took me several minutes to find a path through the branches, swinging and pivoting around, but the reward from finally perching amidst its highest fronds felt truly well-earned. This feels like the game we've been waiting for.
Assassin's Creed never seemed to lend itself to multiplayer, but Ubisoft made it work. Its hide-and-go-seek mechanic, in which players attempt to blend in with dozens of computer-controlled NPCs, was fresh enough to earn some interest, but didn't win over all players. In Assassin's Creed 3, Ubisoft is keeping its multiplayer intact, but introducing new modes with less AI-imitation required. Namely, Domination and Wolf Pack give players a break from sneaking around and posing as bots, giving multiplayer strategies an extra layer of variety. Domination is a control point map, making the sneaky combat elements more centered on a few core points. Wolf Pack is a cooperative mode, which lets players prey on AI targets. In both cases, fooling other players isn't as important as being in the right place at the right time. "Your play style differs depending on which game you play. If you want to be the best you should change your abilities, with different behaviors," multiplayer director Damien Kieken told Shacknews. "In Deathmatch, you never run because you have to be careful. In Domination you can run pretty easily [between points], but when you're in-position you need to be stealthy." Assassin's Creed 3 multiplayer meets the great outdoorsThe enemy in Wolf Pack isn't so much the hapless civilians waiting to be stabbed, but rather the clock. It runs out extremely quickly, only granting time extensions for coordinated kills. Four players working together, for example, will get the biggest time boost by taking out all four targets at once. Communication is key, and in my time with the game we only managed to reach the sixth set of targets out of 25. This was on Standard difficulty, mind you, and Kieken said the team created harder difficulty levels as they found they were getting better in play tests. Domination is a bit more traditionally similar to control point maps, but only just. Running between points is an absolute necessity, but once in the area you'll need to adopt your stealthy self again. By its nature, though, the mode lends itself to camping a point to protect it, so as the community evolves I expect we'll find strategies developed to root out hidden defenders. My Domination trials took place primarily on one of the new maps, an outdoor setting that serves as a series first. This created a much more horizontal play space as opposed to the vertical maps that take place in towns, and Kieken noted that a weather system can impact the outdoor maps with effects like snow and rain. These come among a myriad of slight tweaks taken from examining the past games. The loadouts now hold three slots, one devoted to range abilities to encourage players to interact at a distance. The Stun and Kill button has been merged into one, to remove the problem of noticing your assassin prematurely. And the post-game highlights present clearer information in a more appealing package. Domination mode requires camping points to keep control.The multiplayer modes may have faded from play more quickly, if not for Ubisoft's constant stream of new content. Kieken didn't explicitly promise free maps as we've seen in past games, but this one will have both events and community challenges offered "every month or so." The personal challenges impose the same abilities to everyone. The community challenge offers a large meta-goal to unlock pieces of the storyline, which may lead to a bit of friendly competition. "It's based on the console, so you could have the PS3 players unlock the storyline before the 360 players, for example, if they do it faster." Multiplayer was a surprise for the series, and it offered an experience unlike anything else on the market. Now that it's firmly established, it's offering variety by creating its own takes on more common game types. It's obviously too soon to know if these types will catch on, but this demo showed plenty of reasons to visit the game's more social half.
Assassin's Creed's major plot device is on a trajectory towards finality. The meta-story involving Desmond and the potential end of the world is set to come to a close with Assassin's Creed 3, just in time for the Mayan prophecy. But the series is far too popular to end completely, and the story has a few hooks left to craft more story. "Should they decide in the future to do other stuff, there's plenty of room to explore, plenty of seeds that have been planted that won't conflict," lead writer Corey May told Shacknews. He does claim that he has "no idea" if another game is on the docket, but says this game closes that story arc. "It was my intent to provide pay-off and to answer questions for those who are invested in them. It should provide a fairly lengthy ending that will also give room for answers and pay-off." But while the story has some budging room, we shouldn't expect the ending of Assassin's Creed 3 to come out of left field. May also mentioned that while the plot twists and turns, the ending won't surprise in the same way Assassin's Creed 2 is known for. "The ending should not come out of no where," he said. "You will not wake up and find that you were in an Animus reliving the life of someone who was in an Animus. We are not doing that. It was not all just a dream. "I think people that have invested in the Desmond storyline will understand where the end of the game comes from. We're tying up loose ends and providing answers and resolution to things. You're not going to get another tremendous insane-o cliffhanger." The full interview, including May's thoughts on the fears of jingoism and dealing appropriately with the historical conflict, will be coming tomorrow.