Hands On with Ubisoft at Eurogamer Expo 2012

By Chewie, 6 years ago
Third instalments of franchises are notoriously difficult: the first instalment introduces us to the world and the main players, the second expands on that world and allows us to ditch some of that initial exposition in favour of character development and hearty doses of story-telling, and the third...?

In the world of films, for every Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade, there's a The Godfather: Part III and for every Toy Story 3 there's a Superman III. In the world of games, three-quels have tended to be more on the successful side. However, we've been bombarded with them of late, with Battlefield 3, Saints Row: The Third, Mass Effect 3, Gears of War 3, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 and Max Payne 3 all keeping us occupied for the last year.

In the cases of Assassin's Creed III and Far Cry 3, is 3 the magic number or are we starting to get a little three-quel fatigue? I managed to get my hands on the latest playable previews of them at this year's Eurogamer Expo to find out.

Disclaimer: these previews are from unfinished games and may not represent the final product.

Assassin's Creed III

The first half of the demo saw new protagonist, Connor, infiltrating the redcoat base of Fort Wolcott in search of an important map fragment. The level contained all the different elements we've now come to expect from an Assassin's Creed title: climbing, free running, silent death-dealing and open combat.

Screen Pack 1

The level began with a spot of clambering up the side of some cliffs and into the fort itself. This climbing session was a linear affair: I just had to point in the right direction (mostly up) and Connor did most of the work. Admittedly, the climbing animations looked very fluid, making it seem more impressive to navigate the cliffs than it actually was. This was true of all of Connor's movements. He has most of the same moves that Ezio and Altair did, but there's something a bit more bulky and brutal about them. It's nice that they've given Connor his own distinct feel. The exterior section of the fort showed off some of the beautifully painterly landscapes and skies on offer.

Once he impregnated the fort, Connor had to progress silently, dispatching guards without being detected. The sneaking and climbing sequences here felt very reminiscent of previous titles, with keeping an eye on the guards' routes and striking at the right moment being the order of the day. The typical 'pull them off a ledge', 'jump down onto them' and 'strike from inside a hay-bale' assassinations are present and correct. A noticeable difference is Connor's weapon of choice: the tomahawk. This axe-like weapon makes for some really blunt, brutal looking kills, but ultimately is an aesthetic and historically suitable change, rather than a gameplay one - at least in this section in the game.

After progressing far enough into the level, I then had to face the guards head-on. The combat also doesn't seem too much different than the last few instalments. Your enemies surround you and make occasional strikes. These strikes can be dodged and countered. Once you've broken an enemy's defence and damaged them enough, you can trigger a killing animation and, with good timing, can chain together a kill streak, dispatching multiple foes with ease. The new killing animations are really brutal. One I saw involved throwing a guard down, then grabbing another one and throwing him down on top, before picking up a bayonet and sliding it into both of them, like a shish-kebab. Unlikely? Yes. Smirk-inducing? Absolutely!

The majority of guards didn't pose much of a threat, but there is one type of enemy, an axe-wielding, kilt-wearing, tree-trunk of a Scots-Guard, who acts as this game's brute. He takes a little bit more to bring down and seemed to prove a challenge for some players. Stalwarts of the series should have no problem, though. It does prove the old adage though: never trust a man in a skirt...and carrying an axe.

A timed-section finished up the level as Connor had to flee through the now-burning and collapsing fort. Free-running across crumbling roofs and avoiding flaming timber was a thrilling - if again familiar - section, with the sounds and sights of destruction in particular being particularly impressive.

ACIII Sept. 25th

The requirement to complete extra, optional, objectives to achieve 100% sync in a level also returns. However, at least in this level, the number of sub-objectives has now been upped to three. I had to kill at least three guards from a ledge, achieve a kill-streak of at least three, and not lose more than 33% of my health. That's a lot of threes. A reference to this being the third instalment maybe? Or am I reading too much into it?

All in all, this level shows how very efficient and polished the series has become. The presentation was impeccable. Yes, it basically amounted to more of the same in a different setting, but when the gameplay is this good, does that matter? Of course, that's not to say that there won't be more in the game to shake up the series, such as the much-talked about forest free-running and hunting sections.

The second half of the demo featured a new element for the series: naval battles. Connor had slipped into a rather fetching captain's get-up to helm the large sea-faring craft. You have a number of tools at your disposal in order to navigate the seas and take on your enemies. Pushing the movement stick left or right spins the ship's wheel in the appropriate direction and and you use the face buttons to control whether to use half, full or no sail, which controls your speed and turning ability. You must also keep an eye on the mini map, which gives you an indication of the wind's direction and makes a significant difference on your headway.

ACIII Sept. 25th

Combat in naval battles involves using your best navigation to line up with your enemies and bring them down. You have a number of weapons that you can use to scupper the blighters: the swivel gun, which gives you 360° of accuracy, but little damage; your regular cannons, which require you to get side on with the enemy, but deal decent damage; and chain cannons, which are used to take out an enemy's sails. Switching weapons is as easy as pressing the direction buttons. According to press, your ship will be upgradable and other weapons, including fire-cannons, will become available. Yes, that's cannon balls on fire.

Sailing a massive ship on fantastically rendered oceans of crashing waves and blowing enemy vessels to smithereens is an enormously satisfying affair. Yes, it is quite different to almost every other aspect of the title's main gameplay, being mostly akin to the Da Vinci vehicle sections of Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, but it still seems well thought out and is very fun. Whether this turns out to be this title's version of the much-maligned Tower Defence from https://www.trueachievements.com/AC-Revelations/achieve....htm remains to be seen, but from this demo, colour me excited.

Assassin's Creed III will be out on October 30th in North America and October 31st in Europe. Take a look at all our coverage so far for the game here.

Far Cry 3

This single-player demo had a very 'open world' feel to it. There wasn't any particular path or mission laid out for me, so the surrounding areas were my playground. Watching other players, I noticed that everyone was having a very different experience, so it's worth pointing out what else I saw as well as what I experienced myself.

Far Cry 3 June 25th

The demo started in a small, peaceful village as locals went about their day. I bumped into one chap who challenged me to some friendly gambling in a knife-throwing competition. He was sweaty, dirty and wearing a vest. He also completely destroyed me at knife throwing, which required precise aiming and hitting the right point on a power bar.

Whilst Far Cry 2 had a variety of wildlife, all of it was passive and, until a Water Buffalo ran out into the road and into the path of your jeep, rarely had any impact on the game. Far Cry 3 is a different story. As well as aggressive islanders, you have to deal with dangerous animals on a regular basis. I faced packs of feral dogs and even saw someone going toe-to-toe with a tiger. Hunting brings the opportunity to skin your felled animals, which can presumably be traded in for cash money. Other sub-quests and mini-games on offer included herb-picking to create healing rememdies or mind-altering drugs. So far, so Red Dead Redemption.

fc 5

The main elements of gameplay and presentation feel very similar to the game's predecessor, with the only real noticeable difference being the shift from barren deserts to lush tropical forests and lagoons. Over all, the game looks beautiful, although I noticed a few graphical glitches, such as NPCs getting stuck in bits of the environment and a waterfall that looked more like a giant tube sock. Nothing to get too bothered about this far from the game's Winter release, though.

Many familiar elements make a return to the title, including health syringes (and gruesome self-healing animations), vehicles and frequent enemy spawning. There were plenty of vehicles to play with, including Jeeps and hang-gliders. Driving around on the roads, you encounter occasional and random road blocks set up by the insane islanders, and you also frequently encounter an enemy vehicle on patrol. These encounters can be dealt with head on or with a more stealthy approach. What made it more refreshing compared to the previous game was that the animals would also get involved. I was sneaking up to a roadblock when a pack of wild dogs attacked the enemies and finished them off for me. It was a surprising and hilarious moment.

fc 2

The weapons I had were the usual mix of pistols, assault rifles and tossable grenades, but I saw a few people get their hands on a wicked-looking bow and arrows, which made swift, satisfying work of a camp of hostiles. I also had my trusty knife to finish off any wounded enemies and deal with the animals that got up a little too close and personal.

Overall, the game felt like all the best things about Far Cry 2: beautiful, exotic scenery, fast and frantic firefights and a real sense of exploration. Whether the story will hold up better than the previous game's forgettable mess remains to be seen, but the trailers released so far suggest there's quite a lot of crazy stuff happening on this particular island 'paradise'.

Far Cry 3 will be released on November 30th in Europe and December 4th in North America. Check out our previous coverage here.
Written by Chewie
Chewie is a Wookiee from Kashyyyk. Since helping the Rebel Alliance defeat the Emperor, he has taken up Achievement-Hunting and Newshoundery on TA. Also, ice-skating.