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Previews

Assassin's Creed 3 gameplay preview: genuinely better for the guns

Ubisoft's most controversial addition is also one of its best

It's Assassin's Creed 3 week, and you'll find all the associated video interviews, features, previews and other bits and bobs on our hub page. Don't forget to read issue 84, too - new Assassin frontman Connor is our posterboy.

The second Assassin's Creed game was an astoundingly good bit of game design, but since then Ubisoft has clearly been cruising. Brotherhood and Revelations were refined enough not to cause offence, but left the series at serious risk of dilution. Assassin's Creed 3 couldn't afford to simply be more of the same, and thankfully - it isn't.

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The most important addition this time is guns (or rather, large quantities of guns - you'd run into the odd Arquebusier in previous games), but not in the way you might expect. Stealth within Assassin's Creed has always felt faintly optional. The close-quarter encounters of the first two games ensured that hand-to-hand violence was always an option, providing your thumbs were deft enough.

This time though, things aren't so cosy. Out in the cold expanses of the frontier, you don't have the luxury of tight street corners, and the men looking out for you are armed with rifles. Assassins past could dodge under arrows while sprinting, but evading bullets doesn't look as easy.

Luckily for us, reloading doesn't either. Semi-authentic weaponry means that providing you don't give anybody breathing space, rifles are only really good for one shot: once an enemy's spent that bullet trying to take you down, their best bet is to try and beat you with a sword. Good luck lads.

Battles in the game's cities and towns are likely to feel similar to those we've seen before, but the Frontier is another story. This vast snowy expanse feels like a mash-up between Skyrim and Red Dead Redemption, blending the glacial beauty of Bethesda's game with the gritty survivalist feel of Rockstar's incredible Western adventure. Try your old tricks here, and you'll end up in trouble.

Storming straight towards a platoon isn't wise in snowy conditions, for instance. Thick powder slows Connor's footwork, and it's possible to lose your balance completely if you rush. Wild animals roam the forests, and unlike the urban crowds, they aren't interested in abetting your attempts at stealth. This isn't Pocahontas. If there's a section which sees you eavesdropping on guards by sitting on a bench between two grizzly bears, we'll eat an entire factory of hats.

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The safest way to approach a firing squad is by hopping between nearby the trees until you're close enough to make an entrance. The cover of trees won't always be available, so you'll have to scope out the direction in which your victims are heading - let them slip off into the open, and you'll have a hard time closing the distance.

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