During gamescom 2012 we got a glance at the much anticipated Ubisoft title, Assassin's Creed 3, and got to see footage of both the PS3 and Wii U versions running side-by-side. The majority of the footage we saw in this demonstration was from a substantive boat battle scene in which new protagonist Connor Kenway commands his vessel in an engagement against multiple enemy ships.
In a way we were disappointed with the footage shown, as we have already seen a substantial amount of naval gameplay from the game's E3 demonstration. Given that the naval sections are quoted to be roughly 10% of the game, we have to wonder what the other 90% (i.e. the core Assassin's Creed gameplay) is like.
Despite our regret that we did not get to see more of the series' traditional gameplay elements, we did get to see a short on-foot section and managed to glean some further information in relation to boat battle scenes.
During the naval engagement we saw Connor maneuvering his vessel around the enemy ships and levelling huge broadsides at them to push them beneath the waves. The development team informed us that throughout the course of the adventure players will unlock various upgrades and ammunition types for Connor's ship, the Aquila.
As the footage we saw was from from a mission approximately ¾ into the game, the ship had already been substantially upgraded at this point and we got to see various ammunition types in action, including the shotgun-like grape shot and burning heat shot, which set stricken enemy vessels ablaze.
We also were shown how switching between various weapon types can be accessed from the Wii U tablet controller, which can be used to access both weapons for the ship and equipment for Connor during on-foot gameplay. When not in use, the Wii U tablet screen defaults to a map display for player reference.
The graphical quality was noticeably different between the Wii U and PS3 versions on show, with the PS3 version looking substantially better than its Wii U brother. The PS3 was significantly smoother round the edges, with the Wii U looking a little rough and blurry particularly on the edges of the character modelling. The PS3 also handled the distance effects much better, with explosions in the distant mist being brighter and clearer in comparison.
Gameplay proceeded at a fast pace, with Connor quickly dispatching the enemy vessels one-by-one before moving on to his objective - to assassinate a templar taking refuge on another ship. In this section we were treated to a brief show of more traditional Assassin's Creed gameplay, as the two vessels collided and Connor boarded his enemy.
In this short section Connor dispatches the guards he encounters using a variety of new weapons including his tomahawk, pistols and a grappling rope. The combat here looks typical of the series, with our assassin being able to take on a number of opponents simultaneously with ease using a combination of offensive moves and defensive counters. The addition of the new weapons into the mix promises to revitalise the combat somewhat from previous iterations and, although short, this section served to demonstrate that the gameplay that has made the series a success is still present at least in terms of the combat.
After taking care of the guards Connor spots his target and leaps from above, delivering a finishing blow with his tomahawk. Finding himself surrounded by guards, we move into a cinematic moment where, with a well placed shot to a poorly placed pile of gunpowder barrels, our assassin blows the enemy ship to smithereens and makes good his escape to his own vessel.
In focusing on the ship-based section Ubisoft have no doubt chosen to concentrate on an area that makes this game different from the previous Assassin's Creed titles, but the lack of focus on the core elements of the series left us a little disappointed. The combat element we witnessed was incredibly brief and we had no time to explore some of the games new locales or bear witness to the speed and agility of this new assassin.
Assassin's Creed 3 will be released on 31st October 2012 for Xbox 360 and PS3, 23rd November for PC users and no date has yet been announced for the Wii U version.