Connor is easily the deadliest assassin Ubisoft has created. Killing comes easily to Assassin's Creed III's new hero, who shows no pause when killing a man. In one sequence, I saw Connor jump on top of someone, stab him, and continue running after his target. Someone tried to block his progress, but he simply stabbed the man, shoving his squirting body away. Connor continues chasing his target, without skipping a beat. It's a minor tweak from the original formula, but it makes the chase sequences in Assassin's Creed III that much more riveting.
There's a good reason why Connor has to be so much more lethal than his predecessors: there are many more enemies to deal with. Anvil Next, Ubisoft's new "next-gen" engine, does an incredible job of rendering dozens, if not hundreds, of characters on screen at once. There are, simply put, many more bodies on the screen--and many of them will have to die.
Running assassinations are just one new way Connor can kill. A new time period means there are new gadgets to play with. Yes, you have a tomahawk. And yes, you have a pistol. But easily the most fun new toy has to be the rope dart. While standing on a tree branch, you can throw it into a hapless enemy below, and drag his flailing carcass into the treeline.
Oh, and there's also exploding barrels. Thanks, gunpowder.
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Connor is now able to assassinate his targets with any weapon, not just the hidden blade. And interestingly, he shows no allegiance in the war between the patriots and redcoats. "Let the patriots fight their own battles; I'm here for the Templar," Connor said in one conversation. It's clear that his job will have him fighting against enemies on both sides of the war.
Not only is Connor deadlier than the previous Assassin's heroes, he's also more agile. Ubisoft is trying to adapt the franchise's parkour system to fit a more organic level design. While you'll undoubtedly be scaling many buildings, with their 90-degree corners and easily identifiable handholds, you'll be scaling uneven ground and new, unusual shapes. I was impressed to see Connor climb the side of a jagged hill and swing from tree branch to branch--it looked natural, not as "gamey" as traversal did in previous games.
What Ubisoft has shown of Assassin's Creed III already shows a lot of promise. Faster combat coupled with enhanced traversal in a new environment makes this a sequel worthy of its numbered designation. But there's even more we have yet to see, like the evolution of Desmond, and how the Animus metagame expands for this "finale." As the demo wrapped up, a Ubisoft producer teased one new feature yet to be unveiled: "The American Revolution wasn't just fought on land," he told us.
Watch the Shacknews E3 2012 page to follow all our coverage of this year's show. This preview is based on a hands-off demo shown at a pre-E3 event.