Assassin's Creed 3 multiplayer preview: Disguise deemphasized

By Steve Watts, Sep 24, 2012 9:00am PDT

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."

The 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.

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.


This Assassin's Creed 3 multiplayer preview was based on a pre-release Xbox 360 demo of the game at an event where transportation and accommodations were provided by Ubisoft.

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