With a special evening presentation scheduled, anticipation for seeing Assassin's Creed threatened to overshadow the rest of the lineup at a recent Ubisoft press event. As if the potential for the story of an assassin mired in the intrigues of the Crusades didn't offer plenty to speculate about, the game went dark after stealing the spotlight at last year's E3, and we've all been waiting to see more. Well, don't get your hopes up too much for new stuff just yet, as it turns out that what Ubisoft had in mind for the presentation was another sexy video to get everyone all wound up again.
We watched as Altair, the assassin and star of the show, bounded across rooftops and pirouetted with a slashing sword through a number of enemies all in sync with the beat of U.N.K.L.E.'s perfectly moody Lonely Soul. While Ubisoft's Jade Raymond introduced the clip as taken from a new area, it looked very similar to the environment shown before. To some degree, however, that is to be expected, as you wouldn't expect that great of a variation between the Damascus and Jerusalem of the 12th century.
Regardless, a couple of video techniques went a long way to heighten the dramatic sense of being in this gritty Arabic world. The tile and stonework of all the architecture shows a good deal of detail, but natural lighting and some softening (that may or may not have been added to dress up the video) gives it all a believably dirty look. And whether it's in long vistas above the city, or up close in a fight, the pronounced depth of field blurring used on the background keeps the focus sharply on Altair.
For those concerned that this might become a re-skinned extension of the Prince of Persia line, the action we saw probably only serves as reinforcement. Altair doesn't just bound from beam to beam over alleys and leap from roof to roof; he pulls off these gymnastic moves with a familiar lithe step. In combat he similarly exhibits a gracefulness reminiscent of the prince, executing enemies in a flourish of strokes.
SCREENS: Click the image above to check out all Assassin's Creed screens.
But his fighting skills take it step further. Altair busted out several new moves that revealed his fighting style to closely resemble the tricky, street-savvy swashbuckling of Captain Jack Sparrow. Several combos began with an attack being parried, followed up with an unexpected physical attack like a slap or reverse elbow. And in one case, Altair tossed some sparkling dust in his opponent's face as a distraction before laying the beat-down on him.
Building the A.I. capable of keeping up with all this action has been one of the key development points over the past few months, according to Raymond. She explained that the fluid fighting coupled with the chase and escape game mechanic posed a number of issues. And while, for balancing reasons, enemies won't be able to scale walls like you can, they will be able to somewhat keep up with you through agile movements of their own, including the ability to make some impressive leaps.
Beyond that, Raymond gave us a sense for how large a game to expect. Compared to the area seen at last year's E3, each of the three cities will be approximately 15 times larger. That's an awful lot of space to try out the social stealth rules in. She also reassured that there will be more to it than simply a Crusades version of Hitman -- pre-mission investigations will require you to explore the world and gather clues by eavesdropping, pick pocketing, or perhaps discretely roughing up an informant to loosen their tongue.
So, while we didn't just leave the LA Convention Center, here we are a year later, once again anxious to get our hands on Assassin's Creed to see for ourselves how well it all stitches together.