Assassin’s Creed 3 preview: creative director Alex Hutchinson talks guns, trees and Predator

Assassin's Creed 3 ps3 screens

A group of weary soldiers cluster around their general, leaning close to hear his rousing speech. “Do not fire until you see the whites of their eyes!” he bellows over booming gunfire. A hooded figure passes through the troops, the white of his clothing standing out among the filthy uniforms as he purposefully approaches the general. The smoke of a thousand muskets drifts across Bunker Hill as he is informed of his next target. Welcome to Assassin’s Creed III.

With Ezio and Altair hanging up their hidden blades while the action was only just beginning for Desmond Miles in Revelations, it was almost guaranteed that the next game would be a big ’un. After the pseudo-sequels of Brotherhood and Revelations, fans have been clamouring for a change of scenery, and they’ve certainly got one. From the gameplay I’ve seen, this is unquestionably a bigger game-changer than when Ezio Auditore stumbled across his father’s secret in ACII.

Our new Assassin is right in the middle of the American Revolution. A bloody war rages between the American colonies and the British Empire in the name of freedom. “We chose the American Revolution because it’s untouched,” explains creative director Alex Hutchinson. “No other games have really got into it. If you want to make a shooter, it doesn’t really work because the guns are terrible. In terms of universal themes, what is it about? It’s about liberty or death, control vs freedom. This is the debate between the Assassins and the Templars. The interesting thing for us, too, is that the American Revolution is the backdrop. You’re not fighting for the Americans: you’re killing Templars.”

But who is our Assassin? We’ve been waiting for Ezio’s successor for two-and-a-half years. “It was time,” nods Hutchinson. “If the audience is looking for a new character, then the development team is looking for a new character with the strength of a thousand suns.”

Connor – he’s clearly too enigmatic for a surname – is an 18th-century Native American ancestor of Desmond. The son of Native American and European parents, Connor is a member of the Mohawk tribe who finds himself pushed into joining a Western branch of the Brotherhood.

“We didn’t want revenge, but we needed some kind of shove – and we decided that violence against a people is stronger than violence against your dad,” explains Hutchinson. “We see it as injustice, and he fights injustice. He helps the Revolution because he thinks it’s the right thing to do.”

Assassin's Creed PS3 screensAgile and fast, Connor is a perfect fit for the free-running style of the Assassin’s universe. He may have had to take on the classic uniform, but he customises it with his own lethal tools and accessories. A tomahawk and a bow are just two of the many unique weapons he has in his arsenal. And there’s no need to panic: this isn’t just Ezio with a few feathers. “Our goal was to have nothing from previous Assassins in the game,” confirms Hutchinson. “All of the animations for the character are fresh – which is kind of daunting when you think that Ezio had 6,000 [in ACII].”

Watching Connor hurtle through the natural world is a testament to Ubisoft’s thirst for something new. Boughs bend under his weight when he darts through trees, and snow topples from branches as he jumps from one to another. The fluidity is staggering – any sense of linearity is removed – and free-running is joyously liberating. Launching on to a rock face, Connor ascends effortlessly, in a manner entirely different to Ezio and Altair. Like a rock climber, he’s far more natural as he finds holds on the sheerest of cliffs. Reaching the top, he takes in his surroundings.