Assassin's Creed III is hitting consoles in less than a month's time, and one of the things everyone wants to know more about is the multiplayer. While Assassin's Creed III features some returning favorites, it also features two brand-new multiplayer modes: Domination and Wolfpack. Ubisoft has shown these at prior events, such as Comic-Con, but this week, we had a chance to give it a go with final code and see how the end product felt for the first time.
It should be noted that these are initial impressions and limited to about an hour of gameplay. We were playing at Ubisoft's offices in San Francisco, along with other members of the media. Eight Xbox 360 stations were set up, each with its own headset, though the headsets got little use. It was easier to chat directly with the other players. Games were played on a local network, so latency was not an issue.
The first game type we played was Domination. For this, the eight players split up into two teams of four each. Your team's goal in Domination is to take control of the three control points on the map. So long as you have at least two control points, the score bar increases on your side and decreases on the other. If one team holds all three points, the score bar moves faster.
Because the score bar is a fixed size, playing Domination is not a matter of absolute points but is more like a tug of war instead. It is possible for one team to completely blow out the other, though it is equally possible for a team to stage a come-from-behind win. After all, you don't need to hold the whole score bar to win — you simply need to hold a hair more than half when the timer reaches zero.
If this sounds like something you've played before, it should. The overall concept is quite similar to what has appeared in other third-person shooters, but the implementation is what makes it uniquely Assassin's Creed.
The first thing you notice when playing Domination is that there are a lot more than just eight players on the map. Each map is loaded with civilians, many of whom are using the same character models as the two player-controlled teams. Killing any of the civilians temporarily prevents you from attacking an opponent, so there is a strong incentive to verify your target before striking.
Another important distinction is that only the defender of a control point can kill someone within. An attacker vying for control can only stun a defender — at least until the control point shifts to his or her team.
As a result, the winning strategy in Domination appears to be one of controlled movements. Running around and moving erratically is a surefire way to reveal yourself as a human player. Walking around slowly, moving in large arcs or even standing in a crowd is an excellent way to blend in. Extra abilities, such as temporarily changing your character model or tossing money on the ground to attract a crowd of civilians, add a few more options for the savvy assassin.
Wolfpack is the cooperative mode in Assassin's Creed III, and while it can be played by fewer, it is really designed for teams of four. Here, you are facing a clock and a series of goals. Complete a sequence to add time and move on to the next. Later sequences are more challenging than the earlier ones, and as such, teamwork is a must.
Earning points in Wolfpack is done by killing the designated targets. Bonus points are awarded if the team is in sync and kills all of its targets simultaneously. Doing so makes it possible to quickly meet the point goals for a given sequence — so much so that after a few rounds, we were going from sequence one straight to sequence four or five. Making these jumps helps out a great deal, as it saves precious seconds for the harder sequences.
In addition to the main assassination targets, Wolfpack features bonus goals, such as killing from a hiding spot or killing someone while locked on. Doing so awards extra points, which help your team finish a sequence faster. There are also random targets that sport bonus time. These guys can be a lifesaver.
Much like Domination, success in Wolfpack requires restraint as well as teamwork. You need to move in careful, controlled motions. If not, you'll end up spooking the targets and making them run. This is bad because you end up wasting precious seconds chasing them down. It also makes it extremely difficult to perform a synchronized kill.
After playing both modes for a while, what stood out them most was how fresh they felt. Yes, the ideas have been done before, but they really haven't been done in this way. Just jumping in cold, the game gives the impression that playing well relies much more on utilizing a good strategy than on a fast trigger finger. In fact, hair-trigger reflexes may be useless in a competitive Domination match.
At the same time, we do have one big concern with Wolfpack, and that is wondering how many players will actually get the chance to properly experience it. The Wolfpack mode is incredibly fun and has the potential to be addicting, but given the average maturity level in an online pickup game, it's difficult to see Wolfpack being enjoyable when played with randoms. It's the type of game mode that seems like it almost has to be played by a group of four friends due to the communication level involved. We would be thrilled to proven wrong, though.
It may have been a short taste, but after going hands-on with the final version of Assassin's Creed III's multiplayer, first impressions are very positive. Both Domination and Wolfpack were plenty of fun. We'll be counting down the days until our review copy shows up and we can hop online once again.
More articles about Assassin's Creed III