|System: PC, PS3, Xbox 360|
|Release: October 30, 2012|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
by Becky Cunningham
It's a beautiful sunny day in the Assassin's Creed ship combat demo. The sea is crystal clear as I step into Connor's shoes and am instructed to walk to the ship's wheel. Connor doesn't seem to have his sea legs quite yet, as he plods quite slowly on the way to the wheel. Once he's grabbed it, the point of view shifts and I'm controlling Connor's ship directly.
I take a short spin around the cove to get used to the feel of sailing the ship. Ubisoft seems to have done a good job skirting the line between realism and playability here. The ship feels large and lumbering as a ship should, but it's not too difficult to sail. A quick button press allows the sails to be raised halfway or all the way, but the ship doesn't completely founder if the wind isn't going the player's way. After one incident in which I unfurled the sails too quickly and smashed against the side of a cliff, I got a better handle on steering and was able to move where I wanted to go without incident.
A green indicator on the screen points me in the direction of my target, another ship that looks similar to mine. It fires a few pot shots at me, but they land futilely in the water between us. I take up the chase, sailing out of the cove and into the open sea.
In accordance with the now-serious mood, the weather takes a sudden turn for the worse. The sky goes dark, lightning flashes, it starts to rain, and the sea becomes far choppier. It's a quite fabulous demonstration of what Ubisoft's new engine can do, but it's about to make my task more difficult. Visibility and aiming are tougher now that the ship is bobbing up and down on the wake of the turbulent sea.
I'm able to get a few shots in at my target using the ship's cannons, which shoot from the sides as one would expect. Before I can cripple it, though, two Man O' Wars appear and start to attack me. I'm suddenly told that I shouldn't damage my target ship any further, but that I need to take out the Man O' Wars instead. Later I figure out that this is because I'm supposed to board my target rather than sinking it. For ease of identification, there's a yellow indicator over my target and red indicators over the Man O' Wars.
At this point, the contest of ships becomes a lot more even. The Man O' Wars are much more aggressive than my target, pummeling my ship with their own cannons. The battle becomes a dance as I try to pull up to the side of the other ships, while they attempt to do the same with me. The game tells me I can brace against incoming damage with a button press, but doing so causes everything to go blurry in an apparent attempt to simulate the loss of visibility one might experience while cowering. I decide to go with the best offense and just keep shooting and dodging rather than attempting to brace myself.
It isn't easy keeping track of three enemy ships in the middle of a storm, and the Man O' Wars get a few clean shots in on me as we circle around each other. At one point, I find myself stuck between the two Man O' Wars and nearly collide with my target ship, which unexpectedly pulls up in front of me. I manage to get out of the predicament with some quick steering work, giving my target ship no more than a friendly bump. I'm starting to get better at flanking the Man O' Wars now, and before long, one of them sinks into the choppy ocean. It's not long before the other one follows, and I manage to resist the urge to shout out, "I've sunk it!"