The unusual competitive multiplayer mode that was introduced in last year's Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood will be changed for Assassin's Creed: Revelations.
They're not turning it into Call of Duty or like anything in any other major multiplayer game. It wil still be an assassination game that rewards stealthy players. But the there will be tweaks.
The head of the game's multiplayer development team walked me through them at E3 last week. Ready?
The basic gameplay remains the same. Each player in a competitive match has at least one assassination target and is the target of at least one other player. There are, as before, many characters in the level who look just like you - others who look like each of your fellow players - so the goal is to figure out who the human-controlled characters are and to assassinate any that have been marked as your prey.
Damien Kieken of Ubisoft Annecy walked me through a multiplayer "manhunt" match that was set in Rhodes. He pointed out some minor changes, improvements to the clarity of the interface that more clearly show players how to switch assassination targets or see that they're being rewarded if they hide in groups.
One big change is that players who are attacked can defend themselves a little more successfully this time. In ACB, a player who was being pounced upon by their would-be assassin, could try to block that attack… and then run away in the rare event that they were successful. This time, they can strive for an "honorable death". That is, if they fail to block successfully, they still might have been fast enough to commit this new action, which gives the victim the same number of points that the attacker gets for the kill plus wounds the attacker and renders them briefly incapable of attack. (Kieken didn't want to leave the impression that attacker and defender arre now even. He stressed that AC multiplayer is still intentionally "asymmetrical.")
A second significant change is that stealthy players will get improved rewards for killing from the shadows. In ACB, the main byproduct of a stealthy approach to a kill was the higher point total received for that artful murder. You still get more points for tougher, stealthier kills. But you'll also find that you are a more potent killer if you've been skulking around. Kieken pointed to an arced meter in the upper-right corner of the TV and said that it would fill up if a player was moving around in a stealthy manner. Should that meter indicate that they've been sneaky, the attacking player will find that their assassination attempts animate more impressively and… more quickly. The impression I got is that the stealthy assassin will be tougher than ever to fend off.
Other changes to the multiplayer mode include a "friends hub" that tracks friends' statistical performances in the game - a friends' leaderboard for various challenges, basically - as well as more elaborate character-customisation system that will let players use in-game currency to purchase various accoutrements for their characters.
Multiplayer will also have more of a story this time. But that story, which casts the player as an Abstergo Industries recruit of some sort, experiencing the multiplayer mode in one of the series' Animus Device, is still mostly a mystery.
Assassin's Creed Revelations is set to launch later this year. I'll have more impressions of the game's single-player mode tomorrow.