At E3, I had a chance to play a couple of rounds of multiplayer in Assassin's Creed III. The general setup is about the same as in the last couple Assassin's Creed games — the core of the game is to remain incognito while hunting your opponents down.
There are many copies of your character model, so it's easy to blend in by moving slowly along with the AI. The challenge is that if you want to kill an opponent, you risk revealing yourself to any onlooking enemy.
Assassin's Creed III introduces at least one new mode to its multiplayer, called "Domination". As people familiar with other games' multiplayer probably can guess, domination mode involves taking over hot-zones by standing in them for a certain amount of time, then defending them.
Domination is an eight-player mode, so I set up with seven other players and got underway. We chose from among a group of several period-appropriate characters — female and male native Americans, pirate-looking dudes, soldiers.
The key way that domination is different from past AC multiplayer is that depending on whether you hold a control point, the surrounding area is either safe for you or unsafe.
If you're near one of your own control points, you can't be killed — the enemy can only knock you out. But if you're on the offensive and infiltrating enemy territory, you become vulnerable.
The zones are delineated by a fine red barrier — cross through, and the game informs you that you have become the hunted.
The map we played on was a frozen area, covered in snow with huge walls of ice all around. We were on the water, and nearby there were a bunch of large boats moored — chases moved through the ice and onto the boats, making the environment varied between natural and man-made.
I made my way around the map, I found that when I was in defence mode, I was more cavalier about breaking cover to track down enemies. But even then, it was worth keeping in mind that a watchful enemy could follow me when I eventually decided to go on the offensive.
The special abilities have been expanded and made easier to use, which in turn makes it easier to pull sly tricks to throw off your opponent. Abilities are now mapped to the right trigger, left trigger and triangle button (I played on PS3), so I could quickly trigger one of three special abilities.
For my first loadout, I had a smoke bomb tied to one trigger and a poison dart tied to the triangle button. On my other trigger, the ability to cloak myself as a member of the opposing team, effectively hiding myself from them and, in theory, being able to trick them into killing their own teammates.
Infiltrating the enemy's area is a rush; the switch from hunter to hunted is swift and marked. I quickly learned how to use my disguises to sneak into the enemy's base, and there's a certain pleasure to be had by standing in the base long enough to win it, seeing an enemy who was running in to stop you suddenly become vulnerable and turn tail and run.
Domination combines the familiar cat-and-mouse trickiness of Assassin's Creed's ever-improving multiplayer with a more structured, varied game-type. Given how hugely upgraded the rest of the game looks, I'm guessing this won't be the last new Assassin's Creed III multiplayer mode we'll be hearing about.