One of the good things about the Ubisoft preview was that at least they actually showed a whole bunch of gameplay, not least for the stable's latest flagship series: Assassin's Creed. We saw everyone's favourite Florentine murderer back once again, this time looking a little grizzled and battle-hardened, a deadly silver fox in middle age, as he departed Constantinople, taking out the entire harbour in the process.
Ezio doesn't really do things by halves, he gets results, but the ensuing action was so chaotic it was a little difficult to get a handle on what exactly Ubisoft Montreal will be bringing to the new game and how they're hoping to build on the successes of Assassin's Creed 2 and Brotherhood to provide a fitting conclusion to Ezio's story. And it had better be the end and time for some real progression, Desmond's story is getting more ridiculously convoluted than a pile of tagliatelle. Thankfully, we had a couple of members of the dev team on hand to walk us through the level and answer a few questions, though they wouldn't be drawn too much on the story side of things.
As previously stated, Constantinople is the main setting for this particular title, with Ezio hot on tracks of seven seals to help him walk in the footsteps of his ancestor Altair - you may have heard of him. Only trouble is that the Templars are after them too and Ezio's managed to piss off a fair few people over the course of the last few years. The city looks beautiful, stylised very differently to the Italian sprawls we saw in the last couple of games, which is certainly how it should be, the slopes of the Ottoman capital providing a vast playground for our assassin's proto-parkour.
A Templar has fled the city with one of the seals and the city has gone and raised an enormous chain spanning the bay to prevent any ships from docking or leaving. Not that it's really a problem for our Ezio, at least not now he's rocking some new explosive assets. There'll be a number of different kinds of bomb that he'll be able to fling at unsuspecting guards and we got to see him take out a couple with a standard ceramic grenade. After trotting up to the chain's anchor point, a smoke bomb yields the necessity for a spot of Eagle Sense - Revelations' upgraded version of Eagle Vision which will also allow you to track the patrol patterns of guards and set up ambushes.
After the last few Ottomon guards are sent back to their maker, Ezio places a special bomb, delivered to him by the city's guild chief Yusuf and exponentially more powerful than his standard chuckable explosives, at the chain's mooring. A quick burst from his wrist pistol and the chain is severed, the bay open once more.
Of course, just mincing down to the docks and paddling out calmly into open waters wouldn't do; the whole city is after Mr. Auditore. Time for a zipline, one of the game's additional features allowing Ezio to use his shiny new hookblade to slide quickly down ropes and wires. He lands on a ship in amongst a whole bunch of Ottoman Janissaries (thanks Medieval: Total War), but he's got no time from them. A quick whistle and along come his handy Assassin companions to handle the riff-raff. The fiery Ezio has other plans, mainly to do with a large flamethrowing device at the prow of the ship.
The next half a minute is spent setting fellow ships ablaze. The sizzling sounds of smouldering wood and the screams of unfortunate soldiers fills the air. It's a bit uncomfortable actually, but the implacable Ezio is required to finish off every one. There can be no followers, not yet anyway. He's interrupted by cannon fire, hurled backward by a particularly well aimed blow that knocks the wind of him for a moment. But seconds later he's back on his feet and, his arsonist tendencies satisfied, it's time to make a break for it. Dashing across beams, leaping across gaps, scaling mastheads and skipping across the decks of the smouldering fleet, Ezio hurtles towards his own ship, finding time to zipline assassinate a couple of guards in the process. He glides out of the bay at the end as the smouldering bay provides a fiery curtain to end the act.
It's all very scripted, of course. Developers at the expo - something IO Interactive readily admitted when it came to Hitman (more on that later) - have had a tricky time trying to convey an open world in a focused, tight demo timetable. But it is rather exhilarating. Anyone who played ACII or Brotherhood will be instantly at home, the new game essentially being Ass Creed 2.3.
There are several details on the game that we know already. The Brotherhood multiplayer will return, fleshed out with new modes, new disguises, new abilities and options. There'll be several other locations to explore as well as Constantinople, with the game actually kicking off in Altair's old stomping ground of Masayaf. Indeed, there'll be moments where Ezio revisits his ancestor's life, the game switching focus (and playable control) to Altair. Moreover, the dynamic explored through Borgia towers in Brotherhood will return, with the Assassins and Templars vying for control of Constantinople. You'll be able to set up Assassin Dens as you wrest control of districts from the Templars, but that's not to say that the Templars won't try to take those territories back.
And then, of course, there's Desmond. Stuck within the Animus, we got a brief glimpse of some of the things in store for him - mainly involving doors of light, unintelligible wall scrawlings, ethereal voices and nonsensical prophetic babbling. So pretty much just business as usual. This game will bring the ties between the three protagonists together, however, the aim being to set the stage perfectly for the next generational step in the series.
There'll be a few people still grumbling that we're still playing as Ezio, but you can ignore them. He and Ubisoft have earned this chance to end what has been an excellent (thus far) trilogy on their terms. After the achievements of the last two games, we're far from begrudging them that. Bring it on, November is going to be one hell of a month!