Assassin’s Creed III PS3 Review

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Assassin’s Creed is a franchise that I have not got on well with. In fact, it is more to do with me not fully giving the games a chance. My first experience with the series was with Assassin’s Creed, which came out in 2007. I was fairly hyped for the game, mainly due to the free running aspect, where you could climb pretty much anything you wanted to in the game. I got to the 9th or 10th assassination and just gave up. I did not get on with the tedious and simple combat and I got seriously bored playing the same six events over and over again, since only the assassinations ever added different gameplay mechanics to the mix.

Along came Assassin’s Creed II. Again, the hype for the game was huge and people were saying the problems with repetitiveness were gone. I decided to skip the title as I still had that sour taste from the first game. Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood came out in 2010, and some were saying this was the best game in the series yet. I decided to give it another shot, but the game just did not click with me after the initial three to four hours. I was told to keep going, but I opted out to play something else I knew I would enjoy. After playing Assassin’s Creed III, I kind of wish I did stick with the series.

If you are like me and don’t fully know what has happened in the story arc, then Assassin’s Creed III does a quick job to bring people up to speed with the plot. It is not deep, but it gives you enough idea to enjoy the story that follows, and with a new character and setting, it makes for a good place to step into if you haven’t yet experienced the series. This instalment follows the tale of Ratonhnhaké:ton, or Connor as he becomes known as, a native American who is trained as an Assassin to get rid of the Colonial Templers and defend his tribe. Desmond is once again the hero in the present time, who is using the animus to jump into memories of his ancestor, and while I don’t want to go over the story too much since a lot of the surprise is seeing what unfolds, I will say that it takes around five hours before you even meet Connor. Interpret that as you wish.

That is one of the slight problems with Assassin’s Creed III: it just takes too long to get going. I liked the idea behind the introduction and what goes on before you meet Connor, but I do wish there was more included in this part rather than having a cutscene, going someplace, doing a little fighting, and repeating, before the game opens up.

The setting for Assassin’s Creed III takes place between 1753 and 1783, and includes the American Revolution, an era which has hardly been touched upon in video games, making it a special setting to experience. Connor will travel across a huge open landscape named the Frontier, while also visiting the cities of Boston and New York and meeting famous historic people, such as George Washington and Benjamin Franklin. Connor will also take part in memorable battles and key points in the American Revolution timeline – for example, commanding armies to fight in the Battle of Bunker Hill or destroying creates of tea in the iconic Boston Tea Party protest. As with past titles, Assassin’s Creed III does well with the history it is portraying, with locations crafted with delicate details to bring them alive, while the use of believable, real-life characters gives a sense that you are in the 18th century.

Assassin’s Creed III‘s world is huge. Truth be told, it is big enough to give some other open-world games a run for their money. This is not limited to what you can explore but what you can also do. There is a varied amount of gameplay mechanics, both new and returning, that are woven into the core of Assassin’s Creed III: some brilliant, some okay and some irritating. One of the new gameplay features that was heavily advertised by Ubisoft are the naval battles, and I found these to be often tense and highly enjoyable.

When taking part in the naval battles, Connor is put in control of the Aquila, his own personal warship, and must control his crew by giving orders to attack and adjust the sails to change speed of the ship. The wind is also a variable (represented on a radar by a big triangle marker) that needs to be taken into account. A powerful blow can stop your ship or even blow it off course – not good when you are in the heat of battle and boats are launching cannonballs at the Aquila. While the gameplay is simple and the boat controls are easy to understand, it somehow manages to be engaging, and when you are in a battle with the odds stacked against you, it gets rather exciting. A note about naval warfare is that it is mostly optional. There are around three or four points in the game where you are forced to take these missions on, but the rest are side-quests that you can do in your own time, so if you personally do not like naval combat, then you won’t have to do them much.

Going through the main story took me around 14 hours. It will vary depending if you decide to take part in the hundreds of side-quests that are littered around the map. During the story, you will be doing the series’ trademarked free running, which has been slightly tuned to give the player an option to stop Connor from jumping or falling if it will harm him. If you want to disable the safety aspect, then you need to hold down X along with R1, which will allow Connor to jump no matter how dangerous the drop is. Trees can now be traversed on as well, but are more restricted in movement compared to climbing the houses and landmarks of Boston/New York. A starting point needs to be found on one of the lower branched trees; from there you can normally travel a good distance until they are spaced too far apart to continue. I found that I used trees mostly for attacking unsuspecting enemies or animals rather than to travel faster across land. It could also be due to the fact that fast travel is in the game, as this gets you across the land much faster.

Combat is another thing you will do often. I feel that Assassin’s Creed III has a gameplay style similar to Batman: Arkham City, turning more into an action game with sneak mechanics rather than being a true stealth game. There aren’t many assassinations that take part in Assassin’s Creed III, and a few of them are story-driven rather than being solely reliant on the player to sneak in, stab someone and get the hell out without being detected. A lot of side-quests and challenges have you battling in the open, surrounded by enemies. It’s only the 100% Synchronisation tasks that require you to be a master assassin – some are ridiculously challenging but thankfully it only unlocks a piece of clothing.

As you know, I had a problem with the combat in the first title, but in Assassin’s Creed III I grew to understand its improved mechanics and pacing. It can be still a bit too reliant on countering while enemies don’t wait as often to strike at you, sometimes being attacked by two or three at a time that can counter back at you and block/parry your random combos when lashing out with the tomahawk. Being able to equip two weapons at a time – something new to this game – allows you to blend combos between the two. You could be hacking at someone and, due to the lack of lock-on in this game, turn around and at point-blank range, shoot the person behind you in the head with the pistol. Guns are powerful but extremely slow to reload (around 6-8 seconds), since this is a time period where you had to pour your own gunpowder into the barrel after every shot. The combat is exciting when messing with the tools at your disposal. A favourite of mine is the rope dart, an item that I like to call the Scorpion move, as you launch it at your opponent and pull, simulating a “get over here” move made famous by the Mortal Kombat character.

Some gameplay segments of the story fall short on the rest of the game’s quality. I despised the chase sequences, especially the one that takes place after arriving at New York, which lasts forever – yes I mean forever, since he travels the same course throughout the city until you stop him. It must have taken me around ten attempts to get him. What makes it annoying is that you have to dodge past people that get in your way, seriously slowing you down if you touch them, and make sure you don’t accidentally run up an object when you are holding down the run button. He moves at the same speed as you do, so the only chance you get to stop him is by trial and error – learning his path and taking a shortcut to get in front of him. It’s just not fun and is damn annoying.

The interface can be messy. This is mainly the area where you select weapons, while there are four shortkeys with the D-Pad to pick tools/weapons on the fly, when you want to change these, or access an item that you don’t use as much; the game requires the player to hold down R2, which pauses the game as it brings up this other menu. It would have been better to implement it on the fly somehow, rather than stopping the flow of the game when in combat or escaping from the enemy.

Optional is the key word for most of the content that is available in the game. The big open world of Assassin’s Creed III is home to a variety of side-quests. Some follow their own small stories, such as finding out about a mysterious sea creature or the Sasquatch, while others require you to hunt down animals and trade their skins in for money. Connor has a base in the Frontier, and if you rescue any of the potential recruits stranded around then they will come join your home. There are metagames here that can be completely avoided. You don’t have to go gain more assassins to follow you, but you will miss out on the help they offer in a fight, something similar to Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood I believe. There is just so much to do that the optional stuff makes up around 70% of the game, giving people plenty to do once the curtains are closed on the main story.

Assassin’s Creed III on the PS3 looks fantastic. The environmental scope, with snowy fields and a weather system that brings rainstorms, all look great. Some textures can be a bit bland, but it’s pushing so much at once that you kind of forgive it. It is a shame that it is plagued with some framerate problems that crop up in busy city locations or in combat when surrounded by a lot of enemies. It can hinder the countering in some cases, but more often than not, the slowdown does not affect the game to the point where it makes it unpleasant. Pop-in and draw distance is shorter than I would have liked it to be, but this is no doubt to keep the framerate within a good enough range. These are signs that the current consoles are beginning to struggle under the technological pushes that companies are striving for with a new set of consoles. This should not be a problem in the upcoming PC release. Bugs are often present and spoil the overall presentation, with people getting stuck behind objects and items floating in the air, but the worst comes during cutscenes, as you will see Connor straight up walk through some guys like he is auditioning for a scene in Patrick Swayze’s famous film, Ghost.

Multiplayer makes a return, along with a new mode called “Wolf Pack” that puts four people in a team and must cooperatively assassinate as many targets in the allotted amount of time. The other modes play out similar to the other Assassin’s Creed games, where you are given a target to find in the midst of similar-looking NPCs that fill a small area, while someone is doing the same to you. It is fun, but does become stale after a while. Domination is the same idea but throws in parts of the map that need taking over and holding to win. A level-up system is in place, so you can customise your character and equip perks to give yourself the upper hand in a match. The developers have also implemented a small story into the multiplayer, just to give you a reason to play it.

Assassin’s Creed III is an ambitious monster of a game and it is no wonder it was worked on by multiple teams for nearly three years. It’s a sequel that expands on past games and brings in an untapped, refreshing historical setting and packs it with so much to do that you’ll be busy way after finishing the interesting and distinctive story. Assassin’s Creed III is a great game, spoilt only by the over-long introduction, some bad mini-game sections in the story, bugs and inconsistencies with the optional side content; but that’s what those are: optional. Looking at Assassin’s Creed III as a whole, this is a game worthy of your time, engaging on so many levels and a joy to experience. It might be debatable if it is your favourite game in the series, but for me, it has reawakened my interest in the franchise and turned me into a fan.

8/10

by

Version tested: PS3

Also available on: Xbox 360, PC, Wii U

Developer: Ubisoft Montreal

Publisher: Ubisoft

Genre: Action, Adventure