Lately I’ve noticed that there seems to be a trend of ‘over-revealing’ in trailers for games. The trailers tell too much of the story or inadvertently give away something that is a major spoiler. It happens in films all the time, the difference being that at the cinema you are paying £6+ for a few hours, with a game you’re paying nearly 10 times that much and will be playing it for a considerable amount of hours; you don’t want to see something that will give you an idea of what’s to come.
So, in light of that, I’ve decided that in this review I will not mention a single thing about the story of Assassin’s Creed III. There is one of course and it involves people and places and people saying things to other people in those places. And Unicorns. OK that last one was a lie; wait is me telling you there aren’t any Unicorns a spoiler….Dammit! Anyway! Not a single word will leave my fingertips regarding the plot.
Assassin’s Creed III, despite the name, is the fifth game in the series. It’s been in development since the release of Assassin’s Creed II back in 2009. It’s had the longest development time of any of the games since the first one and it looks AMAZING.
The previous two games in the franchise were both based in large cities, Rome and Constantinople. Assassin’s Creed III takes places within a large portion of the Eastern United States and as such Ubisoft have crafted a world that is filled with colour and life. The Sun will shine, rain will come, leaves will fall, snow and blizzards will blot out the landscape. During your time within the Assassin’s Creed world you will experience each season and the landscape around you will change to reflect that, creating a world that feels real enough to touch.
And you will touch it! You’ll climb trees, hide in bushes, peek out from round corners, swim across rivers and streams, fend off animal attacks and maybe kill a few people too along the way. The world slowly opens up to you and it’s your choice what you do in it.
The untamed frontier isn’t the only thing to explore, the two main cities of the game, Boston and New York are both equally impressive. At first they give you the impression that actually, they aren’t that big, but then suddenly you’ll crest a hill or climb a tower and the true size of the city will be laid out before you. The cities in the New World had something that European cities did not, space. The settlers were able to make use of the untamed land available to them and could build outwards, as opposed to Europe where there was no space left so everything went up. The streets of Boston and New York are, for the most part, wide open thoroughfares, which after the almost claustrophobic layout of Rome and Constantinople, feels refreshing and gives you more room to manoeuvre when following targets.
Manoeuvring around the world of Assassin’s Creed III has been become as close to perfection as possible. Ubisoft have removed the need to press an additional button to begin parkouring all over the place. Now you just point and press the RT or R1 button and you are off. This gives a much more seamless feel to the whole experience and allows you to kill whilst on the fly. Which is nice.
Speaking of killing, you’ll be doing plenty of that. Oh yes, there’s a lot of killing to be done. It’s not that there are more reasons to kill; it’s that when you do have to kill, you’ll be killing a lot more people. Does that make sense?
Assassin’s Creed III runs on the new Anvil Engine, which as well as giving us the gorgeous landscapes and backdrops previously mentioned, it also allows for more people to be on the screen at any one time. This makes the game more believable when you launch an attack on an enemy base and encounter an almost never ending supply of people to stick with the pointy end of which ever weapon you are holding.
Combat has also been tweaked to be a smoother affair. The counter/combo system remains intact and each button is assigned a ‘finishing’ option to either, throw, disarm, kill or use a tool. You can easily build up a run of combo’s before performing a final slightly bloody finishing move.
Combat isn’t just restricted to the land either. As you’ll have seen from numerous clips and screenshots, there are now naval missions. Due to my initial promise of no story spoilers I can’t say how you’ll acquire a ship but you do and it’s great! The naval battles had the slight whiff of mini game that made the Tower Defence sequences in Assassin’s Creed: Revelations really dull to play, BUT thankfully the whiff was just a passing sea breeze. Your ship will rise and crash across the Atlantic doing battle with the might of the English Navy. Naval warfare isn’t particularly tricky, more of a case of getting alongside them and shooting, but they also shoot back so it’s more about trying to limit the damage taken whilst trying to move your ship into position. It ends up being a game of skill rather than brute force.
Multiplayer has also had a new lick of paint. A new Wolf Pack mode allows you and friends to work together to kill a set of NPC’s. This is in contrast to the more familiar Assassinate mode where it is every one for them self. The updated engine makes the assassinate mode even trickier now that the amount of people on screen has been increased. If you were a fan of the multiplayer options in the previous games then you’ll be happy with these, if you weren’t then I’m not sure that enough has changed to bring you into the fold.
One thing that I personally enjoyed about the game was the fact I felt I was actually learning something. This is not new for the franchise, but the time period the game is set in isn’t one that, as an English person, I was familiar with. Coming across the different people whose names are part of modern culture thanks to the over familiarity of Hollywood was a learning experience, and was made all the more enjoyable by the rather sardonic nature of the write ups in the Animus Database.
Assassin’s Creed III is a great game, it feels like the breath of fresh air the series needed after languishing in the Renaissance for too long. It still has some of the same faults such as frustrating camera angles, glitch prone NPC’s and ventriloquist cut scenes (the audio is there but the characters mouth doesn’t move), but it’s strange that they have become as much a part of the series as the hidden blades.
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Tim Bowers is the ex-Editor of Zero1Gaming, he also occasionally writes when he's able to string sentences together. He can usually be found waiting for Nintendo to remember about Samus Aran.