Assassin's Creed III
- Street Date:
- November 13th, 2012
- Reviewed by:
- Daniel Hirshleifer
- Review Date:1
- November 29th, 2012
- Game Release Year:
- Wii U
- Ubisoft Montreal
- ESRB Rating:
- M (Mature)
The original 'Assassin's Creed' was a unique but flawed game that set up an interesting world and premise. Unfortunately, the play mechanics were not as precise as they should have been, leading to a title that held more promise than pleasure. Ubisoft, realizing what could be, perfected the formula with 'Assassin's Creed II'. Not only was the gameplay more engaging, but the new lead, Ezio Auditore, immediately became one of the leading characters in all of video gaming. Ezio was smart, dedicated, irreverent, and deadly. Through 'Assassin's Creed II' and its follow-ups, 'Brotherhood' and 'Revelations', players got to know Ezio intimately. With 'Assassin's Creed 3', the series offers a new protagonist for the first time in years, and the results are decidedly mixed.
The Game Itself: Our Reviewer's Take
'Assassin's Creed 3' introduces you to Connor, a Native American assassin living in the period leading up to the Revolutionary War. Connor is a child of two worlds, and as an assassin, stands outside them both. As a result, Connor is a far more reserved protagonist than Ezio. In fact, 'Assassin's Creed 3' is a darker and more complex game than the series has featured so far, which is saying something given that this has never exactly been light fare.
There's a lot to love about 'Assassin's Creed 3'. The change of locale to the American east coast in the 1700's is inspired. Boston and New York are immaculately rendered, with a living, breathing population. As you wander through the streets of these cities, casually overhearing the conversations of merchants and traders, mothers and sons, colonials and soldiers, you'll feel immersed in a world with more depth than most video games could ever imagine. And when you encounter such famous faces as Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Adams, and a hilarious Paul Revere, you'll feel as if you stepped into a time warp.
But the cities are just a small part of the world the game creates. In previous titles, the agricultural areas between cities were sparse affairs that got you from point A to point B. In 'Assassin's Creed 3', the wilderness teems with life, and not just bunny rabbits (although there are plenty of those). More than once while playing the image would slow to a crawl, and the camera would whip around to reveal a leaping bobcat that I had mere seconds to avoid. And there's an indescribable sense of freedom to travel along tree branches, never touching the ground, while pristine rivers run freely below you.
In fact, it's now a joy to free roam through all of the environments in the game, thanks to improved climbing mechanics that have practically wiped out the small but nagging issues that have plagued the other titles. No longer does your leap go wide, or you grab a hold to your left instead of the right. Engaging the environment as Connor is the most satisfying the series has ever been. If only the rest of the game were that highly polished.
You see, 'Assassin's Creed 3' is ambitious. It wants to do a lot. In addition to the main game, you can hunt, employ workmen, sell supplies to merchants, and even sail the seas. The game continually dangles ever more in front of you, offering a veritable rabbit's hole of things to do without ever touching the main plot. Unfortunately, many of these activities are poorly implemented or poorly explained. For example, you can send caravans full of materials off to merchants to sell. Every so often, your caravans will be attacked, and you get a message telling you to defend it. Good luck locating said caravan, because the game makes it extremely difficult to find it. Oh, and you're being timed. This lack of explanation plagues much of the optional activities, making them feel like chores rather than fun diversions.
The big exception is sailing. Commanding a ship and going toe-to-toe with British opponents is thrilling. There's a sense of scope to these missions that even the series trademark of synchronizing city views can't match. However, the naval portions feel wholly disconnected from the main game. It's as if there's 'Assassin's Creed', and plugged right into the middle of it is Sim Sailing. This schizophrenic feeling permeates the game, resulting in a disjointed experience.
I could overlook the flaws if the main game were up to the level of 'Assassin's Creed II', and at times it does hit astonishing highs. Imagine taking part in the Boston Tea Party. With 'Assassin's Creed III', you can. But the missions feel strangely restrictive. For a series about an organization that champions freedom of choice, Ubisoft sure seems intent on taking your choices away when it comes to how you want to play. I failed more than in any other title in the series, simply because the game didn't like how I wanted to accomplish things.
Even more annoying are the optional assignments during missions. These may be directives as simple as not being detected, but some are incredibly challenging to the point of frustration. And the game actively takes away content if you don't complete the optional assignments. It feels like you're being punished for playing the way you want.
There's not much to differentiate 'Assassin's Creed 3' on the Wii U versus the other consoles. The GamePad is wholly superfluous, either directly mirroring what's happening on screen, or showing an enlarged version of the map. Problem is, that same map is always up on the HUD. There's no advantage to playing with the GamePad. I switched to the Pro Controller, which made the experience no different than playing on an Xbox or Playstation, except that at times the inputs felt slightly less accurate. The worst was trying to pick locks, which became an exercise in tedium as the analog sticks didn't want to hold in place. If you only have a Wii U, then 'Assassin's Creed III' is one of the best launch titles. If you have more than one console, though, you may be better off using that.
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
A lot of discussion has come up about the Wii U's graphical capabilities. There's no doubt it could output high definition images, but the question is how it would fare against the existing consoles. Well, the good news is that 'Assassin's Creed 3' looks gorgeous on the Wii U. The title is quite demanding, and the Wii U matches it at every turn. Hi-res textures abound, and you can see for what seems like miles out in the wilderness. Characters are drawn with an extraordinary amount of detail. The Wii U pulls this off with nary a hitch. Load times seem a little longer than in previous titles, but the trade-off is I rarely saw any pop-in and no frame-rate drops or screen tearing. There may be debate about whether or not the Wii U can keep up with the upcoming consoles from Microsoft and Sony, but there's no doubt it can tackle the toughest that the current crop of consoles can handle.
One odd decision on the part of the developers was to try and imitate depth of field by making backgrounds blurry during cinematics. However, they went completely overboard, turning almost everything that isn't the main character into a fuzzy mass of pixels. This doesn't happen during gameplay, but it can make the cinematics tough to watch.
There's another element to playing on the Wii U, and that's remote play using the GamePad. It's pretty amazing to play a game as advanced as 'Assassin's Creed 3' on a device the size of a large paperback. For the most part, playing on the GamePad perfectly mimicked playing the game on the television. However, every so often the frame rate would drop and there would be massive screen tearing. It didn't last long, but it was disappointing to see, since GamePad integration was meant to be seamless.
'Assassin's Creed III' also offers several 3D options. I have a 3D TV, and tried both side by side and top and bottom 3D, but neither looked particularly good. Ghosting was rampant and I quickly got a headache, something that doesn't happen with most 3D material. 3D gaming may be possible, but doesn't feel very practical.
The Audio: Rating the Sound
The world of 'Assassin's Creed III' bristles with life, as does the film's soundtrack. I must have spent half my time in the cities simply listening to conversations that NPC's were having. The wilderness bustles with the activity of all kinds of creatures. And the roar of the cannons when sailing the seas feels like a thunderclap. The large cadre of voice actors populates the world with distinctive and memorable performances. Noah Watts infuses Connor with a reluctant sadness that perfectly fits the character's disposition. Paul Hopkins makes Paul Revere a convivial chap who will charm your socks off. And listening to Nolan North as Desmond Miles, you'd never think it was the same man who gave voice to Nathan Drake in 'Uncharted'.
Most multiplayer modes feel like a different game using the same character models. Playing endless variations of the same few gaming modes that populate most titles can get tedious. 'Assassin's Creed', which felt like it would never be a good fit for multiplayer, has completely bucked that trend by offering multiplayer that feels like it was designed to play to the core strengths of the series. Unlike most games, the multiplayer in 'Assassin's Creed' values patience and stealth, not action. You only make a move when you're sure it will count, because if you draw too much unwanted attention to yourself, you'll find yourself on the wrong end of a hidden blade. There is a Wolfpack mode that ratchets up the action at the expense of suspense, but that feels more like an add-on. There's even something of a story that unfolds as you play, making it feel like you got two games for the price of one.
I should applaud 'Assassin's Creed 3' for branching out from the immense success of its predecessors. And in terms of theme and story, I'll sing the game's praises all day long. But in their attempt to make 'Assassin's Creed 3' the ultimate game in the series, Ubisoft favored breadth over depth and the gameplay suffers for it. However, even with all of its faults, 'Assassin's Creed 3' still manages to hit some remarkable heights. The Wii U version of the game looks and sounds beautiful, but aside from remote play on the GamePad, takes no advantage of the console's main input, and the pro controller feels a little less accurate than the Xbox and Sony controllers. If you only own a Wii U, then 'Assassin's Creed 3' is a no-brainer, as it's one of the top three launch titles available. If on the other hand you own an Xbox or a Playstation, you'll want to stick to those for this assassin's outing.
- Wii U Proprietary Disc
- Dolby Digital
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