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Assassin's Creed 3 needs sharpening

Dec 21, 2012

By Daniel Barron - G4 Canada

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Assassin's  Creed IIIAssassin's Creed 3 is the antithesis of so many AAA games released in the 21st century. Yes, it has massive set pieces, superb graphics, and it employs a brand new engine, but its focus on story, stealth, and slow buildup make it a much different beast from the usual blockbusters.

The third numbered game in the Assassin's Creed series has players stepping into the time of the American Revolution in the late 18th century. The plot loosely follows the events of this part of United States history, with players taking on the role of half English/half Mohawk protagonist Ratonhnhaké:ton, or Connor as he's more often referred to in the game.

Where the game will be most polarizing is the way in which it sets up the story. The player isn't given a quick back story through a few pictures or a stylized montage. He or she will play through several chapters as someone other than Connor, in order to understand what exactly drives the assassin to do his killing later on in the game.

Although Ubisoft should be given every bit of applause for not taking the lazy route in terms of storytelling, this all still undoubtedly makes for a less compelling game for the first several hours. Because at the end of the day, that's what Assassin's Creed 3 is - a game. If anyone truly wanted to know the ins and outs of the American Revolution and all the historically-accurate facts surrounding it, they could simply peruse the Internet for, oh, a few weeks.

The game is wildly huge and ambitious, but it's for those very reasons that it rarely seems to settle into a groove. The cut scenes aren't usually very long, but they pop up constantly, and with a story spanning several decades, there are a lot of moments of "six months later," or something similar. Load screens, meanwhile, don't take too long individually, but with the amount you have to sit through, it does take its toll on how enjoyable the game is.

Assassin's  Creed III Once the game does open up, things do get noticeably better in terms of gameplay. Earlier stealth missions are maddeningly frustrating in their trial-and-error ways, but they do get better. The naval combat is easy to learn and truly visceral, and all the other open world stuff from past Assassin's Creed games - stealing treasure, picking pockets, leaping across buildings - will keep you plenty busy.

There's much more beyond the basic story missions, of course. You can build up your homestead, play pub games (some of which are insanely addictive), and do other side missions such as finding hidden objects.

Many of these missions are more than simply killing a certain minor character or paying someone to set up portraits in your base of operations, and some of it is downright overwhelming in its involvement, but no one can claim they aren't getting their money's worth with AC3.

There are some things that feel like a complete waste of time. "Interactive" conversations such as the one with an historic figure like Benjamin Franklin where he talks about his preference for older women (seriously), aren't interactive at all, and are barely conversations. The map icon should say something like "Listen to this creepy old man talk your ear off about something you don't care about."

Assassin's  Creed III As with every Assassin's Creed title, there are still problems that arise from the sheer scope of what's been programmed onto the disc. Connor's repertoire of moves and items is simply mind-boggling. Getting through easy-to-access menus to equip the oft-used stuff isn't too much of a chore, but going beyond that can be quick frustrating.

There is so much thrown at you at just about every point in the game, it's virtually impossible to keep track of what the heck is going on. A new objective may pop up on one side of the screen, while a newly-found piece of architecture has been added to your journal, and that's all in addition to the other stuff that's constantly being displayed on your HUD, such as equipped weapons and your minimap.

Bugs in the game are present, though mostly minor, with the exception of one - and that is characters constantly talking over one another in key cut scenes. There was clearly a ridiculous amount of effort put into every facet of the game, but these moments of interrupted dialogue really makes the whole thing seem kind of cheesy.

Beyond the campaign that's as thick and full as a Bostoner's accent, the multiplayer suite is hugely expanded, all for the better. This series still offers some of the most interesting multiplayer game types, as the focus on stealth very much carries over from the single player.

Assassin's  Creed III Most of these game types involve you going after specific targets, while doing your best to avoid being killed yourself. The real highlight here, though, is the new Wolfpack game mode, which is one of the most original takes on co-op in years.

In Wolfpack, two-to-four players are tasked with assassinating enemies, the number of which corresponds with how many players are in a match (so if three people are playing together, three enemies will need to be eliminated). Players are given a short time limit, which can be added onto by earning points. Each time a set of targets is eliminated, a new set - or "wave," if you will - shows up on the map. The objective is to finish 25 waves of targets without running out of time.

Like any good co-op mode, the key here is to work together and focus on stealth above all else. Sure, you can run willy-nilly at your targets and get multiple kills, but that won't help you earn very much time, meaning you'll likely only get a few waves in before failing.

Meet up with like-minded individuals, and it's a blast working together, targeting enemies, and balancing stealth with the timer that's always counting down.

When you're not busy stabbing fools and earning XP, there's a whole lotta customization you can dig into. The only complaint I have with this is that unlike so many other multiplayer games, a lot of the unlockables are only available in much higher levels. It would be nice if they threw a bone or two to those doing their best to improve, short of handing them kills on a silver platter.

Assassin's  Creed III Assassin's Creed 3 is both very much like its predecessors, while still proving Ubisoft isn't afraid to evolve the series. Health now regenerates automatically, which is a surprisingly big change, but the main character's disposition toward latching onto a part of the environment even at the most inopportune times is still there, and just as frustrating as ever.

The game is grand in scope, and it knows how to tell a story. If it's able to mix absolutely spectacular gameplay around that in future installments, a recipe for a modern day video game classic is right there.

 

Assassin's Creed III
Format: Playstation 3
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ubisoft
ESRB Rating: M for Mature
Official Site: http://assassinscreed.ubi.com/ac3

Rating: 7 / 10

 
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