Assassin’s Creed 3 Review
The biggest initial concern going into Assassin’s Creed 3 for review was the worry that it could’ve just been more of the same.
With three games in as many years, the Assassin’s Creed series has gone from strength to strength and – despite the Brotherhood and Revelations spin-offs diluting the experience slightly – it has always, nonetheless, been a franchise staunch in its identity.
Having finished Assassin’s Creed 3, we now realised our concerns should’ve been directly elsewhere entirely.
You see, for a game about an Assassin you don’t actually assassinate very many people. Well, Connor does do a lot of killing, unfortunately you don’t.
What we mean to say is that a large part of Assassin’s Creed 3’s ‘gameplay’ is left to cut scenes and forced actions, and for a game all about the freedom of choice this is more than a little ironic.
There’s only a handful of the missions throughout the game where you’ll have any input over the actions at all – it’s the Call Of Duty effect: in an effort to ensure everyone has the same experience, the freedom to play however you want has been lowered to an absolute minimum.
There aren’t very many missions that actually feel like you’re controlling the experience, and even those where you can are carefully tailored to make sure you don’t falter from the planned route.
Which version is best, PS3 or Xbox 360?
The optional objectives of previous Assassin’s Creed return, and are improved. Now you’ll have multiple objectives to tackle during a mission, giving you a certain degree of replayability to each section should you fail to stay undetected or lower your health too much.
But the thing is, it is these optional objectives that should be the guiding the player into a particular play style not the ham-fisted method that Ubisoft employs here.
No more apparent is this than in the world of Assassin’s Creed 3. Yes it’s gorgeous – the best looking one yet, in fact – but there’s just so little coherence to everything that it’s hard to really become absorbed in the landscape around you.
As pretentious as it might sound, the cities of Assassin’s Creed have often been characters themselves: acting as the focus of a long string of missions, opening up areas slowly and rewarding players for devoting their time among the rooftops.
There’s very little to the cities of Assassin’s Creed 3, however. It’s still possible to hire additional Assassins to send off on missions or call into battle, a plethora of collectables to locate and even side missions to complete but it never feels like a part of the game. Not really.
The setting is a refreshing change, but it feels so peripheral.
The citizen quests are the best example of this: introduced with little more than a ‘thanks for helping’, a generic objective will pop up in the nearby area. Kill some Templars, plant some evidence or deliver a letter. It’s filler, and little else.
This is endemic of a lack of focus: Connor doesn’t spend his time in one place for very long, and as such the desire to explore and take part in these throwaway elements is considerably reduced.
Not that the main missions themselves are even that enjoyable. They’re far too linear and directed to be fun and, in the rare cases where you are let loose, they’re just a slog to work through.
This isn’t helped by an awkward combat system that emphasises countering yet, somehow, manages to make Assassin’s Creed’s alright lightweight combat system even more tedious.
The main missions themselves flit all over the place, too, displacing Connor several times and keeping you from absorbing yourself into the game – not helped by the considerable number of loading screens.
Completing one mission in Boston might, inexplicitly, send you off to the Frontier. After that you’ll be carted off to New York or your headquarters at Davenport Homestead, only the repeat the process all over again.
Combat is watered down more than ever. Press B, then X. That’s it.
Constantly travelling between is a pain in the arse, truth be told, and it really takes the emphasis off what should be the most important part of Assassin’s Creed 3; its setting.
Which is a shame, since Boston and New York are fantastic locations. Ubisoft has really gone to town (ba-dum-tish) on the new era, and these two cities are very well realised.
There’s detail down the majority of alleyways, and the disparate voices – a bevy typical British dialects – help draw you into the era and the setting. Assassin’s Creed 3 is dense with of-the-time design, and it’s brilliant.
But while the voice acting is largely impressive, the native Red Indian dialogue is painfully delivered. The Iroquois are a stoic collection of people, but that doesn’t mean they lack any emotion whatsoever.
Even an argument between friends is delivered more like the world’s most unenthused press release than a death wish.
And while the change of scenery is welcome, Connor fails to leave up the huge leather boots of Ezio. He may be as violent, but not half as likeable.
We’re not asking for more Ezio, of course, he’s well and truly done. But after the superlative Assassin’s Creed 2 it seems a shame that Ubisoft hasn’t managed to create a character whose passion and drive equals the famous Italian Assassin.
Guns are used well in the combat in the American Revolution era. Not so much in the modern day sections.
Actually, that’s wrong. Haytham Kenway is a brilliant character; sarcastic, brutal and – at times – genuinely funny. As Connor’s father he plays a pivotal role in Assassin’s Creed 3, which only highlights the disappointment that is playing as Connor.
There are features in Assassin’s Creed 3 that are very well done, though. The naval battles, for example, are the best showcase for the game. Sure, their inclusion is a little unnecessary, but they’re fun all the same.
There’s a surprising amount of depth to them, too. Dipping waves can be utilised for defence, a variety of shot types are used for different enemy ships and, best of all, it is necessary to navigate the open seas sensibly to evade cannon fire while successfully unleashing a full broadside on an enemy’s bow.
Then there’s hunting, which isn’t quite as thrilling. Heavily inspired by Red Dead Redemption, this particular aspect is just lacklustre.
Unless you want to get into the nitty gritty of trading – and, to be honest, that’ll be the best way to make money – you’re likely going to give this a miss entirely.
Hunting regions litter the Frontier and though there’s a little more thought gone into it than with Red Dead – including the setting of bait and hidden traps – it still manages to feel like effort.
It’s still great to see the world from this perspective but, besides its nature as a collectable, there’s no compulsion to do so.
Multiplayer is worth mentioning too. Many ignore the mode, but you shouldn’t. It’s tweaked, improved and better than ever with new modes and abilities to make it a really absorbing online component.
Sure, it’s not going to appeal to the headshot-fanatics on Call Of Duty, but give it some time and some patience and we’re certain this unique multiplayer mode could well absorb your life, even if it is little more than an add-on to the main event.
Assassin’s Creed 3 should, by all accounts, be the best of the series. There’s an undeniable quality to game that is impossible to overlook and, as with all these things, fans of the series will find a lot to love.
But the focus has shifted: Assassin’s Creed 3 is more story than game, the entire experience streamlined into a string of cut-scenes pinned together with you doing little else but holding left trigger and pushing forward.