Assassin’s Creed III review: Don’t mess with this native

Assassin’s Creed III has been in production for 3 years, and after the exploits of Altair and Ezio, fans are finally ready for a new hero. Enter Ratonhnhaké:ton (or Connor if you’re lazy). He’s half-Native American and half-English who’s trained as an Assassin during the American Revolution. The game will take you through all the major highlights from the era. Who said your high school’s U.S. History class was pointless?

Assassin’s Creed III (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC)
Platform Reviewed: PS3

Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Publisher: Ubisoft
Release Date: October 30, 2012
MSRP: $59.99

After the events of Revelations, Desmond and his merry team of Assassins (I doubt Shaun and Rebecca can do parkour) head to an ancient ruin in search of more clues about the ancient beings who ruled the Earth and to find a way to prevent the end of the world. The answer is held behind a large doorway that’s locked. Desmond must go inside the Animus, a simulation where the user can visit their ancestor’s past via their DNA. The answer to finding the key to the door lies within the American Revolution.

Right off the bat you’re treated with a surprise when inside the Animus. The game’s earlier portions will have plenty of twists. I wish I could reveal some of the story’s plot points, but doing that will ruin the experience. What I can say is that you’ll be meeting with famous American Revolution figures including George Washington, Samuel Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Charles Lee, Paul Revere and Benedict Arnold (PS3 version). You’ll be at all the important events during the revolution including the Boston Tea Party, Boston Massacre, Battles of Lexington and Concord, and the Battle of the Chesapeake. If you haven’t brushed up on your American history, you’ll get updates to different figures, events, and famous landmarks along your journey.

In between sequences, Desmond will be pulled out into the real world. In previous AC games, he really doesn’t get to do much action, but in AC3, he’ll finally be able to put his skills as an Assassin to good use.

Assassin’s Creed III features the wild frontier. As Connor, players will be able to free run on trees and maneuver around the forest with ease. You’ll understand quickly what things are climbable, as you’ll be able to climb on trees, rocks and sides of cliffs. The only addition that I felt was useless was the ability to skin an animal. Not once in the game did I feel the need to trade fur. But the animals do have their purpose, and that is to make the frontier feel wild.

Free running in general has been improved. You’re not likely to jump in the wrong direction, and you no longer need to press a button to shove people out of the way. Just hold the run button and Connor will do the rest. Connor jumping over fences is my new favorite animation.

The improved combat system is the best yet for the series. One button is used to counter, and another to attack or break the enemy’s defense. Combos are cooler looking and the variety of moves make sure that combat doesn’t feel repetitive. Countering two guys at once will result in a cool animated sequence. The newest weapon is the dart rope. I didn’t get a chance to use it a lot, but it’s definitely up there in cool factor.

As an Assassin, it’s always in your best interest to catch your targets off guard. The game introduces shrubs and enhances the blending option. You’ll be able to hide in shrubs. The blending option is made more natural. Using the trees, you’ll be able to stalk from the top. This is when using the rope dart comes in handy. You can launch the dart towards an enemy and choke him while on top, or you can jump down a tree branch, which in turn lifts up the enemy and kills him.

Like to sail the seas on a ship? In Assassin’s Creed III, you’ll be able to steer a ship and attack enemy ships with your cannons. Some missions will even allow you to board a ship, kill the captain, and then jump back into your ship. This is the closest game you’ll get to feeling like a pirate in the Caribbeans.

There are many things to do in the game other than the main mission like side missions, collecting floating Almanac pages, naval missions, liberating quests, and more. The Homestead missions has Connor meeting different people and having them help build the homestead.

The game has many wonderful moments that make you go, “wow”. The opera house scene is one example that shows off the incredible AnvilNext engine. It’s a packed house that actually makes you feel like you’re inside a large theatre. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a game pull this off before. Another “wow” moment is the Battle at Bunker Hill. In that battle, you’ll see thousands of redcoats as they’re getting ready to fire at you.

I want to mention that Ubisoft has released a day-one patch that fixes a lot of bugs in the game. Luckily for me, I’ve played the game before the patch was released. I just wish I was able to capture it on video. The funniest glitch for me was when I went into a bar and saw an NPC character sitting on an invisible stool about 10 ft in the air. He tried to get down, but did a 360 degree turn and ended back on the invisible stool. There was another glitch where I had to counter a bear’s attack. Halfway through, Connor was stuck, but the world around him was in slo-mo. I can move the camera around and see the bears walking around me, but I couldn’t move. The last big glitch I saw were two NPC characters walking in the sky. Who knows where they were headed, but they just discovered the power of floating, and by golly, nobody is going to stop them from sky walking.

Multiplayer brings in new modes like the Wolf Pack mode. In this mode, assassins will be teamed up with up to three other assassins as they’re tasked with taking down NPCs using teamwork. Assassinate mode is my go-to mode where players will have to find other players to assassinate while hiding from their pursuers. It’s the cat-and-mouse matches that I love from the previous games.

Out of everything in the game, my biggest disappointment is the soundtrack. I love a good video game soundtrack, and composer Jesper Kyd has set the bar on how an Assassin’s Creed game should sound. Lorne Balfe does a good job of setting the mood, but without Jesper Kyd’s involvement, the game is missing that unique classical and electronic blend that made the AC games.

Final Reaction

Assassin’s Creed III improves on its core foundation of free running, combat, and the varied settings including city and frontier life. The facial animation, environment and certain events will show you what current-gen systems are still capable of. There are a few hiccups here and there, but that shouldn’t ruin the enjoyment of being a badass. And if you’re already invested in the story of Templar and Assassin, then this game is definitely worth checking out. And if you’re not a fan of the series, this game won’t change that.

Grade: A

John “Spartan” Nguyen

John “Spartan” Nguyen is the editor-in-chief at Nerd Reactor and is based in Orange County, CA. He is a graphic designer and illustrator.

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