Intro: Assassins Creed 3 really doesn't need an introduction. The franchise is easily one of the most successful this generation when it comes to quality and polish. While the first installment left a bad taste in some people's mouths, AC2 turned out to be one of the best sequels around, fixing many of the issues of the first game and building a firm foundation for what would become Ezio's trilogy. AC3 is a mixed back. In some areas it excels, in some areas it demonstrates a lack of polish which comes as a stark contrast in the light of the high pedigree of the past installments.
Story: Out of Europe and over to the good ol' U S of A, Assassins Creed 3 is the story of a native American/European Assassin called Connor who seeks to destroy the Templar threat in order to protect his settlement. Of course, he has to deal with the whole American Revolution thing that seems to be going on around him too. If you have played the previous games then you will more or less know how the narrative is delivered in AC3, however this time you get a much broader picture of the protagonists life, with the game starting before Connor was even born! That's kind of a pain in the ass too. I wanted to load this up and be on my ass kickin' way but it takes several hours before the game fully opens up to you. Once it does though, the world is vast and beautiful.
Graphics & Presentation: The Anvil engine created and used for this game has done well in squeezing juice from current gen tech. While AC3 doesn't deliver any kind of gigantic leap in the graphics department, it has made respectable progress.
Connor looks especially awesome. His animations while running and fighting are great and his animations in the new tree running feature of the game REALLY impressed me. Connor looks silky smooth as he flies effortlessly up, across and around trees.
Seeing the game's settings in different times of the day and in different seasons is really cool. Running through the frontier with the sun shining through the trees, leaves blowing in the wind and the sound of animals about is nice alternative to the grey city streets of Boston and New York. In winter time Connor's movement is slowed down when he plows through thick snow and I like the animation they gave him as he takes giant steps through it.
The cities of Boston and New York are admirably portrayed, and are, in my opinion, about on par with Revelation's cities, graphically speaking. The authenticity of the architecture was of special concern to Ubisoft during development, as it was in the previous games. The NPC townsfolk look good and there is a nice level of attention to detail in their attire.
There are, however, a some graphical glitches. From bad lip syncing to no lip syncing, floating objects and artifacts and other issues, AC3 demonstrates a lack of polish which is surprising when you look at the series' pedigree. Ubisoft have been developing this for 3 years with their new engine, and the game clearly needed more time before it was able to reach the level set by its predecessors. However, the need to get the game out before 12/12/2012 to coincide with the game's end of days plot seems to have taken priority over getting the bugs out.
AC3, like Revelations before it, supports 3D. Like Revelations, 3 nails it and looks awesome with added depth perception. As with other games like Uncharted 3 and Batman: Arkham City, the style of 3D that is used is of a great standard. The above mentioned third person action games are prime examples of the types of games that suit this visual side-grade. It's not about the cheesy pop-out effect, but rather the pop-in effect that makes your TV into a window in which you look into Connor's world through.
Sound: The sound is great and the voice acting is solid. While I find Connor's voice a bit dry, I really enjoyed the whole cast generally. I especially liked hearing the British accents and usages of the English language that aren't really used today.
The city's sound scape is filled with the hustle and bustle of daily life in the streets of Colonial America, much like it was in the previous installments. The frontier has an amazing ambient soundtrack, with all sounds of nature accounted for.
The naval missions are also tops in the sound department, from calm and sunny seas to the roughest storm, the audio is great and the music tops it all off.
Gameplay & Controls: The parkour and combat controls have been changed somewhat in AC3. Running now only requires you to hold R1 and will also get you scaling buildings and making leaps. All you really need to do is guide Connor in the direction you want him to go and make sure that he actually runs in the right places in order to effectively traverse the environment. Scaling buildings requires no more use of the jump button, R1 covers everything. X is used to do reverse jumps when you're climbing and to force jumps when R1 doesn't let you.
The new tree running feature of AC3 is awesome. Once you get used to what kind of trees can be traversed it's a lot of fun to throw in some canopy travel now and then. The simplified control for movement lets you enjoy the visuals more which is great for a game that features such animation. In the frontier he is able to scale many rock faces as well, and it really makes the area fun to explore and be in.
The whole frontier contrast to the cities is nice, and it's awesome that Ubi provided game settings that match the heritage of its starring Assassin. Hunting out in the frontier and stalking the red coats from the trees above is cool, and having the wildlife around you really envokes Connors Native American side. His British side of course is at home in the cities where he carries out his missions and business.
The combat has also undergone changes. Connor can equip a main weapon to the left hand and a secondary weapon or other item in the right hand. These are mapped to square and triangle respectively. When attacked, circle button counters, at which point you are given four options; disarm with X, kill with square, use your right hand equipped item/weapon with triangle or use circle to avoid them, allowing momentum to make them fall over. The kill streaks are back as well, meaning after the first successful kill animation, pressing in the direction of your next meat sack and pressing square will initiate an instant kill without the need to counter first. You can string together multiple kill this way which is nice eye candy for the violently inclined.
Amongst these weapons and tools are things like smoke bombs, a bow and the new rope darts. The rope dart works like Scorpion's spear from Mortal Kombat. On the ground it can stick into an enemy and allow you to pull him to you for a kill. From above you can use it to either hang someone yourself, or to leap down from your perch and leave them hanging and choking in the air.
Stealth options in this game are mostly the same as the previous games. New features though include mobile hay stacks on horse driven carriages, the ability to press against corners of buildings ala Solid Snake and to do stealth kills from this position. Connor is also able to become invisible within waist high flora allowing him to prowl around on the ground in a way that wasn't possible previously. These hiding spots can be seen in eagle vision which makes stealthy travel easier.
Aside from the main story mission, there is a VAST array of things to lose yourself in. Connor has a homestead, a place to call home, which he can develop by inviting various trades people to his settlement whom you meet via 'homestead missions'. The more people you get, the more you can trade and craft. There are many things that you can craft, most of the items are just for trading, but some special items include new weapons, pouch upgrades, twin gun holsters amongst other things. Trading is done via land or via sea, the risk of the sea convoy is too high unless you do the naval missions to clear that route of pirates though.
The naval missions are awesome! I LOVE them, they look fantastic, play great and are a lot of fun. It could easily have been a tacky substandard experience but in all honesty, the naval missions have the highest amount of polish in the game in my opinion. You can buy upgrades to your ship, giving it more armor and new ammo types for the cannons. The missions include wiping out bandit fleets and protecting other ships. There is a nice enough variety to keep it interesting and exciting and the different times of day and weather can make for some awesome sea battles. I really respect Ubi for taking the risk to add something this bold to the formula.
The Assassin Brotherhood is back, albeit only with 6 recruits. You get them by liberating the districts of NY and Boston from the British and each one introduces a new ability for the assassins. You can now call them in as body guards, get them to snipe a target, start a riot or even set them up in ambush. As in the previous games, they level up by completing missions in other countries. I was happy to see that you could access the Assassins hub at any time, which means you can instantly redeploy them once they have finished their mission.
Finally, there is the usual collectables to be found, feathers, almanac pages, chests and a manner of various challenges await the completionist. All in all I am very happy with the updates made to AC3. Ubi did well in striking a fine balance between the old, tried and tested and the new.
Multiplayer: MP consists more or less of the same as the latter AC2 games. It's a game of cat and mouse where you have to be observant of our surroundings as you search for your assigned target while watching out for your own pursuer. It is fun and exciting as you stand there, blended in with a crowd and you see someone move in a non-NPC way and you know it's your attacker. It's a unique kind of multiplayer and can be exhilarating in a subtle way. It's an interesting and novel MP game that doesn't have long term appeal for me personally, but it is nonetheless a solid and well built experience for those wanting an excursion from main story.
Conclusion: While AC3 takes a deep step down from the bar set by Ezio's trilogy in terms of polish, it has more than enough redeeming qualities to make it a must play for anyone who has enjoyed the series.
+ Simplified parkour movement & tree running
+ Awesome combat/movement animations
+ Naval missions
+ Contrasting nature and city locations
+ Rope dart!
- Graphical bugs
FINAL SCORE: 8.5