Ubisoft return to the forefront of gaming with the latest in the long line of smash hit titles for everyone’s favourite band of killers as we take to the time machine and transport back to the American Revolution for the fantastic Assassin’s Creed III.
The final instalment in this time line in the multi award-winning Assassins Creed franchise comes to a dramatic conclusion with Ubisoft’s latest title in this smash hit series. But, with everything from the graphics to the gameplay, the engine to the enigmatic assassins and everything else in between getting a new look and feel to them, you could be forgiven for wishing that the series went on with this storyline for at least another title, such are the huge leaps and bounds in this stunning sequel.
So, after stepping back through time,, care of the ingenious ‘Animus’ portal, we find ourselves unceremoniously dumped into the felt boots of another iron jawed assassin as he seek’s to recruit new inductee’s to his cause in Colonial America. Once again Ubisoft have done a simply stellar job of transporting players back to the dawn of the War of Independence for our cousins from across ‘the pond’, with some truly remarkable visuals that have benefitted enormously from the all-new game engine that has given the graphic’s and the game play a new lease of life.
As is expected players once again begin Assassins Creed III by first filling the shoes not of the 16th Century gentleman’s killer Haytham, but as the ever put upon Desmond Miles. The forlorn figure that was whisked away from his life as a lowly barman, in the first instalment of Ubisoft’s masterclass of open world acrobatic adventurism, and now, after developing some impressive new muscles and a fire and brimstone personality care of his newly stiffened backbone, Desmond is anxious to put an end to his life on the run by bringing about the final acts that will cause the blockbuster finale to this epic saga.
‘Quantum leaping’ into another distant ancestor Desmond finds himself inhabiting the body of one Haytham Kenway aboard an English cutter as he sails across the vast open sea’s of the Atlantic Ocean. The plot centres around our first hand experience of Haytham’s expertise in ‘offing’ people, as he takes out a target in the game’s opening sequences better known in the Animus timeline as The Beggars Opera. Following this quick and resourceful homicide Haytham now finds himself on his sea legs as he leads the way on a path of discovery to the ‘New World’ in the games main storyline of unearthing the truth behind the little known ‘First Civilisation’.
A main difference, however, to the earlier, more convoluted Assassins Creed titles, is that in this latest edition players are granted far greater detail and explanation, which is offered right from the outset, so that players may better understand the character that you will be spending most of your time with in the game. Of course, all if this takes place once you have actually impregnated the boy’s mother and then watched as she gives birth to the little ‘bundle of joy’, ( and hidden blades ), a you play through the early years of the ‘boy who would be king’s’ life, and watch his growth into the debonair assassin that we know so well from the myriad of terrific trailers that have tantalised and teased us all for so long.
This helps to explain the background to your main character as the story of Connor’s life, his reasons for adopting the code of the Assassin like his father, as well as his training as he strives for perfection in his chosen path. Players will also get to better fathom the reasoning behind the events that lead up to his involvement in the coming end of innocence for the American Colonies, as all are all played out in the extended memory sequences during Desmond’s time spent in the Animus.
Although the background build up of the games’ main character, Connor, is somewhat long and seemingly a drawn out affair, which takes up the best part of a couple of hours depending on players individual skill levels, it must be stressed that this time spent as the boy’s father, as he watches his son turn from boy to man, serves its purpose well as a dual functioning extended tutorial, as well as offering a far more in-depth and detailed account of the early years of this amicable assassin.
The game itself follows a main plot that see’s Connor taking up arms against the British, and their army of Red Coat infantrymen, as he seeks to protect , not only his people’s heritage from his mothers Native American ancestors, but also his fellow assassins as he strives to complete the work of The Brotherhood during the turbulence of the War of Independence. This patchwork quilt of reality coming together and amalgamating with the inventiveness of the games writers and designers works supremely well as it effectively stitches together all of the pieces of historically accurate fabric with the more fictional based stuffing from the gameplay, and it is a true testimony to the literary talent that Ubisoft have among their ranks that the interwoven strands of fact and fiction come together so well.
Connor, or to give our boy his native title “Ratonhnhaké:ton“, gets to experience to genuinely historic events on his quest to unlocking the secrets of the First Civilisation, as well as trying to discover what happened to them and why they could not prevent their own annihilation, such as riding into the sunset with Paul Revere, conspiring with Samuel Adam’s and attending such iconic locations events like Bunker Hill and the touch-paper happening of the Boston Tea Party. All of these ‘reality bites’ give extra weight and added credence to the games’ plot as Connor’s plight is steeped in tradition and truth.
The eternal struggle between the Knights Templar and the Brotherhood of Assassins that has reigned with fire and fury since time immemorial battles on anew amidst the carnage and destruction of one of history’s most brutal conflicts. In amidst all of this pain and suffering stands our hero, Connor, as he gets caught up in his own titanic struggle, battling one tyrannical empire that seeks to rape and pillage the very land and people from which his ancestral blood flows, and yet at the same time he must strive to replace this evil with a possible new one, as he works behind the scenes to help create the free America that we all know today. A true battle of conscience with devastating outcomes whichever side of the battle line Connor will ultimately find himself on, but one that offers a tantalising insight into the time period that saw a new breed of soldier committing unbridled acts of savagery against his fellow man.
The game play is Assassins Creed at its very best with Ubisoft taking everything that they have learned over the previous titles, and also how they have been received by the franchises adoring and extremely loyal fan base, in area’s ranging from everything that they have loved,liked or loathed, about the first four titles, and then taken on board and put through a fine toothed comb everything that they have unearthed before developing this latest game with the new controls, combat, movement and graphics all of which the wonderfully adaptive new ‘Anvil Next’ game engine provides.
The story also lends itself particularly nicely to the games actual mechanics as you get to experience historical figures in their roles as would have befitted them during the actual time period in history. Although a generous smattering of tongue-in-cheek liberalisation with the fictional side of the proceedings makes use of the fact that Connor will be able to undertake side missions and mini-objectives granted to him by such esteemed American figures as Benjamin Franklin, to name but one of these iconic fellows, as the revered writer and former President puts you in his employ after tasking you with recovering lost pages of his manuscript.
There are many other added ‘distractions’ to keep players more than entertained should they care to take the time to stray from the games more linear plot line, however, it should be noted that only some may be revisited after completing the main story. But whether you fancy sticking like glue to the plot in Assassins Creed III, or if you would rather spend some time working as a courier or Frontiersman hunting and skinning the local wildlife, the game always makes you feel comfortable in your chosen role, not least in part by at allowing you the decency to make mistakes as you learn what is required of you without punishing you too harshly for committing early errors. There is a definite learning curve in Assassins Creed III, and players would do well to take heed of the pointers, tips, notes and messages that can be picked up by a vast array of people, mini quests, objectives and tasks along the way.
The combat system in this ‘end of the road’ thriller is as bloody and as brutal as anything else that has come before it, with Connor putting to good use his trusty tomahawk as he splits skulls and severs limbs with his crude, but very economical weapon. Naturally there is a veritable smorgasboard of choice in the assassin’s arsenal with players getting to use such classic firearms as the fantastic ‘flintlock’ pistol as well as the merciless musket. Swords also play a major part in the opening of vicious wounds and sliced arteries, but the true stars of the murderous show have to be the dazzling array of assassins ‘tools of the trade’. As with all his fellow ‘brothers’ before him, Connor favours the use of the hidden blade whenever the opportunity for a quiet kill presents itself, and leaves his pistol, rifle or sword firmly holstered lest they attract the unwanted attentions of the local militia, or maybe the prying eyes of a bribe seeking witness?
Of course, there are many other lethal and non-lethal attributes and skills that players must learn to master if they plan on being a successful assassin, and we are pleased to be able to tell you that once again the assassins skills are fully upgradable following the collection of the required XP from completing various tasks, tests and story based objectives. Players will also be granted the option to enhance their physical attributes to better aid Connor in his quest to free his people, and The Brotherhood, from the British.
The stealth portion of the gameplay comes back into being with exceptional results as players get to sample the hidden delights of the shadowy underworld code that operatives of The Brotherhood employ. The only complaint of which we would have is that it is not possible to alter Connor, or the initial character Naysmith’s, stance, so that you cannot creep about in a crouched position, or commando crawl your way across the rain-soaked tiles of an objective building, in your approach to either an intended target or victim. Instead the game play will ‘auto position’ you when it deems it necessary to do so. This may be one of the only gripes that we had throughout the entirety of the game, but it is as far away from being a ‘deal breaker’ as the Sun and the Moon are to a would astronomer.
Also making a comeback to the proceedings in Assassins Creed III is the interactivity between your main character’s, be it with the games’ opening protagonist Haytham or with the young assassin Connor, are the myriad of sneaky tactics and skills that separate the men from the boys when it comes to being the slickest killer with the deftest touch. Pickpocketing is back with players now getting three bites of the apple as they can acquire bonus items and bigger wads of cash with an extended button press.
But standing on the shoulder of all of this new addition giants and tweaked head turners has to be the sheer power offered up by Ubisoft’s latest engine, the ‘Anvil Next’. Players who are new to the franchise will wonder if the games have always looked this brilliant in the achingly beautiful details and lag free environment. or if the game play has ever offered up as much slick movement, enhanced AI that make for genuinely challenging non-Human counterparts, or even if the games have ever looked as expansive as they do in this latest edition of the best-selling series. We can answer those questions for the greenhorns quite simply with four words: “Not on your life”.
The Anvil Next engine has taken Ubisoft’s flagship franchise and pushed it into the realms of the next generation of videogaming titles, and if this has something to do with the game engine being introduced to take advantage of the forthcoming Wii U and its reportedly developer friendly format, then all we can say is that the future is bright indeed for the videogaming industry.
Everything in Assassins Creed III looks just so much bigger, brighter, bolder and better, and we do mean ‘everything’. Even in the multiplayer fan’s of the series who have dipped their toes into the pool of perfection that is the online assassin experience, will not be able to go three steps in to a match without noticing the dazzling scenery, silky smooth controls or highly intuitive artificial intelligence that powers the milling NPC’s.
Even in the aforementioned multiplayer the new additions are clear for all to see, and not just with the aesthetics of the game, as a new mode is introduced to an ever-increasing online community. ‘Wolfpack’ fattens out the experience with an almost ‘Team Deathmatch’ styled offering that see’s team’s of assassins pitching in together to ply their deadly trade, and show off their amazing skills, against their opposite numbers who are all viewing to do the same to you.
So with the level of new inclusions to every facet of Ubisoft’s simply stunning open world action adventure title what does the future hold for Assassins Creed and its legions of devoted fans around the World? Well, if the new ‘Anvil Next’ engine is proof of anything it is that the cutting developer and publisher have got big plans for the franchise, of that there is no doubt. But in the meantime, sit back and soak up everything that is going on in this latest spectacular addition to what is fast becoming one of videogamings greatest ever franchises. Assassins Creed III is, without a shadow of doubt, the most fluid, fun-filled, action packed and entertaining title in the entire series. Gorgeous game play is complemented by jaw dropping visuals as you gaze from your lofty perch the panoramic views of a fledgling country torn apart by war. If you have never played an Assassins Creed title before, and are just starting out on your adventure with this game, then all we can say is get ready to shell out on five more of the little beauties as a better advertisement for not only Assassins Creed, but also for the future of videogames, has not yet been created. Assassins Creed III is ‘the’ gaming event of 2012 so far, do not miss out on this title! 10 out of 10
Assassins Creed III: PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox360 ( version tested Xbox360 )
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal