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Game Review: Assassin's Creed III

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November 27, 2012

The changing seasons help punctuate the passing of time

The changing seasons help punctuate the passing of time

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From its inception there has been a lot to like about the Assassin’s Creed series. The game has always delivered jaw dropping visuals, some very cool acrobatic moves and those delightfully enjoyable sneaky kills on unsuspecting individuals. These ingredients are yet again featured in the latest installment, a game that takes the series to a new environment, as you explore the political machinations of revolutionary colonial America. Gizmag reviews the Xbox 360 version of Assassin's Creed III.

The adventure begins with a quick mission in Europe, just to familiarize you with basic movement controls. Next, there is a passage that spans the ocean voyage from Europe to the American continent. During this journey you get to put down a mutiny and rout some rum-filled rabble, all of which is solid enough fun, in my opinion. Your mileage may vary.

Upon arriving in Boston you will be blown away by the sheer scope of the scenery, the innocent masses simply going about their business, and the incredibly rich soundscape. Then Assassin’s Creed III gets down to its business of political intrigue and skullduggery. Before long, you are leaping over rooftops, running from the British Red Coats and doing your best to eavesdrop on “persons of interest.”

The game explores tumultuous political times

Assassin’s Creed III is a delight to play as long as you are patient. You will sometimes need to calmly shadow a potential target for what seems like ages before you take action. At other points you’ll have to loiter about in a hostile environment, just so you can eavesdrop and get critical information. Then, there are moments where you will be able to act more brazenly by engaging in gunfights or melee, but the game often rewards you for getting things done discreetly.

The narrative really powers things along, too, and once you get used to zoning in and out of the game world via the Animus, you will find you really get to know the many colorful personalities who are your allies and enemies. Speaking of alliances, the game hurls a few serious curve balls your way. Friends and foes become hard to separate and the narrative delivers a few thrilling twists that change your view of what is going on radically.

The milieu also changes as the time passes and you will get to explore the wilderness, as well as enjoy or suffer the ravages of the harsh American climate.

Leaps of faith are still a big part of the game

All of this sounds wonderful and for the most part it is, but Assassin’s Creed III isn't perfect. Sometimes the missions you are trying to complete have such specific requirements, that you’ll break the game’s scripting, just by being imaginative. Then you’ll be confronted with a mission failed animation and not know what went wrong.

This happens a lot when you are on missions that require stealth and it can be mighty frustrating. You also have to be careful when sneaking about, as it isn't always easy to stay hidden. Sometimes you will be spotted when you were sure you were hidden. At times the rules that govern how alert the enemy is can seem irritatingly arbitrary. [And then there are those non-interactive "interactive" conversations – Ed]

While we are on the subject of foibles, the "free running" element in the game has been given an overhaul when compared to previous iterations. Swift, cat like, intuitive movement is more easy to maintain, but the mechanics are still slightly flawed.

You will sometimes find yourself launching up buildings you are merely trying to run around. Worse, you might be trying to leap and grab a tree branch, only to face plant in the snow right in front of your pursuers. This is understandably frustrating, even though the game’s controls have improved when compared to previous outings and those moments when you do get the acrobatic stuff right are often quite exhilarating.

You also get to do a few other cool things like take to the high seas and engage in some thrilling naval battles, plus there is a new animal hunting and trapping system to experiment with. The finer points of which are somewhat nullified by the ease with which it's possible to kill animals by running up to them and stabbing them.

There are plenty of places to develop your climbing skills

The American setting is interesting, even if it is a double edged sword. The wilderness is breathtaking, but the smaller American towns and settlements are underwhelming when compared to the expansive and often ornate European cities from previous outings.

So while Assassin’s Creed III is impressive to look at and there are some great new features, the game is a flawed diamond at best. The controls are sometimes frustrating, as is the scripting that determines success or failure.

The game does have a well honed sense of history and you’ll meet many historically significant American icons. Some may enjoy this, while others will find their placement in the game a tad convenient. The way the game challenges you and makes you feel like you have stepped back into a living, breathing colonial world, is for me, intoxicating.

It is a pity that at times the controls or mission objective driven scripting can ruin what would otherwise be amazing moments. That said Assassin’s Creed III is a solid game that successfully updates a unique series.

Images provided courtesy of Ubisoft

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