Review by Perfect Light
"Nothing is true, everything is permitted..."
Having been a fan of the Assassin's Creed series since the first game, I found last year's Revelations a massive disappointment. I felt like it barely advanced the story and was a completely unnecessary game that was pushed out simply to cash in one last time before moving on from Ezio. Luckily for me and AC fans everywhere, Assassin's Creed III is the exact opposite of unnecessary.
The capabilities of the AnvilNext engine are showcased to their fullest during the opening cutscene, which is one of the most gorgeous things I have seen on my Xbox 360. Sadly, the in-game cutscenes and graphics are not quite the same, but they are still some of the best on this generation of consoles. For some reason, it seems like the developers wanted to change the looks of several of the characters, and Desmond looks completely different than he did last time. This isn't a bad thing, however, because he looked hideous in Revelations. Overall, the graphics are incredible, especially during the naval missions.
Noah Watts voices Connor Kenway, the half-British half-Native American ancestor during the game. Once again, Nolan North returns as Desmond Miles, the most boring character in the history of fiction. The highlight of the game is Star Trek The Next Generation's John de Lancie as Desmond's father.
First off, we need to address the beginning of the game. You will not see Connor in his assassin outfit until about 5 or 6 hours into the game. If this doesn't sound okay, you might want to wait for a price drop or hold off to read more reviews. The game's opening is extremely slow, starting you as a man named Haytham for a few hours and eventually leading you through Connor's childhood into his training under a man named Achilles.
As is probably obvious due to the promo material, the bulk of Assassin's Creed III takes place during the founding of the United States. You get to meet all kinds of characters, including Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Charles Lee and Commander in Chief George Washington himself. I don't want to spoil too many surprises, but history buffs should know that you get to participate in many of the famous events during the time period, including the Boston Massacre and Tea Party. You also get to experience Connor growing up, following him from childhood to adulthood, growing and learning as he does and learning how his knowledge and experience help the Revolution. I don't want to ruin anything for people as the story is best left explored on your own. Know that you will not be disappointed.
The main change to the series is the upgrading of Connor's combat. It seems he has been studying the tactics of Batman and Wei Shen, because instead of constantly parrying Connor uses a much more aggressive style of fighting. He is a brutal dual wielder, utilizing his tomahawk and dagger at the same time for extremely harsh combos. You attack with X and block incoming attacks by holding B. Once an attack is blocked, you can then kill with X, stagger with A or throw with B. The system works very well and allows for much more proactive fighting than the series previously allowed. It's a vast improvement over the last games.
Another huge change is the addition of tree running. When I first heard of the mechanic I was a little concerned the trees would look artificial, but this could not be any further from the truth. Connor's movements are extremely fluid and natural, he is capable of navigating quickly and easily through the high branches. This is especially useful during winter sequences, when staying on the ground will cause your movement to be vastly slowed in deep snow.
I had a lot of fun hunting in one of my favorite games this gen, Red Dead Redemption. I'm pleased to see that the same type of system has been added to this game. You can track animals by investigating markings left on the ground and surrounding foliage, and then sneak up on them. Since the only gun you can carry takes a long time to reload, Connor's bow becomes his primary method of hunting. Animals spook easily and catching them is difficult since bigger animals take multiple arrows to bring down, so you must utilize stealth in order to successfully hunt. There are bushes Connor can duck into along with bait and traps he can craft.
One of the games biggest surprises comes in the form of naval battles. Not long into the game Connor helps rebuild a ship known as the Aquila and captains it to rescue merchant ships under attack, destroy shoreline forts and escort others through hostile waters. I, like most, assumed the mechanic would be throwaway and not worth much, but in this case it's the exact opposite. You have to take multiple things into account while piloting ships, like wind speed and direction, full sail or half, rogue waves and storms. The entire thing could be it's own game.
That is just a small taste of what this game has to offer. You will spend time rescuing people in town from unfair tax collectors, collecting pages from Ben Franklin's almanac and listening to tales of incredible creatures from traveling frontiersmen. The game truly must be experienced to be believed.
Assassin's Creed III is beyond a doubt my favorite game to come out this year, ahead of August's Sleeping Dogs, another outstanding title. If you have enjoyed the previous games or are looking for a truly unique experience there is no better place to turn to than the American Revolution. And remember, do not fire until you see the whites of their eyes.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 11/02/12
Game Release: Assassin's Creed III (US, 10/30/12)
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