Assassin’s Creed 3 – Review

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Assassin’s Creed 3 survives its continental transplant with flying red, white and blue colours.

Last year’s instalment into the Assassin’s Creed saga disappointed many fans of the series, with over-familiarity and irksome new features among the charges levelled at AC: Revelations. This time around, with a new protagonist and the action transposed to a different historical era, are the blades razor-sharp once more, or has the assassin’s knife been blunted on the wheels of progress?

Set during the American Revolutionary War, most of the game sees you control tomahawk-wielding Connor Kenway (or Ratohnhaké:ton, to give him his Native American title), bringing a new set of assassination skills into play as he tracks those evil Templars through the frontier.

The period setting is superbly rendered and the revealing of American soil for the first time is a truly great moment. Indeed you can almost smell the sawdust and sea spray of the fledgling port town of Boston as you first start getting to grips with your brand new surroundings.

Given how often AC3 adverts are playing on the TV depicting Connor as both man and boy, it will come as scant surprise to discover the game begins out of synch with what you might expect (and in more ways than one but we’ll leave that spoiler free). Your tentative steps as Connor are taken when he’s a mere boy, but time lapses to focus on key moments as he matures and discovers his heritage.

Interesting memory sequences see you visit the elder of your tribe who has you assume the form of an eagle for the duration of your history lesson. So it is that the eagle feathers from previous games return in an early mission where you must gather supplies for your village, a mission which dovetails as a tutorial where new opportunities available to prospective assassins are explained.

Traversing trees is one such new manoeuvre and once you get the hang (and the climb, and the jump) of it, it begins to feel incredibly liberating. The odd moment of frustration – as Connor majestically leaps from the tree you’ve just spent minutes ascending just as you near the top – will still threaten the control pads of short-tempered gamers everywhere but on the whole climbing trees is handled organically.

More variety in the missions than previous instalments helps progress the series, but a number of features influenced by fellow American historical epic Red Dead Redemption do leave one with an initially worrying sense of déjà vu as you cut the hide from deer, foxes and hares, and keep a wary eye out for wolf and bear attacks.

The latter encounters are rendered as quick-time events, which slightly disappoints as I long to take one on with sword or shot, but such QTEs at least deliver a realistic fright, and accurately reflect the vulnerability of man when facing the wild.

An abundance of wide-open spaces are, perhaps appropriately for Assassin’s Creed, a double-edged sword – the sense of wonder engendered when scaling a cliff top high above the wilderness, or participating in full-scale military offences, is tempered by the amount of time you may spend slogging around mundanely through hunting territory on foot.

Fears about the increased need for horseback activity have come to fruition, and the mares still don’t control as neatly as their Red Dead counterparts. Early on in the game, the question remains as to whether or not it was a wise move to transpose the franchise yet further into the open air; while trotting through towns can be clunky too as hapless town folk wander aimlessly in front of your steed.

One of the main draws of the original games for me was the almost suffocating narrowness of the Florentine streets and Venetian waterways, which helped conjure the necessarily paranoid atmosphere of the series, with its hidden machinations operating in the background of history.

With Benjamin Franklin and George Washington both making early appearances – the former making an amusing diatribe about the benefits of taking an older lover – the humour and historical factions of Assassin’s Creed are thankfully still present and correct.

Thankfully, all the gameplay’s facets are as well, at least, that is, once you work past the false starts that see you acquiring new skills while all the time wondering when you will finally earn the right to don the eagle-hooded robes we all know and love.

Melee controls have been significantly improved, no longer allowing you to counter your way to victory. There’s no den defence either, mercifully, and upgrading the Homestead is much the same as Monteriggioni’s function in previous games.

Desmond finally comes to life as a character in some intriguing modern day sequences, and as the missions unfold, the sense of the game’s scale transforms from something perhaps over-awing in the first few hours of play, to a rich land full of opportunity, an America which wasn’t nicknamed the New World for nothing.

The way in which you revisit the same locations at different times of year is an excellent touch too, with a fort previously familiar perhaps later hidden under a blanket of snow, or crops reaching harvest time having sprouted tall enough to hide your movements.

Changes aren’t limited to the environment though – in early missions as Connor, you may trawl the streets of Boston ruminating about how unfair it is that the redcoats manage to beat you in nearly every fight, but then revisiting later in the game as a fully-grown, well-trained assassin, you can wreak some immensely satisfying carnage amongst their number.

Replay value is bolstered by a series of challenges within the missions themselves that are required to achieve full synchronisation, conditions which range from rescuing a man swept away by the river without getting wet yourself, through to keeping your notoriety level below a certain level while freeing slaves.

These extra tasks, combined with the massive areas available, the intriguing storyline, and the new and well-thought out naval warfare system leaves you with many hours of available gameplay before you even delve into the multiplayer, which is much improved from last time I tried it, in AC: Brotherhood (more on that in a follow-up article).

Ubisoft have done well to put the series back on track after a brief dip in quality, and in Connor have created a troubled character worthy of succeeding the iconic Ezio Auditore. The initial transition is perhaps a shock to the senses, but overall there’s a compelling narrative and a huge variety of quality gameplay.

Assassin’s Creed 3 survives its continental transplant with flying colours, and the red, white and blue ends up suiting the game as well as Renaissance Italy, or Jerusalem did in the past. Just don’t expect to feel quite as home on the range as you might have done in Red Dead Redemption.

By Sam Gill

Score: 4/5

Format: Xbox 360 (tested), PS3, PC
Price: £37.99-£49.99
Developer: Ubisoft
Publisher: Ubisoft

Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll as Agnes Brown in the 2014 Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special
tvCould Mrs Brown's Boys have taken lead for second year?
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
news
Sport
footballLive! Chelsea vs West Ham kicked off 10 Boxing Day matches, with Arsenal vs QPR closing the action
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz in Tim Burton's Big Eyes
film reviewThis is Tim Burton’s most intimate and subtle film for a decade
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Arts and Entertainment
Madonna is not in Twitter's good books after describing her album leak as 'artistic rape and terrorism'
music14 more 'Rebel Heart' tracks leaked including Pharrell Williams collaboration
Sport
football
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Ashdown Group: Moodle Developer (PHP ,Linux, Apache, MySQL, Moodle)

    £35000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Moodle Developer (PHP ,Linux, Apache...

    Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

    £17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: Junior .NET Web Developer - Winform / MVC

    £21000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Award-winning pharma softw...

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Java Developer

    £30000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Java Developer is requ...

    Day In a Page

    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all