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Assassin's Creed III (Xbox 360) artwork

Assassin's Creed III (Xbox 360) review


"Shenmue on the Dreamcast was once the king of offering pointless, “life-like” diversions to punctuate downtime in its main storyline. It offered Ryo Hazuki, the game’s protagonist, such tantalizing options like collecting toy figurines, drinking soda pop, and driving a forklift to make a living. That game first saw release in Japan in 1999. Now that it is 2012, Ubisoft Montreal, the makers of Assassin’s Creed III, still have not come up with a better way to pass the time than by offering up menial side quests such as delivering letters or collecting almanac pages. For a game series so adamant on humanity’s imminent doom, I’d sure like to get on with saving the planet instead of settling down for another game of checkers."


Shenmue on the Dreamcast was once the king of offering pointless, “life-like” diversions to punctuate downtime in its main storyline. It offered Ryo Hazuki, the game’s protagonist, such tantalizing options like collecting toy figurines, drinking soda pop, and driving a forklift to make a living. That game first saw release in Japan in 1999. Now that it is 2012, Ubisoft Montreal, the makers of Assassin’s Creed III, still have not come up with a better way to pass the time than by offering up menial side quests such as delivering letters or collecting almanac pages. For a game series so adamant on humanity’s imminent doom, I’d sure like to get on with saving the planet instead of settling down for another game of checkers.

That’s not to imply that all side tasks in Assassin’s Creed III are hollow or even necessary for advancing the story, but I’d rather tackle the real issue at hand – namely saving the world from those evil-doing Templar bastards – than carry infected townsfolk to a doctor for care. If there’s one thing I’ve come to realize when comparing Assassin’s Creed II and its sub-sequels to Assassin’s Creed III, it’s that I have a heck of a lot less patience for performing essentially the very same pointless tasks for the nth time. Anyone new to the Assassin’s Creed series is likely to have a grand ole time here. But for those of us who have trudged on since the beginning, Assassin’s Creed II is starting to look like the best the series will ever be.

It’s not really so surprising, given how Ezio’s storyline was labored across three games, each less necessary than the last. After all, if the biggest draw to the series is exploring a geographically rich and historically significant region through Parkour-style gameplay, what else really needs to change from one installment to the next? Turns out more than you’d think!

Assassin’s Creed III utilizes a new engine. Coulda fooled me! It feels like playing Assassin’s Creed II, only with more noticeable glitches and without the same sense of awe. So I guess it really feels like playing Assassin’s Creed I in that regard. My game froze during the opening tutorial, stuttered during cinematic cutscenes, drew upon graphical glitches that could only be remedied through restarting, delayed or even prohibited mission cues from occurring, and that’s not even taking into account the numerous minor glitches that have occurred normally over the course of the entire series!

In spite of toting a new game engine, Ubisoft Montreal still hasn’t fixed many of the niggling little shortcomings that have plagued the Assassin’s Creed series since its inception. Combat is still twitchy. It works well enough when fighting a small group of foes. Against a large group, battles more closely resemble a hoedown as enemies shuffle about as they wait for their turn to die. Beyond that, foes will go searching for you should you break the peace, or at least they will until your HUD indicator turns green. Once it signals that the coast is clear, guards within eyesight will then immediately become disinterested of your presence.

Those things may have been overlooked or downplayed in prior installments because Renaissance Italy was so majestic and grandiose that the world on display more than made up for faults perceived as inconsequential. But now the world of Assassin’s Creed has been brought to colonial America during the height of the American Revolution. Colonial Boston and New York are not as intriguing or alluring as Renaissance Florence, Venice, or Rome. Those cities had hundreds of years of history to unlock when Ezio explored their ornately crafted streets. Boston and New York in the 1770s were still in their infancy, and they offer hardly anything new to experience. To punctuate their banality, the wild frontier literally waits outside their city boundaries.

Of course, the frontier beckons exploration, too. Parts of it are inhabited; all of it is rugged. Most of it I found to be completely dull. You’ll pass the time running from point A to point B skinning hares for their pelts so you can sell them at the general store for a few meager pounds. Just as there are in the cities of Boston and New York, challenges are to be entertained, heights are to be scaled, and exploration is encouraged. I think I’d rather stick to running across rooftops than through tree canopies, though. Seeing a city from up top tends to reveal more than climbing through the trees.

You’ll be doing this as Ratonhnhaké:ton (note to Ubisoft Montreal – a colon is not a letter), a half-Mohawk, half-British warrior. He controls just like Ezio and Altair before him. He wears the same silly robes, though now it’s in a thoroughly robeless society. Talk about looking out of place! He speaks of the same ideals that his Italian and Arab ancestors spoke. Comes off as much of a douch – er, well, to be fair, Ratonhnhaké:ton, or Connor as he is referred to through most of the game (because seriously, how the fuck do you pronounce “:”?) has his heart in the right place. His plight seems just. He’s just a red man stuck in a white man’s world. Despite being Native American, he has scarcely any issue wandering the streets of Boston dressed in his indigenous outfit. He lives in a big brick house and oversees a large plot of land. How has he not been burned out yet, given the time period and setting?

Assassin’s Creed III tries to tackle a lot of the sensitive issues that were at the forefront of America’s formation through independence. He asks Boston patriot Sam Adams how he can champion freedom from British tyranny yet own slaves. Asks why only landed white men may be given full opportunity when he as a Native American must settle for second best. Connor makes mention more than a few times how his people – the Mohawk – should be allowed to live on their land free from the white man’s interference. More than once, he feels that he is powerless.

Oh, who are you trying to kid, Ubisoft Montreal? If their story is to be believed, Connor singlehandedly secures America’s independence, avenges the burning of his village and murder of his Mohawk mother, builds a prosperous homestead, wins the hearts America’s founding fathers through his courage and bravery, and destroys the Templar order – all within the span of about 20 hours as long as he stays away from the optional side quests! Assassin’s Creed III comes off as rather preachy when it tries to portray Connor as a victim but has him act as the conquering hero. The game has garnered some attention for being pro-American and anti-British for how the British army is conveyed as a ruthless band of murdering invaders. But if anything, my takeaway after playing the whole game is that Assassin’s Creed III is anti-British for the reason I just described and also anti-American for how it describes the latter’s founding fathers as insecure, power-mongering hypocrites. If there is one group that the game seems to champion, it is the French. And more specifically, French Canadians. Did you know that it was a Quebecois who started rioting against the British in Boston? That’s what Assassin’s Creed III would like you to believe. The game was, after all, developed in Quebec!

I fear that many who play Assassin’s Creed III will take its sensationalism as fact. Informational tidbits are sent your way whenever you come across a historic person, place, or event. Note here kids: Assassin’s Creed III should not be used as a credible source for writing your history paper on the American Revolution. Also something that I find to incredible, though entirely in a bad way: I read that one of the first pieces of downloadable content for this game will assign Connor with the task of killing a tyrannical King George Washington who decided that being President of the United States wasn’t all that it was hyped up to be.

Dumb.

Dumb is how I feel when playing Assassin’s Creed III for its story. Dumb is how I define Ubisoft Montreal for making a game that is technically no better than its predecessors. Dumb is how I can best sum up this game for offering no significant changes in any of the major categories that make up its overly uninspired adventure. Dumb is for the parts that center around Desmond Miles.

Remember Desmond? He’s supposed to be the real hero of the Assassin’s Creed series, but he’s always stuck in the shadows jacked into the matrix while his ancestral avatars nab all the glory. Between killing colonial Templars, you’re still given a few key sequences where you must hop out of 1770s America to realize you’re in 2012 America, or, more precisely, 2012 America holed up in a magic cave. When the story transfers from Connor to Desmond, the locales go from rich in detail to demo-y, and all of the sudden the focus shifts from saving the American Revolution to hoarding magic apples and shimmering Tetris pieces. The evil Abstergo Industries is still hot on the trails of Desmond and his ragtag band of pro-Assassin geeks with talk of magic space wizards thrown in for good measure. There’s a scene at which Desmond asks one his fellow freedom fighters, a snarky British dude named Sean if he thinks everything will end on December 21, 2012, the day the earth is prophesized to sear from the heat of an angry sun.

“I reckon we’ll still be fighting the Templars once it’s all over. This just one battle,” Sean casually remarks.

UGH!!!

Rating: 2/10


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Community review by Fiddlesticks (November 05, 2012)

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