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Assassin's Creed 3 review

An ambitious open world epic, but not a revolution on Wii U

If this is the first time you've played an Assassin's Creed game, prepare to be confused. The series is notorious for its dense, complex mythology and the third game throws you in at the deep end. An intro cinematic tries its best to sum up the previous four games, but it's vague and skips a lot of important details. If this is your first encounter with the series, read the plot synopsis for each preceding game on Wikipedia. You'll enjoy it a lot more.

In the world of Assassin's Creed, hero Desmond Miles relives the memories of his ancestors by plugging into a machine called the Animus. Why? To save the world. Humanity is about to be wiped out and these memories hold the key to stopping it. So far we've played as Altair (an assassin in the Middle East during the Crusades) Ezio (Italian, active during the Renaissance) and now Connor, a Native American killer from 18th-century America.

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This is pre-Independence America, a time of bloody civil war in which Patriots are rebelling against their British rulers and the Native Americans are being driven from their homes. Ubisoft doesn't sugar-coat anything and it's an honest account of a troubled period. Of course, some artistic liberties are taken: a fictional, thousand-year war between the Assassins and the Templars is tied cleverly into real events.

Wild Frontier

The story spans a number of years, from Connor as young boy in his idyllic Mohawk village, to becoming a master assassin on a quest for revenge. The world is split into the cities of Boston and New York and the Frontier. The atmosphere and attention to detail is sublime and you really feel like you've been transported back in time. The new AnvilNext engine can conjure up spectacular weather effects and the environments change as the seasons shift.

The Frontier is a vast expanse of countryside between the cities. It's the biggest map in the series to date, and it's buzzing with life. There are animals that you can hunt, from rabbits to hulking great bears. Soldiers march through the forests to the sound of beating drums. As the Revolution intensifies, musket battles erupt around you. In winter you have to wade through thick, powdery snow; in summer the foliage is green and lush. It's a wonderful space to explore.

The cities are similarly beautiful, but they're missing something. One of Assassin's Creed's main selling points is free-running. Its heroes can clamber up any building and hop across rooftops with ease. Connor is just as skilled as his ancestors, but the cities are disappointingly small and lack variety and verticality. There aren't any big, imposing structures - like the Colosseum in Brotherhood's Rome, say - to scale and you spend most of your time running around on slanted rooftops.

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It's a shame, because the climbing controls are superb, and have been improved since previous games. So-called 'safe free-running', activated by holding R, makes sure Connor never leaps to his doom. He traverses the environment using shop signs, branches, chimneys and other objects to navigate. The tree climbing on the Frontier is slickly animated, but you soon start recognising the handful of shapes that are climbable, which shatters the illusion somewhat.

Combat is similar to Batman: Arkham City. When an enemy strikes, holding X will slow time down briefly, enabling you to counter their attack, either with a blow of your own or a tool, such as your pistol, or a poison dart. Tougher enemies can't be countered, though and you have to use other tactics, like kicking their weapon out of their hands. It's when the game throws several different enemy types at you at once that the combat comes to life, forcing you to mix and match strategies on the fly.

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7 comments so far...
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  1. Mr Roboto Wednesday 26th Dec 2012 at 13:11

    I've got this on PS3 as well as all the previous games.

    I found myself struggling to finish the game for the first time in this series. There's nothing really new for me just seems the same game over again.

    There's loads and loads of glitches in this game which have made me fail missions. If you are new to this then you will enjoy it as it has loads of side missions to do. But for me this is a bit poo the cities are boring unlike the previous games and the missions are very tightly directed which leaves very little room for the imagination to tackle tasks.

    The ship missions are awesome which makes a nice break. The trading function to earn money is rubbish and fiddley.

    A lot of the same glitches keep appearing which means the game was rushed out for Christmas as there's no way Ubisoft game testers could of missed them!

    I think the series needs a break and maybe the next gen consoles with their extra power will allow Ubisoft to creat some thing fresh.

  2. imbusydoctorwho Thursday 27th Dec 2012 at 13:32

    Really want to pick this up,but I'm not paying Ł55 for it.

  3. noobgamer9 Friday 28th Dec 2012 at 11:51

    @imbusydoctorwho It's not Ł55. You can get it for Ł45 from GAME, and Ł38 from ... B00844QLI4

  4. starmie68 Saturday 29th Dec 2012 at 16:34

    I picked it up from grainger games for Ł39.99

  5. KH81314 Friday 11th Jan 2013 at 14:46

    The other games were great. Really excited for this game. Can't wait to get it.

  6. parker-skywalker Wednesday 13th Feb 2013 at 00:31

    I really need to start playing this game and im really looking forward to playing it in 3d.

  7. olrodlegacy Monday 13th May 2013 at 18:01

    Saying this is 'not a revolution' does this game a disservice. An incredibly immersive presentation of colonisation-era America, the plots are touching (in the early period, anyway - Desmond less so) and is addictive to the point that you will want to get that 100% completion. The meticulous attention-to-detail is tremendous, from the integration of real-life events such as the Boston Tea Party and the Battle of Lexington into the plot, to the fantastic naval sub-missions. Having not played Creed before (I only buy Nintendo consoles), AC3 has got me anticipating Black Flag already. The controls are brilliant, the music is fantastic and the overall package is easily worthy of a Gold Award.

    I've seen it online for as cheap as Ł16, and that is crazy money.

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