Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The creed continues with Ubisoft’s latest videogame

By Jack Sorensen, Editor-in-Chief

Warning: spoilers abound in this review. Do not even glance at the next sentence if you intend to play "Assassin’s Creed III" and didn’t go to the midnight release Monday night and devote 11 hours to it in two days like I did.

It was Tuesday afternoon, and I was attempting to squeeze a few hours of gaming in before my night of commitments commenced. My friend, an avid "Assassin’s Creed" fan who had yet to start his game, was sitting on my bed, watching as he had done six hours the night before.

Our jaws dropped simultaneously. Ubisoft blew us away with one incredible plot twist.

Before playing as the advertised Connor, a Native American and the last character in Desmond Miles’ ancestral journey through the assassin order, the game has you play as Haytham Kenway, an upper-class British aristocrat who boards passage to the colonies in search of a shrine left behind by “those who came before.” As Kenway, you assassinate several targets the game very clearly presents as ‘bad’ characters, and you are enthralled by Kenway’s charm and solid moral compass.

Then your world is turned upside down. Kenway? He’s a templar. That’s right — you’ve been killing assassins, and Desmond is just as shocked to find out.

Kenway’s gameplay dramatically ends there, and you take over as Connor, the son of Kenway and a Native American woman. Don’t worry, Connor is an assassin.

Ubisoft’s multi-year planning of the “Assassin’s Creed” franchise was incredible, with the final installment focusing on the modern assassin’s race to unlock the secrets of “those who came before” ahead of the real-world proposed apocalypse on Dec. 21, 2012. Well-played, Ubisoft.

In terms of the actual gameplay, ACIII is a little hit-and-miss. There are some incredible additions to the feel of the game, including an over-the-shoulder camera angle that makes free-running through the streets of colonial Boston truly exhilarating.

I like to play a little epic background music to enhance the chase. My suggestion: the theme song from the 1960 hit “The Magnificent Seven.” Try it out before you judge me, and don’t knock it if you can’t rock it.

Once I got past my honeymoon with ACIII, I did begin to notice some subtle changes in the gameplay that I don’t wholeheartedly support. Most notably, the controls for the fighting are significantly simplified in the latest installment. Whereas in the previous games you had an array of fighting choices in both the primary and secondary right-trigger selections, the new gameplay allows you to parry, counter and break the opponent’s defense, and there isn’t even a second set of options with the right trigger. The kill cameras are incredible, but the incredibly linear fighting style gets old fast, and doesn’t offer as much player engagement as the previous four installments of the Assassin’s Creed series.

On that note, there aren’t any special right-trigger commands, and your movement is limited to walking, walking quickly and free-running. No more light jogging out of an awkward accidental civilian assassination.

What ACIII lacks in control depth, it more than makes up for in eye candy. The landscape is beautiful and, dare I say, even comparable to one of Bethesda’s “Elder Scrolls” games. The best part: Connor can free-climb trees. I know it seems like a given, but I can’t begin to communicate how many times I yelled at Ezio and Altaїr, our previous assassins, for falling over when they bumped into a tree. I’m sorry, you can free-climb the Sistine Chapel but you can’t climb a d--- tree?

Thanks for fixing that, Ubisoft. Egg and your face were certainly in alignment for a while.

Overall, the game is incredible and everything we had hoped for. Now I just have to finish it before Dec. 21.