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Critical Reception: Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed III

This edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Ubisoft's stealth-action game Assassin's Creed III, which reviewers describe as "bold, uneven, occasionally brilliant, [and] often frustrating."
This edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Ubisoft's Revolutionary War-era stealth-action game Assassin's Creed III, which reviewers describe as "bold, uneven, occasionally brilliant, [and] often frustrating." Assassin's Creed III currently earns a score of 85 out of 100 at Metacritic.com. EGM's Ray Carsillo scores Assassin's Creed III at 9.5 out of 10. "After jaunts in the Crusades-era Middle East and an extended run through Renaissance Europe, we find ourselves learning how [protagonist] Desmond's bloodline traveled across the pond and settled into the American Colonies -- and just how much an effect Connor Kenway, his half-British, half-Native American ancestor, had on the American Revolution and what role he played in the Assassin-Templar war," he explains. Carsillo continues: "More than ever before you will be blown away as this newest chapter in the franchise is chock full of twists and turns that quickly turn everything you know on its head both in terms of actual history and the canon laid out thus far in the series." The sequel boasts greater gameplay variety than its predecessors. "In regards to variety, the new naval missions are the prime example as you explore the waterways around the Colonies as the sea battles of the American Revolution were integral to the Colonies winning the war," Carsillo notes. "You get to pilot your own ship around key strategic ports and carry out specific missions as you order your crew to blast away at various British ships that impede your quest." Combat also sees an appreciable boost. "The fluidity you now have in combat is at an unprecedented level though as you can counter and kill multiple enemies at once and perform killing strikes in quick succession with everything in your possession including the new rope dart or pistols or weapons in your enemies' possession," Carsillo recalls. "Connor still has his traditional hidden blades as well, although this was the first Assassin's Creed game where I found other weapons, specifically the tomahawk, to be more to my liking." "From new game play elements like the naval battles, the expansive frontier, new multiplayer modes, and the smoothest combat to date, any fan of the franchise will not be able to put this down and newcomers will be awe-inspired by the world laid out before them," Carsillo praises. Jim Fisher at Official Xbox Magazine rates Assassin's Creed III at 8.5 out of 10. "While AC III easily outstrips the somewhat lackluster Revelations and even the relatively solid Brotherhood, a handful of unexpected failings keep it from reaching the same unimpeachable glory enjoyed by its numbered predecessor," he warns. "Make no mistake: that's not our polite way of calling AC III a bad game," Fisher assures. "The game's signature free-running proves faster, more fluid, and more adaptive than ever, affording you a liberating ease of movement unrivaled even by past AC games. Want to easily vault over objects? Effortlessly leap for a higher hold? No problem! Thanks to the refined controls, it's easier to maintain control and not inadvertently jump off a building and into an early grave." Fisher also praises Assassin's Creed III's combat. "The animations are truly spectacular, offering endless combos for every weapon and even dynamically incorporating the environment for certain kills," he writes. "Weapons and foes remain largely unchanged from past titles, as does that almost rhythmic 'defend, counter, kill' tactic found in all AC games. Still, the satisfaction garnered from dragging an unsuspected guard into the world's deadliest bale of hay or driving your hidden blade into a target from above retains every shred of its devious appeal." "While AC III's unwavering commitment to storytelling is both rare and impressive, it's also where the game starts to run into trouble," Fisher says. "The campaign opens at a glacial pace and never seems to fully pick up steam. Too often, missions feel like they exist only to connect cutscenes, tasking you with simple errands (run over there and knock on that door, sit here and eavesdrop on these guards) or providing only short bursts of combat before diving back into narrative. [...] Moreover, the game never fully allows the world to speak for itself, electing instead to drown players in exposition." "Does the game live up to AC II?" Fisher asks. "Well, no. Ezio's grand introduction is pretty damn hard to top, at least in terms of story content and franchise innovation. But that doesn't invalidate Connor's journey by any means. Assassin's Creed III's newly refined gameplay and incredibly rich setting are captivating stuff, and we're excited to see what adventures lie ahead for our new hero." Joystiq's Ludwig Kietzmann gives Assassin's Creed III 3.5 out of 5 stars, calling it a "bold, uneven, occasionally brilliant, often frustrating action game." "The extravagant story is to blame for some of the game's unsteadiness, despite being one of its highlights," Kietzmann explains. "The opening will be savaged for being slow, but it's an elegant introduction to the 18th century and a fine primer on Connor's eventual intersection with the Revolution. His personal drama is an intense treat, and a reliable antidote to the daftness of what happens in the present day (as per the overarching events of the Assassin's Creed series)." Campaign missions often prove unsatisfying. "When it comes to the main missions, you tend to feel like a neutered killer with your path plotted for you, or a glorified stuntman who has to hit the marks in his big action sequence, lest he repeat it over and over," Kietzmann recalls. "There's no sense of empowerment in connecting the trivially spaced dots, or walking from one cutscene to the next (this happens a lot), or chasing a man in a circle until you take the correct path and tackle him. By the time you get to the assassination, it's been robbed of any planning or sense of accomplishment." Cooperative multiplayer is a highlight, however. "This year's revision improves the interface and accessibility, and adds Wolf Pack, a must-play co-op mode," Kietzmann writes. "Now, four of you stalk assigned non-player characters that grow increasingly more paranoid and alert. Each kill extends the time on the clock, but only coordinated assassinations will give you enough bonus points to push it far enough to make it to the end of the round. In other words, you're encouraged to form a tiny, aggressively anti-social flash mob." "I expect most will come for Connor's story in Assassin's Creed 3, and they'll find that it's well told but detrimental to player agency," Kietzmann concludes. "It's sad to see the game lose sight of its assassin role-playing ideals in favor of bombast, bomb blasts and pig herding, so I hope this is but a momentary stumble while the franchise regains its balance. Trim the excess, remember the central thrust (hint: it's with a knife) and then you'll have a great game again. Assassin's Creed 3 is the kind of game that's just good enough to make you wish it was better."

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