Release Date: October 31 (Europe), October 30 (North America)
Platforms available on: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Genre: Action Adventure
Assassin's Creed 3 is one of this year's most anticipated games, and, after a couple of recent spinoffs, the next full-blown sequel in a series that has been one of the highlights of this console generation. Totalling roughly three years in development and with a staff of hundreds, the latest Assassin's Creed is undoubtedly Ubisoft's most ambitious effort to date, shifting the action from Europe and the Middle East to an America in its infancy and undergoing a period of turmoil.
Will new lead Connor have the skills to influence the fight for independence? Can Desmond prevent a global catastrophe? And perhaps more importantly, can Assassin's Creed 3 soar above its predecessors like a bald eagle taking to the skies?
It's a fantastic tale, packed with historical events that the development team has manipulated in order to create a compelling plotline. The likeable Native American Connor is a fantastic addition to the Assassin's Creed family, as are the cast of villains, whose motives and actions aren't as black and white as it would first appear. The exciting opening act is a particular highlight, and is likely to come as a surprise to anybody who has so far avoided spoilers.
The epic conclusion, meanwhile, does a great job wrapping up the story while still leaving a little wiggle room for future adventures. Not only is the story interesting and somewhat informative from a historical point of view, but it also has the ability to excite, sadden and occasionally make users laugh, containing enough ups, downs and moments of intrigue to compel players to see it through to the end.
America, while not as spectacular as the likes of Jerusalem, Venice and Rome in terms of architecture, is made up of taverns, huge dockyards, villages and glorious countryside, all of which looks incredible bathed in bright sunshine or under the cover of thick snow. The keen-eyed gamer will always find new crevices to explore, whether delivering letters, chasing manuscripts or liberating areas of the city in the name of the revolution.
Cities are packed with people going about their everyday lives, from town criers and protesters to gangs of feral street kids and even animals. The countryside, meanwhile, is much more than a link between cities, serving instead as a hunter's paradise, a fully-fledged battleground and when things are quiet on the assassination front, a place for Connor to rest his head. Having to load between new areas makes the environments feel less connected however diminishing the overall sense of scale, although it's understandable with a game this big.
The Frontier is full of breathtaking vistas, huge lakes and thick forests, which can be navigated from above by a lead character adept at climbing and free-running, which is handy considering that horses are a little heavy-handed and hard to navigate in tight environments. It's easily one of the most visually-striking games we've ever played, despite the occasional dodgy texture here and there.
The free-running element is stronger than ever in Assassin's Creed 3 thanks to a few tweaks and touches, all of which make Connor's feet the preferred mode of transport. Almost everything is there to be vaulted, climbed and rolled over, whether it's the peak of a huge church, the beams of a half-finished and hulking great war ship or the branches of a few well-placed trees.
The development team has really nailed the environmental design aspect, which makes escaping the powers that be a real joy. There's always something to grab, springboard off, or jump into, though finding a tree to scale can sometimes prove difficult. Another a nice touch is the addition of interiors, which Connor can burst through in order to evade capture. Perhaps our only criticism here is that they're not used more and will likely only be discovered by accident.
One of the better additions is the option to perform running kills, which Connor can deliver without losing a step. The running kills are particularly handy when chasing an enemy and confronted by a group of guards, a hold-up that would have traditionally led to a failed mission in previous games.
Connor will launch himself at the nearest opponent, pouncing on him and clubbing him to death, before springing out in any direction players desire. For the most satisfying results, we highly recommend doing this with a war club.
Muskets are also a nice inclusion, giving Connor additional means of dealing with enemies that have a frustrating tendency to block every melee attack. Meanwhile, the ability to utilise human shields, something which is surprisingly simple to pull off, ensures that even firing squads don't cause Connor too many problems. The iconic hidden blade also returns, and once again makes those aerial and stealth assassinations ever so satisfying.
With a character so well equipped to deal with groups of guards, it's easy to forget that Assassin's Creed 3 is best played with stealth in mind. While the formulaic missions of the original are now a distant memory, players are still required to eavesdrop, blend into crowds and make their way into compounds unseen. An abundance of townsfolk and market stalls makes this easier, and the game does a good job of mixing up objectives to avoid growing stale.
One potential stumbling block is the inclusion of brand new naval combat missions, which see our hero captain a ship on the high seas. It becomes clear later in the game just how important Naval combat was during the American Revolution and thankfully this aspect of the game is fantastically implemented.
Firing on rival ships is a simple matter of lining them up and pressing a button, all the while bracing for damage during counter strikes. Easily one of our favourite portions of Assassin's Creed 3, naval warfare isn't overly complicated but provides a genuine challenge when there are enough rivals on the water. Navigation can be a little tricky during the particularly intense battles, however, with ships occasionally veering off into uncharted waters. The menu system, though, is also a little awkward to navigate, something which is true of the entire game.
The naval missions are complimented by a wonderful water and wind engine, which makes navigation treacherous but all the more satisfying. While it may not have the depth to warrant a standalone release, we'd certainly welcome a return of naval warfare in the future and found ourselves hunting down sea-based side missions, of which there were too few.
Like previous games in the series, Assassin's Creed 3 also contains a wealth of multiplayer options, as well as countless customisation options and abilities. The standard deathmatch, of which there are numerous variations, sees players use cunning and caution to assassinate a specific player target across a selection of well-populated maps, all the while avoiding being slaughtered by rivals. Points are earned for eliminating the correct target, and deducted for incorrectly killing civilians.
The team-based Artifact Assault, which sees players steal and escape with enemy artifacts, offers more immediate, adrenaline-fuelled kicks, as does the Domination mode, which has players infiltrate and capture enemy territories. Once again based on traditional multiplayer modes seen elsewhere, these variations aren't quite as much fun without a rifle in hand, but they do add life to a game already brimming with single-player content.
With a campaign offering anything up to 70 hours worth of gameplay, not to mention a comprehensive multiplayer mode, Assassin's Creed 3 is one of the most complete action-adventure games we've ever played. Connor is a wonderful character and the perfect centerpiece for a riveting story that spans hundreds of years when you factor Desmond into the equation.
Throw in some beautiful locations, stunning visuals and an intuitive combo system, not to mention the enormously enjoyable naval warfare missions, and Assassin's Creed 3 lives up to its billing as a truly revolutionary release.