Michael Leparc On January 16, 2013 at 1:39 pm

Assassin's Creed III ScreenshotComing out of sync with the other manufacturer’s release cycle, Nintendo’s Wii U is in the position of depending on ports of existing AAA titles to flesh out its launch lineup. This provides a unique opportunity – however fair it is – to compare the new console’s performance to what the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 versions have to offer, as well as to see what it’s newfangled gadget pad can add for a game that already works fine with the current control paradigm. Unfortunately any comparisons that can be made are really subtle for the most part, but nevertheless allow us the liberty to dig into them a bit in this review, though much of it will be repeated from my earlier take of the 360 game.

Assassin’s Creed III begins with a quick recap of the story up to current point for newcomers. Whether that really is enough for them to understand what’s going on is debatable, but I’ve have friends really get into this game despite skipping on the franchise before. If you have any rudimentary knowledge of American history (and especially if you have a great fondness for it like I do), the main plot of Desmond’s latest assassin ancestor, Connor, and his involvement in the Revolutionary War will be quite familiar and enthralling for sure. The beginning of your dive into the Animus involving Connor’s origins is absolutely brilliant, and I literally can’t say more without spoiling. From there you will encounter many of the founding fathers and their famous contemporaries: Ben Franklin, Sam Adams, Marquis de Lafayette, and of course, the United States’ first commander in chief, George Washington. Everything is historically accurate as it could be while still weaving in a completely fictional half-white, half-Native American assassin and his templar rivals manipulating things along the way.

Don’t go into this thinking the game simply glorifies the revolution, though. The writers did a great job of properly framing and exposing the doubt that loomed over both sides of the war, both in their motives and their strategies. This is not just a story of do-gooder Assassin Patriots versus the evil manipulative Templars and their British accomplices. In fact the lines aren’t necessarily drawn across the two sides of the battlefield. Every step of the way, with each target taken out, you will find yourself questioning if you’re really on the right side of things. Cutting back to the real world and Desmond’s role, the story progresses far more than any previous game did. While his segments are completely linear, he finally actually gets to be an assassin for a while and confront Abstergo directly. We are also finally treated to answers to many burning questions as the First Civilization explains the disaster approaching Earth and their past.

When Assassin’s Creed III and its setting were first announced, I was a bit skeptical about what it meant for the gameplay. Unlike renaissance Italy and Turkey, America wasn’t exactly littered with huge metropolises at this early stage of existence. It turns out the virtual versions two major cities of Boston and New York are plenty large enough still, if a bit smaller than Rome or Constantinople, so at least within these two centers of population the familiar Assassin’s Creed gameplay remains largely the same, with plenty of hiding places and crowds to conceal your presence and platforms for your parkour. There are a few differences though. Your health meter automatically regenerates now, but only when you’re out of combat. You can also dual wield, use a new item called a dart rope, and pick up guns like muskets if you get tired of Connor’s signature tomahawk. The hand to hand combat has changed in that no longer can you just hold down the right trigger to constantly block. Instead you have to time things Batman style which can be a little more tricky when surrounded by troops, some of which aren’t even vulnerable to counters and will hurt you for even trying .You’ll also be building up a homestead much like Ezio does in Assassin’s Creed II.

Out in the countryside you actually have weather to deal with like fog, rain, and of course most prominently perhaps, snow, depending on what part of the story you’re at. The snow in particular gets in the way of navigating, as the heavy stuff will slow you down. But you’ll quickly learn that parkour now extends to the trees now that their branches have been conveniently arranged for your traversal. Replacing the territory grabbing in the city is the capturing of various forts in the forest. Most interesting however is the new hunting component of the game. By analyzing clues along the way you can identify what animals are around you like deer, raccoon, or cougars, then set snares, attract them with bait, or just go after them with bow and arrow. Depending on your means of disposing them, you can get more money for their skin and meat. However, probably the coolest addition to the game is the naval warfare component. It only factors into a couple of main story missions, but there’s a whole host of side quests as well. When you’re out at sea, Connor gets to actually take the wheel, call for full, half, or no sails (the slower you go the more you can turn), as well as fire the main cannons or swivel cannons on each side, which you determine by rotating the camera.

Okay, so for those wondering what the Wii U does differently in its control and gameplay, you’ll be mostly disappointed in that there isn’t a whole lot to talk about here. First of all, the gamepad can be used to play the game in place of using your TV, which is a handy feature that hopefully games continue to support beyond the launch window. But if you’re playing it on the big screen the main thing the gamepad adds is a much bigger minimap, which does make collectibles, stores, and quests much easier to find admittedly, but is nothing groundbreaking. I was extremely disappointed that I could not change weapons on the fly using the touchscreen. The only real added convenience was an extra button to call your horse, something which was a hassle to do on the 360 since it was just another “weapon” you had to pause and select. Another thing to note is the lack of analog triggers on the Wii U gamepad, which can make controlling Connor a little less subtle if you’re used to them since he’ll break into a full sprint when you might not want him to, though that can be remedied with more judicious use of the thumbstick I suppose.

Fair warning for those who are considering to get this game on the Wii U for multiplayer: In my time of reviewing this game it was nearly impossible to find players, even on weekends. There just don’t seem to be that many of them out there as it kept recycling through the matchmaking, no matter what game mode I picked. There is the plus that voice chat is built into the gamepad to make teamwork easier at least. As for the modes themselves, not a whole lot has changed from Revelations, except for some new abilities which help scatter the crowd around a target or disguise you from a pursuer on the other end. There is a new Dominion mode which was kind of to be expected after implementing Artifact (a.k.a. Capture the Flag) mode last time. My favorite new mode though is called Wolfpack, and it’s actually a co-op mode where you work together to take out multiple target NPCs in the most efficient way possible in order to score the most points and proceed through the sequences. As you progress along in XP and such it’ll unlock more of “Abstergo’s Story” which will give you more videos and cutscenes with extra gems of information.

The graphics in Assassin’s Creed III are really top notch and for more thoughts on them you can read my 360 review. I can honestly say that with the Wii U version I do not see any major improvements or regressions in rendering. Flipping between the 360 and Wii U versions it really feels like the latter is a bit brighter and doesn’t have quite the same shadow effects, but it’s nothing I would really describe as inferior, just a different take. Framerate wise the Wii U seems a bit smoother on cutscenes but slightly choppier in gameplay, with a bit more pop in and out of NPCs, but that could be because I was more focused on things while reviewing it. The engine has already reached the limit of the previous generation so it’s not completely surprising that it’s taxing a new system as well, without the time for specific optimizations. In any case the game is still totally playable and gorgeous, just don’t make a purchasing decision based on graphics as there’s really not a massive differentiation here.

When talking about audio the main thing to focus on in Assassin’s Creed is the voice acting with all the story telling going on. Overall it’s mostly up to the standard of the series, but I found the Native American speakers to be kind of awkward. I’m not sure if that’s because they decided to go with native speech and there are few fluent voice actors or if that’s just the way the language is spoken, but they came off as more wooden and emotionless outside of Connor’s lines. The rest of it is very good, and America being a land of immigrants, the characters actually have a wide range of accents pertaining to their backgrounds, though it makes me wonder how true to real life they are. How do you determine which Americans talk with a British accent or not exactly? Who knows. Maybe they put in some research into it like everything else. The musical score is strong and the effects really shine during the naval battles with the sound of the cannon fire and the waves beating down on your ship.

Ubisoft Montreal definitely accomplished what they set out to do almost three years ago when they started this project. Assassin’s Creed III takes the series to a whole new level in terms of size and scope. While the cities themselves are smaller, the frontier, the ocean, and all the side quests to do give you an incredible sandbox to play in, and in what is still a unique setting for video games. As with any game this large, there are a few glitches and hiccups exhibited along the way, but at least in my playthrough nothing too startling or gamebreaking. I do worry that this might be the best it gets for this franchise considering how the story ends here, as I don’t know where it could go next. But for now, put that disc in, sit back and enjoy yet another fantastic ride through history.

As for which disc to get? The Wii U offering is pretty much the same you’ll find elsewhere, with the PC version really the only superior one graphically, depending how good your system is. The gamepad doesn’t add much besides a minimap and the ability to play on it while something else is on the TV or if you’re in another room. The only real shortfall here is the lack of multiplayer community for those who need it, otherwise you’re mostly getting the same exact great experience as everyone else. There also no DLC updates on the Wii U version so far. So it is up to your priorities which version to buy if you own a Wii U and another console.


There’s enough here to make things fresh again for veteran’s of the series. Combat is more challenging without medicine and trickier counters. Naval battles are exciting and there’s a lot of side stuff to do. Wolfpack mode in multiplayer is fun with the right group (if you can find one on the Wii U!). Gamepad doesn’t add much here except a better map.


The open frontier and the open seas are splendor to behold, while the rest of it holds up quite well. The Wii U handles it about as well as every other home console, with only miniscule differences to nitpick.


Once again the voice acting is superb outside of the Native Americans. The music adds without overwhelming the action, and sound of a frigate firing all its cannons at you makes you flinch.


Another great game worthy of an epic series. If you weren’t a fan before I’d still suggest at least renting it to see if the new ideas hold your attention. The story alone is worth the price of admission, even if the ending leaves much to be desired. Get the Wii U version if you always hated pausing to check the map. Avoid it if you’re into multiplayer, unless you have a group of friends ready to play with you.



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