America. Land of the free, the home of the brave and now home to the assassins. Set during a faithfully rendered depiction of the civil war, players control Connor, a young assassin bent on stopping the destruction of his Native American tribe and in doing so putting an end to a fair few Templars.
Over in the 21st century series protagonist Desmond is warned that the end is nigh and that Connor’s memories hold the key to preventing the apocalypse. Once more unto the past then, in an attempt to find another piece of Eden and hopefully to prevent the destruction of the world.
With a heavy narrative focus the game’s opening is unexpectedly linear, a controlled space utilised by the developers to demonstrate their vastly improved facial animation and overall graphical fidelity. It might take up to four hours before players experience the complete freedom they’ve come to expect from the series but the groundwork laid in the opening hours pays its dividends later on in the story.
The gameplay follows a similar pattern to its predecessor seamlessly mixing stealth, parkour and fluid combat. Of course there have been a few notable updates to this system. It’s no longer possible to counter your way through waves of enemies; they’re more aggressive, smarter and deadly.
The introduction of basic firearms also complicates combat systems, keeping Connor on his toes. Overall new combat systems require players to think tactically but this makes victory much more rewarding as well as making battles more intense.
The parkour system has also been adapted to suit the new forest environment, allowing you to scale mountains and leap smoothly across the tree tops. Still there are points where game leave you stuck between a rock and a hard place but it’s a substantial improvement on previous entries. The system works exceptionally well in city spaces and running across rooftops and through the streets is a joy.
There have been some intelligent additions to the stealth systems as well. Connor contextually reacts to his environment, creeping through tall grass and subtly assassinating people from around corners. These improvements make Connor feel more like a master of assassination and less like clumsy thug.
Another major addition is naval combat, which proves to be a lot of fun with spectacular and methodical battles. The ships are relatively easy to control but paying attention to wind direction is crucial. Splintering hulls, flaming sails and collapsing masts give a sense of real danger when two galleons go toe to toe.
Co-op also makes its series debut in the form of wolf pack mode. It’s a race against time to kill a wave of enemies. Players are then given more time and more targets. It’s good fun but with the time limit encouraging reckless abandon rather than elegant murder, it fails to capture the essence of the series. The usual array of multiplayer modes also return, providing some more entertainment once you have exhausted the single player.
There are a few glitches in the game, particularly when riding your horse but on the whole this is an enthralling and enjoyable adventure. With iconic characters such as George Washington and Charles Lee, Assassin’s Creed III provides a morally ambiguous story and gameplay that will encapsulate the player and keep them hooked for a long time.