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Review: 'Assassin's Creed III' a powerful sequel

1:04 PM, Nov 14, 2012   |    comments
The official box art for Ubisoft's 'Assassin's Creed III" video game.
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These poachers picked the wrong place to hunt.

A young woman sits on the ground, her arm badly injured after poachers fire at her position. After taking her to a safe haven for recover, my character makes his move.

Sitting atop a tree branch, I pounce on one oblivious poacher and stab him with a hidden blade. A second enemy is eliminated after I counter his bayonet strike with a swipe of a tomahawk.

Two more foes sit further down the hill, so I duck into cover inside some brush. With one poacher turned away, I quickly strike his colleague before using a rope dart to yank the other toward me for the final kill. A fifth poacher spots me with fear written all over his face. However, I let him go, preferring he shares the events of this day with others as a warning.

It's amazing what a change of scenery can do for a video game series. Having spent a couple years exploring the Renaissance era, Assassin's Creed ventures into the New World with the arrival of Assassin's Creed III, featuring a phenomenal story and rich universe that blends a painstakingly detailed recreation of life during the American Revolution.

Before diving into the 18th Century, some backstory on Assassin's Creed: the action series centers on Desmond Miles, the descendant of a long line of assassins dating back to the Crusades. The Assassins spent centuries fighting against the Templars, an evil group focused on restoring order to the world. Using a device called the Animus, Miles revisits the memories of his assassin ancestors to prevent the destruction of Earth.

For Assassin's Creed III, players become acquainted with Connor, a Native American assassin born during the 1700s, when America first formed into a nation and battle the British for independence. The plot digs deep into Connor's path toward becoming an assassin, leading up to his eventual role assisting the colonies during the American Revolution. Several historical figures make cameos, from Paul Revere to the first president of the United States, George Washington.

Having spent so many titles focused on Ezio in Assassin's Creed II and subsequent spinoffs Brotherhood and Revelations, Assassin's Creed III feels so refreshing. Players are transported to the beautifully rendered, colonial Boston. Town criers roam the streets, taxpayers patrol town seeking money from upset citizens and Redcoats stand watch with muskets at the ready.

Players have several options for exploring the Northeast, from horseback and carriage to simply gliding between rooftops and -- most exhilarating -- tall trees along the frontier. There's nothing in Assassin's Creed III that feels as graceful as nimbly hopping from tree to tree, swinging around trunks or leaping to large branches.

As with previous Assassin's Creed titles, a simple control scheme makes these actions feel effortless. Players walk around with the left thumbstick, but pull the right trigger and they can free run, zipping across rooftops with ease.

Along with a powerful story, the game provides plenty of opportunities for players to explore. Near Connor's homestead, players can hunt game such as rabbits, elk and deer using bait and snares. They can recruit frontiersman or other travelers to assist in maintaining his homestead. Once players enter the city, they can free people captured by the Templars, deliver messages or take on assassination contracts.

Perhaps the best distraction from the game's main path is a series of intense naval missions. Connor meets a Harbormaster near his homestead that guides him on commanding his own vessel. From there, players can embark on journeys involving incredible battles at sea. Players raise and lower sails to adjust their speed while targeting enemy vessels with a barrage of cannon fire. Sinking enemy ships is absolutely gratifying.

Missions are a mix of stealthier tasks, such as following a key target or sneaking into a building before Redcoats spot the player. Others are very combat-driven, as players not only send colleagues to help defeat foes, but dive into the action themselves with an impressive assortment of weapons.

Once players wrap up the robust single-player campaign, they can dive into the series' fascinating multiplayer component, featuring seven maps based on colonial America and seven match types, such as Wolfpack (survival mode featuring waves of enemies players must kill) and Manhunt (teams alternate as targets and pursuers). Most matches reward bonuses for quality kills for an added challenge.

Between the storytelling, its well-represented setting and mission diversity, Assassin's Creed III marks a bold step for the franchise and is easily one of 2012's best video games.

Publisher: Ubisoft

Developer: Ubisoft Montreal

Platform(s): PlayStation 3, Xbox 360

Price: $59.99

Rating: M for Mature

Release Date: Oct. 30

Score: 4 stars (out of 4)

- by Brett Molina, USA TODAY

USA TODAY

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