Can the Wii U make a great game even better?
Posted 5 months ago By Vince - Vincent Deshaies
*Note: Given the nature of the Wii U port, this review is the same as it was for the PS3 version, with two added paragraphs about the Wii U-exclusive features. If that’s what you’re looking for, scroll down to the end of this review.
Maybe it’s just me, but when I hear the words “three years of development” coming from a developer, I usually take it as a good early sign of quality. There’s something about it that feels just right. While one year or less usually spells out a “more of the same” situation, and four years or more implies an impending cancellation or the thought that they may have needed to go back to the drawing board, 3 years feels like the perfect balance. Maybe it’s this (very) flawed, pre-conceived notion of greatness that led me to anticipate Assassin’s Creed III so much, or maybe it’s the promise of a brand new setting, main character, and graphics engine that got me in the end. In any case, I had high hopes when I first popped the disc into my shiny new Wii U. Were these hopes met, or did my anticipation stab me in the back?
It’s 2012! The end of the world is upon us! If you thought we were done with the countdown to doomsday, here’s Assassin’s Creed III, ladies and gentlemen. Of course, this new chapter still follows the intriguing story of Desmond, whose ancestors could very well hold the key to our salvation. Unfortunately, the secret temple in which the instructions are sealed away is still left unopened. Obviously, that means Desmond will have to plunge back into the past – this time in XVIIIth century England – in order to discover more artifacts. The path will eventually lead him to Boston with the new main protagonist, Connor Kenway. It is at that moment - a few hours into the adventure - that a whole new world opens up for Assassin’s Creed enthusiasts. The story of the game remains true to the series’ traditions. That means it is engaging, intriguing, sometimes thought-provoking…but also very convoluted. A few really fascinating revelations will definitely shock long-time fans this time around, and it comes as no surprise that this game does have a much more conclusive feel than the previous installments. That does, however, come at a price. In fact, it must be said that the final act of such an ambitious story was bound to disappoint some people, and I have to report that I was one of them. Upon completion of the game’s main story mode, I couldn’t help but feel a little underwhelmed by the final payoff. Despite that, I found that the rest of the game had enough memorable and jaw-dropping moments to satisfy me in the story department.
"In more ways than one, this fifth installment (of the core console franchise) feels like the definitive Assassin’s Creed experience."
Here comes the gameplay aspect, the meat at the core of the AC experience. First of all, the controls remain pretty much unchanged from previous games. This title still uses the simple yet intuitive parkour and free-running mechanics that we’ve all become accustomed to over the past few years - but this time with a plethora of new animations that allow for a variety of new moves. The combat, however, is what has changed the most in this entry. In the previous games, the combat often fell flat due to a problematic lack of intensity. Most of the time, simply waiting for each individual enemy to make a move and countering their attacks was the most viable strategy. In this game, the enemy A.I. was made a lot more aggressive, and nothing I say could even convey how much of a difference that makes in terms of fluidity. At times, the game can actually have a lot more in common with the combat system in Rocksteady’s Batman games than the one in previous AC games. Enemies now attack in groups, forcing you to constantly change your approach and react much quicker than before. Not only does it make it harder to kill enemies, but the increased difficulty will cause players to try to avoid combat way more often than in the other games. This is one element that really helps elevate the stealth aspect to previously unattained heights.
If there’s one thing that Assassin’s Creed II improved upon from the first game, it’s variety of gameplay. With ACIII, Ubisoft has taken this concept even further. Not only did they put the player in a drastically different type of environment, making the whole game feel new and fresh, but they added a plethora of new features to make the experience even more varied than before. For example, the much-hyped naval battle segments really deliver a tense new approach to gameplay that I had never seen in other games before. Sure, it’s not the first game to introduce this element, but it’s certainly the first one I played that took it to such a high level of realism and refinement. For the more traditional gameplay sections, the new locale is used to the maximum with certain elements really coming into play. For example, the more natural environments mean that you’ll often have to use vegetation as cover or camouflage for your more stealthy endeavours. There’s also the addition of a wider range of animals, many of them being fairly tough enemies which will give you a hard time if you don’t see them coming. Obviously there’s also the addition of the tree-climbing mechanics that many players have clamored for since the original game, as well as the idea of having to judge snow depth so you don’t get your feet caught in. All of these additions really help Assassin’s Creed III feel like a brand new game, and I’d be surprised if people felt it didn’t bring enough new elements to the table.
On the multiplayer side of things, not as much change can be noted from previous chapters. Of course, this isn’t a bad thing at all. The addictive formula of AC’s online multiplayer is back in this one and is likely to be introduced to brand new players who may have skipped over Brotherhood and Revelations. To put it simply, human players have to navigate through a sea of NPCs and find specific targets (other human players) and eliminate them without attracting attention. The more subtle they are, along with the more varied attacks, the more points they gain. This type of gameplay is definitely a breath of fresh air when compared to the usual shooters and sports games that are so popular online, and many may find themselves completely hooked before they even finish their first match.
As with previous Assassin’s Creed games, this one offers a ton of content for your money. The campaign offers a good 15 to 20 hours long storyline which does start out a bit slow. It took me a solid 4 to 5 hours of play time before the game really started to open up and show its potential. The storyline is accompanied by a whole array of side missions that are often just as interesting and deep as the main ones. The multiplayer is a nice addition that will keep the most dedicated players happy until the next chapter comes around.
In terms of visual presentation, the game is very solid. The new graphical engine allows for a much higher level of detail which is immediately noticeable upon booting up the game for the first time. This does come at the expense of a few things, though. Unfortunately for the console versions, certain elements from previous games had to be sacrificed to allow for this higher level of detail. The breathtaking draw distance from the other titles had to be taken down quite a few notches - certain areas may feel a bit empty - and the framerate is not always optimal. On top of that, a few visual glitches do pop up here and there. However, none of these complaints are really that bad compared to the sheer amount of work that was put into the presentation. Animations are much more convincing, lighting effects can be jaw-dropping, and most of the environments are as beautiful as they get when it comes to open world games. In the sound department, things are as stellar as ever with a soundtrack that is as memorable as it is beautiful, the voice acting that remains superb, and the sound effects which do a good job of convincing you you’re a real predator.
Wii U Version differences
When it comes to the Wii U version’s exclusive features, I found that the smallest details really do make a difference. There are three ways you can play the game. The first gives you virtually the same experience as the other two versions, with the Wii U Pro controller being used in traditional fashion. The second allows you to play the entire game on the Gamepad’s screen only, without using the TV at all, which is great for those of you who enjoy playing in bed or on the couch while someone else is using the television set. This second option also offers the possibility of playing the game in 3D using red and green glasses. The third option is to play the game on your TV while using the Gamepad as a permanent mini-map and quick access to your inventory. This last option is the one I found the most interesting, mostly because it actually fixes minor gripes I had with the game on other platforms. Switching weapons in the heat of the action could be problematic in the other versions, as you always had to bring up a submenu while in-game. The same thing could be said about the mini-map, which you always had to bring up in a submenu as well. With both of these things readily available right on the Gamepad at all times, it really improves the flow of the game.
In terms of presentation, the Wii U version is very much identical to its other HD console counterparts. Having closely compared the PS3 and Wii U iterations, I came to the conclusion that the graphical fidelity is exactly the same on both systems. The one difference I spotted was framerate-related. While the PS3 version tends to slow down when a lot of graphical effects are used, the Wii U version doesn’t break a sweat. On the other hand, the PS3 version handles having a lot of characters on screen much better than the Wii U version does, and the same goes for physics-related tasks. At the end of the day, though, console parity is pretty much achieved here. It would have been nice to see the Wii U pull ahead, given its status of next-gen console, but it’s not the case here. It’s also worth noting that the multiplayer aspect of the Wii U version works just as well as it does on other systems, but the servers are far less populated, so it was easy for me to notice the slower matchmaking, but this is a problem that should resolve itself with time.
In more ways than one, this fifth installment (of the core console franchise) feels like the definitive Assassin’s Creed experience. Giving players more variety than ever, Ubisoft set out to deliver a gorgeous game that would keep everyone engaged through a long, satisfying campaign. We would have liked a few graphical improvements for the Wii U version, and its online environment isn’t quite as populated as on other consoles, but at the end of the day, the extra features included in the port make it just as worthwhile as it was on other platforms.
+ Gorgeous visuals
+ Near-perfect sound design and original score
+ Engaging storyline
+ Huge amount of content
+ Addictive multiplayer
+ Gamepad features are a nice bonus
- The ending will disappoint some people
- Slow start to the campaign
- Slow matchmaking due to lack of online population
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Release Date : 2012/11/18
System : WiiU
Publisher : Ubisoft
Developer : Ubisoft Montreal
Category : Action-Adventure
ESRB : M
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