Review

Assassin's Creed III

Running On Empty

Dull and incoherent, Assassin’s Creed III is what happens when a game can’t justify its own existence.

By John Teti • November 1, 2012

“I have spent today drawn from one bit of madness to another, with nothing to show for it,” complains the hero of Assassin’s Creed III at the end of one mission. He might as well be talking about the whole game. Assassin’s Creed III is mired in madness, but not the run-naked-in-the-streets kind—that would be entertaining. Instead, it’s the more mundane madness of an ill-conceived sequel: an obsessive compulsion to add more, more, more, with diminishing returns, long after the well of ideas has run dry.

Set in colonial New England before and during the American Revolution, Assassin’s Creed III is the latest in the Creed series of games about sneaky people from the past who stab bad guys. (Technically, Creed is about a dude from the future who uses a magic DNA time machine to pretend that he’s sneaky people from the past, and this game wraps up that future dude’s storyline, but the series’ techno-spiritual premise is just the flavorless saltine on which the peanut butter of old-timey assassination rests.) The first Creed, repetitious and underdeveloped, served in retrospect as a prelude to Assassin’s Creed II, in which the “historical superspy” concept reached full flower in earnest.

Creed II and its follow-up games, Brotherhood and Revelations, benefited from an inspired setting and a charming hero. Lively, volatile Renaissance Italy not only provided a backdrop against which Creed could unwind its epic conspiracy theories, but it also gave your character, Ezio Auditore, intricate spaces in which he could sneak, scamper, and stab the conspirators. The games were loopy—one minute you’re prancing across the rafters of St. Mark’s Basilica, and the next you’re hunting for hidden Templar messages in a photo of the Yalta Conference. But there was a consistent sensibility to them, embodied by Ezio himself—clever, violent, and silly at once.

Assassin's Creed III

When the scope was broadened to a wider coalition of assassins in Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood—one of the most enjoyable games of the past decade—it worked because the larger world still felt like an extension of Ezio. It’s only in the disappointing Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, when Ezio’s natural charisma and physicality were obscured by tedious technical gewgaws like a bomb-crafting system, that cracks began to show. Those cracks have widened into a chasm of aimless mediocrity that consumes Assassin’s Creed III.

To say that this new entry starts slow would be like saying that Hurricane Sandy was a bit of a rain shower. Its disregard for the audience’s time is obscene. Here’s pretty much all you need to know about the first day you might spend playing Creed III: The 17th mission you undertake is called “Training Begins.” Prior to that, hours are pissed away, mostly on a series of go-here-kill-this errands in which you play as a rather bland fellow who has a connection to the eventual protagonist. Throughout this crushingly boring prelude, your background and motivations are vague, in order to preserve an eventual plot twist—one that packs no emotional oomph, given the game’s failure to inspire any strong emotion about its characters one way or the other. Thus, in the time it takes to watch Lawrence Of Arabia in its entirety, Creed III sets up one joke with a lousy punchline.

But then “Training Begins,” right? Well, no, not just yet. First, you meet our new hero, Ratonhnhaké:ton, the humorless love child of a British colonist and a Native American. He plays hide-and-seek with his friends, and he goes on a spirit quest in which Ratonhnhaké:ton takes the form of an eagle, as mandated by the Federal Agency For Pop-Culture Depictions Of Native Americans. Once he meets his mentor, our hero acquires the more pronounceable name of Connor Kenway—because, the mentor explains, Connor needs to be able to pass as a Spaniard. (“Ah, yes, Kenway. Of the Barcelona Kenways, I assume?”)

Only then does training begin—although it would be more accurate to say that training continues, because Creed III never really stops holding your hand. The majority of the missions in the main quest consist of cutscene after cutscene, broken up by menial tasks in which you walk to a prescribed checkpoint and either stab something or press the B button to “interact” with it. Worse yet, many of the menial tasks are just cutscenes in disguise, like the eavesdropping missions in which you must stand nearby while you listen to a conversation. That pretty much sums up the Assassin’s Creed III main-quest experience: You shut up and sit down while plastic-looking computer people blather screenwriting clichés at each other.

Assassin's Creed III

Even when this hugely over-scripted game releases the reins for a bit, the design of the challenges tends toward the simplistic. There are a few small missions that recall the careful strategy and stealth of the series at its peak, but more often, you’re an errand boy. Your role in the Battle Of Bunker Hill is to run back and forth between three groups of Continental Army soldiers and tell them to shoot at the guys in the red coats (who obligingly fall dead en masse). Creed III’s interpretation of Paul Revere’s midnight ride is to stick Paul on the back of your horse and have him shout driving directions at you, recasting an American folk hero as the pasty, irritable predecessor to a dashboard GPS.

You play through other major events of the era—you’re basically Forrest Gump with a tomahawk—but you won’t find any substantive commentary here, despite the fact that Creed III makes some weak feints toward Saying Something About America. Connor lectures Sam Adams, for instance, on the hypocrisy of owning a slave while calling for liberty, and Templar conspirators exist on both sides of the Revolutionary conflict, so it’s not just the Brits who earn your ire. These superficial gestures generate no lasting insight or tension, because ultimately, they’re trumped by Creed’s fundamental formula: At any given moment, the guys marked in red on your mini-map are the baddies, and you should go murder them. It’s hard to graft ideological complexity onto that template, and the attempts to pretend otherwise are unconvincing.

That’s the main quest, though. The spice of Assassin’s Creed has always been found in the extracurriculars. Once you slog through Creed III’s initial eight-hour cavalcade of dullness—to be clear, this is a prospect I do not endorse—the world of this “open-world” game deigns to open. Suddenly, your map lights up with activities galore. There is more to do in Creed III than in any game I’ve played. Yet so little of it is worthwhile.

You can hunt for animals in a hunting-and-trapping simulation slightly more sophisticated than late-era Oregon Trail. You can play three different kinds of checkers. You can chase down pages of Poor Richard’s Almanack that a clumsy Ben Franklin scattered throughout Boston and New York. The bomb-crafting system has metastasized; you can now gather raw materials and recruit artisans to craft oodles of things. Perhaps you’ll gather lumber and make a barrel. Congratulations, you now have a barrel.

Assassin's Creed III

Creed III relentlessly foists busywork on you. Practically every action you can take in the world is recast, within seconds, as the first step in some demeaning meta-quest. If you kill an animal, a text prompt appears with a challenge: “KILL 5 DIFFERENT KINDS OF ANIMAL.” Take a “leap of faith” from a tall tree, and you get “PERFORM 10 LEAPS OF FAITH.” Your reward for completing these scutwork challenges is more of them; once in a while you might get a brief mission.

It’s a reductio ad absurdum of a worrisome attitude in modern game design: the belief that a task becomes entertaining simply by virtue of making it a goal. You see this attitude playing out in the corporate sphere with the execrable “gamification” movement, which attempts to increase productivity among rank-and-file employees by applying game mechanics to their jobs—like, say, giving Joe Punchclock 100 points for filling out his TPS reports on time. Instead of making work rewarding, gamification strives only to make work seem rewarding. In Creed III we come full circle: the gamification of a game.

In fairness, previous Assassin’s Creed games had their share of menial tasks, too. But the side quests in the Ezio Auditore games had a baseline level of craft to them. The most thrilling parts of Creed II were the free-running challenges that had you seek out treasure by finding the fastest route—jumping, climbing, swinging from chandeliers—across the nooks and crannies of Italian landmarks. In Creed III, you gather trinkets for a sailor named Peg Leg by going to the spots on the map marked with a trinket icon and picking them up.

And while there was not much depth to Ezio’s renovation quests, in which you fixed up local landmarks and storefronts, they provided tangible and functional changes in the surrounding world—a sense that, as you were drawn from one madness to another, you had something to show for it. Creed III’s landscape is static by comparison.

Assassin's Creed III

Creed II also offered the pointless and much-mocked tedium of finding all the glowing feathers hidden throughout its world, but the feather sideshow was easy to ignore, and all but the most obsessive players did so. In Creed III, it’s all feathers—with rare exceptions. Among these bright spots are the naval missions, which put you in command of a battleship on the high seas. These battles are exciting, with pacing that is slow enough to give you the feel of a massive wooden hull but quick enough to keep the blood pumping. Fleshed out, the naval missions could stand alone as their own game.

That might make more sense. The bits on the boat feel detached from the rest of the experience, as do so many aspects of Creed III. At times, the whole affair feels like one of those old gray-market cartridges that offered “100 games in one!” One or two of the games would be decent, but the rest were chaff.

Maybe that’s unfair, you could argue, because the production values in Creed III are so lavish. After all, this is hardly a cheap-looking game. Its rendition of the New England countryside is extremely pretty. Yet it’s pretty in the same way that a picture of sailboats on the wall of a bed-and-breakfast is pretty. Nice to look at, but devoid of passion. There was a hot-bloodedness to Ezio Auditore’s Italy that is absent from Connor Kenway’s New England. Hell, there was a hot-bloodedness to Ezio Auditore that Connor Kenway doesn’t have. That passion is important. It provides the underlying thread of emotion that can unite the disparate elements of a sprawling world. It provides the drive to offer players something more than a sequence of tasks.

Unlike its best predecessors, I never got the sense from Assassin’s Creed III that its goal was to present a compelling, unified work. By all appearances, its primary goal is to justify its existence. Creed III seems to know that “guy from the past who stabs people” is a premise that has run its course, at least for now. This game doesn’t need to exist, but the forces of marketing inertia have decreed that it will. So with an endless litany of cutscenes, chores, and side games, Creed III tries to obscure the reality of its own pointlessness. Trouble is, the harder it tries, the emptier it feels.

Assassin’s Creed III
Developers: Ubisoft Montreal, Ubisoft Singapore (naval missions), Ubisoft Annecy (multiplayer, not reviewed)
Publisher: Ubisoft
Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Reviewed on: Xbox 360
Price: $60
Rating: M

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  • Cloks

    I started playing Assassin’s Creed II last Tuesday and I almost can’t comprehend this review. How could a game be so off-putting and terrible? How do you make something this bad?

    • Cloks

      By the by, my friend informs me that the eagle is the ancestral mascot of the assassin’s clan. You do have “eagle vision” in II so maybe not every aspect of this game is terrible.

      • http://gameological.com/author/johnteti/ John Teti

        That’s true. The ancient techno-spirit woman in charge of the spirit vision journey quest thing tells Ratonhnhaké:ton that she chose the eagle form because it was something “familiar to his culture,” so it’s explicitly a Native American thing, but it also serves as an incorporation of the Assassins’ eagle.

    • KidvanDanzig

      Oh I thought you were talking about the game

    • Professor_Cuntburglar

       It’s the law of AAA sequels: each new game after the second one must add new features while getting rid of freedom for the player, so there’s more time to show off the fancy graphics and cutscenes.

  • Staggering Stew Bum

    Assassin’s Creed III: “At the end of the day, this is just a video game.”

    • Spacemonkey Mafia

      *Impaled by Templar straw of hay insidiously waiting in stack for leap-happy assassin*

      • Staggering Stew Bum

        *Drops goblet, looks down at shattered remains and notices inscription on bottom: Machiavelli*

    • dasuberpig

       Caaaaaaw

  • rvb1023

    Assassin’s Creed is just a great concept that could never get off the ground. 1 was dull,  2 was the high point but still ultimately repetitive, and 2.5 and 2.75 were really obvious cash-ins.

    I was looking forward to this one, hoping that advancing technology and lack of 500 foot tall buildings to jump off of that the America setting would force them to change how the game is played, but I grow more tired of the series year after year. Is it to much to ask for a new IP from this gen that isn’t driven into the ground before it has a chance to take off?

    • AHyperkineticLagomorph

      I think “great concept” is a good way to put it. The core concept of the series (ancient conspiracies, essentially time traveling to watch assassins so you can learn stuff about said conspiracies, etc.) is, dare I say it, nifty.

      But the games themselves just can’t hold me.

      • KidvanDanzig

        Yeah the weird 4th-wall breaking stuff (if you could call it that) is trippy in a good way, sort of like the ending of Metal Gear Solid 2. 
        *AC2 Spoilerz follow*
        When you get to the end of ACII and the alien lady starts talking directly to the present-day Ezio ancestor, and by extension the player, it’s a nice rabbit hole moment, topped off by the bafflement of the Italian characters who make no sense of what was just said.

        • Aaron Riccio

          Ah, the fourth-wall breaking stuff . . . takes me back to the Psycho Mantis days.

        • http://twitter.com/Steffes Steffes

          I like how that moment comes full circle in Revelations. In ACII Ezio raged against his fate of not being the main character in this story. But in Revelations he calmly accepts his destiny and decides to just live as good a life as he can with the people who make him happy. As excited as I am for a new protagonist in AC I’m going to miss Ezio Auditore because I felt like we really had a life spanning adventure.

      • PPPfive

         I only played (most of) AC1, I could never figure out the point of the future bits, it seems it would have been far less convoluted and more absorbing if it were just set in the past.

        I had a go on this at Eurogamer, I heard AC2 was a huge improvement over the first one so I gave 3 a look. It still looks absolutely stunning, but the gameplay is still so simplified and un-involving. Like in the first, to scale a building/tree you just hold the up button for a minute or so and watch the avatar make a series of different-sized jumps and shimmys. There’s very little connection between the movements on the pad and what’s happening on screen.

        The other issue: stealth is supposed to be of importance, but I finished the first mission  by running in and fighting everyone (as I did for every mission in the first game).

        Steering a big ship around was sort-of cool I guess

        • belgand

          Eh, to each their own. The future conspiracy segments were the only thing that kept me going through the first game. Otherwise the story, what little there was, was uninteresting and the gameplay was dull and repetitive. I know a lot of other people disliked them, but for me at least I was grinding through another horrible mission as Altair just so I could read a few more e-mails as Desmond.

    • HobbesMkii

       I actually enjoyed 2.5 and 2.75 more than 2. I liked the “gather and train your team, then send them on missions” aspect of it. I even thought the tower defense parts of 2.75 were clever, if unlikely to be used because I’d been trained by every game previous to avoid high notoriety. I agree with Teti’s assessment that the bomb making was a crap idea–but I never really use the bombs.

      • stakkalee

        I don’t know, the poison-smoke bomb was super-useful.  The rest of them, like that damn sticky-bomb?  Not so much.  I agree with the “team-building” sentiments (I especially liked how they really expanded that for Revelations) and like you I enjoyed the tower defense missions.  I think Brotherhood and Revelations were both better than vanilla ACII, but I did miss the Animus puzzles from the earlier games.

        • HobbesMkii

          The puzzles were a bit of a strange thing to lose. They could get quite complicated and require effort on the player’s part. Which is probably why they were cut.

          The one thing about building the team is that it played out like some sort of Pen & Paper RTS. I ought to have been able to stroll into a mission with all my apprentices flanking me, and kill everyone. Also, some of the write ups for the missions that you were sending your assassins on sounded a lot cooler than the ones you got to do.

        • Aaron Riccio

          They cut “The Truth” puzzles from the game? I was just saying elsewhere in this thread that those were my favorite part! 

          I really hope there’s something equivalent to that here. And it’s not as if you had to do “The Truth” puzzles in the original game anyway . . . so their difficulty shouldn’t have discouraged the developers from keeping them around.

      • AngryRaisins

        The weird thing about tower defence was how hard the game seemed to be working to stop you from doing it.  The moment my notoriety got high enough for it to be possible some Templar official (who attack on sight, and whose deaths reduce the notoriety) would show up and more or less head straight for me.  When I was trying to do tower defence for the accomplishment I would literally have to keep running away from these guys for it to happen.

        • HobbesMkii

          I’ve not finished the game, as I only bought it a couple of weeks ago and then got distracted by other parts of my backlog, but I’m at 50% completion and have yet to play a Templar attack outside of the first one.

        • stakkalee

          @HobbesMkii:disqus Yeah, I had the same problem with my playthrough.  I was able to trigger the first 2 tower defense missions during the course of the regular game, just as a consequence of the natural progression of notoriety (I did the same thing @AngryRaisins:disqus did, staying away from the major templar officials) but by the time I got around to doing the third tower defense as part of the 100% completion (which I still haven’t achieved) I really needed to work on that notoriety.  Lots of guard-killing, lots of dancing around while I got more and more guards to chase me.  I even needed to hold off on that final apprentice promotion just so I’d have an assassin den to defend when the time came!

      • Logoboros

        On the subject of the “gamification of games” that Teti mentions, who really loves crafting systems? They are the most obnoxious yet now seemingly ubiquitous mechanic. I can maybe accept them as justifiable in MMOGs, but that’s it.

        • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

          I find crafting irritating, unless it yields me an item that I can use for a long time. For example, I liked Mass Effect 3′s workbench system, which allowed me to add doohickeys and doodads to my weapons as I saw fit.

          On the other hand, any time I’ve played a Bethesda RPG, I basically haven’t used the crafting systems at all. I really have no desire to engage in virtual cooking when I’m a few metres away from a kitchen.

          The one exception: Kingdom of Loathing, which made crafting funny. Then again, that’s an MMORPG.

        • http://twitter.com/Evad_Dalrymp David Dalrymple

          I’m trying (and failing) to come up with an example of a game with a crafting mechanic I did like.

          In WoW, for example, I always found that time spent mining and smithing was better spent on earning gear from quests.

        • hubrisofsatan

           I think it worked in Arcanum.

        • WorldCivilizations

          I kinda like crafting systems, in general. I think they’re fine in RPGs where crafting just amounts to fetching a handful of items to make some weapon (FF8, Kingdom Hearts). Cube crafting in Diablo II was fun too, because the outcomes often had random elements. In Final Fantasy XI (an MMO which, sadly, I played for a while), crafting, like everything else, was a MASSIVE time and money sink, but that made it fairly exclusive, and it was really satisfying to get to a level where you could just buy items on the auction house, craft some stuff with it, and sell those for a good profit. They don’t always work, though. Skyrim (a game which I personally think deserves a review like the one above) enchanting/smithing/alchemy in particular were hugely immersion breaking and grindy.

        • Bad Horse

          Crafting =/= customization. Crafting bad, customization good. I even loved the MGS4 customization which was incredibly absurdly overelaborate, to the point where it let you customize grips, but it also let me attach a shotgun to an M16 with a laser sight. I called her Old Blasty.

          One guy’s opinion.

        • asdfmnbv

           Crafting has always seemed so awkward to me in single player RPGs.

          Either the game lets you craft the best equipment in the game as a reward for figuring out the boring and labyrinthine crafting system, or the equipment you craft lags behind the equipment you find.

          Neither case seems to provide the right incentives. The latter has the obvious problem that no one is ever going to bother to craft anything. The former case greatly limits what rewards can be for side quests or dungeon exploration. Especially in open world games, it seems like it only serves to heighten the sameyness of the hundred dungeons if there is no chance of getting an item that is better than what you can make buy buying some random stuffs from the shopkeeper in town and then walking over to the crafting station.

          It seems to me that in games based around questing or exploration, these things should lead to character progression. Introducing a tedious subgame that is only tangentially related to either of those things seems very odd.

        • Electric Dragon

          I rather liked the alchemy crafting in The Witcher, because it tended to use stuff you pick up anyway (like the remains of monsters) and if you couldn’t find plants with the right ingredients you could often find a herbalist willing to sell them to you.

        • PPPfive

           It works well in Minecraft…I loved the alchemy system (essentially crafting) in Dragon Quest 8 too

        • http://www.facebook.com/kylemhale Kyle Hale

          For being an otherwise pretty bright guy, it took me waaaaaay too long to realize I was never actually using all the potions and weapons I was crafting and enchanting in Elder Scrolls. I’d just go to the screen, smith/soul gem/combine everything …. and then just go sell it for cash and buy whatever hot weapon I could find behind the counter.

          Even after that epiphany I’d still find myself wasting time gathering flowers and antlers and petty gems. It’s a hard habit to break.

          Definitely speaks to the sadomasochist completist in me.

        • belgand

          Me. I really, really love crafting systems. In the average RPG or such I tend to find the combat to be an impediment to put up with so I can go back to more crafting.

          Of course, I also spent some time deeply enamored with indie MMORPG A Tale in the Desert which is all crafting/exploration/society building and doesn’t have any combat.

          The only problem are games that let you morph or upgrade an existing weapon, but require you to use it for a certain period of time first. Level 5 is particularly bad about this with Dark Cloud 2 and Rogue Galaxy This tends to encourage you to make some awesome new weapon and then stop using it as soon as it hits that point so you can swap back to some inferior weapons that you can merge together to make something that you can merge with the cool weapon you have. You end up spending less time with the thing you’re trying to make and more with the outdated crap you no longer care about.

        • BROedipus

          If I recall correctly, Dead Rising (or was it Dead Rising 2? I think it was 2) had a fantastically rewarding crafting system. Late reply, but I really wanted to point out that it can be done right (though it rarely is).

    • http://www.facebook.com/ChrisBrimstone Christian Brimo

      I haven’t played any of them… something about the games kept me away. i’m kinda tempted though

      • rvb1023

        They definitely have satisfying moments in them, but the combat is incredibly basic, stealth is unnecessary to the point of being inefficient, and while the period detail is excellent, the future segments and characters are woefully underdeveloped (Mind you, I haven’t played Revelation that extensively compared to the other 3). 

        I have plenty of friends who are fans of the series but as others have said there has always been something “off” about it.

    • eggbuerto

      Agreed regarding 2. It’s where Ezio’s personality was the strongest and there was the least amount of bloat. Brotherhood was fine (and I’m playing the Vita one now), but they still haven’t made any individual activity in an Assassin’s Creed game fun or gratifying besides the free-running.  As a PSA, if you are considering purchasing an Assassin’s Creed game, why not play inFamous 2 instead?

      • Spacemonkey Mafia

        How’s Liberation treating you so far?  The reviews I’ve read all put it at an equal mixture of ups and downs, but it still looks interesting to me.

        Edit: I think partly, because I’m hoping that being handheld cuts down on some of the bloat III apparently falls victim to.

        • eggbuerto

          I bought it based on similar hopes. So far, it has very little fluff. It doesn’t even have Desmond (yay) or another sci-fi framing device beyond a few lines of text at the beginning.

          The reviews seem pretty accurate. The framerate can really chug at times and sometimes the underlying game logic seems to break under strain, which can lead to hilarious things, but I’m still mostly enjoying it. The free-running system survived the transition and, along with the novelty of its protagonist and location, that’s all I really cared about.

        • alguien_comenta

          @eggbuerto:disqus I really hope they port that one outside the Vita because I’m really intrigued by the protagonist as well. How are the different “personas”? Do they change gameplay a lot or you just get a different set of skills?

        • eggbuerto

           @alguien_comenta:disqus Honestly, it just feels like they’d take the range of interactions you’d normally have and forcibly subdividing them into 3 different costumes.

    • Juan_Carlo

      Dishonored is that new IP.  Buy it.  Play it.

      • rvb1023

        Already did and loved it, let’s just hope that isn’t run into the ground either.

      • alguien_comenta

        I’m waiting for “Remember Me”

    • Aurora Boreanaz

      You’ll be sorely disappointed by ACXXVI then, where future guy uses the Animus to pre-live the life of his assassin great-great-great-great-great grandson in the year 2645, where all buildings are two miles high, everyone is an assassin, and all you have to do to kill your target is highlight their name in Microsoft Excel XLIV.

      • Aaron Riccio

        So, in the future they’ve finally perfected the “technology” used in “Death Note”? 

        • Aurora Boreanaz

          Oh, is that how that show works?  Haven’t watched it.

        • Aaron Riccio

          @AuroraBoreanaz:disqus : Yeah, you write a name in the God of Death’s notebook and that person dies. Sort of like highlighting them in Excel XLIV.

          And we all know about Microsoft’s close relationship with the God of Death.

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/7434UGH3EEMU2AUKTGMU3NLDZA JoshJ

       The first one put me off. Clunky, boring, repetitive. Nope.
      To do anything, you have to do it meticulously slow.

  • Fluka

    *Hits the Uncharted 3 alarm button and dives for cover!*

    • Staggering Stew Bum

      *agrees with @Fluka:disqus , hides in plain sight on park bench*

    • AHyperkineticLagomorph

       There’s no need for that. I’m sure everyone is fully capable of being rational and understanding that a review is merely the opinion of its writer and we are all allowed to disagree.

      Though I suppose moving to the bomb shelter wouldn’t hurt.

    • http://gameological.com/author/johnteti/ John Teti

      I figure the lack of Metacritic traffic will make any dissent a little more civil this time. 

      • Fyodor Douchetoevsky

        Booooring. 

      • Fixda Fernback

        But it was SO ENTERTAINING watching fanboys have aneurysms and question their very existence, simply because Scott Tobias Jones strayed from popular opinion. I seriously still go back to that thread on occasion for laughs (That, and the creepy 25th Hour thread that was like, a teacher and a classroom in the comments?).

        • Electric Dragon

          It’s so weird when threads take on a life of their own like that, independent of their original article. There’s one AVClub thread (something to do with the Pixies IIRC), that’s gone on for over a year just as a conversation between a few users. Ah here it is.

        • GaryX

          @google-6108c5611fbc5b86af5df565c4b4b048:disqus It’s not only that thread. They used up a bunch in the Found Footage Festival videos too. Very weird.

      • Enkidum

        @digthatfunk:disqus Holy balls that 25th Hour review is weird. Never noticed it before.

      • Fluka

        Well what am I going to do with all these stockpiled canned goods now?!

        …ohhh, US election next week!

        • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

          You’d better eat those CANNED goods quick. If OBUMMER wins, he’ll take them away with his SOCIALIST canned good tax and give them to POOR GAY MUSLIMS in WHEELCHAIRS.

        • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

           Merve, I’ll have you know that BARSUCK OSAMA’s welfare program won’t give any food to poor or disabled people, as all the Romney ads I saw yesterday (interrupting weird J-horror flick “Hausu” on Hulul) assured me that thanks to him, everyone receiving food stamps is able-bodied and has no children.

      • Aurora Boreanaz

        Oh wow, this is entertaining…and 1400 comments?  Don’t think I’ll make it through all of those!

        But HEY!  Now I know where Staggering Stew Bum got his name!

        And oh, apparently I read this when it was originally posted, there’s one of my comments. Hey, you’re Tony Randall! Can I have your autograph please please please?

    • Spacemonkey Mafia

      Fortunately, no score will prevent this from showing up on Metacritic, denying most of the truly indignant blowhards a breadcrumb trail leading back here.
         Granted, the lack of score may only be a towel shoved under the door to disguise errant scents in the zealot household of the internet, and there may be plenty of accusatory knocks on our modest basement door; but if we all just insist loudly enough we’re not doing anything, they’ll let us alone.

      • Ack_Ack

        Hey, I’m an indignant blowhard, and I’m already here!  And I do strongly disagree with this review.  However, I’m a huge fan of pointless meandering in videogames (I can play Red Dead Redemption for hours without doing a damn thing), so this is right up my alley.

        Having said that, I have been playing it for two hours, and I don’t think that the main character has even been born yet.  And I just got to America.  Looking forward to the open world part, though.

        • Spacemonkey Mafia

          See, your measured and articulate response has utterly deflated your claim of being an indignant blowhard.
             I recommend greater application of “cry more, fanboy”“butthurt” and accusations of the reviewer just being upset because they’re bad at the game.
             Also, start more comments with the line, “Is it just me, or…”

        • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

           Reading this reminded me a lot of RDR (which I also haven’t played), but it sounds like this game tries and fails to do what that game succeeded at.

      • Fluka

        Thank god for ungraded reviews.  They really do allow one to be a bit more critical and nuanced, without having to answer to answer to people who are upset that you’ve upset some aggregator’s numerical average.  Back in the day when the Gameological Society was still in the AV Club, their positive A-level grades did draw my attention to the kind of titles which ultimately got me back into gaming.  But I also remember a lot of bitching about B or C-level grades and how “The AV club should stick to what it’s good at – NOT GAMES!!!”  No grades lets this place try a slightly different type of criticism than you see elsewhere…

        • Aaron Riccio

          The other nice thing about having no grade means that it’s harder for fanboys to bitch about the review without actually reading it to figure out that it’s negative. 

          And yes, this is what CRITICISM looks like.

        • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

          The problem with grading is that I feel it induces writers to justify the grade they want to give a game. So, for example, you might see a lot of nitpicks in a review for a game with a bad score, when really, that game got its bad score on the basis of one or two glaring flaws.

  • AHyperkineticLagomorph

    I never actually even made it all the way through ACII. I mean, I recognized the work that into it, but other games just drew me away. I wasn’t expecting a complete overhaul since then but I wasn’t quite expecting this.

    • jessec829

      Yeah, I find the AC games fun to pick up and play a bit at random (free-running through Italy, whee!), but I never feel compelled to actually finish one.

  • Enkidum

    Disappointing review. I haven’t played through any of the games (just dicked around a bit in #1), but I’m looking forward to going through all 4 of them, and I’m pretty sure I’ll enjoy them all based on what I’ve read. This change of setting and pace looked like a really cool idea, but apparently it collapses into mediocrity. Shame, you could really do some cool things with conspiracies and the Founding Fathers, given that some of them actually were Masons and Illuminati and such. And the idea of an assassin running through the forests of the Eastern US ought to be really fun, but this sounds more like a failed Red Dead Redemption.

    Also, why would he be lecturing Sam Adams on owning slaves? He got rid of the only one he ever had title to.

    • Chum Joely

      Exactly. Because of Connor’s lecture.

      • Enkidum

        Ooooohhh…

  • http://gamers-association.com/ Alex Wen

    I just received my review copy, so time will tell whether I agree or not. However, I was a huge fan of the original, even when it was heavily criticized  so we’ll see.

  • Spacemonkey Mafia

    Yes, but once you’ve built the barrel and then done the requisite number of side quests to gather material to craft suspenders, you unlock all the impoverished Plutocrat quests!
       But have the Templars infiltrated the Cooper’s Guild?  Buy the upcoming DLC Slats of the Future Past to find out!

    • Fluka

      The line “Perhaps you’ll gather lumber and make a barrel. Congratulations, you now have a barrel.” made me audibly guffaw on my morning commuter train.  Nice work, John Teti.

  • HobbesMkii

    Joe Punchclock must have taken a lot of crap as a child.

    • Kilzor

      Yeah, but when you finally take ALL the crap, you get a shiny badge that says “Craptaker.”  It’s totally worth it when you show it off on your GamerzTag.

    • Captain Internet

      Yeah, but he got off his ass and got a job, unlike his kid HasAniPhone Punchclock who just sits tweeting in Starbucks all damn day with that Campervan kid from across the street.

      • HobbesMkii

        “Hey, Joe! PUNCHCLOCK!” I imagine his school chums shouting, then punching him in the back of the head. Kids can be so cruel.

        • Steel Paladin

          What time is it, Joe? Punch o’clock! Yeaaaaah!

  • Kilzor

    Does the overarching present day storyline tie up in a nice resolving fashion though?  Or does it simply open the door for more cash-in sequels?

    • http://gameological.com/author/johnteti/ John Teti

      Note: Extremely vague plot details follow. I never paid much attention to or invested much emotion in the Desmond storyline, but I do think that the ending ties up his quest, albeit somewhat clumsily. It has shades of another sci-fi series ending that made waves this year.

      • Staggering Stew Bum

        SPOILER: DESMOND WAS INDOCTRINATED BY THE TEMPLARS THE ENTIRE TIME

      • Kilzor

        Drat, that has a massively negative effect on my excitement going into this game now.  

      • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

         So at the end, future Desmond boards a spaceship holding the still-sentient head of Connor Kenway to fly to the home planet of the Illuminati and have his questions about the origins of mankind answered?

      • http://twitter.com/Evad_Dalrymp David Dalrymple

        Which shade, precisely? Red, blue, or green?

        • ToddG

          Is there a difference?

      • Spacemonkey Mafia

        Disney buys him?

      • Aaron Riccio

        Haven’t played the game yet or read any of the spoilers, but the prevailing theory I’ve had since AC2 was that Desmond is himself only a memory of some other character. We’re all just memories, really.

        • Citric

          What is an ocean but an endless series of goofy frame narratives?

      • Fluka

        Oh what the heck, I’m not gonna play this.

        *Googles and reads description / watches video of the ending.*

        Yeah.  This entire series makes no sense whatsoever.    *SPOILERS* And at least one of the joking responses to this thread is kinda right.  The ME3 comparisons are apt. *END SPOILERS*

  • KidvanDanzig

    So how many of these are we going to get before we actually get to play as the fully Neo’d out dude in the near future? On the one hand, if they move forward in time with every iteration of the series it doesn’t leave many new unique scenarios confined to one region (WWI Europe? Cuban Missile Crisis? Latest would be have to be 30ish years prior to the present). On the other hand, Ubisoft is clearly gonna milk this shit for everything it’s worth. They’re the Showtime of publishers.

    Also, gonna brace myself for how thoroughly the “George Washington as evil despot” non-canon DLC will waste its premise

    • Staggering Stew Bum

      I’d like to see Desmond head into the Animus again to relive the memories of his father, just for the bit where he has to recreate his own conception (that memory sequence will be called ‘Operation Hot Mother’).

      Presumably it would then lead to a sequel where Desmond relives his own memories, and we are left with a ‘Malkovich Malkovich’ situation. What happens when a man disappears up his own Animus? Assassin’s Creed V: Enemas – Autumn 2014

      • Electric Dragon

         Leading to a long series of games in which Desmond’s father pals around with Neil Patrick Harris and Alyson Hannigan but conspicuously fails to meet his mother.

      • Fluka

        Hey!  No recursing!

      • STOP_RIGHT_THERE_CRIMINAL_SCUM

        “I’d like to see Desmond head into the Animus again to relive the memories of his father, just for the bit where he has to recreate his own conception (that memory sequence will be called ‘Operation Hot Mother’).”

        fucking lol

    • STOP_RIGHT_THERE_CRIMINAL_SCUM

      WWI Europe would be my guess  

  • Ghostfucker

    Like a lot of modern games, the most irritating thing about Assassin’s Creed II for me was how utterly easy it was even on the hardest setting. I loved the look of everything, and simply moving Ezio was incredibly fun once you mastered it; but all of the missions could be accomplished so easily it was pointless to ever use the vast majority of his abilities. I was starting to get frustrated by this until I noticed in the options that you could turn off everything in the HUD. The game is so much better that way! Assassinations are way harder without a mini map, and you have to play differently because you need to keep a sightline to your target or you’ll inevitably lose them. There also aren’t a bunch markers screaming for your attention constantly, and you can wander the cities at a more leisurely pace; maybe ride a gondola for a while, take in some of the art scene.

    Anyway, I’d recommend playing it that way to anyone starting the games out. It’ll be worth the initial frustration.

  • caspiancomic

    Does this guy’s name really have a colon in it, or is my browser’s font missing a character with some esoteric accent?

    Anyway, I’m a little upset to learn that ACIII is a big boring bowl of flavourless oatmeal that takes all week to eat, since I got something resembling joy from other entries in the series. Despite the criticisms, I actually quite liked the original game, maybe I was willing to look past the boring stuff because I found the premise and the setting so novel. The second game in the series I also quite liked, because as an art history student it brought a big stupid grin to my face to be able to crawl all over Santa Maria del Fiore like some giant white-robed ant climbing a picnic basket. Getting the chance to slap-fight the Pope was pretty fun, too, if a little anticlimactic for a final boss fight.

    I never played Brotherhood of the Travelling Pants or Re(volution/velation/surrection/loaded/tribution/whatever that game was called), though, and never really felt the need to. I certainly had fun with the first two- an open world that I actually enjoyed, interesting environments, JFK calibre conspiracy theory storylines- but for whatever reason I never felt compelled to continue the story. Which I guess is a fairly damning assessment of a series that seeks to hook players with myriad unanswered questions and tantalizing glimpses at the capital-T Truth. I think my biggest concern was the series’ return to the same character and setting (roughly). Ezio was a pretty cool guy, and I gets down with Renaissance Italy and Turkey, but I was pretty keen for the series to head to Revolutionary France, or Victorian England, or the trenches of World War I, or whatever. I assume that 2.5 and 2.75 advance Ezio’s personal story in some way, but couldn’t the series have advanced its overall conspiracy arc while simultaneously moving the series to new and interesting locales?

    Granted, that would have taken a lot more time and money. And I suppose the plot couldn’t move to too many important places and times in history, since we are technically supposed to be following one bloodline here. But still! I choose to exercise my right to be an unpleasable curmudgeon.

  • Fixda Fernback

    Haha, wow, Kotaku praised it like the second coming of the lord, surprised to see such starkly contrasting opinions. I figured with as much as they were gushing about it, there would be something of worth there… but I’m much more willing to take your guys’ word over theirs. Thanks for saving me 60 bucks, I’m just gonna wait and buy Halo 4 instead probably, then get this when it’s cheap.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1096413009 Daniel Shvarts

      Your Halo 4 over AC3 comment hurts me.

      • Fixda Fernback

        Really? Why? I mean, of course, people hate on the Halo series, but I’ve played that shit since the beginning and got pretty hooked into the story, I’m a sucker for (moderately well done in general, VERY well done for video games) sci-fi stuff. And everything I’m hearing about it says it’s an incredibly gripping story that’s done very well. Plus, I enjoy the type of multiplayer the series brings to the table… it’s still a staple of hanging out with my friends and playing some online deathmatch while shooting the shit.

        It’s not so much that I’m not still somewhat interested in ACIII, I in fact enjoy this series quite a bit as well. But considering how much money I’m about to blow on the Pretty Lights concert (plus hotel and drinks and probably a ticket for a lady friend) coming to my town in two weeks, I can only really afford to get one AAA title on release and it’s looking like it’ll be Halo 4. ACIII will probably only be a few weeks later… there was a time I’d just trade in some games, but I enjoy holding onto them these days.

    • http://twitter.com/tapirman Kyle O’Reilly

      Don’t listen to him! Halo 4 is looking like it’s shaping up to be an interesting evolution of an important series,

    • Renjick

      Welp, so much for forming your own opinion.

      • Fixda Fernback

        Well, clearly, I still intend to look into this and form my own opinion. But this review has knocked it from a “use the first available $60 you have this weekend to buy this game immediately” to a “wait until it’s a more reasonable price, at say $40-$50, then buy it after perhaps trying it out at a friends to see just how much I like it”. 

  • http://twitter.com/Gerardi Matt Gerardi

    And it has the worst lockpicking mini-game in the history of video games. A true accomplishment.

    • Ack_Ack

      I’m still not sure how that lockpicking mechanic works – I just move the thumbsticks around and squeeze the right trigger until it unlocks.  That takes about 2 seconds.

    • Aurora Boreanaz

      What would count as the best lockpicking mini-game, I wonder?  Oblivion/Skyrim’s is mildly amusing, except for hard locks where your pick breaks every 0.5 seconds.  I seem to recall System Shock 1 or 2 having a fun one…

      • Logoboros

         I rather like Bioshock’s fluid-channeling hacking game.

        • Steel Paladin

          Pipe Dream minigames for the win!

        • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

          It’s kinda fun, except for when they give me an unsolvable puzzle. Then I raise my fist to the sky and curse the ghost of Ayn Rand.

      • Aaron Riccio

        The one in Sleeping Dogs is annoying as hell — playing Mastermind over and over again . . . we get it, we get it. Solve it once, you’ve solved it every time. The problem with that and every other mini-game is that they rarely get harder, just more and more redundant.

      • Citric

        I kind of enjoyed Mass Effect’s Frogger knockoff.

        • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

          Oh man, the first time I played the game, I was so bad at that mini-game that I couldn’t even unlock the first door. After 3 playthroughs, though, I was a total boss at it. I could get through one of those mothers in no time.

      • blue vodka lemonade

         My favorite is “whichever is the shortest,” which I think is the ME one that’s basically Frogger For Idiots. I got so so so so sick of the hacking in BioShock that I essentially never used it in the last two-thirds of the game.

    • http://twitter.com/sbrookbrooks Sam Brooks

       The Alpha Protocol lockpicking is pretty horrific on a console.

  • Mercenary_Security_number_4

    That’s disappointing to hear, but I’ll look around other sites.  I think gameological is probably the best site on the web for digging into a games’ thematic elements, but I’m starting to get the feeling that the writers of the site just have a very different idea than I do about what actually makes a game fun. (IGN, for instance, has the same gripes as this review but is more forgiving because it loves the environment so much.  I’m much more of that kind of player, perfectly willing to roleplay and make my own fun if the sandbox is big enough).

  • http://shadowfilter.blogspot.com/ Xenomorph

    After having completed ACII, Brotherhood, and Revelations, is it at all possible to go back and play through the first one, or do the mechanics and lack of certain features the sequels have make it too much of a slog?

    • stakkalee

      I think of AC1 as more of a demo than a full game.  The missions get so damn repetitive, and there’s really only one way to kill a guy, so unless you’re some kind of completist I’d say there’s no real need to go back and play AC1.

      • Aaron Riccio

        If I remember correctly, AC1 didn’t allow you replay missions either, and I’d never replay the entire game, sluggish as it was. 

        That said, AC2 sort of made assassinations too easy (with the gun and other long-range weaponry), and I appreciated how difficult it was to stealth your way through some of the AC1 levels (they were actually designed rather well). 

    • Mike_From_Chicago

      I haven’t played AC in several years, but I do actually like the setting better than AC2. The mechanics are fairly similar though somewhat more arbitrary as far as how attbetice the guards are with some activities. Also, the graphics were Rick solid when it came out. A lot of the combat and assassination mechanics are the same, albeit a bit clumsier.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1096413009 Daniel Shvarts

    Sounds like you just can’t get over the fact that it’s not ac2. You went into it with the mindset that it’s a bad game. Honestly, I think it does have some pacing issues and issues with the game just telling you to go to point a and b, but besides that it’s a brilliant game. At least what I’ve played of it so far. And not brilliant for being perfect, actually, far from it. It’s brilliant for taking risks. It’s a thing that’s pretty rare in AAA games these days. The entire opening sequence is a huge risk and sequence 2 wasn’t very fun at all, but the fact that they went for that was amazing. Games shouldn’t have to be fun to be good and emotionally engaging. But you guys gave Spec Ops a mediocre review so clearly you haven’t gotten over the games have to be fun thing. It’s ok. I’m sure you guys will figure out how to treat games as an art form and not just entertainment one day.

    • Mercenary_Security_number_4

       Ok, I’m not quite sure where you are going with this.  You like AC3 because it takes risks even if the risks don’t pay off.  I can get behind that.  But “Games shouldn’t have to be fun to be good?”  If something is not engaging and interesting, it doesn’t communicate.  And if it doesn’t communicate anything, its not good art.  If you mean that sometimes art takes some digging to find the reward, ok I’m with you.  There are points in the review that sounded a tad impatient for immediate stimuli.  But now I fear I am projecting my own thoughts on yo your words.  I’m not trying to be snarky, but I really am confused — what exactly is the line you are drawing between art and entertainment?

    • Staggering Stew Bum

      Out now from Ubisoft, the risk taking games company that brought us two sub-sequels to a sequel, their exciting new sequel: Assassin’s Creed III: Rise of the Assassinators.

      Seriously though, I get what you’re saying about the review. I mean, @JohnTeti:disqus didn’t even like the video game adaptation of How To Make An American Quilt ! It was about engaging with the characters in the quilting group and the development of their relationships as they undertake their spiritual journey, not about whether you enjoyed the much-derided quilting mini-game. Way to miss the point, John, duh. Oh, I’m so furious now thinking about it.

      *calms down by playing TurfSim: The Real Time Grass Growing Simulator*

      • Steel Paladin

        You know, I thought you said “Assassin’s Creed III: Rise of the Assassturbators”. My mistake.

      • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

        I’m waiting for Assassin’s Creed 3.875 and Assassin’s Creed 3.9375.

    • feisto

      Since you seemed to have skimmed the article, here are a few of the things Teti says about the game’s artistic aims:

      “Throughout this crushingly boring prelude, your background and motivations are vague, in order to preserve an eventual plot twist—one that packs no emotional oomph, given the game’s failure to inspire any strong emotion about its characters one way or the other. Thus, in the time it takes to watch Lawrence Of Arabia in its entirety, Creed III sets up one joke with a lousy punchline.”

      “That pretty much sums up the Assassin’s Creed III main-quest experience: You shut up and sit down while plastic-looking computer people blather screenwriting clichés at each other.”

      “Even when this hugely over-scripted game releases the reins for a bit, the design of the challenges tends toward the simplistic. There are a few small missions that recall the careful strategy and stealth of the series at its peak, but more often, you’re an errand boy.”

      Now, you can disagree with these assessments, but they’re clearly the assessments of someone who expected something more complex and better written–in other words, someone who expected art and got bland entertainment instead.

      If you disagree and want to hash out your argument, feel free to do so. But saying, “You just don’t appreciate art!” is not an argument, especially when the writer is clearly treating it with the seriousness of an artwork.

      • NarcolepticPanda

        “You just don’t appreciate art!” is by far the most popular talking point when arguing art.

    • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

      The author repeatedly points out that the content of the game’s story and world is ill-formed, cliched, and ponderous, in addition to his complaints of the not-compelling mechanics and pacing. A game doesn’t have to be fun to be good, but it does have to be, you know, good. It’s described as a bloated, AAA cash-in sequel mechanically crapped out and explicitly lacking in the “artfulness” you contend that the review doesn’t address.

      Acknowledging that games can be a powerful artform involves, in part, expecting them to be artful, and not giving them a pass for straight-to-DVD plotting and conception because “It’s just a video game.”

      • Bad Horse

        I have no dog in this fight, but I’ve gotta wonder if the “just a video game” article did put a bit of bias on this whole experience. I’m getting schadenfreude from reading this pan, and I don’t think I had any particular feelings about AC either way before that.

        • ToddG

          But Teti actually semi-defended the AC storytelling in the comments of that article.  (“I get that Assassin’s Creed may not be Tolstoy, but it’s a pretty clever, layered, and thoughtful game.”)  Which is why I was actually a bit surprised at the venom in this review.

        • http://gameological.com/author/johnteti/ John Teti

          There’s no way to quantify the mental state of a critic, but I can tell you I’m confident that a PR event like that has no effect on my evaluation of a game. That’s mostly because I know that the people who make the game have little to do, creatively, with the people who handle the PR for it. It’s not hard at all to put that stuff aside; quite the contrary, I relish the opportunity to at last respond to the actual game on its own merits.

        • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

           I mainly bristled at the allegation that this was some challenging, thought-provoking piece of art that demands patience, and if you don’t appreciate it, you’re obviously an idiot who’s just looking for idle entertainment.

          If s/he’s positing that this silly blockbuster sequel is a Koyaanisqatsi or Through a Glass Darkly of video games, then s/he’s holding games to a shockingly low standard for someone who claims to be serious about their artfulness.

        • Aaron Riccio

          @paraclete_pizza:disqus I’m actually curious as to what sort of video game Phillip Glass might make, or John Cage. I wonder what would happen if I just used their soundtracks — 4’33″, for example — in one of those procedurally generated music games.

    • Fyodor Douchetoevsky

      Eyyo, since games are an art form, you’d think that you’d be able to handle some criticism of them or something. I’ve only played a handful of the first game in this series, but absolutely nothing I’ve seen or read about it suggests that is in any way a game that you could file under the “capital A-r-t” category. The running around bit is neat enough, but the writing is absolutely terrible. 

      Also, smug condescension is hilarious when you’re essentially a fanboy whining about a game you think looks cool getting a bad review on a single website. 

    • Fluka

      I think one could accuse this site of many things, but not “treating games as an art form and not just entertainment” is not one of them.

      • NarcolepticPanda

        Oh man, I was gonna say that, but than I had to go do something! Yeah, that is the most opposite criticism of this site POSSIBLE. If anything, I’ve sometimes found myself disagreeing with reviews here for not taking fun into account.

    • Aaron Riccio

      @Mercenary_Security_number_4:disqus already sort of touched on this, but @facebook-1096413009:disqus , you’re sort of arguing against your own point: a game isn’t brilliant just because it takes risks. (Look at Mark Z. Danielweski’s writing; look at David Mitchell’s.) It may be brilliant DESPITE those risks, at least for certain people, but it may just as easily be faulted for gimmicks and the digital epaulets that so many developers take on to gild the lily. Spec Ops had a decent, albeit derivative story, and while it was bold to have such mature content, the fact that little of it made sense or that some of the gunplay mechanics were egregiously designed (and the AI atrocious) deserves to be called out. And I’m sorry, but it’s hard to be “emotionally engaged” when I’m getting frustrated by glaring issues with the design or underlying mechanics. 

      When you say “Sequence 2 wasn’t very fun at all,” I think that says it all. A game doesn’t HAVE to be fun, but most of us play games to HAVE fun, so….

  • Swadian Knight

    You know, I really don’t care much about the rest of the game, but I might end up getting it eventually just to play those naval battles. I’ve been surprisingly excited about those ever since E3.

  • hastapura

    This review is incredible. Teti went vicious for this one and it warrants every drop of bile. The game is tedious as shit, and the hamfisted historical “recreations” are more cringeworthy than ever. The traversal has that joyous old trick of making you run in the wrong direction or up walls that go nowhere DESPITE the inclusion of a free run mode specifically designed to avoid that. But it’s the sheer ineptitude of the cinematics and overall narrative that make this an exercise in banality.

    Also the Desmond stuff is flat-out unforgivable, especially trying to pass off as stealth in a year that includes Mark of the Ninja. Someone put a bullet in the head of this series before people never take video games seriously again.

    • NarcolepticPanda

      I’d love for Sawbuck Gamer to be replaced by a daily roast of a terrible game from any era by a Gameological staffer.

    • http://www.backloggery.com/colliewest Colliewest

      I think that what comes through very strongly is that Teti is not reveling in this by any means. He wants this game to show him something and is supremely pissed off that it is not just wasting his time but has sucked up the time of many talented people and will soon no doubt suck up millions of dollars.

      • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

        There’s something satisfying about someone feeling art is so important that bad art makes them visibly angry. I remember a professor of mine in art school (an awesome and insane guy, who is presently making a piece that will go on the moon) who would often grouse that he wanted to start bringing a revolver to critique so he could just kill the bad art.

        • caspiancomic

           ”The simplest surrealist act consists in going into the street with revolvers in your fist and shooting blindly into the crowd as much as possible. Anyone who has never felt the desire to deal thus with the current wretched principle of humiliation and stultification clearly belongs in this crowd himself with his belly at bullet height.”
          -Andre Breton

        • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

           @caspiancomic:disqus Gameological Society turned into a Hotline-Miami-based LARP so gradually, I almost didn’t notice!

        • Teague Strekal

          Thanks for the validation: Good to know I’m not the only one who gets extremely agitated by “bad” art (even if that is a subjective judgement).

      • caspiancomic

         I’m going to throw a big ‘second’ on @paraclete_pizza:disqus’s assessment that it’s relieving and deeply amusing to finally see someone in the game critique circuit who actually demands greatness, not kiddie-gloves “good for a video game” nonsense, nor indeed “good by merit of the fact that all AAA titles regardless of merit get glowing reviews across the board.” It’s kind of astonishing that these blockbuster titles continue to walk right into 80%+ scores on hype alone, to the degree that fans get riled up when their preferred franchise takes a hit. I was impressed with the industry recently for agreeing that the latest Medal of Honour was actually bad, as opposed to rolling out the red carpet just because it was an entry in a pretty big franchise.

    • Steel Paladin

      You mean people took games seriously in the first place? Those people need to take a nap once in a while.

    • Fyodor Douchetoevsky

      Hell yes! I love seeing games (especially hugely hyped games like this) be held up to actual criticism. Shit rules. 

    • matrixschmatrix

      Ugh, I rented this fucking game and played for hours without getting to anything fun, only to find out that this is because I never actually got to play as the protagonist of the game. Teti doesn’t even mention that it takes a solid 15-20 minutes of sitting around before you even get to knife dudes with the bobo fake character, and you have to grind through a shitload of missions with him that contain zero fun.

      And now I want to rerent the game to get to the part with the actual main guy. Goddamn it.

  • Chum Joely

    I don’t much like the Assassin’s games either (I played 5-6 hours of the first one and 2 hours of the second before getting bored), but I encourage everyone to buy it anyway because this series brings in about 60% of the revenue here at Ubi Montreal.  My free bagel Fridays and on-site health clinic depend on YOU, gamers!

    • HobbesMkii

      If I wait and buy it on sale, do they bring you stale bagels and doctors with degrees from Mexican medical schools?

      • NarcolepticPanda

        Buy it used and he and/or she gets instant pancake mix and veterinarians.

      • Chum Joely

        Oh yes, there’s a page on our intranet which spells out very clearly the exact correlation between new vs. used sales and the relative level of bagel and medical services we’ll receive.  If it gets bad enough, they actually switch the providers so that the doctors are baking up the bagels in autoclaves and the medical clinic moves to the loading dock of the bagel bakery.

        Don’t even get me started on how this all ties in with the daycare and the on-site gym…(PS, inevitably, someone I work with will see this and guess who I am, so: JUST KIDDING! Ha ha! [wringing hands, forced grin])

        • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

           At least they aren’t giving you “used” bagels and “used” medical waste.

    • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

       Maybe if you sweeten the pot a little, you wouldn’t have this problem. Just tell the Gameological staffers that if they tweet #AC3FTW you’ll toss a PS3 their way, or something. That can’t help but end well!

      • Chum Joely

        I think that’s how games journalism works in general anyway, so obviously Teti is immune.  Curses!

    • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

      How do you fit an on-site health clinic, daycare, and gym in that tiny brick building up in Mile End? Is this some sort of Willy-Wonka’s-Chocolate-Factory situation where you’ve built several dozen floors underground? Because that would be awesome.

      • Chum Joely

        It’s not tiny, though. It’s five stories, and it covers the entire block from St-Laurent to St-Dominique west-to-east, and it runs all the way down behind the Petro-Canada, about halfway from St-Viateur to Maguire.  There’s a good 1800-2000 people working in there.

        Also, the daycare is in a different building, further down St-Viateur East.  Ubi Montreal have conquered one floor in each of two office buildings over in that area with all the cheap clothes factories, and the daycare is in amongst other offices on the floor above one of those.

        • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

          Wow, that’s a lot bigger than I remember, but it makes sense, seeing as I’ve only been there twice and I’ve seen the building only from the outside.

          It sounds like Ubisoft is really taking over up there. How long before they rename the neighbourhood Mile End™: Brought to you by Ubisoft?

        • Chum Joely

          @Merve2:disqus Economically, that’s already the case. Check out the wave of people pouring out of Ubisoft to restaurants and stores at midday, and the local bars after work.

          And this week, just a couple of months after we signed our new 10-year lease for this building, the city installed a bunch of new parking meters and new parking restrictions which basically only impact “outsiders” i.e. Ubi employees. The amount of money/business we generate for this area of the city is huge (which is reasonable, since the province gives the company any number of huge tax breaks).

  • ToddG

    I’m partway through Sequence 5 and, while I cannot substantially disagree with anything in the review, nor offer any particularly compelling intellectual defense of the game, I am loving every minute of it.

  • Xtracurlyfries

    Great review, Teti. I played a few hours of each of AssCreed I and II and neither grabbed me beyond it being cool for a short time to run around on rooftops. Once I realized that every single tower had a bale of hay at the bottom it became less fun.

    ACII in particular had about the worst writing I’ve ever seen in a game. The whole intro section telegraphed the villian so clearly that even a 5-year old could guess what was going to happen. There’s nothing I hate more than playing a character who does stupid things in cut scenes where afterwards I’m supposed to do the busy work to clean up his mess. Oh, you didn’t figure out the really obvious plot ‘twist’, Ezio? Well that’s too bad. What’s that? I have to spend the rest of the game making up for your stupidity? Screw that, I could be out raking leaves. At least that busy work makes my lawn look nice – what does yours get me?

    Also, the mention in ACII of the young dude down the street called Leonardo who apparently loves to paint. The game was practically elbowing me in the ribs saying “Ehh? Ehh? See what we did there, gamer?” Yes, ACII, I see what you did there. I’m super impressed.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ewan-Macdonald/575090527 Ewan Macdonald

    Just wanted to say this was a brilliant review. “The gamification of a game” seems to be happening more and more. Team Fortress 2 is falling for it as well.

    • http://www.avclub.com/users/ghaleonq,4597/ GhaleonQ

      This will likely be the review that I point people to on The Gameological Society.  It’s great writing, artistic/design analysis, and consumer review.

      The Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater series’ gaps is the 1st time I recognized that happening.  They weren’t complete enough to make it a really satisfying collect-a-thon, and they weren’t imaginative enough to be simply, coherently designed.  They were just placed so that when you went 1 direction over a bus, you would get notified that there were 4 MORE BUSES TO JUMP OVER AND PERHAPS YOU SHOULD JUMP OVER THEM GOOFY AND ALSO AFTER THAT REVERT AND TRY TO DO ALL 5.

      • Aaron Riccio

        Yeah, even if I enjoy this gamification (or am sucked into it subconsciously), I appreciate a review that calls these things out, and it makes an excellent argument for *not* attaching a grade. Teti’s clear about the things he doesn’t like about the game, but he’s not precluding others from enjoying it despite or perhaps because of those “flaws.” Everything’s subjective, even if it’s not always illuminated.

      • caspiancomic

         I am occasionally a sucker for pointless game-lengthening collectathons, since in my defense they do prey on the part of your brain that can’t help but want to complete tasks like that. The first time I remember really thinking “Nooooo thank you” was Arkham City and the approximately 90 billion million Riddler trophies.

        • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

          I’m usually not a sucker of collect-a-thons, but Arkham City was the first game that actually made me say, “Fuck you, game, and fuck your stupid trophies too.”

        • GaryX

          @Merve2:disqus That was, for me, when I played Donkey Kong 64 and got everything but some group of five bananas for Chunky on that damn mushroom level. I would never get even close to 100%ing a game again until Red Dead Redemption.

      • Professor_Cuntburglar

         Yeah, jumping over a bus should be its own reward.

    • EverybodyLovesHypnotoad

      Just wanted to throw in my agreement with this. Ever since xbox live achievements were introduced, it seems that developers put in randomly useless tasks just to give out achievement points.

      Killing X amount of Y enemies is not game content, it’s just tedious.

      • ToddG

        That’s true, but those sorts of things are also optional by the very nature of achievements.  Personally, I think that’s the genius of the achievement system; the player can quite easily ignore them if they choose, and the completionists are free to go nuts.  It’s only really a problem when a game consists exclusively of such meaningless pursuits without anything more to recommend it.

      • http://twitter.com/Evad_Dalrymp David Dalrymple

        Those kinds of achievements have been around for longer than that. In a way, they were present in the very notion of a High Score in early arcade games. What is a 3,333,360 score in Pac-Man if not an Achievement?

        It used to be that a score never interfered with the game itself. “Under a Killing Moon” and “Space Quest” had points, but they were no less immersive than “Maniac Mansion” which did not.

        But now (and this phenomenon really took off in the mid to late 90s, long before the Xbox 360′s achievement requirement to its licensees) extra and bonus content has become awkwardly integrated into games themselves. “Psychonauts” has more collectables than any player could ever need. Telltale adventure games are hampered considerably by all their pointless collectables. Little pop-up messages informing me that I’ve killed 99 Hugabugaloos are tacky.

        It sounds like the “gameified” content that Mr. Teti refers to is all optional, even if it does make up the bulk of the game. This isn’t new. The problem I have is fatigue. Doing dull repetitive tasks for nothing more than a bronze trophy is nothing new, and THAT is the problem. Developers try to give players something to do, but they don’t bother giving us anything interesting to do.  

        • EverybodyLovesHypnotoad

          Yeah I think this is more what I was trying to say.  I think that in things such as the old High Score leaderboards on classic arcade games or something like finding the star or special world in Super Mario World was that it was either the point of the game (in the case of high scores) or you were rewarded with more gameplay (secret worlds).  Now these random collecting tasks are just in there to get people to earn points for some dick measuring contest on a gamertag.

        • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

           Do Telltale games have a lot of pointless collectibles? I remember in the earlier Sam & Max games you could earn decals for your car by playing a mini-game, I guess. Beyond that, they seem pretty pared down, in that your inventory items all have their one specific adventure game use (contrasted with, say, Hit the Road which had superfluous but awesome inventory items like the “Car Bomb” game, or DOTT, which had one or two inventory items that didn’t actually serve a purpose…).

        • ToddG

          @paraclete_pizza:disqus  DOTT had useless items?  I haven’t played it in years (GET ON THAT, GoG OR XBLA), but I thought every single item was needed to finish the game.

      • McDLT

        I hate achievements because they pull me out of the immersion of the game. I’ll be playing Deus Ex:HR losing myself in the world they created, then I sneak past a guard and a little popup says “Achievement Unlocked: SNEAKY PETE!” or some stupid shit and suddenly I’m reminded that I’m not in this world but merely playing a game and that I just did something that was anticipated by the game engine, something that has been done by a million other people playing the game.

        • NarcolepticPanda

          Liked for usage of the term “Sneaky Pete”, because that’s my pet name for Jensen.

    • Electric Dragon

      I don’t like this kind of “gamification”, because it seems to be the antithesis of games. Games require play, fun, interaction (either with the game environment, with other players or with the storyline). This kind of “find ten thingamajigs in order to get a quest to get fifteen whoosamaflips” grind sounds more like a workification of games.

      • http://twitter.com/Evad_Dalrymp David Dalrymple

        Well said.

    • His_Space_Holiness

      I think part of the problem is that Achievements have become an expected part of any game, and developers don’t necessarily put much thought into them, leading to the “Kill X number of Y” type of meaninglessness. Achievements are best when they point the player toward content or feats that they might have otherwise missed.

      For example, I’ve been playing the Silent Hill HD collection, and the trophies are mostly for discovering secret content, like weapons or Easter Eggs or the alternate endings. So now I have a reason to replay those games, which I wouldn’t have known about otherwise. That’s a good use of achievements right there.

      • Citric

        The worst achievements are the “hooray, you pressed start!” ones, where you have achieved nothing but received a trophy anyway.

        I understand that developers might use them to see where people stop in the game and stuff, but man I feel like a kindergarten kid with a participant ribbon when they pop up on screen. 

        • Chum Joely

          They track all kinds of stuff, but not through the achievement system. If you have an internet connection to your console, it is probably uploading (anonymized) data on what language you’re playing in, how long your play sessions are and how much time you spend on each section of each map, what enemies you kill with which weapons, how long you wait for multiplayer sessions to start, and even “heat map” info about exactly which sections of each map you explore.  It’s crazy the amount of statistics the games are collecting on how people play.

      • STOP_RIGHT_THERE_CRIMINAL_SCUM

        “For example, I’ve been playing the Silent Hill HD collection”

        shame on you bro, SHAME on you, I hope you didn’t actually pay real money for those failed abortions of an HD remaster 

        SERIOUSLY http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wya4XhTPMcc&feature=plcp

        • His_Space_Holiness

          I’d make some sort of counterargument, but I am really not going to sit through an hourlong video of someone telling me why a video game is bad. I’ll just say that I hadn’t played the games before, I enjoyed them, and so I don’t care what video-guy has to say about why I shouldn’t.

      • Chum Joely

        I like the trophies on Limbo.  The names and descriptions are very obscure, like (paraphrasing) “Upward: Has to do with exploring in high places” or “Climbing the Gears: Don’t pull the lever just because you can”.  So first you have to figure out what they are hinting at, so that you can try various explorations and play styles until you stumble upon what the achievement/trophy actually is.  I haven’t actually done any of these yet, but it seemed like a cool approach. 

  • Moonside_Malcontent

    I think part of what we’ve all been dancing around here in the comments
    is the same thing that may have flavored Teti’s review with an extra
    teaspoon of disappointment cardamom: that the potential of the AC series
    is muffled, even stifled, by the need to bring in more profit.  I’m
    totally on board with wanting to see AC: The Great Game (oh man you
    could be in the British Raj or Manchuria or Samarkand or…) but when
    you have to continue a franchise, not just a concept, creative
    exploration is limited.  Why the tedious crafting games?  Why the “kill
    15 North American Water Vole” quests?  Because there needs to be
    something new to do that does not, in any way, disrupt a model that has
    brought in millions of dollars.  I’m not going to sit here and sing the
    Internationale, but I think this game is in some ways an object lesson
    of how the need for profit outstrips the flair of virtuosity.

    • http://gameological.com/author/johnteti/ John Teti

      Very well put.

    • Fluka

      I’ve been thinking of playing this series for a while, but never have quite worked up the enthusiasm to do so, and I think you’ve put your finger on why.  I absolutely LOVE the idea of playing a game set, for instance, in Renaissance Italy (or for that matter, 18th century Boston).  Particularly as a character like an assassin, where you really get to explore the hidden corners of a world.  But whenever I’ve actually gone and read about it, or viewed gameplay videos on youtube, I’ve come away cold.  Why aren’t we using this amazing setting and concept to its fullest?  Where is the actual game, besides “press X to do something assassiny”?  It’s a beautiful simulacrum.  I’ve gotten that impression even moreso from the trailers and reviews of this game – virtual Colonial Williamsburg where you too can be part of history and churn some butter!  And occasionally stab people.

      I’d still like to go play AC2 at some point (because still, holy crap running around 15th century Florence!).  But that’ll be after I do both Dishonored and Mark of the Ninja and possibly Deus Ex 1.

      • HobbesMkii

        I actually like the Istanbul/Constantinople of AC:Revelations the most in terms of setting, because it’s a place that doesn’t get much play in the West and because it’s extremely colorful. But Renaissance Italy was definitely an inspired choice.

      • Aaron Riccio

        “Beautiful simulacrum” is hilariously appropriate for a game whose framing device *IS* that it’s a simulacrum.

        • Fluka

          OH DANG.  That is a good point!

      • belgand

        That “possibly” before Deus Ex is the most disturbing thing I’ve seen all day. There should never, ever be a reason for that to be merely a possibility.

      • john_wayne_newton

         Yep, i agree.  Excellent review John.  I bought this game out of well, tradition at this point but they half-assed it.  I mean twenty minutes of cutscenes to open the game? I am ok with twenty minutes were they to cover a cliffhanger from a previous game, but to introduce a new story?  boorrrring.  Also, my weapons keep disappearing from inventory and the horses are for shit.  Damn i gotta start waiting until after launch to pick these up.  last one!

    • HobbesMkii

      When you think about it, it’s kind of bullshit that we ever have to keep moving forward in time. Desmond’s ancestors could be all over the place, still be assassins, and be different genders and ethnicities (and have markedly different facial structures and skin tones, rather than the variations on a theme we got). But it calls for more artistic ambition than the series ever mustered.

      • Fluka

        Yes, the whole Animus thing bothers me partially because it’s such a convenient excuse for why they will never use a female assassin.  ”But then Desmond would have to pretend to be a LADY!  And that would really be weird!”  

        Not counting the new PS Vita game, AC: Liberation.  That actually sounds like it’s a bit more interesting than the main game we got.  But you know…it’s on Vita.

        • Raging Bear

          Weirdly, Liberation is a ridiculous plot vacuum. Not that I’m super far in, and they may (hopefully) flesh it out more later, but the premise is literally set up as a second-person commercial along the lines of “Congratulations! You’ve bought the briefcase-sized Animus home edition! Enjoy reliving the life of this assassin named Aveline! Brought to you by Abstergo :)”

          So not only is it paltry, but it also makes your brain liquefy if you even try to reconcile it with anything about the meta-story of the rest of the series.

          Still, gameplay-wise, it’s decent enough so far.

        • Fluka

          @Raging_Bear:disqus Oh god that is really fucking weird.

        • Chum Joely

          @Raging_Bear:disqus Yes, the Abstergo framing makes no sense, but the plot/writing within the game is supposed to be pretty great.  For example:

          http://updates.kotaku.com/post/34760797518/im-surprised-by-how-black-assassins-creed

    • Electric Dragon

      I still don’t understand the point of any of the framing device stuff. I’ve not played any of the games so up till probably last year I assumed they were purely medieval stab ‘em ups. Then I found out about all the Animus stuff and Desmond and alien conspiracies. Why? What can that possibly add to the game? Can’t it just be an assassin game in a historical setting without the need to bolt on futuristic bits and poorly-thought out conspiracy theories that sound like they were discarded by L Ron Hubbard at the first draft stage? But no. Simplicity of plot seems to be the enemy of simplicity of mechanic: it sounds like every element of complex mechanics has been pared away in this game to be replaced with unnecessary plot elements.

      • HobbesMkii

        It’s an old trope of Illuminati (who are indirectly referenced by way of the Freemasons through the game’s use of the Knights Templar) and similar mass historical conspiracy theories. The Illuminati always have something to do with aliens. 

      • Aaron Riccio

        In all honesty, the cryptic “Truth” puzzles are my favorite part of the game, so I’m falling for the gimmick hook, line, and s(t)inker. The mechanics are intact, by the way, or at least they have been in previous games — having a ridiculous plot doesn’t take away from the other. 

        And from an interface perspective, I actually like the fact that “synchronization” gives you a plausible reason and method for “replaying” missions for a higher “score.” It’s always bugged me that some of these open-world games allow you to do things again that you’ve already done.

      • belgand

        If you had played the tedious, dull first game you’d understand why they felt the need to bolt on a more interesting plot. It’s all because, somehow, they found a way to make being a twelfth-century assassin mind-blastingly dull.

        I suspect it’s also because they wanted to turn it into a franchise and this would be a convenient way to have a running plot, but set in different time periods.

  • http://twitter.com/Evad_Dalrymp David Dalrymple

    Your comments on the nature of the prologue and the endless tutorial make me think of “Kingdom Hearts 2″ and “Final Fantasy XIII”.

    • http://gameological.com/author/johnteti/ John Teti

      I was definitely having deja vu from my Final Fantasy XIII experience. “No…no! It’s happening again!”

      • Aaron Riccio

        Yeah, I haven’t gotten my copy of AC3 yet (because of Sandy), but I’m so sick and tired of endless training or barely interactive gameplay. If the story is excellent, I suppose I don’t mind *that* much — I can treat those parts as a movie more than a game — but most games these days don’t have that, either. 

        Then again, there’s something to be said against a game like “The Last Remnant” which tells you basically NOTHING, and just relishes in the thought of allowing you to take on any quest you want, even if you’re really not ready for it, or if in doing so you’ll wind up actually harming yourself in the late game. (Yeah, I’m at the bases.)

        • Citric

          Reminds me of my strange compulsion to buy Square’s SaGa titles. They give you a world and a bunch of frequently obtuse rules and game mechanics. Nothing is really explained and most of the time you’re wandering around trying to make sense of what you’re supposed to do and how things are even accomplished.

          I’ve never actually finished one, but they fascinate me.

        • Aaron Riccio

          @Citric:disqus Likewise. I was actually tempted to mention Saga while discussing TLR, but then again, I *am* going to beat TLR, it’s a bit more linear and the difficulty spikes are a bit more generous. The leveling is up (or lack thereof) is the same, though.

      • blue vodka lemonade

         I was on a bus with a bunch of acquaintance from my high school going to a thing, and a few of them were trying to convince one of them that they just had to play FFXIII, it was so great, why did they stop after two hours, you really have to play at least 20 hours before the game starts to get going.

        Every time I hear this argument, I just shut down. I’m willing to push through about 2 hours of “bad” to get to something good, whether that’s two or three episodes of a TV show, the first few chapters of a book, or the opening of a game. After that, if whatever it is has failed to get interesting? I remember that I could be having more fun taking a nap, or being ignored by some cats.

    • caspiancomic

      Yeah, I saw shades of Kingdom Hearts II in Teti’s discussion of the interminable intro section. It’s strange, because the first Kingdom Hearts had a really strong intro sequence in terms of tone and pacing, even if it was a transparent (and not particularly creative) tutorial section. KHII on the other hand kicks off with some of the worst pacing I’ve experienced in the medium.

      • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

         Don’t you want to spend hours doing busywork in blandville with the most insufferable and ridiculously-attired band of middle-school-aged douchebags in the multiverse?!

  • JimTreacher

    Yikes. I take it that you did not enjoy this game.

    I’m not hating it quite as much, but it’s not living up to the hype. But then, the moon landing couldn’t have lived up to THIS hype.

    The Haytham stuff was fun at first, and I was genuinely surprised by the twist, but it did go on for way too long. That’s mostly Ubisoft’s fault for centering the whole marketing campaign around Connor, and then you’re playing and playing and there’s no Connor. If I wanted to play How I Met Your Mother: The Videogame…

    I kind of like Haytham — James Bond in a tricorner hat — and I can see giving him a few prologue missions. Make the player work toward the goal of playing as the main character. But this is ridiculous.

    “Forrest Gump with a tomahawk” is a great line.

  • coramo92

    What’s the multiplayer like?

  • http://twitter.com/frank_mcdevitt Frank McDevitt

    Teti (and most of the Gameological commenters) seem to be in the minority here, so I’ll still be picking this game up.

    • Mercenary_Security_number_4

      I think I’ve negotiated myself down to a reasonable wait-until-it-goes-on-sale.

      • http://twitter.com/Evad_Dalrymp David Dalrymple

        That’s one nice thing about a game guaranteed to sell a million copies: wait a few months, and it will go on sale. With niche games, the rule becomes “wait a few months, and buy it for a ridiculously inflated price on Amazon”. (Apart from digital downloads.)

  • http://twitter.com/tapirman Kyle O’Reilly

    I’m really sad that you didn’t touch on multiplayer. While I never played Revelations, Brotherhood had one of my favorite multiplayer modes of this generation.  It was essentially a high-level game of hide and seek with elements of deception that bring to mind indie-darling Spy Party. It’s truly a singular experience in online multiplayer and a rather clever use of the lore. I could handle a shit single-player if the multi-player was still a hoot.

    Anyone played it yet?

    • ToddG

      I loved Brotherhood’s multiplayer, but rather strongly disliked every additional mode they added in Rev and III.  That said, the original Wanted mode is still more or less intact, and I still continue to play and love it.

    • NarcolepticPanda

      I think he couldn’t try multiplayer since he’s on the East coast. However, IGN’s review said it was basically the same multiplayer as before, with the addition of a mediocre co-op enemy wave mode.

      • http://twitter.com/tapirman Kyle O’Reilly

        Well now I feel bad. :(

        “Where’s my mention of a minor feature in a game I probably won’t buy!”
        “I’m sorry, it’s just that my city is partly under water, and our power plant exploded and…”
        “NOT GOOD ENOUGH, TETI!”

  • Citric

    Warning, I’m about to go off on a tangent.

    This is kind of reminding me that I really haven’t been all that enamored with the big, well marketed AAA titles I’ve tried this generation. I found Uncharted 1 & 2 to devolve into dull shooters – never bothered with the third – GTAIV was frustratingly poorly designed and the CoD games to be titles where I found my actions irrelevant – my character was there, he just didn’t have any purpose. I mention this because AssCreed II and Brotherhood are cheap at Wal Mart and I’m tempted, but I keep thinking I haven’t really enjoyed any of the other big name titles this gen, I might not like those two either.

    Though I suppose AssCreed II does end with a fistfight with the pope, and that’s hard to resist.

    • Mercenary_Security_number_4

       This generation has definitely had a higher percentage of retro-gaming than ever before.  Whether that’s because of new games quality or the fact that I’m just old, I don’t know.  I do agree that this generation has had a tendency to make the playable character seem irrelevant.  Unlike some, I don’t see that as an unfortunate trend but rather more as a growing pain.  As the environments have fleshed out, the only way to stop a player from quickly moving beyond the programmed circumstances is to make the protagonist somewhat impotent.    I think this has always been the case, its just the limited environments of past generations made it less obvious.  So right now we are at a stage where game developers and players alike want a big no-limits world where our actions actually matter, but programmers haven’t figured out how to handle that on a timetable that still gets the games out to the stores by Christmas.  In the meantime, the best this generation has to offer is large worlds that we can’t do much to actually affect, but at least they are usually fun to explore.

      • Citric

        I think there has always been an illusion of control, but at least your character tends to be the one doing stuff. Like in the old SNES game I’m playing right now, Treasure of the Rudras. I know basically what I’ll be doing, at some point I’ll purify the air, because it’s already happened in the other stories, but at least I’m purifying the air, even if I know I’m going to do it and I have no control in the matter, at least my actions are necessary. I don’t have many options, but at least my characters are important.

        The difference with CoD – which is where I find the worst examples of this lack of control – is that I’m never really the one doing anything. There’s a big team, they’re shooting just as many dudes as I am, and I feel completely superfluous. I don’t think you even need to feel in control so much as you need to feel as though you’re necessary, rather than just there, or worse, just getting in the game’s way.

        • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

           Obviously that is just an ingenious metatextual comment on the dehumanization experienced by soldiers required to operate as cogs in the efficient state-sponsored killing machine that is the armed forces, man!

          Wasn’t there a time when one of the “Medal of Duty: Modern Fighter” things was touted as actually being thoughtful because it followed up a remote drone-bombing mission with a level where you were one of the people on the ground being bombed?

          Were people being too credulous then, or have the games just gotten dumber, or are we being too incredulous now?

    • http://twitter.com/Evad_Dalrymp David Dalrymple

      As much as I love Mass Effect II and Fallout: New Vegas, they suffer from the problem you mentioned above with CoD: your companions can pretty much handle the combat on their own, at least on Normal difficulty.

    • His_Space_Holiness

      Fistfighting a pope is even more fun in person. How do you think I got the job?

      • Citric

        If the pope was selected via throwing all the cardinals in a fistfight tournament I’d consider going back to catholic. But only if they televised it.

        • His_Space_Holiness

          You mean that’s not how it works? Huh. Just another reason Space Catholicism is the best religion.

  • Haymz_Jetfield

    Does anyone know who Haytham’s voice actor is? It sounds A LOT like Peter Serifanowicz’s Sherlock Holmes impression but he isn’t credited anywhere that I can find.

  • lylebot

    “To say that this new entry starts slow would be like saying that Hurricane Sandy was a bit of a rain shower.”

    Here in my corner of Delaware, that’s pretty much what Sandy was (despite going directly overhead).  I’m also pretty sure I’m going to enjoy this game.  Different strokes for different folks!

  • Effigy_Power

    I am profoundly sad now. I had some reservations about the setting anyways, but… ech… It sounds like they concentrated on all the wrong things. I won’t know for sure until I play it myself, but I miss Ezio already.
    Needless to say, I won’t buy this until the price drops.

  • DevinC

    We gamers have tasted the pixels of madness.  

    They are the primal ones, the dread powers that bring madness and death. It is fortunate their names cannot be pronounced in our language, for to do so would shatter the consciousness of any who heard them.  We know them as the big-name-studio big-budget action-rpg games.  So long as they are trapped in their PCs or consoles, mankind are safe, but we who are fools let them out!

    Every muhmorpiguh-style fetch quest, every repetitive mission that doesn’t serve the story has eroded our sanity.  Every cutscene with dialogue that George Lucas would sneer at, every character so flat you could skate on them, has brought us so much closer to doom.  So warped are our minds that even mediocrity would be a relief.

    In his house at Ubisoft dead Assassin’s Creed lies dreaming.

    • His_Space_Holiness

      That is not dead that can in sequels lie.
      And in strange aeons, even franchises may die.

  • Ralphie_in_Vegas

    Wait, these games involve time travel?

    • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

      Technically, it’s re-experiencing the genetic memories of one’s ancestors through a hi-tech virtual reality device.

      But yeah, basically time travel.

  • http://twitter.com/marlowespade Chris Howly

    “Technically, Creed is about a dude from the future who uses a
    magic DNA time machine to pretend that he’s sneaky people from the past,
    and this game wraps up that future dude’s storyline, but the series’
    techno-spiritual premise is just the flavorless saltine on which the
    peanut butter of old-timey assassination rests.”

    Quite possible the greatest sentence ever written in a game review.
    /slow clap

  • lokanoth

    Just started playing, and was immediately impressed by the graffiti at the beginning referencing Ah Pook is Here by William S. Burroughs who popularized the assassin’s credo, ‘Nothing is true, everything is permitted’.

  • JohnnyLongtorso

    Because there’s nothing else coming out this year, I got this from Gamefly and have played a bit of it. I liked the first Assassin’s Creed, repetitive though it was, but I really had no interest in the sequels. I’m apparently in a small minority, but I just didn’t think Ezio was an interesting character at all. And all of the ridiculous Italian accents were hard to take seriously.

    So far after playing an hour I’ve witnessed a couple bugs. During one cutscene, the ship captain was talking but his mouth didn’t move, and during the horse ride to the inn, some people in the streets just randomly disappeared. Great programming job, guys.

  • EmperorNortonI

    “Go to a point marked on your minimap and kill the person there” seems to be the design trope most responsible for crappy gameplay these days, the most obvious sign of a design team who has run out of ideas.

    When you think about it, what are all the ways this could be made interesting?

    1 – It’s hard to get to the marked point – normally because it’s well defended, but possibly because of environmental puzzles.
    2 – The target at the marked point is hard to kill.
    3 – You need to step and fetch before you can get to the area.

    All three of these seem rather played out at this point.  When was the most recent time that anyone ran into a really interesting and compelling gameplay variant on those themes, or this action type in general?  Now, in a pure shooter, this kind of quest makes a ton of sense – I didn’t mind them at all in Borderlands, because that game is all about shooting, and it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to do anything other than shoot.  But in anything pretending to be an open-world game, it seems a waste not to take advantage of the open world and integrate it into the gameplay in some way.

    This type of problem seems bundled together with the emphasis on handholding in AAA design.  The designers are so doubtful of the player’s abilities to do anything but shoot that the avoid putting any obstacles in their way.  But it seems that if this basic kind of quest is to be revived at all, it’s going to require putting a bit of thought back into it.

    1 – Reduce information on the minimap, and force the player to use environmental clues to fill in the information gaps.  This can be as simple as making the player read roadsigns, but it’s easy to imagine conversation-activities, landmark-spotting activities,  or a full-on tracking simulation come into play.

    2 – Reduce the usefulness of the minimap, or eliminate it altogether.  FarCry 2 did this in an interesting way – you had to look at your GPS and map to navigate effectively, but that made shooting hard.  Old-school RPG’s might have a world-map, but no mini-map, so you’d have to figure out your position and the direction to go by using basic map reading skills.

    3 – Make the open-world hostile, so travel is hard.  RPG’s use random encounters for this task, which has it’s own problems.  FarCry 2 used the endlessly re spawning checkpoints and random vehicle attacks, which were also frustrating.  Then again, nothing screams out “contrived game world design” like a totally benign open world with occasional mission-centric pockets of danger.

    4 – Turn the destinations into dungeons.  Not literally, of course – it would be a bit odd to plop a Zelda dungeon into GTA or AssCred.  But those are the sort of deliberately designed and difficult locations that can make it really interesting to get to the target.  Imagining how a Zelda-style dungeon might work in a realistic setting would be an impressive accomplishment.

    • stryker1121

      Traversing the map is the most fun part of an AssCreed game, though,  isn’t it? I played II and even if w/ the icon blinking on the map it was enjoyable bounding my way around the buildings. 

      You are dead on about AAA game design basically thinking gamers are idiots, or more likely chronically impatient. I could not imagine a modern, big-time title going with the traversal system of say Morrowind, where you actually had to follow directions and environmental clues to find your objective, with no fast travel and your only travel options provided organically within the world -ships, silt-striders, magic portals, etc.

  • lokanoth

    I’ve gotta say this a slog of a beginning. It’s disturbing there was no mention of this dull as dirt British guy in any of the promos, and I watched everything. If you have to hide this from the advertising maybe hide it from the game.

  • DjangoZ

    Great review! Glad someone is pointing out when game missions are tedious and relatively non-interactive.

    I have to ask, is the name of the character actually “Ratonhnhaké:ton”? That sounds like satire.

    • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

      It sounds vaguely ancient Egyptian: “Pharaoh Ratonhaké:ton.”

      Speaking of which, an Assassin’s Creed set in ancient Egypt would be awesome.

      • Electric Dragon

        Assassin’s Creed:Discworld:Pyramids

  • STOP_RIGHT_THERE_CRIMINAL_SCUM

    I tried playing Assassin’s Creed 1 and 2 recently and I found both games unbearably dull, tragically this one sounds like it’s more of the same

    but DAMN IT man, the setting is just so cool and I’ve heard one of the things you can do is find Captain Kidd’s treasure, I’ve been wanting to do something pirate related in a game for a while now 

    so I guess maybe I’ll have to wait for the Christmas Steam sale, that way if I wind up not liking it like the other games at least I wouldn’t have blown 60 bucks on it (I bought the other games in a sale)

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/DJKNTOVDAF2D6RRJLUTLHRTTWI Marbles

    “In Creed III we come full circle: the gamification of a game.”

    THIS IS A VERY GOOD POINT. And it’s not just happening with games…

    I was watching this terrible new movie ‘Argo’ yesterday, and I couldn’t help but think ‘uhg, this movie is so… CINEMATIC.’
    I left the theater in disgust, and decided to read a book. To my utter horror, as soon as I started Johnathan Franzen’s ‘Freedom’, I realized that literature, too, had come full circle and become… LITERARY!
    To accompy my attempt to flush that awful novel down the toilet, I put on the new Grizzly Bear album I’d just download. No sooner had it started than I was struck by the depressing realization that nowadays music has just become so… MUSICAL. It’s disgusting.
    I smashed my iPod and decided I needed a walk to clear my head. I passed the museum and saw they had a Matisse exhibit. Desperate for any distraction, I entered, only to be met with yet another diappointment – his paintings were pathetically all so… PAINTERLY.

    What is the world coming to!??!

    • GaryX

      This is hilariously dumb.

  • stryker1121

    The bloat in the modern game could be it’s own article – I like a good, long title mind you but sometimes you can feel the padding bopping you over the head. Haven’t played AssCreed III yet, but I just finished the new Darksiders title, a game that has you acting the errand boy in ways that are almost satiric.  

  • BobSmith111

    When I played the demo at a co-workers house from DISH, it fired on all cylinders and what small negatives I encountered were far from game breaking. The gameplay and controls have been improved upon. The free-running and combat systems have been honed to near perfection. I don’t have the money to buy it right now but I did add it to my Blockbuster@Home rental service from DISH. It shouldn’t be too long from now before I see what the story is really about. I won’t say too much about the experience, but with side missions as well as the main story, it seems like this will provide a lengthy, satisfying experience.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Alex-Paul/748755525 Alex Paul

    Oh. God. You’ve just read my mind and put it to ‘paper’. Thank you. Seriously. I sat here, after a long-ish session on this, desperately trying to work out what the hell happened; I’ve never had such an empty, downright depressing feeling whilst playing a video game before. Something didn’t feel ‘right’ to me early on, and the more I played it, the more…insulted I felt. AI? Combat? Actual gameplay? It’s non existent. The game literally does it for you; a prime example being when 4 soldiers just stand around you, waiting to be script-killed.

    I guess I had the “is this just me?!” feeling, but the more I’ve read personal accounts, I’m pleased to say people feel the same! And yikes, Watch Dogs better not be inspired by this.

    I guess the best way I can put this: it’s one long cut scene, interrupted by some redundant fetch tasks.

  • http://www.facebook.com/dre.mosley Dre Mosley

    Series peaked with AC2.  To be honest, this franchise is solid, but it just never blew me away to the point that I feel it warrants the fanfare and attention it gets.

  • DrDastardly

    Ugh, what a bummer.

    Okay, I’m a little different: I loved Assassin’s Creed because I loved just getting high and wandering around. I was really looking forward to this game because I live in Boston, so getting high and wandering around Colonial Boston sounded wicked fun to me. Those who’ve played: as a dude wholly uninterested in missions, will I still have a good time?

  • groomingsam12

    I think AC3 is a much better game than Brotherhood and Revelations. They both seem cheap, like chapters cut from AC 2 and given a gameplay gimmick to make them seem fresh. Game’s are about inhabiting an interesting world and I think this game nailed the setting. It’s fun and fresh when compared to the other 4 entires which mostly looked the same.

  • http://twitter.com/don_badman Angus

    You’ve summed up pretty well what I find so tedious about the modern GTA games so thanks for that

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/U2QV7XRFHWBC343NHV5KBW77FI Tiffaney

    I was initially disapointed with Revelations because Brotherhood had been so wonderful. But now, AC3 has made me love Revelations. At least Revelations had a few fewer glitches and still gave me story I cared about.

    I just don’t care about Connor or his dad or their friends. (Worst, most flatly written characters ever!) At this point, the way they have filled the game with cutscene after cutscene and made the game play so slow and annoying (Yes, Paul, to the left ), I just want to skip all of it so I can get to something fun…then I do get to the meat of a mission… and the fun is limited. The only great part of the game is the naval battles.

    And how can there be an AC game without cathedrals or real puzzles? The captain kid stuff does not count! Wow, jump across a few rocks, done, yay.

    One last point, I loved Revelations multiplayer. Actually justified the game a bit more for me. I played almost every day. Lots of people did play every day. So why the F* did they change it so much!!!!!! Its like I’m playing Brotherhood multiplayer now, none of the fluidity of Revelations. PLEASE FIRE SOMEONE!!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/will.raffle.9 Will Raffle

    I think you hit the nail on the head with this review. Also it is interesting to note that AC3 hits all the crass/racist stereotypes of Native Americans highlighting just a few weeks before its release in the UK by Rich Halls programme Inventing the Indian.
    1/ The Indian must be stern and humourless. Check
    2/ Bogus Mysticism. Check
    3/ The blending of the white european DNA with the native people make for a superior specimen. Check.  Note how Connor plays with his friend at the Indian village who is scared of heights and needs instructing on traditional ways of life and generally puny.

    I generally don’t mind watching cut scenes if they are of high quality such as LA Noir and heavy rain but the fact that the characterisation is so, so weak it hurts as the Templars go from being a gang of decent chaps to pantomime villains at the change of character stage.

    I really wanted to like this game as it is set in my pet period of history but it pretty much rapes that and leaves it for dead with the game play.

    • Rhys Howell

       I found the tonal shift in characterization of the Templars between when I was playing as them and then against them jarring as well. I’ve justified it though, as to do with an unreliable narrator.

      No one ever sees themselves as the bad guy. As all the past missions are replaying people’s memories, of course they will be cast as the heroes. When changing viewpoint, the new ancestor’s prejudices colour how the previous characters are seen in the continuing plot.

      I may have put too much thought into this.

  • HL112

    everyone complains about AC1 but I loved it… From a gameplay perspective I actually think its the best of the series. It is harder, and more complex. Each assassination feels like a puzzle and was unique. Sure the sequels have better controls, better graphics, better story, and more gameplay variability, BUT they rarely capture that puzzle feel that stealth action games should have.

  • Dominik Dito Ivosevic

    What amazes me is the brainset of the makers of the game. Ive always had the hidden passion of wanting to be a concept artist some day because I feel that in that position you can make a game good or bad without doing all the other pesky work. The question that keeps comming up is “Did these artist ever play the game?”. The moment I started playing AC3 I had a feeling something was wrong. They messed up the controls and its just wrong. This frustrated me so much that I downloaded the AC1 and checked out how it differs. The difference is amazing. AC1 feels so much more fluid and the lack of “cool new features” allows it to polish what it has. I must say that AC1 is much cooler to me than AC2 but maybe its just that I fell in love with Altair and when Ezio came I felt cheated.

    PS.
    I REALLY enjoyed reading this article. 
    Dear John, you have a huge fan now, I hope your other articles are as good as this one :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004110637590 Aurélien Flieger

    God this game is boring. And I expected it to be. It lacks soul, like many games recently. A good looking game, but such a flat and uninspiring one.

  • Rich Thomas

    Agree with everything. As much as I can… I played up until I got the “Kill 5 different kinds of animals” mission and thought, “I think I hate this game.” It took me 8 hours of playing to finally admit it. I kept hoping for it to improve. Finally, I Googled “Assassin’s Creed 3 sucks” and started reading all the reviews that report, accurately, it’s just not fun.