Before we begin, I have a small confession to make. I never really got on board with the Assassin’s Creed franchise, in fact it pulled out of the station whilst I was on the other platform getting to know the Master Chief. It’s only recently, with the release of the widely praised Origins and Odyssey, that my interest has piqued. So, with fresh eyes, Assassin’s Creed III Remastered seems like as good a place as any for me to start.
First things first, you get the whole package here for the fairly reasonable price of £29.99. This includes the remaster of Assassin’s Creed III, the solo DLC campaign The Tyranny of King Washington and Assassin’s Creed Liberation, also remastered. It’s worth noting that this is all included if you have purchased the Assassin’s Creed Odyssey Season Pass, at no extra cost too. It comes just over two years after The Ezio Collection, which is a similar bundle containing all things Assassin’s Creed II based. It seems like the logical next step then, but, have Ubisoft made it worth visiting Colonial America a second time round?
Assassin’s Creed III picks up where the second left off, and sees you following Desmond Miles once more, who is trying to avert an extinction level event on Earth which will be wiped out by the sun. You’re following clues left behind by the mysterious First Civilization and subsequently enter the Animus – basically a fancy VR machine in which you can replay parts of your ancestor’s lives. This immediately leads Desmond to the shady Haytham Kenway who is about to travel to colonial America in the late 1700s. You begin on an assassination mission in a beautifully realised Royal Opera House. The action quickly shifts stateside, and if you are familiar with Assassin’s Creed of old, the story jumps about between different periods in time following different characters. This is certainly the case here, as a few hours later you’ll be playing as Connor, a native American and then later the action switches back to the present day with Desmond. As past events play out, you will receive emails in the present. You can return at any time to read them, however the game will naturally shift between past and present, so there’s no pressure to remember to do this yourself.
Things take a while to get going in Assassin’s Creed III Remastered, in fact you can easily sink an hour into the game before its title appears on screen, signifying the start of the adventure proper. This is in part due to there being plenty of characters to interact with, and table games to play – Red Dead Redemption style – for those inquisitive players. However, although the world of Assassin’s Creed III is densely populated, it can feel empty at the same time. There isn’t really a lot to do bar the main quest, making exploring seem pointless. Couple this with the ability to fast travel and you’ll pretty much be sticking to the task at hand. There are some side quests to complete along the way, but you’ll mostly be on the straight and narrow alongside the main campaign.
The primary missions have optional objectives which, when completed, help you achieve maximum synchronisation with the Animus. In Layman’s terms, that’s achieving 100% completion. You won’t be rushing back to complete every one you miss though, as some of the missions can be excruciatingly slow paced. This is also true of the general pacing of the game. It’s slow, and broken up further by a generous amount of cutscenes. For the most part, this works against the storytelling as Assassin’s Creed III struggles to build or sustain momentum. The Homestead missions, however, are the best attempt at providing some entertainment away from the main campaign. Despite all this, I’m not suggesting the game is short, because it certainly isn’t. But gameplay feels pretty linear for the most part, and even though the game is essentially seven years old, the original Red Dead Redemption was released two years prior, so there’s no excuse really.
Thankfully, as with most of the Assassin’s Creed games, the main story is strong, if a little slow. Think of something by Dan Brown that has hit Hollywood and you’re pretty much there. The decent script is accompanied by a pretty good, if not entirely original, soundtrack, and while the franchise did spawn a film not so long ago, the less said about that the better. It’s at this point I strongly advise you delve into your Animus logs and read about the characters from the first two games, or you’ll have no idea what on earth is going on. Even armed with this information, the storyline isn’t always the most straightforward narrative to follow. Your Animus database will be updated throughout the game and can be accessed via the pause menu. These logs are an interesting, amusing and often sarcastic read but also educational, in a fun way. Within the pause menu you can also tweak your options, complete some additional training and track your overall progress.
I suppose the most important aspect of this review, due to this being a remaster, should be around the game’s looks. Happily I can report things look good in 4K and HDR, and on the whole the action runs smoothly. The frame rate will occasionally drop when there’s a lot going on – such as when you find yourself galloping around on horseback – but overall it all moves along nicely. What is disappointing is the use of invisible walls which stop you moving off the beaten track. The first one I encountered when trying to explore was in the very first area of the game, but as I played on I came across less which was good to see. The voice acting is strong, and you’ll encounter some very entertaining people during the campaign which help make the game an enjoyable experience.
Your characters control well and move freely too, in proper free-runner style. This helps you to automatically navigate the environment and produces a fluid move set without the need for pressing a lot of buttons. Every now and then you’ll climb the wrong obstacle or jump the wrong way, but overall it works well. All this is possible by holding down RT and moving around with the left stick, whilst bigger jumps will require a hit of A to clear them, and pressing X whilst above an enemy, will see you executing an aerial takedown.
Pressing down on the left thumbstick will allow you to activate the franchise’s famous “Eagle Vision” as used by Altair and Ezio before you. This is basically an enhanced vision, or sixth sense, which enables you to identify targets and points of interest. To ensure you aren’t doing all this running around in the wrong direction, your HUD has a handy radar with points of interest marked and a green waypoint will show you where to go next. You can view your map in more detail by pressing the view button, and set markers to navigate the open world. There are certain vantage points across the environments, where you can climb up high and survey your surroundings. Then, to return to ground level, you can dive right off the edge, providing there is a comfy straw pile to land on below.
You’ll engage in combat pretty regularly in Assassin’s Creed III Remastered. Firstly, and probably the most entertaining, is hand to hand combat. You’ll learn the ropes when travelling to America aboard the Providence, and some of your rowdy shipmates begin to square up to you. There are three basic moves – attack, block and counter. It’s fairly straight forward but satisfying, especially when you counter an enemy’s attack and then deliver the finishing blow in brutal style. You’ll also get the opportunity to use guns, but reloading can make things quite frustrating. Due to the period in which the game is set, it’s pretty much time to reload after each shot. This is a slow and cumbersome affair, meanwhile you are getting shot, punched and generally smacked about by your enemies while you try to do so. This is an example of how the controls in Assassin’s Creed III can occasionally be on the clunky side and sometimes hand to hand is simply the best way to take down large groups of baddies.
The game also introduces numerous mechanics throughout which are well realised and pretty fun. One is eavesdropping, where you have to tail your target and stay within range to gather the information needed to make your next move. Another is lockpicking, which is simple but satisfying to pull off. There’s also a tremendously fun naval warfare mission, which is one of the real highlights of ACIII. But that said, as Assassin’s Creed III Remastered does a good job at introducing new ideas to keep things fresh, it then struggles to juggle them all as you play. It can feel like a series of mini-games as opposed to an evolving gameplay system, almost trying to cram in too much. Sometimes less is more, and you’ll discover new stuff hours into playing as the game continues to open up.
Assassin’s Creed III Remastered on Xbox One is a good game which is fun to play. The graphics may be significantly improved but this is essentially the same as it was seven years ago, albeit now up against much stronger competition. If you’ve never played it before, at £29.99, with all the DLC, it’s worth a look. Otherwise, it’s hard to justify buying this all over again.