A month or so ago I reviewed Assassin's Creed III for BeefJack, and I quite liked it. However, the way deadlines work and games the size of ACIII, you don't always get to complete the full game. You simply bomb through as much content as possible and get a decent feel for it.
After my review was done I went off to play Halo 4 (obviously), Need for Speed: Most Wanted and quite a few other games. I've now finally returned to ACIII to finish it up, and I'm starting to think that I got a bit too excited originally. The fact Assassin's Creed had recaptured the magic blinded me a little.
It's still a good game, but not quite as great as I first set out. The minor niggles I had have risen in prominence now. Running is broken. Ubisoft said that tying running and free-running into one button makes the game flow easier. Only it doesn't. Now Connor runs up the side of buildings when you're just trying to run through the streets. During chases this is a nightmare, and the amount of times I've lost someone because my highly trained assassin has decided to investigate a windowsill is unbelievable Its also not one button, but still two, only now the second button does nothing more than let you glide over minor obstacles with ease. It's a small function that just looks a bit fancy but doesn't really add anything, except looking cool. Can we please go back to the old way? Tie this new running into standard running and make parkour optional again. With the current set up I feel like I've lost control of the main character, not got more.
Eagle vision is also shit. It's just a gimmick for certain missions instead of a tool in your arsenal. I think they've even managed to take away one of the uses from Brotherhood/Revelations, guards' routes no longer leave a trail showing their route. This was a handy ability that let you plan more rather than just wade in a try end up in a mass fight because you didn't have a clue what was happening. Ubisoft need to go away and make it way more versatile. Look at Batman's Detective mode in the Arkham games, different colours depending on weapons, through walls, etc. Desmond's ancestors should have that shit. If I switch it on I expect to be able to know if a guard is on a walkway above me.
Also, how about highlighting climbing areas with Eagle vision, something like what Mirror's Edge did. Now the world is getting a lot more detailed and graphically superior it'd be nice if I can switch it on and have handholds glow. I got stuck in a linear level just because I couldn't tell which of the six posts in the room was the one I was meant to climb up (I realise this is also bad level design).
Also the ability of guards to spot you on roofs seems to go against the very nature of the game. I know this is something that has been a part of the series from day one, but I feel it's getting worse. Combined with the inability to crouch makes this a very odd stealth game. Ubisoft says it goes against the aim of 'social stealth', but when I'm infiltrating a huge fort without a single civilian within spitting distance, I call bullshit.
Then there's the final few story based missions, which really aren't very good. The homestead missions quickly turned into Assassin's Creed version of the GTAIV's hanging out with friends. Thankfully phones don't exist so they can bug you all the time.
Finally there's multiplayer, something rather obviously missing from my review. The reasons for this were twofold. 1, Word Count. 2, What I had played of it was almost exactly the same of previous versions I didn't see the point on wasting precious words. However, that's ignoring the fact I hadn't touched Wolfpack. I had tried, but I kept getting dumped into Team versus instead of this new co-op mode. Now I have. And it is awesome.
Gone is hunted aspect of the multiplayer, this solely concentrating on hunting part. A team of 2-4 players take the role of assassinating as many targets as possible, the trick is balancing the careful and methodical way of getting high scoring kills while fighting a timer. New waves and occasional bonus targets gain you extra time, but the key is to go as high scoring as you can to progress as far as possible. Out in the wilds of the internet you're likely have to put up with idiots who just run around full pelt and get minimum points, and you'll be lucky to get up to the double figures in waves. But with friends it's a fantastic co-op experience which I highly recommend. It's also worth nothing the multiplayer UI feels more like Brotherhood and Revelations than 3, which is probably a good thing.
Despite the overly negative tone here, I still stand by the Recommended rating I originally gave it, but just a little less enthusiastically now. This really is an addition to everything I said back in November.