Feb 122013
 

Assassin’s Creed III released this past November to mostly positive critical reception and a bit of a mixed response from fans. Last July I did a top 10 list of the things about Assassin’s Creed III that had me excited to play, which you can read here. Coincidentally, just days after I finished Assassin’s Creed III it was revealed that Ubisoft would unsurprisingly be continuing the yearly release schedule with a new game this holiday. Having just finished the game and Assassin’s Creed being in the news, I figured this would be a good time to look back at those 10 reasons I couldn’t wait to play AC3 and give my thoughts about how they turned out in the final product. This won’t be a review, you can read Jay Malone’s review of the game if that’s what you’re looking for, this will just be my thoughts on some of the key aspects of the game after having played it. The order of this list will be dictated by the original list of 10 reasons to be excited for Assassin’s Creed III, and there will be minor spoilers.

10. Seasons/Weather

Assassins-Creed-3-Screenshot-Snow

This was one of the more minor entries on the list, obviously not all ten would be the most unbelievable additions to the series, but I found it’s implementation to be handled pretty well. The snow effects are pretty good, and moving through snow feels very different from running on dry land. However, the season changing felt a little weird. Passage of time has always been a bit odd in the Assassin’s Creed series because the games frequently jump months or years ahead without the world actually feeling much like anything has changed. The changing seasons brought the dissonance to the forefront, making the jumps forward that much more jarring.

9. Naval Combat

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I wasn’t sold on the naval combat before I played the game, but I put it on the list anyway because it was a new feature, and those are always welcome. In the grand scheme of the game, it wound up being about as important as the tower defense mini game in Revelations (meaning not very), but I thought it was a lot more enjoyable. The naval combat was pretty simple and not very challenging, but it was very cinematic and ultimately pretty cool. It’s just a shame that there were only a couple of main missions that had naval combat, with the rest of the content coming in the form of side missions.

8. New Combat Abilities

ACIII_Frontier_Combat_Tomahawk_SCREENSHOT_1332752298

The gameplay demo I saw at last year’s PAX East made the improvements to combat seem drastic, but in practice the combat is very much like what was featured in Brotherhood and Revelations. Connor has some new weapons at his disposal like the rope dart and the tomahawk, but ultimately the combat just felt like Assassin’s Creed, for better or for worse. There were some new abilities that were pretty cool like the dual counter kills, human shields, and running assassinations, but at the end of the day the combat can be boiled down to the same gameplay as the past games; enemies standing around waiting their turn to attack, countering as they attack, and then chaining kills to clear them out quickly.

7. Improved Traversal

xl_Assasins-Creed-3-Tree-running-624

Once again, the gameplay demo I saw at PAX made the improvements to traversal seem much more extensive than they actually wound up being. The core of the traversal remains almost identical to past games, with some minor control alterations. The big addition is the rock and tree climbing, which were pretty cool. There were only very rare occasions where you have the opportunity to do the rock climbing, but trees play a major role in the game. The tree climbing animations look great, and moving through the forest without ever touching the ground is really cool. It falls apart a little when you realize there are only a handful of different tree types in the game, but you only really notice it when you’re looking for it.

6. More Familiar History

800px-Paul_Revere

I, like many people, am much more familiar with the American Revolution than I am with the Crusades or the Italian Renaissance, and that ultimately wound up being both a positive and a negative in regards to Assassin’s Creed III. On the one hand, I found a lot of the historical stuff in this game very interesting. Seeing historic moments like the Battle of Bunker Hill and the Battles of Lexington and Concord rendered in a game is really cool, but for every moment like that there was another that left me scratching my head. A lot about how the history was portrayed seemed a bit goofy, which isn’t exactly new for the series (Ezio was best buds with Leonardo Da Vinci after all) but it stuck out more here because I had more personal knowledge of the historical events in question. Having Connor be at so many pivotal events of the American Revolution just felt really silly, with the most egregious example being the re-interpretation of Paul Revere’s ride as Connor’s Ride with Paul Revere on the back of the horse.

Jan 082013
 

Last week I counted down my Top 10 Most Anticipated games of 2013, but about a year ago I did a similar list; the games of 2012 I was most looking forward to playing. I am currently working on my overall Top 10 of 2012, which will be next week’s list, but first I wanted to look back at the 10 games I was anticipating most in 2012 and see what became of them. Some met or exceed expectation, some failed to live up to the hype, while others still were pushed into 2013. For the games that did come out, I won’t necessarily be giving my own in depth opinions, I’ll instead be looking at the game’s overall success with a brief outline of my personal experience. Just a note, the order of these games is the original order I placed them in; the games of 2012 I was most looking forward to one year ago.

 

10. Halo 4 (343 Industries, Microsoft Studios)

Halo 4 was undoubtedly Microsoft’s biggest exclusive game of the year. The original reason this game made the list was because I have always been a big Halo fan, but the reason it was only number 10 was because I was very skeptical of the change in developers. After it release, the general consensus seems to be that 343 has made an excellent Halo game. The game has received almost universal acclaim, with GiR’s Josh Knowles giving the game a 9.8 as well. However, for me personally, this is not the Halo game I wanted to play. Part of that is likely that I felt the series came to a meaningful conclusion with Halo 3, and I just don’t really need anything that takes place after that. I am also past the point where I have any desire to get absorbed in an online shooter again. Halo 4 is without a doubt an extremely well made game in almost every aspect, it just went in a direction that I have no desire to follow.

 

9. Skyrim DLC (Bethesda Game Studios, Bethesda Softworks)

This year saw the release of several pieces of downloadable content for Skyrim, my 2011 game of the year, but I’ll be honest, I haven’t played any of them. The general consensus seems to be that most of the content is quite good, but at this point I have had my fill of Skyrim for a while. When I originally listed Skyrim DLC as my number 9 most anticipated release of 2012, I was nowhere near done with the game. I had spent around 100 hour with the game at that point and was making why through the content on the disc. By the time any significant DLC was released I was well over the 150 hour mark, and while I still haven’t done everything in the game, I don’t see myself coming back for a while. Don’t take this to mean I like the game less or regret naming it my game of the year for 2011, it’s just there is only so much time you can spend in a game before getting burnt out. I fully intend to finish all the on disc content and eventually get around to playing the DLC, I just need some time to re-acquire that itch.

8. Counter Strike: Global Offensive (Valve)

Looking back it’s interesting that I placed Countersrtrike GO on this list, because I really haven’t played a whole lot of it. There isn’t much to say about this game. After being in beta for quite a while, it finally launched last summer to very little fanfare. The only thing you can really say about the game is that it is certainly Countstrike. There are some minor changes and improvements, but for the most part it is the same game it has been for over a decade, which is good for those that like some Counterstrike, it just makes the game a bit uninteresting.

7. Prey 2 (Human Head Studio, Bethesda Softworks)

This is one of the most unfortunate stories of 2012. Prey 2 was one of the most exciting potential release of the year, and every time it was shown I wanted to play it even more. The unfortunate part is that the game did not come out in 2012, and is currently in development hell. At this point we don’t even know if the game is canceled, postponed, delayed, or what’s going on. There isn’t really much concrete information, but there have been several explanations thrown around such as Bethesda being unhappy with the game’s quality, developer Human Head Studios being displeased with the terms of their contract with Bethesda, and members of the development team being laid off. At this point we can only hope that these issues have been resolved and Prey 2 is still in development.

6. Grand Theft Auto V (Rockstar North, Rockstar Games)

The inclusion of GTA V was more of a hope that it would come out in 2012 than an expectation, but I can’t say I was too surprised it didn’t release last year. There is less doubt that the game will come out this year, and in fact it made number 2 on my most anticipated games of 2013 list.

Dec 312012
 

This year was a year dominated by the rise of the Arcade.  Half of the games in my top 10 were 15 dollars or less and that’s a huge testament to how big the Xbox Live Arcade has gotten in the past year. Apart from the ones on my list, other games like Fez, Journey (PS3 download but you get the message), and Trials Evolution are getting major consideration for awards on multiple other websites. That doesn’t mean there hasn’t been a fair share of retail releases that impressed on multiple levels. Tell that to Sleeping Dogs, Mass Effect 3, Far Cry 3, Assassins Creed 3, and Dishonored and they will prove you wrong. It wasn’t the best year, that’s for sure, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t impress in many ways.

 

10. Hybrid

Hybrid is far from what it appears to be, it’s more than just another multiplayer focused shooter. It gets its “more” from not only the stunning visuals but also the intuitive design around the movement and in game combat mechanics that it executes so seamlessly. It, along with games such as Monday Night Combat, have really proven how great of a service Xbox Live Arcade is for small teams who have a new way to freshen up the increasingly dry multiplayer based experience. That combined with the intelligent overworld that presents constant power struggles between the two games factions in the form of ongoing battles within a certain part of the world are some of the biggest reasons that Hybrid stands tall within a dying genre.

 

9. Mark of the Ninja

Let’s all be honest here, stealth games are usually pieces of trash. Sure, a lot of them have a good heart behind them but actually executing on the ideas needed to make a decent stealth game seem near impossible for most developers. That, combined with the fact that I didn’t like Klei’s previous franchise, Shank, led to some pretty low expectations as I came into Mark of the Ninja. What I got was a fresh and sneaky experience that hasn’t been matched in years. Klei brought their admittedly beautiful art style from the Shank series and combined it with their now brilliant game design aspects that turn Mark of the Ninja into a pleasantly tense experience throughout its five hour lifespan.

 

8. Max Payne 3

I know what you’re thinking; I forgot Max Payne came out this year too. But believe it or not, it did release and again, believe it or not, it was pretty good. It told the depressing alcohol ridden story of Mr. Payne as he traipsed through foreign land trying to save soul after soul, and failing rather miserably each time. The story however was not this Max Payne’s forte as the most enjoyable aspects came from the franchises stapled combat mechanics. The combat revolves around using slow motion and Max Payne’s acrobatic nature (despite his age) to the player’s advantage as cinematic and beautiful moments seem to pop up in every combat section. There’s no doubt that Rockstar did well with the Max Payne series this go around, but it’s clear that it’s time to move on. Bully 2, perhaps?

 
7. Dust: An Elysian Tail

Dust is the definition of coming out of left field to be a major success this year. Sure, many had decent expectations approaching the games release but I don’t think anyone expected the experience they got when they starting tearing through that beautiful word. A product made by one sole human in Dean Dodrill, Dust took a cartoony art style and turned it into a key aspect of a rather serious story that hits major emotional undertones near the end. In my original review I stated that Dust may have the best visuals I’ve ever seen and I still stand by that statement. Every inch of every slaved over texture is just as beautiful as the next and never ceases to be the best eye candy you’ll see all year. The story is far from the only thing that shined though as so did the well-executed combo system that let you blast enemies into midair and rack up combo chains that would easily reach 2000+. Dust is just one more reason why I think this year may have been one of the best years Xbox Live Arcade has ever experienced.

 

6. Assassin’s Creed III

Apart from the year Revelations has released, an Assassins Creed installment has taken my Game of the Year for every year one is released. Since Ubisoft had made the horrible decision to annualize the franchise, we all knew it would be a matter of time before the fatigue began to set in and that was unfortunately the case with Assassin’s Creed III. But thankfully, the fatigue only begins to hit near the end as most of the game is a fantastic Assassin’s Creed experience that takes previous mechanics and only heightens their simplicity and effectiveness. The main reason it’s in my top 10 though is due all to Connor’s story and how nicely the Revolutionary War is integrated into the story. Sure, it has its hiccups, like all Assassin’s Creeds do, but experiencing that time period is something I’ve always dreamed of and seeing it realized in front of my face was an unforgettable experience.

 

5. Forza Horizon

Though I own the third, I’ll admit that I’ve never played a Forza game before. I’ve never been a racing game kind of guy and the complex nature of the car customization was really daunting whenever I did have that itch to jump into the Forza Community. I finally took the leap with Forza Horizon and was, simply put, blown away. The visuals are expected to be absolutely fantastic, and they are, but the simple feel of handling each car within the multitude of races was such an immersive quality that I eventually felt like I just couldn’t put the game down. The simplified nature and fantastic design choices that have been so prevalent in previous Forza’s all come to a head and make one of the best racing experiences I’ve had on this generation of consoles.

 
4. Spelunky

People are going to call me crazy, I know, but I never got into Dark Souls nor did I fall in love with Super Meat Boy. Trust me, I tried oh so hard but I couldn’t find the masochistic pleasure that everyone else seemed to bathe in. That masochistic pleasure finally hit me when I played Spelunky, though. Spelunky, originally a flash game, is a well realized and even better executed platformer that sends you throughout multiple levels, only allowing a checkpoint at the end of the current world you’re in. That is, if you have the required loot that the tunnel man desires. It’s hard to explain the degree of difficulty that comes with the task of getting through these worlds but to put it simply, I felt as if I could smash my controller between my hands whenever I would die and have to restart. But I felt like the world heavyweight champion when I would unlock a checkpoint. I wanted to sprint out of my house yelling of my success to any human or animal that would listen. Either way, no game matched the sheer happiness I felt once I reached the final world and at the same time, no game can match the pure horror I felt when I witnessed what the final world was comprised of.

 
3. XCOM: Enemy Unknown

Oh man, XCOM. If there was an award for uncontrollable addiction that you could not shake, you would be my choice. Apart from the obviously exciting turn based gameplay, XCOM: Enemy Unknown is one of the most well designed games I’ve ever laid hands on. It literally feels as if Firaxis never wants you to put the controller down, so they lay a small carrot (that expands into a huge carrot) down right in front of your face. They then make it seem so easy to reach, but it’s challenging. Just challenging enough to have you keep practicing so you can finally gnaw down on the carrot. With that, so goes ten hours of your life. That describes my experience with XCOM, hard as hell but damn is that carrot rewarding.

 
2. Sleeping Dogs

Leading up to the release of Sleeping Dogs, I couldn’t shake this feeling. The feeling was one of unexplainable confidence. Despite Sleeping Dog’s horrendous development life, I still felt like United Front and Square Enix were both about to churn out a decent product. Once I got my hands on it, I began to realize that a “decent” product did not describe Sleeping Dogs; instead it was a damn fine product. It all starts with the gorgeous visuals that helped bring the streets of Hong Kong to life, though that’s only a small inch of the shocker that is Sleeping Dogs.

Once you get past that positive, you see some of the best things within the package such as the Arkham Asylum-esque combat system that relies heavily on counters. The world itself was littered with side missions that either add to the depth that each character features or instead, are just plain fun. With the exception of those damn racing mission. Sleeping Dogs story is not a particularly new one; it’s a gang story relying on your main character who is an undercover cop. The thing that really elevates the narrative however is the fantastic characters that fill the world of Sleeping Dogs. Not only was Sleeping Dogs by far the most surprising game of the year, it was also one of the best games not only this year, but in the past few years. It’s one of those rare games that could go head to head with any Grand Theft Auto game and in the end, come out a victor.

 
1. The Walking Dead

Speaking of surprises, I think it’s safe to say that before the first episode’s release, no one expected Tell Tale’s latest episodic adventure to blow up like The Walking Dead has. I’ll admit, it was nowhere near on my radar when the year began but once the first episode, A New Day, was in my virtual hands, I knew I had found a piece of gold. Sure, I’ll admit that The Walking Dead is far from perfect; it has some serious visual issues and some occasional shooting sequences that feel like they had been worked on for ten minutes before being installed in the game. But that being said, I’ve never been more emotionally invested into a video game or any form of media like I was when playing through The Walking Dead.

The way it forces you into Lee’s shoes and then makes you feel like you belong there is truly amazing and something I’m sure all games wish they could achieve. But it doesn’t stop there as Tell Tale and their writers introduce character after character that all play an equally important role in your struggle to live. Then came the dialogue choices that were just as good at putting a smile on your face as they were at absolutely ripping your heart out and stomping on it. The terrible decisions that are forced upon you later on in the game only add to the pure horror you experience through your time with The Walking Dead.

Simply put, The Walking Dead is an absolute masterpiece and the best video game storytelling experience I’ve ever laid hands on.

Nov 062012
 

The Assassin’s Creed franchise has been one we’ve watched grow larger and larger ever since the first installment was released all the way back in 2007.I know I’m in the minority in saying that I really enjoyed the first Assassin’s Creed upon its release. I recognized the issue but not even they could diminish the smooth combat and fantastic storytelling. 2 years later is when the series really took off though, with the release of Assassin’s Creed II, arguably one of the best games on this generation of consoles. Ubiosft then annualized the series and released two more games, Brotherhood (right there beside ACII as one of the best) and Revelations. Brotherhood being one of the most technically sound games in the series and Revelations existing only to provide extra backstory to Desmond, Ezio, and Altair.

With this year’s release comes a whole new experience, one that diverges away completely from Altair and Ezio and instead inserts you back into the animus in place of a man named Connor. Connor is a Native American who is going through the struggles of living on his land but having it slowly taken over by the Europeans. A nasty run in while he was young vaults the story forward and leads on an emotional tear through the colonies to find the people you are so desperately searching for.

Assassin’s Creed III takes a very interesting risk in its presentation to the story, beginning the game with you not in Connor’s shoes, but instead a man who is heading over from England to carry out some soon to be revealed business. This little mini story has its own twists and turns and ultimately fits perfectly into the overarching Connor story and helps wrap it all up in a tight little bow. Diving into the Revolutionary era was an incredibly risky move on Ubisoft’s part, one that could have tarnished the whole experience if it didn’t work out correctly. Thankfully, the folks at Ubisoft Montreal continue to prove they can turn any risky story into an immaculate one.

Like I previously mentioned, the combat is one of the best things about the entire series. The flow and gracefulness that your character achieves in between sliding back and forth from enemy to enemy, ramming blades into whatever part of their body he can reach, is something no game can even come close to matching. If you’ve played an Assassin’s Creed games before, you know what I mean when I say most of your time in combat is spent holding down RT and waiting for your enemy attack. Ubisoft has took it upon themselves to alter that this go around, removing that for a more Batman-esque combat system where you press a counter button once your enemy attacks. From there the game goes into a slow motion effect and allows you to either attack, throw, or disarm an enemy. All of which are effective in their own way.

With this change, the combat loses no luster and only gains some as it makes it less complicating and much more accessible. Also added were double counters for when two enemies are coming at you at the same time. The animations for these events are, well, simply described as “badass.” Badass is one moniker that you could use to describe every combat sequence in Assassin’s Creed. Another feature that Ubisoft tampered with was the traversal controls. Now instead of holding A+RT to get around everywhere, you simply have to hold RT, and only A when you need to jump. This also feels much more accessible than the previous version’s climbing did but it’s far from a drastic change. If you hated traversing the world in ACII, you’ll hate it in ACIII.

One thing that made Brotherhood such a fantastic game was the introduction of the brotherhood mechanic that allowed you to have a team of Assassins and the ability to use them in separate ways. Assassin’s Creed III takes that concept and both dumbs it down while expanding on it. On one hand, they add classes to each Assassin, allowing them to perform different tasks (marksmen, lure soldiers away, straight up assassin, etc.) but they also lower the impact of calling them in as instead of getting a group of soldiers, you get one man who can take down one, maybe two redcoats opposing you. You still have the ability to send recruits out on their own missions, which will simultaneously level up your recruit while earning you some spending cash on the side.

Speaking of spending cash, Assassin’s Creed III really attempts to tout its economic features, with minimal success. Eventually, a feature is rolled out where you can control stockpiled items, send out items on a convoy to sell to merchants, and even craft your own unique items. This is an unarguably fantastic idea, but the execution falls short which becomes one of the biggest disappointments in a game that is lacking almost any other misstep. For example, you must have certain artisans to craft items, but how you get those artisans is (to my knowledge) never explained. I picked up one from a local homestead mission where I simply did what he asked and then recruited him. I eventually recruited a few more people but never an artisan, which is the heart and soul of the entire operation. It’s a frustrating aspect that I attempted to bang my head against for hours hoping and praying I would find what I was missing. I never succeeded.

In last year’s Revelations, tower defense was added into the Assassin’s Creed world. The execution of that idea was about as poor as the idea itself. It led to a barrage of tedious and unnecessary sections that only further frustrated me and made me wonder “what the hell am I doing?” That being said, my immediate gut reaction to hearing that there would be naval combat missions in the newest Assassin’s Creed was not a positive one. But oh how I was shocked to find that these sections are arguably the best parts of Assassin’s Creed III. The challenge of having to manage between full sail and half sail to maneuver your ship into a certain spot is something I’ve never experienced before and really helps make you feel like you’re controlling a two ton ship

It isn’t just the controls though as watching the opposing ship get torn apart is just as enjoyable as well.  The visuals in Assassin’s Creed have been something that’s only been improving between every release and that continues on in the newest installment. It remains clear that the game is far from perfect as it does have more than a few frame rate drops but the future, computerized style still works five years later and makes for some interesting little images on screen.

Some of the technical issues that plagued the previous Assassin’s games return as well such as the awful horseback riding, particularly in tight places. I even had one section (involving Mr. Paul Revere) completely break on me because I got on the horse at the wrong time. It’s something that most people won’t run into but damn was it frustrating. But when the game finds it necessary to break out a chase scene on foot, all bets are off as to whether it will be fast and frantic or just plain frustrating. I ran into a couple that really showcased the acrobatic abilities you have at your disposal but there were also more than a few that were just a frustrating mess thanks to Connor occasionally feeling like he should climb up something you clearly did not push him towards. This wouldn’t be such a heart breaking issue if it didn’t completely diminish one final chase scene that was supposed to be a climactic emotional moment. Instead of that, it quickly became a test of will and how many times you want to bang your head against it to figure out the correct pattern.

Also introduced in Brotherhood was the very surprising multiplayer that took ideas from games like The Ship and installed into an Abstergo training program. The changes to the multiplayer this time around are not drastic in any way, only altering it slightly. The gameplay itself remains mostly the same, and by the same I mean just as nerve wracking and intense as it was when you last left it. There’s still a strong triumphant feeling that comes from stalking an opposing player, seeing him make one slight move that shows he’s not an AI, and swooping in for the perfect kill.

The biggest change to the multiplayer is a new four player mode called “Wolf Pack.” In Wolf Pack, you and three friends must execute specific targets assigned at random and while doing that you’ll keep a timer going that extends your play time. The more you kill, the higher level you achieve and more time you get, similar to Horde mode. It’s not as surprising or as fun as the standard multiplayer but it’s worth a few thrills here and there, especially if you’re playing with friends and not with random folk.

Not only does Assassin’s Creed III tickle my inner history buff fancy, it’s an incredible game on top of that. The intelligent people over at Ubisoft Montreal continue to churn out a fresh new experience that will easily consume thirty hours of your life within a week. It genuinely amazes me how deep and at times lovably insane the world surrounding the whole Templar/Assassin’s story is yet they continue to make me hang onto every word said by their leaders. Sadly, it is becoming clear that the series is falling a bit slim on new ideas. For now though, Ubisoft has created another piece of video game gold that is worthy of everyone’s sixty bucks.

XBox 360

Graphics

90
 

Audio

95
 

Gameplay

95

Creativity

90
 

Execution

90
 

Offset

90
    

9.2

  

How do these ratings work? Click here for descriptions!

Apr 112012
 

If you’ve seen my list of my personal most anticipated games of 2012, you know that I am really looking forward to Assassin’s Creed III. Unfortunately, it wasn’t playable at PAX East, but Ubisoft was showing a pre-recorded gameplay demo highlighting the new setting, main character, and some of the new gameplay elements. After seeing this 10 minute video, I now want the game even more.

The game is set in America during the revolutionary war, and you play as Connor, the son of a British man and a Native American woman. The first thing the demo showed off was the large scale battles you’ll be taking part in. Like past games in the series, a lot of attention is being payed to historical accuracy, so you’ll see both the British and Colonial troops utilizing historically accurate tactics such as firing lines. Also a new feature, the developer giving the walkthrough stated that the on-screen AI count has gone from 200 in past games to 2500 in Assassin’s Creed III, and it definitely showed with the number of troops on each side of the battle. As Connor made his way through the battle toward his target (which was a Templar within the British forces, though it was stated that there are Templars on both sides of the war), he was able to make use of some new traversal techniques, like taking cover, jumping over or sliding under obstacles, and climbing trees.

A lot of work has gone into making the trees look natural as well as making sure the animations look realistic as Connor climbs and swings through trees. This seemed to pay off, as the the trees did look to have natural growth formations and the climbing animations were of the same high quality as the building climbing animations from past games. As Connor made his way through the trees, he came upon a small patrol of British soldiers. From his concealed position within the trees, he fired one of the games new weapons, the rope dart, at the lead enemy in the group. After hitting the enemy, he jumped down from the tree, stringing the soldier up on the tree Batman style, and quickly moved to the next closest enemy, taking him as a human shield. The developer stated that they wanted to capture the feeling that, though guns existed at this time in history, they were bad and easily beaten by a skilled fighter like Connor. After all the musket shots either hit the human shield or missed entirely, Connor proceeded to quickly and easily dispatch all the remaining enemies, employing several weapons at his disposal such as a tomahawk, hidden blade, and pistol. Connor is apparently a dual wielding specialist, and this sequence showed off some very impressive kill animations where he killed multiple enemies at once, one with each hand.

After dealing with the patrol, Connor began to scale a nearby cliff wall in an attempt to flank the majority of the British troops and come up behind the main encampment. Special attention was paid to the cliff wall, which illustrates the design goal to make sure the cliff looked like a natural formation, and not some video game obstacle. The rock climbing animations were supposedly modeled after real life rock climbing, with Connor using actual rock climbing techniques. I have no idea if these animations were accurate or not, but they sure looked authentic to my untrained eye. When he reached the top, we then got to see some of the improvements made to the stealth mechanics. As Connor began walking through some bushes, he took a low position to remain undetected. As long as the player moves slowly through areas that could provide concealment, such as bushes, Connor will automatically take a stealthy posture, making him hidden.

At this point, the Templar was in sight, though he was on horseback with about a dozen yards and several soldiers in between him and Connor. The developer stated that they have retooled the way momentum works, and that it was possible for Connor to make quick kills without slowing down. Connor then leaped from the bushes and began sprinting toward the group of soldiers. He plunged his hidden blade into the neck of the first soldier without even stopping, and then did the classic jump assassination on the next. However, instead of landing on top of the enemy, he did a somersault over him as the hidden blade cut his throat, and was almost immediately back on his feet and still moving. He then pulled out his tomahawk and jumped toward his target, with the demo ending just as his blade was about to make contact with the Templar.

After watching this demo, I am even more pumped for the game’s release than I already was. While I really did like Revelations, I don’t think I could have handled yet another Assassin’s Creed game with the same time period, same main character, same basic mechanics, and just overall feeling of familiarity. Assassin’s Creed III certainly does look like an Assassin’s Creed game, but it seems to have many more new features and just overall improvement than Revelations did. I see now why this is the game that finally deserves to have that number 3 on the end; it definitely appears to be a true sequel and not an incremental update.

Apr 102012
 

PAX East 2012 has come and gone, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I was able to play some great games before release, see panels of both the informative and funny variety, and just overall have an awesome time. The following are the ten best “things” of PAX East 2012. I do not have any specific criteria for what qualifies for this list, it can be a game I played, a panel I attended, or just any aspect of the show. Just remember, only things I experienced personally are eligible for this list, and while I did spend over 30 hours at the show over the course of 3 days, it is a huge event and I didn’t nearly see everything. I will also have more in-depth hands on impressions of any games I mention, and more, coming up over the course of the week, so look out for those.

10. Fable Heroes

Fable Heroes is a fun cooperative hack ‘n’ slash game with a cool art style. I honestly wasn’t expecting a whole lot with the direction the Fable series has been going lately, but I had a good time with Fable Heroes. It’s a simple game, but the satisfying combat and the competitive co-op nature of the game made for a pretty fun experience. The fact that the game comes out so soon and only at 800 ms points makes this one to watch for.

9. Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode II

I think I have pretty well established myself as a big Sonic fan in the short time I’ve been writing for Gaming Irresponsibly, so needless to say I have high hopes for any Sonic game. From what I’ve played of Sonic 4: Episode 2, is similar to Episode 1, though there are several areas with noticeable improvement including the camera (you can now see upcoming enemies and obstacles much better), the graphics, and the aspect Sega has been pushing, the physics. The game still plays like Sonic 4 (and not the classic levels of Sonic Generations like I had hoped), but it definitely feels a lot closer to the Genesis games than Episode 1 did.

8. Rock Band Blitz

Have you ever played Amplitude? You should, that game is awesome. It seems Harmonix agrees, as they have decided to return to their roots and make a new game in the style of Frequency and Amplitude while still using the Rock Band name. Basically, Frequency and Amplitude were the precursors to Guitar Hero and Rock Band, and used controllers instead of plastic instruments. Rock Band Blitz is very similar to these games in many ways, and it seems like a perfect fit for a cheaper, downloadable Rock Band game.

7. Plot vs. Play Panel

Ken Levine

The first panel on this list, the Plot vs. Play panel was a discussion about the balance between story and gameplay in game design and development. Aside from being a very interesting topic that I personally have strong feelings about, it also featured an all star lineup of developers. Speaking on the panel was Ken Levine from Irrational Games, David Gaider from BioWare, and Chris Avellone from Obsidian. The discussion was very interesting, and gave some cool insight into the development process at three of the best studios in the industry.

6. Hell Yeah!: Wrath of the Dead Rabbit

Hell Yeah is a 2D platformer with some pretty good humor and a metroidvania style of design. The game is full of references, with nods to classic games, movies, and pretty much anything else you can think of. The game has some great platforming, but also some other gameplay elements to shake things up, like a chainsaw jet pack and other movement abilities. It also helps that you are playing as a zombie rabbit named Ash that has gone to hell to kill demons because embarrassing photos of him leaked onto the internet.

Mar 062012
 

After months of rumors and hints from various gaming outlets, Ubi Soft has finally announced the third installment in the Assassin’s Creed series.

The action, adventure title will indeed take place during the American Revolution, where our new protagonist is of half Indian descent fighting against the British during the war.  Rumor has it that the game will have a large, open area in which players are free to explore.  Developing cities will also be at the center of the game’s story with New York being a main locale in the title.

Ubi Soft was also nice enough to provide a launch trailer as well showing our hero fighting off against British soldiers in a snowy forest.  The trailer also showcases groups of British soldiers ready to wage war on the American troops with our protagonist looking from a distance.  It’s trailers like these that foreshadow the intensity to come especially when your enemy is the entire British armed force.

The game will be released on October 31 for the Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and PC.  Ubi Soft also announced that a Wii U version is in the works and is scheduled to be released at the end of 2012.

Source: VG247

Mar 012012
 

Those still uncertain that the next Assassin’s Creed title will take place during the American Revolution may change their view after hearing this update.  New promotional art for Assassin’s Creed 3 has further hinted that the game will indeed take place in 18th century colonial times.

The picture was taken by a Best Buy employee after the store received promotional art for the title.  The picture shows an unknown assassin (wearing the famous white assassin costume) wielding some late 1700′s weaponry like pistols, swords, and a crossbow.  Behind the figure is a large and tattered American flag.

The other picture,that was taken, mentions that the title will be formally announced on March 5, so just a few more days till Ubi Soft confirms the location.  After a picture like this though, we can safely assume that the game will indeed take place during the War of Independence.  Kind of a letdown, however.  I was really hoping that the setting would be the French Revolution to witness all of that guillotine goodness.

Source: Kotaku

Nov 142011
 

I’ve enjoyed the Assassin’s Creed series. I always thought the general premise and the execution of the game always gave the player something to do. Assassin’s Creed was able to get your feet wet and truly get you used the Templar vs. Assassin mythos, I never thought that after playing the initial game that the storyline would eventually become so robust that Ubisoft has actually created an encyclopedia specifically to cover the series history. The second game really made us connect with the characters, both Desmond and Ezio. As the main character of Assassin’s Creed, Desmond wasn’t too much more than a name in the first game, but after the second he became the potential ace-in-the-hole in a battle that had raged in the shadows for centuries, no matter how willing he was to participate. Ezio was introduced and we immediately identified with his character, he was a man who lost everything and by doing so, learned the truths of the world around him. We felt his anger, and even after achieving vengeance, realized that it was a hollow victory. He became the Assassin that was the face of the series.

Then something odd happened, Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood came out. Not that the game release itself was odd, but this wasn’t a true sequel, it was more of a continuation of 2. Ezio was still the main character, and we were shown that he was the one that united the Assassin’s under a common goal. During this, Desmond was coming to grips with his fate and learning more about his role in the war and also trying to make sense of Assassin’s Creed 2′s odd ending. As the mysteries unravled, we were once again shown that we had only viewed the tip of the iceberg, corruption and betrayal ran deep within the Assassin ranks and teams were falling all over the globe. In other words, the Assassin’s were fighting a futile battle. As Brotherhood wrapped up, we once again were given a huge shocker and, perhaps, the murder of one of the main characters. Why did this happen? There were still so many questions!

Ubisoft has once again threw another curve ball when the announced Assassin’s Creed: Revelations. As with Brotherhood, Revelations will be an extension of the second game’s story. There has been a considerable focus on Ezio’s search to get to Altair’s roots, why was a considerably aged Ezio trying to track this info down? The trailers showed Desmond in a dream state interacting with some sort of monolith. There were hidden messages planted throughout the entire trailer as well, a common theme within the series. The game itself looks great, but are they milking the game at this point?

I ask this simply due to the fact that Ubisoft stated that Assassin’s Creed was going to be a trilogy. I don’t doubt that Revelations will be a great game, but the story has been the one constant throughout the series and I am concerned that taking the LOST approach to the game may end with similar results. If Ubisoft continues to create more questions without offering many answers, eventually it comes to a point where the mystique wears off and the shocks and twists become nothing more that gimmicks. Assassin’s Creed is one of the last few games that I have played where the story itself is equally as important as gameplay. If the series loses this focus, I think it would lose a majority of it’s support as well.

The series has started making significant pushes towards the ARG concepts as well, Assassin’s Creed isn’t just a video game any longer, there are comics, books, encyclopedias, movies and websites that all contribute to the overall plot. These other sources of story are great for the die hard fan, but can also be confusing to the less experienced player as well. A great example of this is on the upcoming Assassin’s Creed Encyclopedia, there is code that references

We know that one day, there will be an Assassin’s Creed 3, that is a fact. Now the question we will want to get to the bottom of will be, will Assassin’s Creed 3 wrap the series up? There has been awesome theories out there, civil war era Assassins, Desmond the Assassin and even discussion of the potential that Desmond is a puppet being controlled by another Animus user. The fact is though, it would now be almost completely impossible to wrap the series up in a final game. Will the series go to Assassin’s Creed 3a, 3b and 3c or will we recieve a fourth installment into the series as well?