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Review: Assassin's Creed III Remastered (PlayStation 4)By justin-p At 21.05.2019 09:30

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Assassin's Creed III was an interesting arc in the AC saga. It came at a time when the gaming world was starting to lose interest in the series - this was the fourth game in a yearly release cycle, and the first in which disquiet was loudly voiced. For this reason, it's strange that a remastered version of Assassin's Creed III should even exist. Nevertheless, this reviewer happened to enjoy Assassin's Creed III when it first released, and so was eager to dive in and see how it fares on a modern console.

Ratonhnhaké:ton (aka Connor Kenway) is perhaps the least charismatic protagonist in the series, yet remains interesting by virtue of his noble motivations: his plight as an assassin begins as a means to vengeance but soon evolves to see him become an active part of the American Revolution; an event that he is uniquely placed in due to his half-British, half-Native American heritage. Despite an overlong first act of the story, it eventually picks up and manages to become decent by Assassin's Creed standards, though in retrospect may appear clichéd if this is the first contact one has with the game.

Many of the mechanics have not aged well, from the frustrating mission structure to the clunky, simplistic combat and heavy controls. It's always a risk introducing an older title to a modern generation, and this is a good example of why. Even for players who loved the original and are eager to pick this up to re-explore it, the sense of wallowing in a bygone era is all too present. Nevertheless, it is enjoyable to return to thanks to the graphical enhancements that have been made.

It doesn't take a magnifying glass to spot these improvements: textures have been suitably bolstered, and a significant graphical boost has come courtesy of an overhauled lighting system. Characters and environments are now globally lit, which provides some impressive visuals in the forested Frontier. Dusk and dawn cycles are where the lighting and graphical improvements truly shine.

While some pillars of the experience feel lost in time, a handful are as compelling as ever. The beautifully composed soundtrack is still very much intact and remains the most accomplished score in the Assassin's Creed series, and the overhauled sound design establishes time and place very well, which is crucial for a piece of historical fiction. Even though the combat is clunky and dated, the kill animations are very entertaining and well-choreographed, which serves to assuage the monotony somewhat.

Additionally, a few quality-of-life improvements have been introduced to combat some of the ageing mechanics. Enemy icons have been refined on the mini-map and menus are slightly more responsive. Furthermore, some behind-the-scenes tweaks have clearly been implemented to prevent a few of the frustrating gameplay moments present in the original - such as accidentally assassinating an NPC - and various other improvements to prevent unintended inputs. However, many of the bugs and glitches from the original game have been ported wholesale into the remaster, which is very disappointing.

It is ironic that the most impressive aspect of this remaster is its well-rendered environments because those same graphical tweaks cause a staggering issue with Assassin's Creed III Remastered's character models. In cut-scenes, these character models are mysteriously blanched. So harsh is the lighting that expression lines are nuked off of characters' faces and their eyes given an unnatural glassy texture. This belies a lack of balancing with the global lighting system, as the light necessary to make environments pop is over-harsh when focused on character models. A patch was swiftly rolled out after launch to "fix" this, but the issue remains largely unsolved. Cut-scene interactions between characters in fact look better on the original version of the game, which is frankly shocking considering this is meant to be a step above.

Assassin's Creed III Remastered includes all the DLC plus the PS Vita's one-time exclusive Assassin's Creed III: Liberation. Much of what can be said of the base game can be said of Liberation too - it's the same experience as it once was, with a few graphical and quality-of-life tweaks. If Liberation feels less substantive it's only because it was originally a Vita game, so this is worth bearing in mind. The Tyranny of King Washington DLC is a silly but enjoyable exploration of an alternate history implied by the title. In retrospect, this was one of the first times that Assassin's Creed started to embrace its quirky mysticism instead of only hinting at it in an embarrassed manner, before Assassin's Creed Odyssey let loose and went all-out on incorporating mythology (for the better, it must be said).

On the whole, Assassin's Creed III is from a time when Assassin's Creed was still very much a serious, brooding experience, and so placed alongside Origins and Odyssey it manages to feel fairly jarring, which makes it all the stranger that it was included as part of Odyssey's season pass. Nevertheless, there is much to enjoy in Assassin's Creed III Remastered so long as one's expectations are framed correctly. This is an old game that has received a facelift but for the most part it is the same title it was six and a half years ago.

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Final Score
For better or worse, [i]Assassin's Creed III Remastered[/i] introduces the polarising Connor Kenway to current generation consoles. Aside from some impressive graphical reworking, it is in many ways a simple port: bugs and issues with the original remain largely the same outside of some much-appreciated quality of life improvements and a handful of minor tweaks. Those who enjoyed the original, as well as Assassin's Creed fans who haven't yet played it, will likely appreciate this remaster for what it is, as long as nothing revolutionary is expected of it.



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