Assassin’s Creed III – Review (PS3)

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I felt the opening few hours of Assassin’s Creed III were great. As set up for the main story it does a great job and working through these closed, more linear parts showed that Assassin’s Creed doesn’t always have to be about the size of the open world area.

Unfortunately once you get to the main crux of the game Assassin’s Creed III struggles under the weight of being a fully fledged ‘numbered’ Creed title.

Discounting the story, which seems to increase in insanity with each installment  the Assassin’s Creed games have gotten better with each title. This hit a plateau between Brotherhood and Revelations, with the latter feeling a little tired. Unfortunately Assassin’s Creed III, despite the new setting, also suffers this fate.

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It’s not all doom and gloom though – firstly the character animation (which also featured in the Vita spin off Liberation) is superb. The movement through trees and the forest is wonderfully natural, especially in the snow.

Movement looks fluid and believable for the most part, although I did hit an issue that seemed to affect a few people – namely in some of the cutscenes no characters mouths were moving. So conversations would be happening between two characters gesturing to each other but with mouths tightly clamped shut. It looked weird and, of course, dragged you out of the game for the moment.

The naval combat, while fairly limited, was also fantastic and great fun. It looks like lots of people agreed with me, seeing as the recently announced Assassin’s Creed IV will be a pirate game.

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I also enjoyed the hunting missions and some of the Homestead/side missions. Although everything is still very much map led – all of the stuff you can do is indicated with a marker. Which I don’t have a problem with for main missions but it would be nice if more games adopted a more Red Dead Redemption style of side stuff that you can pick up by interacting with characters that aren’t highlighted etc.

Sadly the story stuff is the weak link here, a lot of the missions felt like too much of a slog and some of them just weren’t very interesting. There were a few highlights and for some of the time it was great to be in control of Connor.

However another issue is that Connor as a character was almost totally devoid of empathy or emotion. He was a selfish brat with no redeeming features. I’m all for playing as characters that are a bit of a fool and go through a decent character arc but I didn’t feel Connor changed much at all over the course of the game.

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As the Assassin’s Creed games have got more and more successful they have moved away from the actual assassinations of the original game. There isn’t the planning and scheming to take out a target anymore – simply head to a marker and kill everyone.

It was something I mentioned in my recent Hitman Absolution review but one part stuck out for me when playing Assassin’s Creed III: tasked with taking out a target I headed to the map marker, sneaked up on him and activated what I thought would be an instant kill and instead was greeted by a health bar which triggered an alert in all the guards I’d just sneaked by. And that to me is disappointing.

So the campaign starts well but ends up fairly average. What of the multiplayer?

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Ubisoft have been tweaking the online of Assassin’s Creed ever since they introduced it and here it’s at its refined best. With a whole host of modes and a much improved stun mechanic. I had great fun dipping in and found the multiplayer to be tight, responsive and very competitive… even when just starting out.

So it’s a mixed bag really – while the game makes some good forward steps (character animation/naval combat/improvements in online play) it is let down by a plodding story that has one of the most disappointing characters in the series. Assassin’s Creed III is a good game, it just doesn’t compare to the adventures of Ezio Auditore.

Rating: 7/10

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Assassin’s Creed II – Review (PS3)

A lot of people complained (me included) when they saw that Assassin’s Creed II was nominated for a Game Of The Year Award (among others) at the VGA’s as it has only been out a few weeks.

But anyone who has played Assassin’s Creed II will be able to tell you why it was nominated – it is indeed that good.

The first Assassin’s Creed was a good game with some nice ideas and lovely graphics but it suffered from repetitive missions and the fact you had to synchronise viewpoints to access the next section.

No such problems with the sequel as Ubisoft have taken on the feedback from the critics and fans. For example you’re a lot more free to approach missions as you want to and the viewpoints are now optional – they reveal more helpful locations on the map but they aren’t obligatory.

The story picks up with Desmond Miles after the conclusion of the first game as he escapes with Lucy Stillman from the Abstergo Industries building and finds himself in a safe house with a new Animus, delving into another set of ancestral memories.

This time you’ll be playing as Ezio Auditore da Firenze in Italy in the 1400’s. This is a glorious setting as you move between Tuscany, Florence, Venice and more. The difference in areas is apparent and they have gone to a lot of trouble to make each feel individual.

As well as the main plot missions there are a wealth of side missions and collectibles – the ones that hooked me were the Assassin’s Seals. These are objects hidden in tombs and churches that are basically climbing and exploring sections – once you get all six you can unlock Altair’s armour that is locked away in your Villa.

You can do races, collect feathers, find glynphs, beat people up and take on side assassinations among other things.

This freedom of choice means you never feel railroaded into anything and delivers a wonderful gaming experience.

It’s not without it’s problems though.

On occasions the combat and climbing mechanics are clunky and don’t respond in the way you need it to – annoying if you’ve almost climbed a huge building only to inadvertently dive down into the water instead of jumping up further.

My main complaint was the codex pages – collectables you could find and convert into extra health, weapon upgrades etc. But they are also integral to the game and you’ll need all 30 to do the final mission.

If I’d known they were that important I’d have picked them up as I went along – instead it meant before the last mission I had to go and find the last 14! Totally broke the pacing of the game/story.

But they are small problems within a hugely enjoyable gaming experience. Assassin’s Creed II is the game the first wanted to be – finally the ideas have been realised and I can’t wait for the next instalment.

Rating: 9/10

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Assassin’s Creed: Bloodlines – Review (PSP)

As someone who quite enjoyed the first Assassin’s Creed game, despite it’s somewhat repetitive nature, I was really looking forward to stepping back into Altair’s shoes.

Assassin’s Creed: Bloodlines picks up after the end of the previous game, with Altair travelling to Cyprus to seek out and destroy the last of the Templars.

Having been playing Assassin’s Creed 2 alongside it the button set up felt natural but it might seem a little confusing at first, with three sets of controls attributed to the face buttons depending on what else you’re pressing.

So on their own they perform low level feats such as blending into a crowd etc, with the left shoulder button held they control the camera angle and with the right shoulder button held they perform high risk feats such as climbing/assassinations etc. It sounds more complicated than it is! 😉

Unfortunately, as is the case for the two PS3 games (though less so for Assassin’s Creed 2, which is a lot more intuitive), this means you’ll often be trying to flee by climbing and the game won’t recognize your button press in time. It doesn’t happen too much thankfully and when the system works it is thrilling.

Obviously being a handheld title the AI doesn’t challenge too much and it was a little easy to just blend into a crowd after murdering someone but once the alert is raised they will persue you fairly relentlessly – which is great.

They come in numbers as well, although you’ll probably not have more than 4 or 5 around you at one time. Believe me that is more than enough – on a few occasions I found myself ducking out of fight situations and making a run for it 😆

The storyline was fairly interesting and concerned the Templar archive that Altair was trying to track down.

On the downside the audio was pretty poor, not only in terms of voice acting but also the spoken word parts skipped and jumped in places (switch the subtitles on!).

The gameplay itself is a touch repetitive and overall the experience reminded me much of the first game rather than the improved sequel.

The graphics are superb and Altair has some great assassination animations. There was no slowdown or anything like that, even with numerous enemies and civilians on screen. It’s nice to see people pushing the PSP.

One thing that is cool is the connectivity between the PSP game and Assassin’s Creed 2 on the PS3. Depending on your progress you can unlock new things in both – to be honest it’s better going from the PSP to PS3 as you get 6 new weapons (sweet :cool:) whereas on the PSP you get a few bits, like being able to block with the hidden blade etc. Would love to see more games do this.

Overall then Assassin’s Creed: Bloodlines reminds me a lot of the Syphon Filter PSP games – good fun to play but a touch repetitive and without major challenge. Definitely worth a play though.

This gets an 8 rather than a 7 for the very cool connectivity idea.

Rating: 8/10

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TOP 10 SINGLE PLAYER PS3 GAMES

There are a great deal of amazing online games you can play with your mates *coughs* Killzone 2 *coughs* 😆 on your PS3.

While these are often really rewarding experiences it’s true that sometimes you just fancy going solo, staying ‘signed out’ and hitting some single-player action. Or you haven’t got the internet (Andrew (@shandation) I’m looking at you).

So for those of you looking for something a bit more story based that you can enjoy on your own here is my list of the top 10 best single player games:

10) MIRROR’S EDGE

Mirror’s Edge wowed everyone with its crisp, clean graphics and it’s unique first person perspective.

Obviously a lot of games have a first person viewpoint but most of these are ‘shooters’ whereas Mirror’s Edge is more of a parkour style run and jump adventure.

The game takes place in a slightly futuristic setting, in a city that is totally controlled by the government. They keep tabs on the general population by using surveillance cameras and tracking all forms of electronic communication.

You take on the role on Faith, a “Runner”, who uses rooftops and other means to help deliver physical messages between revolutionary groups within the city. Following on from a set of dramatic events Faith finds herself being hunted by the authorities and has to try to stop the government silencing her.

The perspective takes a while to get used to and it had a few really annoying parts where it was difficult to time jumps etc because of the view but Mirror’s Edge is certainly worth playing through as it offers a style of gameplay that is totally unique in the current games market.

9) RAINBOW SIX VEGAS

If you like your first person shooters with a bit of brain behind the brawn then Rainbow Six Vegas may be the game for you.

You play as Logan Keller a member of the elite Rainbow Six team. Initially sent into a small Mexican border town to flush out a terrorist ringleader. Soon after your escapades south of the border you’re deployed to Las Vegas where a new terrorist threat is imminent.

This game is a lot more tactical than your average fps, for the majority of the game you’ll have two AI teammates with you who you can order to move into position and even get them to ‘stack up’ (ie get ready to enter) at unopened doors.

And you’ll need all the help you can get. This isn’t an easy game and Ubisoft have gone for a more realistic tone. You’re probably looking at two shots before death and it’s possible for enemies to catch you with a headshot and kill you with one bullet.

Luckily your team mates are pretty intelligent and commanding them isn’t a problem.

With a good old fashioned SAS vs Terrorists style plot and lots of fun set pieces Rainbow Six Vegas is definitely worth a shot.

8 ) KANE AND LYNCH

The first of two, in my opinion, vastly underrated PS3 games that make this list.

While not setting the world on fire and suffering from some control/camera issues Kane and Lynch was a brilliant gaming experience.

You take control of Adam ‘Kane’ Marcus, a criminal on his way to death row for crimes committed in Venezuela. Kane is busted out of his prison van by a mysterious group called The7 who he worked with previously. They think Kane stole the money from their last job and stashed it somewhere.

If he doesn’t get them the money back in three weeks his wife and daughter will be killed. Kane claims he doesn’t know where it is but he does know who took the cash and will hunt them down. And so begins a thoroughly enjoyable ride into the desperate life of Kane…

My full review is available here: https://greghorrorshow.wordpress.com/2009/01/26/lynch-do-this-lynch-do-that-lynch-stop-murdering-the-hostages/

While this game is fairly linear some of the set pieces are really impressive, the bank job and the jailbreak spring to mind immediately as stand out levels.

You can pick this up for as little as £14.99 pre-owned and it’s certainly worth a play through.

7) HEAVENLY SWORD

Another game that didn’t garner the respect it deserves, primarily because it didn’t live up to the pre-release hype.

I played this a while after it came out and wasn’t really effected by the previous hype so I really enjoyed it.

If you like God Of War you will like this game as it’s similar in style but it looks gorgeous in HD and I believe did a few bits (combos/blocking etc) better than the first two God Of War games.

Heavenly Sword tells the story of Nariko, a brutal female warrior whose clan protects the “Heavenly Sword”, a sword from the god’s that actually drains the life from whoever uses it. King Bohan, ruler of the land, wants to get the sword and use it for his own means.

The battles are frantic, often with hundreds of soldiers onscreen at once and the cut scenes have some of the best production values I’ve ever seen.

Heavenly Sword has a great story but is fairly short by game standards – you’re probably looking at around 5-6 hours to finish it however they will be a fun filled few hours!

6) ASSASSIN’S CREED

Assassin’s Creed is the story of bartender Desmond Miles who is kidnapped by a nameless company and awakens to find himself strapped into a machine (The Animus) that unlocks deeply buried memories from Desmond’s ancestors that are intertwined within Desmond’s DNA.

The memory they are interested in is of a man called Altair, an assassin around the year 1191 in the Holy Land.

Effectively you play through Desmond’s memories as Altair (with brief interludes as Desmond struggling to find out what is going on in the present day). You will need to research targets and carry out assassinations using a variety of options – sword, hidden blade, knife etc.

The only problem I had with this game was the initial scouting – you cannot progress into certain areas (your memory is blocked 😮 ) until you have scaled a huge building and surveyed the surrounding area. I found this a bit boring and repetitive however you must stick with the game past this part to get the best of it.

This game is great fun and I’m looking forward to the sequel which is on it’s way.

5) KILLZONE 2

Don’t need to say much about this game really, my review can be found here: https://greghorrorshow.wordpress.com/2009/02/16/killzone-2-review-ps3/

The multi-player is what everyone has concentrated on and rightly so, however the solo mode is definitely worth playing.

The cinematics are brilliant and some of the set pieces really do feel like you’re there.

While it might not have the best storyline ever written if you have a PS3, whether you plan on getting online or not, this is an essential purchase.

4) GTA IV

One the biggest selling games of this generation GTA IV features the fortunes (and lack thereof) of Niko Bellic – an immigrant arriving in the US at Liberty City to find empty promises and broken dreams from his cousin Roman.

As you work your way up the criminal ladder you’ll encounter all sort of dodgy characters and befriend even more.

The amount of things you can do in GTA IV is mind boggling but never feels overwhelming.

Once you get the hang of the aim and cover systems you will be blasting your way round the city in no time.

This is one of those games you really have to play to believe. The way the world carries on around you, the overheard conversations of other pedestrians, the fact you could play this game for hours experiencing new things without even touching the missions.

Liberty City is a wonderful, if run down, place and Niko Bellic’s story is one you will enjoy playing through so make sure you pick this game up as soon as possible.

3) METAL GEAR SOLID 4

Well, well, well. If it isn’t the Magnum Opus of the PS3.

Hideo Kojima’s tale of Solid Snake’s final mission is a brilliant showcase of the Playstation 3’s power.

Metal Gear Solid 4 is set seven years after the events of the 2nd game (Metal Gear Solid 3 having been a prequel) and sees Snake back in action – but this time as an old man. Because of his accelerated aging process (play the other three games to find out why 😀 ) we find ourselves playing as a hero who is, I suspect, about 60.

Obviously this doesn’t really hamper him too much apart from the odd moan about his back giving him jip 😆 and where the previous games featured mainly stealth, Metal Gear 4 allows you to be a bit more gung ho.

This is a game that often gives you three or four different ways of approaching things – whether you realise it or not.

One thing about the story is that the cut scenes can be long – and I mean long. Some of them clocked in well over half an hour and obviously that’s a fair while to just sit watching.

But this is one game that rewards those patient enough to stick with it by giving them a great gaming experience, with some memorable boss battles, that they won’t forget.

2) DEAD SPACE

Coming on somewhere between Event Horizon and Aliens, Dead Space is a third person survival horror game.

You take on the role of Isaac Clarke, a ship engineer who finds himself trapped onboard a stricken spaceship infested with an alien outbreak which is threatening to take over the ship.

Full review of the game here: https://greghorrorshow.wordpress.com/2009/02/10/dead-space-review/

Needless to say this was one of the best games I played last year and it deserves to be above both GTA IV and Metal Gear 4 for its storytelling and atmospheric setting.

The use of sound is immense and the fear of the unexpected they create is awesome. I am not a big fan of horror movies or being made to jump all the time but Dead Space kept on the right side of all that by being unpredictable enough to be enjoyable as a ‘horror’ experience.

1) UNCHARTED: DRAKE’S FORTUNE

Nathan Drake, the character you control, is an explorer and treasure hunter.

Uncharted maps his journey as he tries to find the lost treasure of El Dorado encountering, among other things, rival treasure hunters and mercenaries.

Initial impressions article here: https://greghorrorshow.wordpress.com/2009/01/26/uncharted-drakes-fortune-quality/

I still maintain this is possibly the best PS3 game I have played as an overall experience.

The graphics are unbelievable and the gameplay is well paced and well thought out. The characters and story and really well conceived and Nolan North, who voices Drake, is absolutely spot on with his irreverent humour and wisecracks.

At its heart Uncharted is an action adventure game much in the vein of Indiana Jones or Tomb Raider but, and I say this as a fan of both of these, it is better than either of them.

There is no reason for anyone not to buy this as it’s now in the platinum range (£19.99) and can actually be bought online for as little as £14.99. Get it.. now!

So there you have it.

This list is obviously based on stuff I have played and enjoyed so there are bound to be a few great games missing (Bioshock, which I must get at some stage, Call Of Duty (although again I’ve heard that is stronger in multi-player?) and Resi Evil 5 but I’ve only played a couple of levels of that so far).

I have to give an honourable mention as well to Fallout 3 – I am nowhere near finishing this as the game is absolutely huge with tons to do and lots of different ways for your character to affect the story. If you’re looking for a game to get lost in for ages, as opposed to the usual 8-12 hours, I would give this a thumbs up.

The list above was formed with shorter bursts of gaming in mind and with a view to gamers who’d rather finish a few 10 hour games than start four or five 30+ hour games and never get to the end of them!

Feel free to add any games you’ve enjoyed in the comments that might have been left off the list.