REVIEW: Assassin’s Creed III Remastered

The remastered version of Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed 3 is finally here.

It has been seven years since Assassin’s Creed III first released back in 2012 so fans of the franchise have had plenty of time to reflect on its overall impact on it. The most notable impact would be its introduction of naval combat, which has served as a cornerstone element of every Assassin’s Creed title since then, particularly in the game’s highly successful swashbuckling follow-up, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. Of course, Black Flag and future titles would never have been as successful as it was had they not added to what was already presented in the American Revolution-based entry.

Since then Ubisoft’s formula for one of its most well-received franchises has undergone several more revolutionary changes, such as their decision to have the franchise lean further into its RPG roots with a heavily revamped combat system in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey that arguably does make it difficult to adjust to the old system that is present in Assassin’s Creed III Remastered. With this in mind, I can definitely say that while I am glad that Ubisoft has given me a chance to re-experience the first Assassin’s Creed game I ever played, I can also say that not all of the minor technical improvements completely smooth out the problems that were present in the 2012 version.

It is important to note that the base game is not the only thing present on Assassin’s Creed 3 Remastered. The game is in fact a bundle that icludes all three episodes of its Tyranny of King Washington DLC and the PSVita/PS3 exclusive Assassin’s Creed Liberation as well as extra behind-the-scenes content. This an added bonus for me as someone who never got to play Liberation or Tyranny because I didn’t have access to the funds to play them or a Vita, so you can imagine how excited I am to experience those for the first time. All three were made available as a free bundle by Ubisoft if you purchased the season pass for last year’s Assassin’s Creed Odyssey.

Comparing the last-gen version of Assassin’s Creed 3 to the current-gen Assassin’s Creed 3 Remastered. Video Credit: Ubisoft North America.

One of the most notable upgrades made to Assassin’s Creed III Remastered is the graphics overhaul, which Liberation also receives. The graphic overhaul is only available if you have a Playstation 4 Pro or Xbox One X, but it is locked at 30 frames-per-second. For PC, the frames-per-second can go almost all the way up to 1440p if you have a powerful enough rig, which is where Ubisoft has it capped at presumably.

This graphic overhaul does wonders for the world that this game plunges you into. 18th Century Boston feels so much more alive than it did in 2012, minus the occasional rag doll dead guys, which is a pretty common glitch in just about every Ubisoft game. The detail in the buildings is much more exquisite as well. The cobblestone streets, brick-and-mortal buildings, and wooden shingles on every building look like they were individually sculpted to perfection, which is a big step-up compared to the lack of visual fidelity present in the Ezio Collection remaster that Ubisoft released in 2016.

The detail doesn’t end there either. In the winter, windows present a more frosted look like you’d expect windows at that time to have, but you still cannot see through them, which was true in the 2012 edition as well.

Outside of the game’s urban locations, the frontier is equally impressive and takes on a life of its very own. The seasonal changes are a lot more noticeable too. In spring and during the summer it is teeming with fauna and flora like you’d expect to see on the East Coast. During the winter season, the snow has a noticeable more realistic sparkle-effect, which is a improvement because it never felt like it was snowing in the 2012 edition despite their being so much snow everywhere. It feels like a much livelier open-world similar to the one in Ubisoft’s Far Cry 5 and Red Dead Redemption II, both of which are two of my favorite open-world games to be released in the past two years.

Assassin’s Creed 3 Remastered‘s Frontier. Screenshot courtesy of Ubisoft.

As for Liberation, I cannot talk too much about the graphical differences because as I stated previous I never had a chance to play it on either of the platforms that it was available on. It’d be difficult for me to draw comparisons, but from my understanding it is already a major improvement from the HD version that was ported to the Playstation 3 so the amount of changes Ubisoft had to make to it likely aren’t as substantial, which is fine. Liberation has often never been seen as a substantial installment to the franchise and largely received a mixed to negative reception from the fanbase when it first released in 2012 alongside Assassin’s Creed III.

Naturally, not everything Assassin’s Creed III Remastered does is perfect and not every technical fault from the original is completely eradicated like you would hope. The detail on clothing, animals, hair, and in people’s faces still has much to desire compared to later installments such as Odyssey, Origins, and even Unity. Even with improved lighting, hair is wiry thin, faces are largely blank, you still can’t see the shine in people’s eyes, the clothing is still blurred and if it isn’t blurry then it pops in late, which tends to be commonplace for several Ubisoft titles and not just the Assassin’s Creed franchises. It is evident that these characters are still the same three-dimensional figures from 2012 being brought into 2019 for our consumption. There’s no denying that this is still very much a Playstation 3 title and not one designed specifically for the Playstation 4, no matter how hard the ‘remastered’ tagline is slapped on to it.

The game’s animations are not the only things that aggressively highlight the fact that it came out seven years ago either. There are some off-putting sound-synchronization issues that I’ve noticed within the first few hours of my playthrough as well. During cutscenes, the movement of mouths don’t always align properly with the words being said, which I initially believed was my television since this isn’t really an issue with modern installments of the franchise. Of course, I should not necessarily be surprised by this and anybody who got to play Assassin’s Creed 3 in 2012 will know that this was a major issue that Ubisoft never got around to patching back in the day. I would hope that they acknowledge the problem now and fix it compared to last time when they did not. Gunfire noises tend to occur AFTER the enemy NPCs fire at you.

The mission structure of Assassin’s Creed III may be jarring for some people who are more familiar with the revamped mission system that was first introduced in Assassin’s Creed Origins and expanded on in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. Players aren’t going to be juggling an overwhelming plethora of side-missions as they traverse across the American frontier like they would have to in Ancient Egypt or Ancient Greece. It is easy to just race through the game’s main missions, where more time is spent on cutscenes than any actual gameplay or you just slowly walking around the streets of New York having to listen to someone provide you with background details on whoever you’re supposed to assassinate where you are then hit with ANOTHER cutscene and more dialogue. I found this to be repetitive back in 2012 and I still do in 2019 as someone who prefers to just jump into the action whenever the opportunity makes itself available to me. I think it is more egregious and noticeable in the game’s modern day sequences, which are still pretty irritating to me. If you played Assassin’s Creed 3 on the last generation of consoles then you’ll be happy to know that the ending has not been changed. Whether fans find joy in this is something I leave entirely up to one’s individual taste. In my non-spoiler filled opinion, I think that it is still a problematic ending and is the root of my grievances with Ubisoft’s current mishandling of the modern day sequences in the franchise.

Desmond Miles, the game’s modern day protagonist. Screenshot courtesy of Ubisoft

As for the game’s quality of life updates that Ubisoft heavily touted during Assassin’s Creed III Remastered‘s announcement, I think this is where it shines most and really makes it feel like remastered version of a game and not just a port to the current generation. On the game’s minimap, enemy NPCs aren’t just red blips on a map. Instead, they’re detailed icons that will let you know what direction they’re looking at and help you identify what sort of enemy you are similar to what every Assassin’s Creed title from Black Flag and on has done. This will give you a chance to better strategize how you may take them on. For example, if you’re trying to assassinate a rooftop gunner then you’ll see them pop up on the map as a teardrop with a crosshair in the middle. It’ll make jumping from rooftop-to-rooftop and being stealthy a lot easier when you know exactly what kind of enemies are looking out for you.

The game also introduces a newly revised crafting system akin to later installments in the series like Black Flag and Rogue. You can now craft weapons on the go instead of stopping by a store, which definitely comes in handy when you’re on your way to another mission. Players also receive increased opportunities to test their skills as assassins with more stealth-related kills being present. Yeah, you may think that whistling to attract guards and waiting behind corners to get your targets is a cornerstone for the franchise but contrary to that popular assumption, it hasn’t always been that way. The original game didn’t have those features either. The hidden blade is now automatically your default-stealth assassination weapon, so you don’t have to worry about having to constantly swap to it in your menu like in the original game either. Often times that was something I’d forget to do back when I played it in 2012 and it proved to cause many headaches since it’d compromise my cover.

As a recap for those who have never played Assassin’s Creed III, players are cast into the role of Ratonhnhaké:ton (Ra-Doon-Ha-Gay-Doon), a half-Native American assassin who lived during the American Revolution. Connor Kenway, as he is referred to outside becomes caught up in the war after the death of his mother and learning that his father, Haytham, is a Templar who is orchestrating the elaborate conspiracies that start the war alongside his cohorts, Charles Lee, John Pitcairn, Benjamin Church, and a few others. In his quest for vengeance, Connor has a chance to participate in some of the most pivotal moments of the Revolution such as the Boston Tea Party and the Battle of Bunker Hill and explore the British-occupied streets of New York City and Boston as well as sail the Atlantic.

Sailing the seas in Assassin’s Creed 3 Remastered. Screenshot courtesy of Ubisoft.

With Assassin’s Creed III Remastered, Ubisoft did its very best to conceal the game’s age with a lot of small graphical and quality of life improvements. You can tell that 2019 Ubisoft went back in time and tried to find a way to bring one of the most game-changing installments in the franchise up to 2019 standards instead of 2012 standards, but in some respects it does fall short of being able to do that even with all of the appreciated improvements. Would I classify this as a true remaster? Yes, because there are enough differences to the game that make it feel like that instead of just a port where a developer just drops the game with no technical or graphical improvements to make a quick buck. If you are a veteran of the franchise, I definitely still recommend that you pick it up to complete your collection and this is something that will help you pass the time until the next Assassin’s Creed game drops in 2020. If you’re new to the franchise, I will tell you that this is still worth the purchase even if you maybe have found yourself to be more captivated by the current formula, which means you’ll have to take your time with it. There’s a bit of a backwards learning curve here since a lot of what you can do in say, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, cannot be done here.

Assassin’s Creed III Remastered is now available on the Playstation 4, Xbox One X, and PC. Ubisoft has previously announced that the remastered version of the game is set to launch on the Nintendo Switch on May 21st, 2019.

RATING: 4/5.