Doubters have been left with very little to complain about where the Wii U’s launch line-up is concerned. There has been very little dross released alongside some genuinely excellent titles like ZombiU, New Super Mario Bros. U and Nintendo Land; but how have the third-party ports fared?
Well, in the case of Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed III, pretty well. The story of Desmond Miles and his time-hopping killing spree has been ongoing for around 5 years, culminating in this game, which was released on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 just a month before the Wii U’s launch. While the age-old battle between the noble Assassins and ruthless Templars over the fate of humanity is as compelling as ever, the threequel is let down by a multitude of bugs and glitches, some infuriating design decisions and the same problem that has plagued the entire franchise to date: too many distractions, not enough focus.
Despite small complaints, however, AC3 shifted huge figures, once again cementing the franchise as one of the year’s big successes. Not a great deal has been added to, or subtracted from, the Wii U edition, but whether that’s a good or bad thing depends on your opinion of the game as a whole.
Graphically, it’s identical, maintaining the same glossy sheen to hide the same inconsistent textures and shadowing, unless viewed on the GamePad’s 6.2 inch screen, whereupon the picture compression actually makes everything seem crisper and sharper. There’s an issue with slow-down during busier moments, faster chases and big fights in packed streets, sometimes seeing the frame rate drop into the low thirties – or even lower – but again, this is not a new issue exclusive to the Wii U, but rather one we’d have liked to have seen addressed by Ubisoft.
The touchscreen integration is slight compared to some ports like Trine 2 or Batman: Arkham City, moving inventory management and the horse-summoning button to touch control, along with the map, but not much else. The latter makes things a lot easier, as the map is much clearer and makes avoiding patrolling guards a cinch. Beyond that, everything remains mapped to the face buttons with controls identical to the other format versions.
As with many (smaller) Wii U games, there’s an option to play Assassin’s Creed III on the GamePad alone, whereupon the map is relegated back to the less-useful on-screen minimap. Although, playing this way you’re still getting a better handheld version of Assassin’s Creed than the Vita-exclusive Liberation provides.
The fact that the GamePad integration is kept to a comfortable minimum is actually a good thing, allowing Ubisoft to avoid “me-too” gimmicks and deliver what is undoubtedly the best version of Assassin’s Creed III – if only because you gain minimal touchscreen input and the option to play as a handheld, but retain the warts and all of the original release.
It’s almost fair to say that the GamePad is underused, as ZombiU has already shown how it can be utilised as a sniper scope (AC3 has long-barreled muskets) or environment scanner (for use with the Eagle Vision). That said, I’d rather them remain absent than poorly implemented.
VERDICT: Perhaps a little too understated in its exploitation of the new technology, Assassin’s Creed III on the Wii U is the best available version of the game, not only because everything it changes is a positive and what remains untouched is perfectly on par, but because the option to lay back on the couch with the GamePad, earphones in, allowing the stunning audio to drown out Eastenders is tantamount to gaming heaven. No revolution, then, but no slouch either.
Please note that this analysis is purely focused on the new features of the Wii U build. For a detailed write-up of the gameplay, characters, setting and multiplayer element, as well as our final score, read our dedicated Assassin’s Creed III review here.