Set against the backdrop of the American Revolution, Assassin's Creed III is a walk through the explosive birth of the world's most powerful nation.
Or at least an alternative version of the story, with non-fiction weaved in throughout.
The game is epic in its scope and beauty: from hunting on the land of a Mohawk band, to guiding a long ship into battle, to galloping on the back of a stolen horse, to stabbing a red coat in the back.
The Assassin's Creed franchise is known for games that play out on a rich tapestry of world history, from the tops of churches in Jerusalem to the lush Tuscan countryside. It's what brought this series to the forefront of gaming.
In 2007, Canadian developer Ubisoft Montreal stunned the gaming community with the depth and beauty of the first game in the franchise, set during the third crusade in the Holy Land in the 12th century.
That title set into motion a battle between the brotherhood of assassins against the Knights Templar that has, so far, spanned five games — three of them numbered.
The series follows Desmond Miles, a bartender who's descended from the bloodline of assassins. In the first Assassin's Creed story, Desmond is snatched by modern-day corporation, Abstergo, and forced to re-live the memories of his ancestors in a machine called the Animus. Those memories are monitored, thus helping those in the present find relics needed to unlock a great power that could control mankind.
The premise continues in Assassin's Creed III (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC). This time, Desmond is in the company of his father and friends, rather than the evil corporate suits, when he enters an Animus found in an ancient New York temple.
However, the meat of the game is played out in 18th century Boston, New York, the rugged Colonial frontier and — in added naval missions — along the Eastern seaboard.
While the game begins with the player controlling Haytham Kenway, a British citizen sent to Boston to hunt for a secret storehouse, the game eventually puts the player in control of Connor Kenway — Haytham's son — who is also half Mohawk.
It's refreshing in a video game world dominated with Caucasian protagonists to break from that mold. Seeing the world through Connor's eyes give an interesting peek into the world of First Nations, increasingly under threat from colonization.
The main trouble with Assassin's Creed III is its glitchy presentation. The joy of the series is becoming immersed in history. However, the experience is often rudely interrupted by loading screens before the frequent short cinematic scenes. Sporadic frame rate drops lift the veil on the game's highly polished finish.
Still, with a game this big, a few glitches and extra loading time can be easily forgiven.
While the game flips back to Desmond at times, re-engaging a convoluted plot that spans all of the titles, I found the title's strength is in the historical setting. There is simply so much to do in the past that it's almost painful to be stuck in the future.
Players can hunt with snares and bait throughout the frontier, catching small game, such as rabbits and beavers, or big game, like bears and cougars.
They can focus on building their homestead by completing missions that help draw more pioneers to their land and increase trade. Or they can engage in naval warfare, firing their cannons at ships along the Eastern seaboard and in the Caribbean.
Bottom line: Assassin's Creed III is a history buff's dream, an opportunity to walk through an authentic layout of Boston in the 1700s, or glimpse First Nation culture and hear characters speak Mohawk. This is a game that you'll keep on your shelf long after you've beaten it, simply so you can revisit the world from time to time.
David Wylie is an editor with The Daily Courier. He has played video games since the olden days of the Atari 2600. Tweet at him: @editorgeek
Your closest friend tumbles into madness and illness before your eyes, as you desperately try to find a way to cure her.
You vow that everything will be OK. But she senses that maybe it won’t.
“Don't make a girl a promise you can't keep,” she tells you, almost teasingly, but with a clear undercurrent of sadness.
You watch while she loses her calm, her wits, her very essence. You refuse to accept you may lose her to disease. Instead, you fight fiercely, recklessly to find a way to save her.
Welcome to Halo 4, the most emotionally explosive game yet in the franchise.
You are the Master Chief, mankind’s greatest hope and also its most dangerous weapon. Your friend is Cortana, a female artificial intelligence who has been your closest confidante and partner in saving the universe for nearly a decade. But her lifespan is up and old age is taking her mind to a disease called "rampancy," a kind of digital dementia.
Not only is your closest ally dying, but once again the fate of the world is on your armoured shoulders.
The Xbox 360 exclusive picks up five years after Halo 3 ends. Master Chief has survived being set adrift for five years on the rear half of the Forward Unto Dawn frigate. His ship crash lands on Requiem, a planet once occupied by the mysterious Forerunners — the race that created powerful weapons that could have ended life in the universe.
What could go wrong?
I won’t spoil it for you, other than to say the new enemies, called the Prometheans, add a challenging new foe to the mix. They also drop more advanced weapons with which to wreak havoc. The new arsenal is a nice complement to some old favourites.
The action is fierce and the battles are intense. But at its heart, Halo 4 is a love story, venturing deeper into the reality of troubled relationships than any of the previous games.
Halo 4 marks the official passing of the Halo baton from the franchise's beloved creator, Bungie, to developer 343 Industries. Don't fear a massive overhaul: the game has the familiar feel of a comfortable pair of shoes.
The campaign is very short — I cruised through in 6 1/2 hours — so some players may feel jilted by brevity. That said, there's a healthy dose of extra content that Halo players have come to expect from the series.
Perhaps the most intriguing addition is the Spartan Ops mode, which opens up extra missions and challenges that can be played alone or with friends online. For the first 10 weeks, a new episode (which has five missions) will be available free each week.
Experience points from Spartan Ops can be spent on upgrading your character with new armour and weapons.
Unfortunately, the popular Firefight mode didn't make the cut. But at least the Forge is back. 343 Industries has created three separate areas where players can create their own playable masterpieces. So expect a flood of player-made levels to try out.
And Halo 4 wouldn't be a true Halo experience without a rich multiplayer mode. I'll cover the War Games mode in a second review once the game has been out for a couple weeks. The true feel of multiplayer becomes clear when it's properly populated.
Bottom line: Halo 4 is a cinematic masterpiece, taking players down a deeper, darker road than they've previously travelled in this universe. We’re watching the series mature. The battle scars are adding up. And that's what will keep this franchise interesting as this new Halo trilogy marches forward.
David Wylie has been playing video games since the olden days of the Atari 2600. Follow him on Twitter: @editorgeek.
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