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Assassin’s Creed III for the Wii U: Same great taste, less filling

Nintendo’s launch window for the Wii U has offered a little something for everyone. Beyond the Wii U exclusives, and beyond the re-releases of older big name titles like Mass Effect 3 and Batman: Arkham City, the timing has worked out in Nintendo’s favor, and many big November releases have added the Wii U to their platform releases – albeit a bit later than the releases on the other systems.

One of those big releases (and one of the biggest games of the year regardless of system), Assassin’s Creed III, joins the Wii U during its launch. In most regards, the game is identical to the October 30 release that we reviewed and liked quite a bit, but with a few differences.

The story remains the same, with the focus being on the half-English, half-Native American assassin, Connor, as seen through the eyes of the modern day assassin Desmond Miles. All of the missions, side quests, and multiplayer modes are present. The Wii U version is a direct port, and while it does offer a few new features thanks to the Wii U’s unique capabilities, the content remains the same.

The most notable inclusion is the addition of Remote Play, which allows you to play the game in its entirety on the GamePad. This feature can’t be understated, especially with games like this, games that are giant and immersive, and require huge commitments of time. And while it is just cool in and of itself to have the ability to do this, your friends/roommates/significant others are the real beneficiaries. There are a few downsides to this though.

The controls of the Assassin’s Creed series have been fine-tuned over the course of six years and five games. They require you to move quickly and fluidly as you free run through historical locations, reveling in the video game version of parkour. Those controls have been both the source of praise and frustration depending on who you ask, but regardless, they are crafted with a very particular and demanding gameplay fluidity in mind. The GamePad is not made for this.

It is something you can get used to with practice and effort, but the movements are designed for a different type of controller, and it shows. The Pro Controller is a better fit for this game, but that sacrifices the other benefits of the GamePad.

The Wii U version incorporates the GamePad in ways beyond the Remote Play. While playing it traditionally, the GamePad’s display shows you the map of the area you are in, as well as adding a few touch controls that make switching weapons simple. There is also a dedicated touch screen button that allows you to call your horse. These are all relatively minor changes, but having the map makes things a bit easier – or at least smoother.

One notable change, however, is to the graphics. The design of the game on the original version teeters between good and great, with some things like the environments looking better than the facial animations. It’s consistently good throughout though. That graphical prowess should be increased on the Wii U, but it’s not. For the most part, the graphics are the same, but there are some technical problems with things like the anti-aliasing that consistently mars the display. It isn’t always an issue, but more often than not, if you are looking at a ship or anything with lines highlighted by a separate background, there will be a jagged look to them that wasn’t present in the other versions of the game. It’s a shame too, because the Wii U has more power to wield, and yet it under delivers. These graphical hiccups are even more noticeable when you use Remote Play and switch to the GamePad. What are minor issues on the TV are far more obvious on the smaller screen, but the benefit of being able to play on a device you can walk around with makes this something of a wash.  

Conclusion

While still a great game and a must own for Wii U fans that are interested in the Assassin’s Creed series, there are tradeoffs between the Wii U version and its console cousins. The version on Nintendo’s system offers the ability to play on the GamePad, which is great, but it also reflects the graphical issues that are present on any display. The GamePad also isn’t made for this type of game, and while you can get used to it in time, the better option is the Pro Controller, which negates the benefits of the Wii U.

Make no mistake, Assassin’s Creed III for the Wii U is still a great game and well worth your time, and the benefits the new console offers are nice. There are issues though, and those issues make the other versions a bit superior, but not by much.

 Score: 9 out of 10

(This game was reviewed on the Wii U, using a copy provided by the publisher)

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