Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360, PC
Release Date: February 19, 2013
Assassin’s Creed III sits confidently at the top of my list of favorite games from 2012. Between the story, new setting, and control enhancements, I just couldn’t stop visiting Colonial America in order to satiate my need to check off every possible item on my to-do list. Any DLC would have been reason enough to time travel right back in to ACIII, but the alternate history take on one of our own presidents was even more enticing. Washington’s turn to evil in this episodic “What if?” scenario provides a neat incentive for players to return to ACIII, but it’s just too bad that this first episode in the trilogy, The Infamy, didn’t spark much excitement outside of the idea.
Connor returns, but not in his right state of mind. Instead of donning the signature robes of the Assassin Brotherhood, he instead is draped in a more traditional Native American garb, complete with a wolf head rug covering his back and head. Strangely enough, Connor is completely lost in a whirlwind of confusion, only retaining memories from the proper game, rather than the twisted reality presented before him. Initial disorientation surrounds him as he sees previously dead people and pieces together events that should not be. The evil King Washington is the most puzzling of the bunch, since his newfound crooked royal status is a far cry from the equality he once sought after.
All of that is set up happens within the first thirty minutes and, as intriguing as it is, it fails to develop much beyond that. Missions that follow the late title card feel like glorified side missions with their introductory nature and tedious objectives. Save these people, listen to these dudes, go to this place; none of it has much to do with George Goddamn Washington and fumbles the execution of such a compelling idea. Optimistically, the cliffhanger ending and sluggish start will mean the next two episodes will execute on the vision, but that doesn’t necessarily make this standalone section worth it.
Assassin’s Creed III, at its core, brings a certain feeling to players. Since I enjoy actually playing ACIII, running and fighting imitated the same sense of fluidity and satisfaction found in the core game. The Infamy chooses to have you exercise these talents, but in an arena that is far less able to bring out the best of each of the gameplay facets.
Mission structure doesn’t reflect the best parts of the mechanics. In fact, this DLC does the opposite, blatantly showing the holes ACIII tried to cover up. Stringent eavesdropping, stupid mission fail states, and just boring, route objectives deliver an Assassin’s Creed III experience that looks savvy on the surface, but one that cherrypicks the worst ideas and centralizes itself around them. Even the final assassination is anticlimactic, confusing, and lacks any sort of strategic planning.
One new mechanic boasted in this DLC is invisibility, something Connor must have learned from Adam Jensen. Instead of cybernetic implants, Connor summons his spirit animal, a wolf, to camouflage himself with his surroundings. Rendering him invisible, Connor can assassinate while cloaked and swiftly move from place to place, as long as his dwindling health supply doesn’t run dry. On a novel level, turning invisible is fun, but the game isn’t really built around it. Given the strict mission design, experimentation isn’t an option since messing up forces a restart. Instead, you’ll have to go invisible from hiding spot to hiding spot until you reach your objective. Stealth games should incentivize actually doing stuff instead of waltzing past everything because the designers have effectively rewarded the player for not actually playing.
Missions are bland, but not when compared to the anemic side mission offering. Calling them side missions might be too generous because, besides freeing convoys, they boil down to running up to people and pressing a certain button. Enthralling.
Despite this botched attempt at the introductory episode, an optimistic side of me hopes that this was just a means to plant seeds to make the future two installments better packages. The overwhelming rush job encompassing The Infamy is foreign to the series, something the lame missions and overall shoddy feeling emit thoroughly. Like the season pass that guarantees all three episodes, a promise is basically all The Infamy can give. It could and should get better, because if it didn’t, it would squander such a brilliant idea.
+Fighting and climbing are inherently fun
+Compelling opening and idea
-Overly strict mission design
-New abilities aren’t utilized well
-Drab missions both narratively and mechanically