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Assassin's Creed III features the silliest and most self-defeating mission design in the the series' history, and it's a huge shame. When it isn't directly hamstrung by constrained mission areas, flakey AI, and imprecise movement, it manages to steer you into the path of these flaws anyway with optional objectives that encourage you to game the system - and Assassin's Creed III's systems do not hold up well to gaming. When full sync bonuses were introduced in Brotherhood, they were designed to encourage creative use of the tools at your disposal. Here they more often tamp down your options, exposing the emptiness of the game underneath.There's a lot more to an Assassin's Creed game than its missions, but the fifth in the series drops the ball with such regularity that it resonates through the entire experience. A pervasive sense of frustration is the snare drum that accompanies Assassin's Creed III on its march through the American revolution. You undertake that march - for the most part - as Connor, a young assassin with a British father and a Native American mother. Connor's quest to negotiate a future for his people against the backdrop of revolutionary war is well written and often well acted. The game's treatment of issues of race, class, democracy and empire even manages to be insightful.Characterisation is strong. Connor will get some flak simply for not being Ezio, but he comes into his own in the second half of the game. Assassin's Creed III has a cracking villain, too, in a senior British Templar that the writers seem to like more than they do their ostensible lead. The game suffers for a lack of female characters - the only real exception being Connor's mother, who after a brief period of activity retreats from the stage to usher in the series' next male protagonist.Puppeteer-style controls are gone, replaced with traditional keybindings: interact, attack, secondary weapon and so on. The verisimilitude suggested by the old arms, legs and head system has been lost, but the new way is clearer and for the most part it's a worthy change.Counter-riposte combos are still the dominating force in combat, but what exactly constitutes a riposte has been diversified: firing lines mean grabbing an enemy to use as a shield, and heavy foes are better responded to with quick, aggressive jabs at their defences than waiting for them to attack. No more Ezio-style multi-man murder sprees spring from a single tap of the attack button. The game looks substantially better on PC but otherwise this is an underwhelming port. Keyboard and mouse controls can't be rebound and feel like an afterthought.The root of my issue with Assassin's Creed III is this: that for as much stuff as it provides, the amount that it actually allows you to do feels thinner than ever. A vast amount of its content can be reduced to 'get from A to B and push a button', and stealth rarely strays from minigame territory. Assassin's Creed III's basic mechanics fare much better in multiplayer, where human opponents - or allies, in the co-op Wolfpack assassination challenges - provide the depth and dynamism that the single-player game lacks. The other area where the game excels comes entirely from left field: naval combat.Connor moonlights as a privateer captain in a series of optional sea missions that thread in and out of the main plot. During these you take the helm of an Assassin frigate, barking orders at your men and steering your warship into broadsides and boarding actions. It's absolutely spectacular - weather and ocean effects create a phenomenal sense of place, and control is just arcadey enough to be exciting while retaining the heft associated with 18th century naval warfare. Assassin's Creed III rises above mediocrity by virtue of its ambition, its writing, and the set-piece moments where its best ideas form ranks and push. It's the sequel that proves that a revolutionary rethink is needed, but not the sequel that pulls it off.