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Video Game Avengers Assemble! Fan Art

I’m not sure why, but photoshop mash-ups of fandoms i’m into seem to be the fun way to express my creativity lately. Here is my latest my interpretation of Video Game characters that would fit the Avengers. I have Mass Effect’s Shepard/Captain America, Halo’s Master Chief/Iron Man, Metroid’s Samus Aran/Black Widow, God of War’s Kratos/Thor, Assassin’s Creed’s Connor/Hawkeye, Metal Gear’s Solid Snake/Nick Fury. I’m still trying to figure out who the Hulk would be so i have a spacer just for him and I’m open to suggestions. I know there are probably other better matches but I tended to choose the games and characters I’m really into right. Maria Hill, Agent Coulson, War Machine are other characters i’m thinking of doing next. Full post here

Video Game Review: Assassin’s Creed III (spoilers galore)

Here it is folks! One of the most highly-anticipated games of the year.  The newest addition to UbiSoft’s very popular and successful franchise, Assassin’s Creed.  After a very impressive showing at E3 and a series of intriguing advertisements, does “III” finally end the Desmond arc in worthy fashion?   

Having been kidnapped by modern-day Templars, Desmond Miles was forced into a machine called the animus to experience the lives of his ancestors, Altair Ibn-La’Ahad and Ezio Auditore, two grandmasters of the Assassin order.  Through them, he learned of these artifacts called Pieces of Eden—powerful objects created by an ancient race that can manipulate mankind and be used as weapons.  By the end of Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, the knowledge and skills of his ancestors and the location of the temples created by the advanced beings has been passed down to Desmond.  But the final pieces of the puzzle are at the core of ACIII, and once again Desmond has to enter inside the Animus.  

This time, we are introduced to the third prominent member of Desmond’s gifted lineage—Connor (his real name is a chore to type and to pronounce so I won’t even try).  With a Native-American mother and a British father (more on him later), Connor finds himself in a very hostile environment in colonial America on the eve of the Revolutionary War.  At a young age while out hunting, Connor’s village is attacked and burned.  He comes back to see his mother trapped, being burned alive, and dedicates himself  to bring the fight to anyone who threatens the freedom and well-being of others.  After a spirit walk, he tracks down a retired Assassin to train with, eventually shaping into a efficient killer whose mission is to kill some of the most famous warlords in American/English history.  

So the new game, which has been in development for five years as the previous games were being made and released, offers a new engine, some new features, a new interactive world that is way different than anything in the previous games, and the best  visuals in the franchise.  But it is in no way a perfect game.  But first, the good.  

As expected from an Assassin’s Creed game, the gameplay is very interactive and generally a fun experience.  A new combat system is installed, which is kind of similar to Batman Arkham City’s model.  Except Connor doesn’t just knock people out or tie them up for the police—he’s brutally knifing people down, bashing a tomahawk in their face, or hanging them from trees like the alien from “Predator”.  He’s also an adept hunter who expertly uses parkour in the more natural elements, through trees or up rock formations.  This is a welcome addition, since by nature of the time period, there were no enormous towers to climb like there were in Jerusalem during the Crusades or Rome during the Renaissance.  

The fighting animations are absolutely sick.  There are so many ways to attack foes in this game.  The tomahawk and rope dart are very fun additions.  I love how new hiding spots are used.  You can still call on fellow Assassins, and with one very cool feature, you can use allies to walk you through enemy checkpoints as they are dressed in disguises and Connor acts like he is under arrest, then you disband and go all-out ninja on those suckers.  In these areas, UbiSoft has successfully rise the bar.  

But while there clearly is an improved system established with this game, the interactions with the environment aren’t always so player-friendly.  These become most obvious during the chase scenes in the game, especially for players who go for the 100% sync.  The horseback riding is still frustrating at times because it seems like everything and anything can slow or stop the horse, which is also very aggravating during chase scenes.  I’ve encountered several glitches and bugs, despite the five year time period UbiSoft claims to have spent making this game.  Some of it is rather discouraging, such as characters talking without even moving their mouths.

In Revelations, UbiSoft tried to apply a new RPG-ish feature where the player would have to defend a fort by strategically commanding soldiers and assassins against invaders.  That little addition was met with overwhelming criticism, but this time I expect the opposite.  For part three, there are naval battle side missions, and in short, they are an absolute blast.  The player gets to take control of these giant ships that are like straight out of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” and unleash hell on other sailors or protect ally vessels.  It’s a rather simple process once you get the hang of it, but the payoff is among the most entertaining parts of the entire game.  It wouldn’t shock me if other game developers are currently looking at this and frothing at the mouth to release a pirates game with the same kind of idea.  

As I hinted at earlier, the graphics are great, especially for an open-world game.  Sure, the faces of characters don’t look as natural with the soulful eyes and realistically-flowing lips as those in “Uncharted” or other top linear titles, but it’s way more difficult for a game to reach high levels visually when so much data is squeezing out every last bit of memory possible.  The game looks its best when Connor is stalking a Templar General with a major battle between colonists and redcoats taking place in the backdrop, or when he’s at the helm on the Aquila (his boat) going through what looks like a graveyard of sunken ships after a huge naval battle.  

The story has its pros and cons, but generally is a strong aspect.  Connor is a very interesting new character, and the addition of his father, Haytham Kenway, offers a distinct plot-twist story idea that the other games in the series didn’t have.  We learn early on, after hours of playing as him (and before Connor is even born), that surprisingly, Haytham is a Templar.  One of the things I praise the AC series for is that its “villains” often believe they are doing tasks that will ultimately benefit mankind, and the Assassins often are unsure if the Creed they are so loyal to is really any better.  This especially rings true in this game after playing as Haytham. I not only liked him, but it made me also question if the world would really not be better off if he and his cohorts were to succeed?  

As for our new protagonist, his story intertwines with the likes of Charles Lee, Samuel Adams, and George Washington.  Connor is not loyal to the Americans as much as he is loyal to his people, his land, and his Order, so he does attack colonists who threaten all that he cares for.  He does get guidance from a retired Assassin named Achilles, but honestly I found Connor’s relationship with his father way more interesting.  I actually was expecting a curveball at the end of the journey where either Connor turned his father into an Assassin again (like Luke bringing Darth Vader back to the light) or Connor adapting his father’s ways and becoming the new Templar Grand Master.  Sadly neither happened, but it resulted in some memorable interactions that simply aren’t present in any of the other games.

Unfortunately, the story has a lackluster, maybe even infuriating, ending.  First, Connor’s story ends with him killing his father and Charles Lee, the two major Templars in the game.  Both battles are done in overdramatic fashion rather than straightforward one-on-one battles.  First, Connor fights Haytham, but he’s already injured from cannon fire out from sea.  It ends with Haytham trying to choke out Connor, but the former seems to forget that the latter has a hidden blade (Assassin’s tend to do that) before being stabbed in the face.  Then Connor chases down Charles Lee only to fall through a floor on a boat and get pierced through the ribs, letting Lee limp away.  After all the superhuman things Ezio has done, it was strange to see Connor be denied vengeance (temporarily) by the environment, but perhaps he isn’t as graceful as Mr. Auditore. But it was somewhat salvaged afterwards when Connor, now sporting a mohawk and warpaint, traces Lee to a pub, pulls up a chair next to his target, takes a sip from Lee’s rum, leans over and stabs the man right in his heart with his knife.  

On a sidenote, I really appreciated Connor’s transformation both mentally and physically.  He clearly grew as a character as the story progressed from a hot-headed rebel to a wise warrior, even when he was enraged by what was being done to his people, he learned to be level-headed and to begin seeing the bigger picture of his actions.  Also, after being betrayed by his father and George Washington, Connor embraces his spiritual warrior within by donning a mohawk and warpaint.  Considering that he’s the only Assassin we played as that literally faces the decimation of his entire race, it was nice to see him take on these tasks at the end as a Native American warrior first and an Assassin second.  He simply had more at stake given the circumstances over Altair or Ezio.  

But the end to Desmond’s story is the real face-palm.  After living Connor’s memories, Desmond discovers the key to open the vault from the advanced beings, only to be caught in a power-struggle that has devastating ramifications for the world.  He’s given a choice: to make sure mankind survives the incoming solar flare that will send what’s left of the human race back into the Dark Ages-or-to free the other being, Juno, who can protect mankind but they will be enslaved to her.  Desmond, while proclaiming that Assassin’s will always challenge her rule, chooses to free Juno, which kills Desmond himself.  His allies escape and Juno is seen commending Desmond for his accomplishments, but hinting that it is now her time to play her part.  

Now apparently nobody appreciates simple endings anymore, because it always seems that all these games these days have to have some mind-bending, dark, left-turn twist at the end.  So Desmond, who looks like he’s slowly turning into a Ben Stiller lookalike, doesn’t really save the world afterall, and quite frankly, his decision seemed to me the same decision a Templar would make (take that for what it’s worth).  Also, it left me with a bad taste in my mouth because it gave me the impression that there was nothing truly special about Desmond other than just being a descendent of the gifted Assassins.  He just happened to be a distant relative at the right (or wrong) time and place.  It was interesting to see Minerva show Desmond the potential future if he made the other choice to let a majority of the human race perish, where he would initially be worshipped as a deity but eventually it would have just spawned more violence and hate.

But the ending was also stale because, really, we still don’t know much about Desmond.  He’s not exactly a deep character.  Throughout the series, Desmond has kept the same facial expressions no matter the situation.  His father is even worse.  They have these moments together where the script is supposed to be emotional and touching, but the delivery always falls flat and the animation doesn’t do much to help the characters come across as anything other than lifeless.  Desmon’s role is always limited and his scenes and elements feel so rushed.  In fact, the only modern-day Assassin who really adds any flare is Shaun, but mostly just because he’s such an ass.  

But don’t let that deter you from playing this game.  There is plenty of fun gameplay to be had here.  The new main character Connor is a worthy successor of Altair and Ezio, albeit a bigger, more brutal and imposing Assassin than his brethren.  There are only a few interesting side characters, and some of the flaws in the mechanics that were in the previous games can still be found here.  And although it may not be Game of the Year status (not necessarily a knock with all the strong competition this year), it’s one of the best in the series.  It’s probably right behind Assassin’s Creed II in my eyes, which had a  tighter story, interesting easter eggs, and an unforgettable ending that has not been equaled in terms of generating interest and speculation.  But this newest installment is sitting pretty in the number two spot.  


-Nicholas Navaro


San Francisco artist Lotan Kritchman has created a mind blowing custom series of Munny Marvel Zombies! Select characters are available to purchase from DIY Customs. Check out the No Pro Show website for more information.

You can also see Lotan’s photo shoot set up at the Kidrobot San Francisco store, in the video below. Such a killer series!

Munny Marvel Zombies by Lotan Kritchman (Store) (YouTube) (Twitter)

via Stan Winston School of Character Arts

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