Assassin's Creed III's Final Chase Sequence Was The Worst Thing I Played All Year

Warning: spoilers ahead. As I leapt into the fire, dying for the 28th time, I didn't feel anger or frustration; I felt resignation and a little bit of wonder. How, I asked aloud, to no one in particular. How on earth does something this awful wind up in a big-budget video game in the year 2012?

I was playing through the final chase sequence of Assassin's Creed III, wherein the protagonist chases a man across the dockyards of Boston. Trying and failing, again, and again, and again, forever and ever, amen.

Really, it's just the final leg of a chase sequence of sorts that's been going on for what feels like the back half of the game. I lost count of the number of times Connor grunted, "I need to find Charles Lee" at someone, usually upon arriving somewhere Charles Lee wasn't.

Eventually my search led me to a tavern in Boston, yet another place where Charles Lee wasn't. But there was a guy there at a table, and some light torture later, he told me Lee could be found at the docks. So, I go to the docks, and there he is, ready to run away. And we arrive at the worst video game sequence of 2012.

My discussion of it here is not intended as a walkthrough. It's at best a post-mortem, an attempt to slowly drive back past the car wreck, stare down the wreckage and attempt to attain some sort of closure. With the hope, however futile, that the healing can begin.

As with many missions in Assassin's Creed III, this one begins with a guy moving away from you with a glowing marker on his back.

Chase him! the game instructs. OK, you think. So you begin to chase him, and three seconds later this happens:

These explosive barrels just sort of happen to explode in your face, sending you flying backward, arms pinwheeling, lurching away from your target.

1) Why did the barrels explode?

2) No, seriously. Why did the barrels explode? Did someone make them explode? What happened? Why?

The upshot is that the chase begins with what amounts to a giant middle finger right in your face. Something of a sign of things to come, as it turns out. You think you're gonna chase this guy? The game says. F**k you, you are. First, we're going to slow you the heck down, buddy!

If you don't fall down and fail the chase right there (Again: This happens like three seconds in), you then have to get around these guys:

And it's much harder than it looks! You'll have to slip around to the side, but don't cut back too quickly or this will happen:

You'll get knocked down and fail the chase. OK, so, now the game has put two obstacles in your way in a matter of seconds, either of which can make you fail, and neither of which is particularly easy to dodge. I played this sequence around 30 times (or more, it kind of all became a blur). Each time something different would happen.

That can be a good thing, right? This game is unpredictable! No. That's not what's going on here. The controls are just inconsistent and dodgy as hell. So the only inconsistency is that I have no earthly idea what Connor's going to try to do this time.

Alright, so, you get pretty good at slowing down before the barrels explode and going to the right to get around the first dudes, and then you hit these dudes:

Who are easier to dodge, you just have to go to the left and run alongside the water.

And that's when you notice that the game has given you two optional objectives: Stay within a certain distance of Lee, and don't shove anyone. DON'T SHOVE ANYONE.

It's easy enough to ignore these objectives, but when you do, you get a big flaming chunk of red text and an "X" on the screen to tell you, you know, that on your 26th try of this godforsaken travesty of a mission you've fallen short of the lofty goals the game has set for you. Oh, you will not be getting 100% synchronization! Nope! Because you shoved a guy in a high-speed chase.

Hell.

Alright so back on track. You'll play this part of the chase a couple of dozen times at least, so you'll get pretty good at it. I actually got good even at not shoving people. But believe it or not, this 100-yard stretch of hell is not even the worst part of the chase. Now comes the second part, the burning boat.

You'll run into the boat to see Lee standing still and waiting for you, which is just insulting on so many levels: The game is rubber-banding you, there is no way to catch Lee before this point or after it, you're basically running through a totally scripted cutscene. It's a movie in which the director hasn't told you where to go.

So now, you'll run forward and in the grand tradition of annoying-ass video game chases, the fire causes a pathway to become blocked just after Lee passes through it:

So you'll probably die here once or twice before figuring out that you have to go up and around. Then, you'll get to the end of the ship and you will encounter a moment I have come to think of as THE ENTIRE PROBLEM.

It looks like this:

It's another moment when the roof collapses right after Lee passes under it. You're thinking, based on what you did when the exact same thing happened five seconds ago, that your answer lies in turning to the left, jumping across the fire, and following Lee. Who you can see heading that direction anyway.

And so, bless your heart, you will try doing this. Again and again, you'll try. And you will fail, again and again.

Here, watch me fail, a lot:

It isn't that you know what must be done and lack the skill, you likely have no idea what to do. And you run straight into it the fire, and every time you fail, and you knew that you were going to fail, because you had no idea how to proceed when you started. It becomes a special sort of hell, and you begin to have real thoughts about life, and death, and the passage of time.

And then eventually you crack and do what I did: You turn to YouTube, and you find a guy who has finished the game and you watch him. And then you play through the rest of the hateful sequence and are rid of it forever.

Many things in Assassin's Creed III feel thrown-together, but this chase, those five minutes of gameplay that somehow stretched into hours, stands apart. It feels as though it was thrown into the game at the 11th hour with no playtesting or second thought.

Of course, some of you will have sailed through this sequence on the very first try. And to you I say, with no ill will: Well done. Good show. We're all very impressed. (Okay, maybe with a little bit of ill will.) But given how many people I've heard talking about this mission elsewhere, I have a strong suspicion I'm not the only one who had this much trouble with it.

Yes, the rage will fade; the frustration with this chase and the rest of the game's interminable, unsatisfying ending will evaporate. And yet this document will stand as evidence that a multi-million dollar video game can still contain moments so truly awful that all you can do is sit, gobsmacked, staring at your television and shaking your head.


Comments

    Plus 1 brother. So frickin' infuriating - basically made me hate the game. Terribly designed.

    I dunno, I thought the chase sequence with Thomas Hickey was much worse. Not that this one was good by any means.

      This. The first 2 times I chased Hickey, I literally couldn't get within 40m of him, regardless of how well I was playing.

      Still, the 1/20 times I even made it to the boat in the final chase was fucking abominable. Then to get caught in the scenery and burn to death when I got there...

        I thought the Hickey chases were well designed because it wasn't as linear. You just need to study his route a couple of times and you could cut him off easily.

    For me, it'll likely be ME3's final segments and no, I'm not even talking about the endings. Given ME2's suicide mission, Earth was just so... underwhelming, especially after all the marketing bullcrap about "take back earth!". A lot of it had to do with war assets being ultimately useless in the end. It was more standard run and gun down a corridor than ME1's final minutes and at least that I was running along the sides of the Citadel and had an impressive view.

    The barrels explode because Lee pulls out a gun and shoots them.

    The only trouble I had with the sequence was getting 100%. Other then that, it's not the worst chase sequence ever.

      + 1 on the barrel explanation.

      I failed this a few times but only because I was trying to avoid the shove penalty. There was a lot more in the way of disappointment in this game for me.

    the no-shove objective drove me insane every time i failed it. i agree with every word of this article. the game starts out (on the ship) by making you walk somewhere to watch something happen, and ends by making you run somewhere to watch something happen. i miss the old assassin's creed games where you chose how to assassinate someone, without feeling like you were doing it the wrong way.

    Yes, it took me hours to do this frustrating bit for 100% sync. I read that the Thanksgiving Day Patch addressed this and made it easier?

    In the end, I went to the right of the initial building and by-passed most of it. Going straight ahead was too difficult.

    Oh man I’m with you on this one, it was so f*cking stupid this chase scene.
    I ended up jumping in the water after the first set of guards and then scraping around the side of the map while the screen did that grey “desynchronising” effect for the last half of the chase.
    It felt like I was in no way playing the game correctly but it was all I could do to make it work. Not particularly satisfying gameplay.
    Got it on probably the 20th time….

    As mentioned above, the Thomas Hickey one is maybe even worse.
    He runs back around IN AN INFINITE FUCKING LOOP if you don’t catch him on the first lap.
    You just have to keep chasing him around in the same loop until you memorise his pattern and can cut enough corners to grab him.

    I really enjoyed the game still but so much of it was clearly rushed.
    It’s games like this that make me glad Rockstar are happy to put out one GTA/ Red Dead game every 3 years and make sure its polished.

      I concur with you about the Hickey chase, I followed him assuming it would in term lead to something as a lot of chases often do, it took 1.5 laps before I realised he was going in a loop.
      Assassin's Creed games have always been incredibly easy to play through though. There's no real player skill in the game at all. Probably why its AAA.

    Broke 2 controllers on this in frustration! :(

    Game 2 - Controllers 0

    +1

    This part was so, so frustrating. I ended up getting the walkthrough video off of youtube, and still failed 20 times before I got it.

    Very disappointed with ACIII :(

    Not going to lie its wasnt fantastic but seriously. 1) Charles Lee Shoots the Barrels you see him stop and do it. 2) Its the end of the game you've had those optional objectives all game, think you'd be wise to seeing them straight away.

    Also if the fire killed you the first time why'd you keep running into it

    A final chase scene that's actually challenging? You mean the game didn't hold your hand & simply throw QTEs at you? How dare they make a scene at the end of a game hard for you!? How dare they!?!?

      His complaints make it sound like the cheap kind of challenging, as opposed to well designed.

      This whole scene basically IS a QTE.

    I can't believe I sunk 16 hours into this game before I realised it was total crap... Easily the biggest disappointment this year.

    Maybe you are just not very good at the games... It was easy... I don't understand your complaints, every single environmental obstruction is avoidable if you use your eyes...

    that was easy but its also not what made me hate it either

    I... was slightly annoyed at this area. Took me... 6 goes or so. I did spend 20 seconds walking in circles at the bit inside the burning ship, that was pretty poorly designed, but the start bit wasn't that difficult...

    To avoid the exploding barrels, you can head down a lowered walkway to the left.

    Those two guards are super easy to avoid; just hop over the barrels on the right.

    When you get inside the burning ship, the camera actually pans up and to the right, pointing you in that direction.

    I will admit that the photo with your big white circle actually took me a few goes to figure out, but the rest of it was easy.

      Yea, that lowered walkway to the left made things easier. Took me a few goes to get right, but that combined with cutting across the ship at the end to jump from the bow to the wharf below (thereby completely avoiding the firing line on the corner) got through this pretty quickly. The burning ship took a few more tries to figure out where I was meant to go, tho.

      Last edited 12/12/12 1:04 pm

    This chase was annoying as hell. At least with Hickey (if I'm recalling the right chase), you could take a back alley or two and avoid directly following him. Of course, that's all trial and error.

    Last edited 12/12/12 12:16 pm

    Chase wasnt that bad for me, i managed to get to the top of the boat on my first try, but hit a bug. Lee just stood there and didnt run over the last few beams to the cutscene. Had to restart the entire thing over again, this time not staying within 50m of Lee as i got caught by the barrels exploding. BTW they explode as Lee shoots them. My fog was nowhere near as dense as it seems yours was.

    This sequence wasn't that bad, you just take the left path right away and avoid most of the obstacles? The fire bit I failed on once, but you just have to pay attention.

    Also the Hickey one took me a couple tries before I realised you just have to cut him off, then it took all of 20 seconds.

    This article sums up what I feel is wrong with gaming today - the expectation of most players that the game should play by their rules.

    Lee shoots the barrels - it's very obvious. The guards blocking the way are meant to be an obstacle. if the scene was designed for the player to just bull-rush and beeline straight to lee, the optional objectives wouldn't be there. The obvious paths do not work, or fail? That is the point - the entire game up to that point has been showing how Connor can traverse in almost any direction he wants, yet because players do not want to utilise this, and do not pay any attention to the scene itself, it's poor design?

    Yes, that final part is very heavily scripted, and basically rail roads you into taking one path once you are inside the boat, however anyone who got to that point in the game would have been able to spot the obvious cues as to where to go if they were looking.

    The final mission was cheap and horrible.

    There were a couple of times where I managed to catch Lee before he entered the boat, but the game didn't allow me to hop on his back with my blade or tackle him because I had to finish the game their way.

    In attempting to catch Lee, I failed the shove optional objective because I actually shoved Lee himself at one point!

    The chase results in a underwhelming cutscene, then a brief 30m walk to the dockmaster and then another cutscene with an instant teleport to some bar where I sit and drink with the man before knifing him.

    Truly horrible ending to the game and a true indication of how the game changed from something that resembled a steath assassin type game, to an action/adventure game.

    I mean, it would have been nice (as an assassin) to try and attempt to get close to Lee without him knowing and killing him in the old fashioned assassin way, instead of walking around the docks practically yelling out his name and calling him out!

    If you don’t fall down and fail the chase right there (Again: This happens like three seconds in), you then have to get around these guys:

    u do know if u sprint and press "A" (jump) between the 2 guys u can just get pass them as easy as that

    He wasn't a very good illusionist

    Totally misread that as 'because you shaved a guy in a high-speed chase'. Now THAT would be impressive.

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