The first time you actually get to fight as Connor. You've been playing as this skinny little kid for the past two chapters, learning seemingly every aspect living in the woods and climbing trees, and now you're annoying a grumpy old assassin for relevant reasons. Then, said assassin's house is ambushed by twenty bandits and Connor jumps to rescue. The player is kicked right into combat and it turns out that scrawny little teenage Connor is a motherfucking beast in a fight, and you literally have to kill or concuss every single member of the bandit group except for the leader before you can progress.
That skinny little kid fights bears and mountain lions. And wins.
The very opening of the game is awesome. When Haytham climbs up the mast of the ship and gets his first glimpse of America, and the title screen comes, its incredibly epic, comparable to Terrence Malick's The New World in evoking the feeling travellers had on seeing America and why they felt it was a new world full of possibility and adventure.
Connor and Haytham free people from a stockade by knocking the lock off with their bare fist. This is amazing because almost anyone else would have to deal with their knuckles getting smashed.
An understated moment, but Desmond putting his hood up before his first infiltration of the New York City Abstergo Industries building for the first time after four full games.
The first modern day mission where Desmond infiltrates a skyscraper in Manhattan by climbing to the top of an adjacent building, performing a Leap of Faith off the top of a construction crane, and parachuting to his target. No Animus simulation this time, Desmond is actually doing it himself, and scaling a thousand-foot building with handholds as small as a steel girder sticking a few feet out from the side. On a meta level, there's something about knowing exactly how high skyscrapers are that makes it seem more real and dangerous. And Desmond does it, showing no fear. On a story level, Desmond is doing the same as his ancestors have, but he's doing it at heights around ten times higher than they ever did.
Vidic had it coming ever since the first game and even taunted as Desmond escaped in the second. Being able to finally kill the guy behind much of the Assassin Brotherhood's troubles as well as making the guy actually crack is one giant Awesome Moment for Desmond.
Followed by his walk out. He uses the full power of the Apple of Eden to incapacitate the guards by forcing them to point their guns into their own faces. You can opt to press a button to make it into a mass Psychic-Assisted Suicide, but you don't have to - as Desmond walks through the sea of guards, they are so overcome by fear that they drop their guns and either kneel down and surrender, or simply flee the building altogether.
Desmond joins the 21st century midway through the mission (i.e. he gets a gun) and it's awfully satisfying to mow down the Abstergo security.
Even his walk into the building is memorable - all the random scientists in the main area drop their work and leave their desks to stand at the glass wall and gape at the notorious Assassin Desmond Miles.
Running through Charlestown during the Battle of Bunker Hill, as cannonballs and musket shots fly through the town and cause an entire building to collapse in your path. You get a bonus for avoiding even a little damage during the run.
Note that these bonus points are granted for reliving memories in ways that Connor especially remembers. Meaning if you do these optional objectives you're living them more accurately to what actually happened. Let that sink in as you remember how balls out insane those optional objectives became as you progressed.
Sea missions, hands down. Anything to do with the Aquila or sailing around is a mix of awesome gameplay and Visual Effects of Awesome, enough to make many people desire a whole game based specifically on it. It's a boon to anybody who's desired a "true" pirate game, and particularly to those who mourned the cancellation of Pirates of the Caribbean: Armada of the Damned.
Connor, his crew and the Aquila herself pull these off several times. Most notably when they end up taking on multiple frigates that are similar in strength to them or even a Man-Of-War that completely outclasses them in terms of firepower and defense. Often while fighting off their dozens of escorts at the same time.
The game mission The Battle of Chesapeake Bay, a deciding naval battle in The American Revolution (in Real Life, Washington was said to have danced a jig on seeing the French victory) is awesome to see and participate in the game. On one hand we have twilight orange backgrounds, several man of war ships, high waves and if you go full synchronization, you do it in a badass way, culminating in Connor singlehandedly clearing out an entire Man O' War to the disbelief of first mate Robert Faulkner and Admiral deGrasse. It's the greatest naval mission in the game, and even after Black Flag is still the high point of the Franchise's naval component.
At the mission to Fort Wolcott, Connor finds what he was looking for, only to be confronted by a pair of guards. "Let's see what you got, rebel," says one. Cue the Aquila bombarding the fort as previously arranged, killing the guard in question and knocking the other on his ass.
The first mission played as adult Connor, when you finally get to cut loose with the new climbing abilities. The first part of the game is spent as Haytham, during which the game really drives home how out-of-his element he is in the wild by forcing him to struggle through snowdrifts rather than climb the trees, making the player feel clumsy and frustrated. Consequently, being Connor as he dances through the branches and up the cliffs like it's what he was born to do while Native American chants and drums play on the soundtrack feels absolutely glorious.
Playing bocce with George Washington also counts as a heartwarming as as Connor and Washington have made up their friendship.
When Kanen'tó:kon comes to the Homestead to warn Connor of an attempted Templar takeover of their village, Connor buries a hatchet into one of the Homestead's pillars to signify the start of his war against Charles Lee. He finally takes it out after the credits, holds onto it for a moment considering everything he's been through since he put it there... and then he drops it to the ground and walks away.
An even more epic moment is Connor's Refuge in Audacity in attending his father's funeral. This Means Warpaint, sporting a Mohawk in the original, historical context of declaring war and totally dropping the hood and walking in, as if he no longer cares. At that point Connor lost everything that he held dear and his aggressive sporting of his own identity at a European funeral makes him really scary.
Connor's Shut Up, Hannibal! to Charles Lee on why he keeps fighting despite the templars always building up new schemes. "Because no one else will."
On a meta level, let's face it, the whole game is awe-inspiringly amazing. Players are getting to experience the history behind the birth of the United States of America, every major event that went into the forging of the country, every great battle that was fought, the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the ride of Paul Revere, and other such moments in time that just leave you in awe, feeling like you're a part of history itself. Even the battles that America loses, like the Battle of Bunker Hill, have an enrapturing thrall that just makes you feel incredibly patriotic and inspired as you take part in it. You get a feel for the time, and for the spirit of the people as the Revolution mounts and gets underway, continuing to the very last Templar you take down.
The game really attempts to take an objective stance on the historical events too, portraying them Warts and All for the most part (aside from the conspiracy theory Templar Assassin meta plot and all). In this age of video games wherepro-Americanbravado is rampant and probably does a good job of alienating fans from other countries, this one does its best to be all inclusive and informative to boot.
Especially when you realize that not every Templar is a British Loyalist (as is the case of Charles Lee), and that Connor, part way through, grows to resent the Colonists. Considering the controversy surrounding the trailers (especially the one depicting British soldiers burning down a home with a family in) and playing a series which is known for its Historical Hero Upgrade and Historical Villain Upgrade tendencies, it's pretty damn awesome for British players apprehensive about the game's standpoint on the war. Thank you, Ubisoft, for being somewhere that depicts the war as it was.
Heck, any historian, American or not, should respect the less one sided nature of the game.
Similarly, Shaun's debate with Desmond about the Revolution. Shaun, as a Historian, knows almost every factoid about the war and, as a Brit, is quick to note that the Brit's weren't pure evil in their requests and he Patriots weren't exactly noble freedom fighters they thought they were. Desmond tries to retaliate with his limited knowledge, but Shawn blows his argument away by pointing out how ridiculously inaccurate it is. British players, and players who actually know the facts behind the way and how it really was, can certainly appreciate that bit.
Shaun gets another one when Juno sends him a warning message telling him to not interfere with Desmond (Full details on the Funny page). Shaun's response? To forward the email to Desmond with the line, "LOL, someone doesn't like me."
Who's Connor saying this to? George-frickin'-Washington.
Why's he saying this to you-know-who? Good 'ol Georgie was the one who led the attack on Connor's village and therefore at fault for his mother's death, Charles Lee was instructed by Haytham specifically to leave the natives alonenote and with how much of an Ascended Fanboy Charles is, there's no reason to believe that he'd disobey Haytham, and not too long ago George had also ordered another attack on Connor's villagenote which Connor stopped, but in the process was forced to kill his childhood friend Kanen'tó:kon.
When Washington summons him anyway for the PS3/PC Benedict Arnold side missions, Connor's first words upon arriving are, "How dare you call upon me after Monmouth?" He's visibly annoyed throughout Washington's explanation, and when he assents to lend his assistance, he leans in to add, "But never call on me again." Finally, after Washington bemoans Benedict Arnold's escape despite the successful defense of West Point, Connor puts it bluntly: "You reap what you sow."
Just about any of Connor's two/three-person counters are an amazing flurry of coordinated strikes and dodges that need to be seen to be truly admired.
You know those little assassin blades? In this game, you can use them to kill a bear. There is just an incredible feeling of badassery when you kill a bear with what amounts to a pair of switchblades.
Due to the battle itself being really easy, most people don't get a chance to listen to Connor and Haytham's last argument in their final duel. Those who do give it a listen has Haytham talking about how once the war is over they will fall to infighting and divide over the meaning of their new freedom. To which Connor replies, "No! They will come together to make something better than the sum of their parts." (And, given what we know from history, there was infighting and even civil war down the line, but Connor was right. The US as a nation is about coming together and compromising to create a better nation step by step.)
A combined moment of Awesome and Heartwarming happens during a homestead mission. Connor hears that Ellen's abusive husband has arrived with a goon squad to 'reclaim' her. Connor, and nearly all of the homestead residents, charge to the rescue with no hesitation.
One of Connor and Achille's arguments, in Sequence 8, when Connor points out that Achilles hasn't been his greatest supporter. Achilles calls him on it.
Connor: Encouraging words from one who thought mine's a fools errand.
Achilles: Make no mistake, I still do. But I can't help but feel some pride in your success.
Connor:(gritting his teeth) And why should I give you any credit?
Achilles:(stops and turns to look at Connor) Then don't. But first return the robe. And the blades. And, and the darts. And the years of training and knowledge I have bestowed on you. Return these, and you words may have some merit.
Pretty much the DLC. For a team that has been making games with the structure of it needing to be historically accurate, the DLC is pretty much a "Screw that, we are going to make Washington fire laser beams!"
Connor basically holding off King Washington's ENTIRE army while the rest of the natives in his village flee. To add more awesome to this scene, one of the most epic soundtracks in the entire game play's specifically for this scene.
The Hopeless Boss Fight against King Washington in the 1st part of the DLC. Even though you're losing there is something incredibly awesome about George Freakin Washington blasting the hell out of you with flashy laser beams.
Even after the Curb-Stomp Battle with King Washington, Connor takes three bullets to the chest and stomach - plus a stab wound from a bayonet - and SURVIVES. Given that the last shot was at point blank range, the fact that he survives even after a few months of recovering is still amazing.
The best part? This is all just the PROLOGUE to the DLC.
In the trailers, the use of Imagine Dragons' song "Radioactive" fit perfectly.
As did the use of Diddy's song "Coming Home", although after playing the game and seeing how Connor's story plays out, that's also more than a bit Harsher in Hindsight.
Kanen'tó:kon also gets a shining moment of awesome in the DLC, where he manages to take down several of King Washington's personal guards before going after the antagonist himself. He doesn't end up finishing the job.
The end of The Tyranny of King Washington, where, after a man suggests that he should declare himself a King, Washington very calmly, but very sternly, reprimands him for it, and tells him that if he cares about his country at all, he will never even think of it again. The scene ends with Washington standing alone in an empty room. He was talking to himself.
In terms of sheer Refuge in Audacity, the final boss fight of The Tyranny of King Washington tops the end of Assassin's Creed II. How do you top a fistfight with a pope in the Sistine Chapel? A boss-fight with President George Washington atop a pyramid (that is an exact replica of the US Seal), with Applied PhlebotinumMagitek leading to the rooftop caving down and both Connor and Washington a bloody mess. It's awesome.