So if, like me, your only way to play AC3E is via an emulator, then here are my recommendations if you want to get the best out of it.
While there's no one emulator that will faithfully replicate the game as if you were playing it on a real console, there are two emulators that come pretty damn close in their own ways.
The plugins I use for AC3E are: Pete's OpenGL2 2.9, ePSXe's default sound and CDROM drivers.
My settings when using Pete's OpenGL2 video plugin:
Positives: enhanced graphics, such as filtering and high-res textures.
Downsides: sun reflections on the water are not accurate, river in M03 looks like broken glass (depends on the settings, but I haven't had much luck myself).
There's also a plugin called P.E.Op.S. Soft Driver 1.18 that in my opinion offers a compromise between the experience I get playing with ePSXe and XEBRA.
Since this plugin is software based, the sun reflects correctly on water and thanks to the emulator having rumble support, vibration is fully supported via XInput.
The picture is on the sharper side of things but thankfully not too much so the picture isn't riddled with jagged edges and big, blocky pixels everywhere. There seems to be a small problem with the colors though as they aren't as clean as OpenGL2 2.9 or XEBRA, slightly garbled but not a big deal.
I found that it has some difficulty in properly rendering the walls of the Data Swallow tunnel on the main menu but only if you take screenshots. They look perfectly fine on the emulator while playing but in screenshots those particular textures appear a little buggy.
All things considered, I can say that this my third alternative to play the game.
Description: accurate emulation.
XEBRA allows for analog input with this axis configuration: X, Y, U and R (no need to change any numbers). There is still no vibration support
XEBRA can also be a little hard to set-up at first due to its beginner-unfriendly interface because it isn't as intuitive as ePSXe when it comes to configuring.
In my Video Output settings I have "Use OpenGL", "Stretch with GDI" and "Progressive" checked while both "Drawing Skip" and "Display Skip" are set to 0.
|Click here for full resolution pictures|
|M03 texture glitch with ePSXe|
If you want to go the extra mile, I highly recommend playing with an actual DualShock controller. After years of playing with a keyboard, with a generic game controller last year, and then finally buying a Dualshock 3, I can safely say that nothing beats the feel and functionality of the original controller. Special mention goes to the analog sensitivity which allows the full 360-degree freedom of view as intended.