The idea of death of killers, cloaked in shadows and claiming souls for the underworld, is almost revered. I mean, look at ninjas. That’s all I can say. Ubisoft gave the world a big shiver of glee when they announced their new project, Assassin’s Creed, where you could be this person. As time went on, the game became more and more amazing looking, promising a free-roaming world and flowing combat. What we got was just that.
The game starts out as a white-cloaked man is experiencing some sort of weird dream, with blue numbers and white glitches filling the screen. Soon, you, Desmond, awaken in the present under the effects of the machine, Animus. This machine, simply put, allows a person to re-live the memories of one’s ancestors. And you are the lucky person who is being…”detained”…for the time, being the focus of their experiments.
Back in the past, in the year 1165 (The Crusades), a headstrong assassin, Altair, has brought the wraith of Templars upon his group of assassins, and, having broken the three tenets that make up the Assassin’s Creed, is stripped of his rank and must start up a new career of killing. Given nine targets, the game is now spent tracking down those, while the “assassin” in the present tries to find out what is really going on.
While the realization that the events of the assassin in the Crusades is not actually happening might sound like a turn-off, it makes for an incredibly unique experience. The game has two main characters, and you end up caring about the stories of each. Why do all of the nine hits have justified reasons for their actions? Just why in the hell are you being kept prisoner in this freaky corporation? What is really going on? All questions that build up for a satisfying story.
I have to forgo the gameplay for the moment…just wait.
Anywho, the graphics. The backdrops are beautifully rendered, looking almost like the real cities. Lighting effects are abundant and perfect, shadows playing on the portrait of the world round you. The townspeople are all lively and greatly animated, as are the battle scenes and cutscenes. Most cutscenes have various camera angles, making you your own director, and some even have semi-hidden camera angles that zoom you right in on the action. It gives the game a cinematic feel that engrosses you into the realistic fake simulation of a reality like nothing else.
The soundtrack, while not mind-blowing, suits the various moods of the game. The music will change from chipper to adrenaline-filled when you are in combat, or to a heat-pounding beat when you are trying not to be seen. Sound effects are realistic, and the voice acting is excellent. The voices are well suited for their characters, with only the occasional sour bit to be found in the beggars.
Still though, you aren’t really coming into this game for the story or anything else. It’s an assassin game! Shanking time!
The gameplay of Assassin’s Creed is very well done and allows for several different ways to play the game. Altair has a variety of tools at his disposal, each with it’s own way to be used: the hidden blade is used for silent assassinations, the sword is used for combat, the throwing knives are used to take down far away foes, and Altair’s own body is a powerful weapon, as well.
In the various cities, the assassin is capable of roaming freely in a vast, flowing environment. You can run around, jumping from rooftop to rooftop, or walk on the streets below, blending into the environment. You can choose to save citizens being harassed by the guardsman, aiding yourself by their rewards, or find lookout points to better your map details.
By holding the right trigger, the assassin enters “High Profile Mode.” This, in contrast to the normal “Low Profile Mode,” has actions that people might find suspicious. This new element allows you to further control your actions, letting the player choose whether or not to be a stealthy killer or a more brash warrior. This sounds nice at first, but getting used to the different setups can be an oftentimes fatal experience, leading to a lot of swearing over pressing the right button during the wrong context.
The typical health bar has been ousted as well, incorporating a “Synchronization Bar” instead. This bar represents how in sync you are with the memories of your ancestor. When filled, you can scan the crowd to find a target amongst random civilians. The bar goes down when you are hit with an attack, similar to a normal health bar, but can also deplete when you break a part of the Assassin’s Creed, meaning that by being a stupid, bloodthirsty berserker, you can kill yourself.
The expansive city is fully explorable, excluding the insides of most buildings, making all three dimensions of the game your platforms. Altair can climb on buildings, using logs and windows to boost yourself up to the rooftops, giving every situation an almost infinite number of routes. However, many of the ledges seem out of place and too convenient for the otherwise realistic landscaping.
The game incorporates a sort of Metal Gear Solid stealth element into gameplay. Guards and people can become apparent of you, or can be suspicious of your actions. Once you are spotted, it’s a mad dash to break the line of sight between you and the guards before you hide and wait out the alarms and searching. And while the element isn’t bad, it can become rather annoying when you are running around trying to find a hiding spot, only to be screwed by a random guard, a control fumble, or the guards being on the same acrobatic level as you.
Combat is based upon the attack of others, meaning counterattacks. While the beautiful and bloody blows are fun to look at, and the combat is very fluid and solid, the later battles boil down to simply holding the right trigger and pressing “X” when opponents attack you, leading to a blow that is fatal 90% of the time. Otherwise, a quick little “wrist-blade-to-the-face” tactic solves all other problems.
But, that’s all fine. Killing people in these bloody fashions is fun and enjoyable, if a bit monotonous. However, the assassinations lose their luster when every one follows the same formula. This is the biggest flaw of Assassin’s Creed.
The formula for targets is: Find the Assassin’s Bureau, gather information, visit the Assassin’s Bureau once more, then you find and kill the person. While the assassination varies between targets, mostly meaning that some are brawls, others are chases and the rest are just waiting parties, they sort of blend together after a while. You will still have fun killing everyone, but it starts to become an average experience after a while.
Assassin’s Creed is in no way a bad game. It starts out as a glimpse of perfection, with the true glory to be found later down the road. But, as the journey wears on and more people lay dead in the streets, things start to get more average. The controls are difficult to grasp, the stealth is somewhat annoying, the combat is too easy with counters, and the assassinations, the highlight of the entire game, only start out being brilliant.
It started out fantastic, and ended up being great. Assassin’s Creed is wholeheartedly recommended to everyone with a 360. It’s a unique time that is definitely not wasted, but slows down further down the storyline. This is not the perfect game, and if it weren’t for the abundance of minor problems, this game would score higher.
Reviewer’s note: The Xbox 360 version was tested for this review
The Crusades have never been so bright and detailed, minus the odd building sense of it all, and the visual style remains immersive throughout.
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Original ideas make the game a great deal of fun, but its copied so many times that it gets old after a while.
Great voice acting, well done and suitable songs for the mood, and good sound effects makes 1165 sound excellent.
After the monotony of the main game, you'll be hard-pressed to find a reason to do it all again.
While with it's flaws, Assassin's Creed tried a new idea in a new place brilliantly - maybe we should hold out for a sequel?