Review by codman4

"A game that unfortunately did not live up to its potential"

Assassin's Creed seems to suffer from the same problems that Hollywood blockbusters endure; The trailer looks awesome, but unfortunately the actual product is lacking. I was looking forward to this game for quite some time, but I didn't necessarily buy into the hype (that tends to ruin the experience when you actually play the game). It seemed like this game had huge potential, and would deliver in the form of fresh gameplay mechanics and a deep storyline that didn't involve space marines. While this is a fun game, there are several major flaws that really drag it down.

Story: 5/10

Now I don't want to give away too much, because as many of you already know, this game has its share of twists. However, I will briefly discuss some of the overall story. The game takes place during the Third Crusade of the Holy Land, and visits some historical spots, such as Jerusalem, Damascus, Acre, and Masyaf. You are in control of Altair (white hooded dude), and throughout most of the game, you are given targets to assassinate by your leader Al Maulim. Seems pretty basic, right? Well, it gets a little bit more complicated than that.

There are the aforementioned twists, but many of them are too predictable. Also, most of the dialogue is somewhat dull and contrived. Fans of historical fiction may find some enjoyment, but I felt myself not paying attention to the story at times because I was getting bored. However, there is a sci-fi aspect in the story that was very original for a video game, and it's basically the only reason why I wanted to finish this game. This portion is introduced early, but ends up disappointingly anticlimactic near the end.

Now there is a difference between an open ending and a cliffhanger. An open ending leaves room for interpretation, allowing one to develop their own outcome. A cliffhanger is just a ploy that leaves you wanting more, and subsequently, is used to make consumers buy sequels. Can you guess which one this has?

Graphics: 9/10

This game has excellent graphics. That's all I really need to say, since my words won't do AC much justice. I think the fact that you can view these colossal cities and it's hundreds of inhabitants is nice, but the fact that you can actually reach those distant lands is very impressive. AC has a solid draw distance, and didn't cop out with fog everywhere. The cities are teeming with citizens and soldiers (and a few drunks, beggars, and lunatics), and trust me, killing all of these people can be fun.

I've noticed that many people have complained about slowdown, freezing, and glitches, but I did not experience any of that. The game ran smoothly from beginning to end. There was one instance when I dropped down from a building and landed on a tree, and proceeded to get stuck between the tree and a wall. I did manage to eventually free myself after a minute or two by constantly moving and jumping, but this was a very minor problem. Again, I did not see any slowdown, even during battles when I had 15 soldiers attacking me.
The camera was also very helpful, and only on rare occasions would I have an issue seeing the action. This would only happen if I was caught in a narrow passage or there were trees blocking the way.

Altair's movements were also very well done. Good job by Ubisoft to make all of his moves feel natural and flow into each other. While running across rooftops or scaling towers, Altair manages to react to his environment and grab onto the appropriate ledges with a natural ease. The use of the Havok engine is always a good thing as far as I'm concerned, and it shows when making assassinations (or shanking those annoying beggars).

AC makes good use of textures and color, although a bit more variety in scenery would have been appreciated. I understand that the developers were trying to be historically accurate, but a few more distinct landmarks would have made the game look even better.

At the beginning of the game you are treated to a cool CGI scene where Altair shows off his moves. Guess what? That is the only cutscene in the game! Ok, not entirely true. There are cutscenes after each assassination, but trust me, there is no action or drama and they are boring and repetitive. Now I am a firm believer that graphics don't make the game, but how could Ubisoft taunt us with that awesome scene and then fill the rest of the game with drab in-game engine scenes? I have no problem with using the game engine to tell the story, but at least make it interesting like Final Fantasy or Metal Gear Solid. Instead AC displays characters standing around and talking about the same thing over and over again.

Despite a few flaws, I wanted to give the graphics a solid score because AC has it's own unique look, and this makes the overall experience even better.

Sound: 5/10

Can't really say that I can remember much of the music. I remember it working well with the ambiance, but it sounded like I've heard it before. I suppose a soundtrack during the game would have gotten rather monotonous, but I would've appreciated a few more tunes sprinkled in. Also, there should have been a more rousing main theme at the beginning of the game (and during the credits). I think it would have felt more complete if there was a main song to associate with AC, but maybe I'm just spoiled by so many films with great scores.

The sound effects during battle were up to par, but nothing new. There was a decent variety in the random comments by the populous, and some are actually kind of funny (except those darn beggars, they were pretty much begging you to kill them by being so annoying). There were a few "modern" sounds and chimes, and I did enjoy the little diddy that played every time I picked up a flag or completed a mission.

Now the reason I gave sound a low score was the awful voice acting. I know some of the voicers must have had a tough time saying their lines with conviction considering some of the rudimentary dialogue, but during many of the scenes I just stopped listening. Especially anytime Altair decided to speak. Now some of the accents were nice, but it was annoying to hear Altair sound like he's an American trapped in the 12th century. I don't mean to bash the game, because some of the voice acting was superb, but it really hurts the game when the main character isn't convincing.

Gameplay: 4/10

Here we go, the real heart of AC, the gameplay. Please, don't let others fool you, the game mechanics are SHALLOW. While the free running is nice, it really doesn't require much skill (like much of the game, but I'll get to that later). All of the climbing and jumping revolves around holding up on the analog stick. You don't have to measure your jumps, nor do you have to stress over navigating over walls or up buildings. This does make the experience much more fluid, but at the same time you don't feel like you have much control. It is much more satisfying to actually make a jump in Tomb Raider, or time button presses in God of War. In AC, you pretty much run up to a building, and hold up until you reach the top, and keep holding up to run over everything else in your path. It's awesome at first, but trust me, it gets excruciating when holding up for 2 minutes every time you have to scale a viewpoint.

That leads into my next topic: viewpoints are annoying. And you have to climb them in every city, for every mission. Getting to the top of these viewpoints gives you a sweeping glimpse of the entire city and adds objectives to your map. If you don't access viewpoints then you will have to blindly run through the city and hopefully get lucky enough to find objectives on your own (which I actually did a few times).

Now the objectives are what really hurt this game more than everything else combined. First, they are a ploy by Ubisoft to pad the length of the game. Each objective takes about 1-3 minutes to complete, and you have to do a minimum of 2-3 to advance to the assassination. But here's the kicker: you have to climb viewpoints, listen to pointless dialogue, and usually travel across half of the entire city to reach them. All these annoyances make a 15 second mission (I'm looking at you pickpocketing), and turn them into 15 minute missions. I remember seeing previews for this game and Ubisoft was boasting about 40-60 hours of gameplay. It is very misleading for the developers to make people think that this is a long, involving game when all it really ends up being is a climbing simulator with a couple of button presses thrown in.

Second, the objectives are vvveeerrryyy easy. I mean "Color a Dinosaur" easy. You cannot fail. Unless you decide to put on a blind fold and play with your feet, this game will not challenge you. The only missions I failed were a couple of informer missions because some bum pushed me into a soldier while I was trying to blend.

Third, the severe lack of variety of missions. There are four different types (I know, a shock for GTA fans), they are: eavesdropping, interrogation, pickpocketing, and informer. I will summarize each; eavesdropping - lock onto target by pressing L1, sit on bench and press triangle. Interrogation - lock onto target by pressing L1, follow target until no soldiers are around and mash square. Pickpocketing - lock onto target by pressing L1, follow target and press circle. See a pattern?

Now informer missions are a little different - you will either A) lock onto target by pressing L1, follow target until no soldiers are around and press square, repeat 2-5 times or B) collect flags. Did I really just type collect flags? Yes, yes I did. When I first got the collect the flags mission, I nearly threw up on my PS3. Apparently, highly trained assassins were the only ones capable of collecting flags during these times. It is a shame that video games have not evolved past collecting pointless objects.

There are actually tons of flags not related to informer missions that are hidden throughout the game, but there is no point in collecting them. There should have been at least some kind of incentive to collecting the flags other than being able to say "I have collected all the flags, yay". Anything would have been better than nothing.

Now I will only go over the battle system briefly because I did not utilize all of the battle options after I learned "counter attack". There are options such as throwing your opponent, breaking their guard, dodging, etc. Realistically, the only thing worth using is the counter attack (which is extremely easy). Basically, hold R1, and press square right before every attack. And once you know how to counter with the hidden blade, you are unstoppable. It is a one hit kill every single time, no matter who you are facing. The effortless use of this is compounded by the fact that only one enemy attacks you at a time, even if there are 10 surrounding you. There is actually a lack of variety in a several areas of the game; weapons, fighting abilities, hiding spots, etc.

While I have many complaints, gameplay gets an average score because the controls are generally tight, and some of the assassinations were rather fun.

Miscellaneous:

I just had to throw this section in to make a few points. For a game that prides itself on realism and an immersive experience, there are a few moments that really missed the mark. Altair is a superior athlete who can scale any height, jump across wide gaps, and run at top speed without fatigue. He can dispatch any foe in battle, and is a master at wielding various weapons. And yet, he cannot swim? What. The. Heck. I really wanted to say something else, but this is a family friendly site.

When I first approached an area with water, I was curious. I did not see anything in the instruction manual about swimming, so I decided to dive in anyway. Altair died. Okay, didn't the GTA series improve upon this little annoyance of a character who couldn't swim? I think this game should either have given Altair the ability to swim or taken water out of the game. There is one particular assassination attempt by the docks that had me repeatedly fall in the water (my controller nearly became a boomerang).

The next point comes while trying to escape and hide. Altair is dressed in a distinct white hood, and he has SWORDS ON HIS BACK. Are you telling me that the guards can't spot him sitting on a bench right in front of their eyes? Shameful. These two points, while small, do make an impact on the enjoyment of AC because it takes away from the realism and immersion.

Replay: 3/10

There are really no cheats or secrets that will make me want to go through this game again (just click the links above). Unlockables aren't necessary to make a game complete, but they would be nice. I suppose some people will enjoy the challenge of collecting all of the flags or enjoying the story again, so that is why I didn't just give this section a zero.

Overall: 6/10

While I tended to criticize AC, it is indeed a fun game. When I first engaged this title it was the greatest thing ever, but it quickly unraveled into a decent game with major flaws. I spent a few weeks playing it, but everyone will play at their own pace. I believe there should have been more incentive to play through again, since there isn't, I probably won't pick this one up again. I would purchase an AC2 (which seems inevitable), because I believe that the flaws in this game can be corrected. Enjoy this game for what it is, but don't expect the world.

Pros:
+ Exceptional graphics
+ Freerunning mechanics
+ Shanking innocent bystanders

Cons:
- Lack of challenge
- Lack of objective variety
- Weak battle system
- Annoying Beggars


Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 01/22/08

Game Release: Assassin's Creed (US, 11/13/07)


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