Review by FFscia
"Failed by it's advertisments, but an amazing game non-the-less."
The twist most people are talking about isn't really a twist, but rather a marketing failure. Since the advertisements for the game never mentioned that it actually takes place in the future, it comes as a shock when you end up in a cold metallic test chamber. This is in-fact neither a twist nor a surprise, it's just the game's storyline. Why the advertisers decided to keep it a secret I'll never know, but it was very stupid of them.
I think the only reason some people don't like the future story arc is because the marketing team had only advertised one aspect of the game. When you're then handed a storyline you never expected from the game, that initial jarring slap in the face of not getting what you had been told you where going to get makes it hard for a lot of people to realize - this is actually a very good storyline, albeit not the one we where built up for.
The REAL story:
You play as the descendant of Altiar (The assassin) named Desmond. His genetic code stores all of his ancestor's memories, and a mysterious company is using a machine called the Animus to make Desmond relive those memories by force because they want information that Altiar knew.
Desmond is held against his will in the facility, and is given very little information about why he is there, who the people holding him are, or what will happen to him once they have what they need. All he can do is cooperate and live his ancestor's history, hoping to make sense of it all.
The story branches out into many facets. You'll see allegiances be formed, and some characters will take your side while others will betray you. Every action seems to have a greater meaning in the grand scheme, and whether you agree with the overall message or not it is a very interesting outlook and is displayed inventively. The story unravels more and more as you progress in your missions, and you'll find that there are characters you'll like and characters you won't - and that they all have their opinions of Desmond/Altiar/You as well.
You spend very little time as Desmond, despite him really being the main character. You spend much more time as him in the Animus, controlling his ancestor Altiar, the Assassin.
As Altiar you'll have two basic modes of action, High Profile and Low Profile. By default you'll be in low profile, which is used to either keep you from standing out or to help you blend back into your surroundings once you've been spotted. High Profile is used for getting places fast by means of climbing huge (HUGE) buildings, sprinting, or tackling past crowds in order to get to your Assassination Target.
Overall the gameplay is very fluid, and every movement is easy and natural to pull off once you get used to the controls (Which shouldn't take long). Gliding across rooftops is as easy as entering high profile mode, holding down the Sprint/Free-Run button and then running toward the direction you want to go, but that isn't to say that it's totally automatic. While Altiar will automatically jump once he comes to a ledge, he doesn't jump in any automated direction or to any automated distance. You still do have to control him, which is nice since you really feel like you're playing the game rather than watching the character play it for you like some other recent games.
Climbing is done with the same buttons as jumping, but you'll run at a wall or market stand rather than a ledge. This is one area that the character animation really shines, because Altiar actually grabs the framework of windows, the edges of ornaments, and the cracks running along walls in order to scale whatever structure you're getting to the top of. It's really amazing to see him interact with every detail of each surface.
There is a ton to do despite only having 9 targets to kill over the course of the game (Though you will end up killing hundreds of city guards and templars along the way.) You'll have to gain some knowledge about your targets before you can actually go after them such as where they'll be and what weaknesses in their security you should look for. The way you collect information is totally up to you, but no matter what you must find at least three sources before you can actually head out for the kill (however in total there are six possible information sources). If you keep choosing the same type of source, the game can easily get repetitive, though it doesn't really get boring. You should try to look for information types you haven't done in awhile, such as helping an informant rather than doing another pick-pocket mission.
Fighting is hit and miss. It's kinda fun, but not very engaging or interesting. I personally preferred to just sneak up on my enemies and stab them quietly rather than actually getting into a battle with them (and all their guards). Combat basically consists of holding block and waiting for an opponent to strike so you can counter them. While those counters look cool, the fighting system does leave something to be desired.
You're also in for a fair amount of just wondering around looking at how gorgeous the game is and exploring the cities. All of the cities are huge and magnificently detailed. They are so big that with the GPS system of your map turned off, you can often get yourself lost. Even after you clear an area you'll keep finding little buildings and alleyways and whole city blocks that you've missed. This was a personal plus for me because I love exploring, however for those who hate to get lost having the map on will make the game very enjoyable. Also, there is no one who can deny that the visuals from the View Points (Special high points in the cities) are nothing short of breathtaking, and they even add story-related elements on your map.
You will also be woken out of the Animus several times during the game, and that will give you time to play as Desmond and sneak around looking for more information on the people holding you captive as well as on the other test subjects that have undergone the genetic memory recall using the animus.
All in all if you like exploring beautiful sandbox-style cities, performing crazy acrobatics that make Lara Croft look about as cool as a children's gymnastics class, pulling off assassinations that are visually visceral and satisfying, all while unraveling a complex and elaborate storyline, then you'll find this to be a VERY fun and worth while game to play.
Look at the screenshots, and then imagine those without the compression quality loss. The game looks every bit as good it's been hailed to be, from the scale of the cities to the way the sun hits each and every bump and groove of a surface (thanks to normal mapping), and even how leaves fall from trees and Altiar's robe flows around when he jumps from building to building. There are many areas that you simply stop and stare not only because the graphics are life-like, but because the places those life-like graphics depict are actually beautiful places - landscapes and vast cities, unlike other games with photo-realistic sewers
The visual detail is so amazing and consistent that I, who could see jagged edges and polygonal geometry in Bioshock and Halo 3, often forgot that these cities where made out of lines of binary text on a computer. At times I really felt like I could reach into the screen and feel the heat of the sun beating down on the city of Damascus or smell the ocean by the docks in Acre. Not to mention, riding your horse down the path to Jerusalem is not only funny if you trample all the people coming up the path, but it's very gorgeous and the only area of the game to sport some greenery, since the other cities are more dry and desert like.
Even the futuristic area that you're in when not connected to the Animus is incredibly detailed, with smokey vapors rolling out from under the Animus machine it's self and warm sunlight streaming in to an otherwise cold feeling environment. Not to mention the digital Kristen Bell, who while the dev. Team didn't really do the real actress justice with is still recognizably Kristen.
The visual effects including everything from fire and blood to the digital glitches' the Animus produces around interest points are very impressive and stylized in a way that is ultimately realistic, while still making perfect sense in the storyline.
In short, the graphics are perfect.
This is one area that I personally felt disappointed. For me, the game didn't take to long to finish and the ending is sort of a let down. While it's passed off as a cliff hanger, it really feels more like they've just paused the storyline mid-way through since nothing really signifies the end of this game. It's almost like their was originally more to do after this point, but for whatever reason it was cut out. It's somewhat hard to explain without giving to much away, but the ending' really didn't give me a feeling of accomplishment, nor did it build me up for the sequel, it just stops.
That said, the path to that ending was so great that I'm already replaying the game. You can choose the order you assassinate your targets, and you can choose a different 3 sources of information prior to them as well as use very different tactics to actually complete the kill. All of that makes me feel confident that the experience will still be fun not to mention there is a ton of information to find as both Desmond and Altiar that I probably over looked in my first play.
Buy the game.
Forget all the advertisements you've watched for the game and just let the real storyline come to you, because even though it's different than what we've been lead to expect from this game it's really a very interesting one that you'll enjoy all the way up til the ending, which you might like better than I did.
I can't blame the bad marketing on the game it's self, but the way this game was advertised was awful and if anything it hurt the game's reception. Whoever was in charge of the marketing made a decision that would have easily killed this game if the developers' real storyline wasn't as strong as this one is. The previews for this game should have mentioned the Animus and briefly alluded to the connection between Desmond and Altiar. At least they should have given hints to the real storyline beyond an occasional static effect.
That said, I think this game was near perfect once you get it home and really play it and I probably enjoyed it a little better than I would have enjoyed the game that was advertised. Where it not for the way the ending left it, this game would get a perfect 10/10 from me.
However, because of that ending and the kind of boring fight system, I'm going to give it at a 9/10. If they can improve the fighting system and give the next one a real ending (That still sets up for the next game in the trilogy), it'll be one of the best games ever. I just hope they keep up with and remember the many, many thing they've done right with this one.
9/10. I really enjoyed the game and I recommend it to anyone looking for a great game that mixes Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi and OhWowThatsAmazing Graphics.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 11/19/07
Game Release: Assassin's Creed (US, 11/13/07)
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