Review by Xenon
"Truly Living Cities provide the backdrop for a game that's got a lot of wow"
Killing people in real life is both wrong and complicated. You must hide it well or they'll send you to jail (or worse), and even if you succeed it could come back to haunt you or some kid could try to get revenge on you when you're old and settled. Yes, murder is a messy business. And that's why we have video games. There, we can murder all we want and the only ramifications are in game! Assassin's Creed Recognizes this, and creates a pretty good, if kind of narrow, Grand Theft Holy Land.
Assassin's Creed gives you control over two people from two different times. The first and more publicized is Altair (Al-tie-ear), the second is his far descendant Desmond. I'll leave the connection for you to find out yourself when you press the start button (seriously, it's revealed in like the first ten seconds of playtime), but the storyof the game has you follow Altair through several assassination missions through three cities in Modern day Israel during the crusades. Both Christians and Muslims are targeted, so those of you worried this is going to turn into some my religion is better than yours need not worry.
Gameplay consists of Altair gathering information about his targets and then going to the appropriate place and killing them. The exact way you go about it all, however, is very freeform. While there are always six investigations you can complete, you only need to complete two or three in order to actually move on to the target. Altair always has the full range of his motions, which include his weapons as well as his climbing. Who you can kill isn't restricted either. If you want to murder joe schmoe sitting on the street, then you can. Mind you, civilians will cost you a chunk of your health, but that is constantly regenerating, so unless you get caught and try to fight the soldiers, this is a minor issue.
Control is a mixed bag with generally positive results. Combat controls feel fluid and responsive, to the point that while you may mess up a counter, you'll know it's because your timing is off, not the game's. The setup is also excellently applied allowing you to switch between a blending socially acceptable mode and a faster action mode. Switching between the two on the fly is smooth and easy, and really quite neat. The only real flaw in the control comes in the climbing mechanisms. Altair will be required to climb numerous buildings and high points, and even when not necessary, it's often times easier to travel that way than through the crowded streets. But sometimes Altair just wasn't sure where to climb to, even though it should have been obvious. This became VERY frustrating, even though it did not happen all that often. Combat is more robust than you would think, considering the game actively encourages you to avoid most combat, and nearly every assassination can be done with Altair's trademark hidden blade. In reality, however, I found that most of the time just fighting it out was just as easy once I got the counter ability.
The investigations you must complete before the assassinations come in a variety of methods. You can eavesdrop, pickpocket, beat it out of a witness, or perform an errand for your assassin brother. Any of the investigations will do, and completing them all only serves to unlock an achievement. This is probably a good thing, as the game can get quite repetitive. You'll need to climb on top of a tall building to survey an area, find the various tasks (including optional ones that can increase your health), and complete them. Repeat until your done, then go to the assassin bureau and begin the actual assassination. Most of the assassinations are thankfully varied, and killing them won't be as simple as walking up to them and stabbing them in the back like your common variety soldier.
Walking through the cities, you'll find that Assassin's Creed is another game that really nails the atmosphere. It's the first game I've played that has actually had suitably inhabited cities. The streets are filled with people that you have to move around. Sneaking up on a soldier, killing him, and then just calmly walking away as he slowly crumples is one of the more awesome feelings around. Just that air of superiority you gain. It would be nice if someone took the bodies away though. There are some fights that are necessary, and after defeating about twenty soldiers, all the patrolling ones will become very suspicious, well, for about forever. It can make other missions next to impossible to complete.
+++ Generally Tight Controls
++ Truly living cities
++ Interesting plot
-- Pretty Repetitive
-- Nearly no replay value
-- Can be pretty short
- Will someone haul those bodies away
In the end, how much you enjoy Assassin's Creed will depend entirely on how big you get hit by the wow factor. If you're taken aback by the nifty way you can stealthily assassinate targets and soldiers or by the crowds of people all around, then you'll push through Assassin's Creed and want more. If you're not impressed, then the repetition can get to you. Thankfully, you can push through the game and avoid most of that repetition if you're so inclined, though this will shorten your playtime considerably. Check out AC, it's worth your trouble.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.0 - Great
Originally Posted: 06/23/08
Game Release: Assassin's Creed (US, 11/13/07)
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