Review by UesugiKenshin15

"A good game, not flawless, but worth the buy..."

After countless delays and a mind-numbing wait, Assassin's Creed, a game that did well on the X-Box 360 and the Playstation 3, finally made it to the PC. As the title suggests, this game is centered around assassinations, carried out stealthily or otherwise in a beautifully put-together 12th century holy land, right in the middle of the third crusade. The plot, however, adds more to the story than that, turning a simple stealth-action-adventure concept into an intriguing science-fiction plot.

The game starts out with the main character (or, one of two main characters) in a lab owned by a company called Abstergo Industries. This main character, Desmond Miles, a bartender from New York, had been kidnapped, and brought to Abstergo to take part in an experiment with a machine called the Animus. What is the Animus, you may ask? It is a machine that scans someone's DNA, decoding the memories of one's ancestors that happen to be present. It just so happens that one of Desmond's ancestors is an assassin, and that Abstergo happens to be interested in this assassin and his exploits during the third crusade.

Enter Altair, and the rest of the plot. The bulk of the game is spent exploring the 12th century holy land and performing assassinations and investigations for Altair's master. When you first start off as Altair, you are performing a sort of tutorial mission, obtaining an object that is central to the storyline and attempting to kill a high-ranking Templar in the process. Unfortunately, you fail, though one of your comrades manages to swoop up the object. After returning to the base of operations for the Assassins, the town of Masyaf, Altair is appropriately disciplined, stripped of his rank, and given his mission.

The game centers mostly focuses on Altair as he performs nine assassinations over the course of six or seven memory blocks. Between each memory block Desmond exits the Animus, usually to have a short chat with the two researchers watching over him. Altair's targets are located in one of three cities, three in Damascus, three in Acre, and three in Jerusalem. Your targets range from important men of the cities to merchants or doctors, each connected through the Order of the Templars. The assassinations themselves are unique as you choose to make them. You can attack with throwing knives from afar, charge in with your sword drawn, or attack with your hidden blade after sneaking up on your target. Before the assassinations, you're required to collect information, obtained via investigations, which will help you with your assassination. This information can range from the mundane, such as the target's motivation, to the important, such as how the target might be guarded. There are six investigations for each assassination, but you're only required to complete three. The investigations are generally the same or similar, consisting of assassinating guards on city rooftops, interrogating preachers on the street, pick-pocketing various people, racing across rooftops, escorting informants, or others. The challenge of these investigations varies as you go on, generally getting harder as the game progresses.

Whilst in the city, you can also perform good deeds, such as helping citizens who are being accosted by local guards, or climb viewpoints scattered throughout the city's districts. These are not mandatory, but performing good deeds gets you aid later on, such as vigilantes to stop guards who are chasing you, or scholars, with whom you can blend in. Climbing viewpoints allows you a broader view of the city, giving you an idea as to where citizens are in trouble, or where you can find more investigations to perform. The whole process, however, of completing investigations, climbing viewpoints, and helping citizens becomes quickly monotonous. Really, after the first few missions, the only things of interest are the new district of the city that opens up, and the target that you get to kill.

The cities themselves are expertly designed. They are large, and have a very realistic feel to them. As you progress through the story, the three districts of each city become available. The differences can be minor, but are decent touches. For example, roofs in the poor district of town are generally unguarded, whilst the middle and rich districts seem to have a guard always in sight. The streets can range from very crowded to almost empty. Crowds bustle around you, quite lively most of the time. Guards patrol the streets regularly, giving you trouble if you so much as push past them. Beggars quickly become a nuisance, jumping in front of you and crying out to you in their whiny voices, beseeching you for something you can't give. Women wander around carrying pots, and men with crates, and so much as brushing up against them can cause them to drop their load and alert guards to you presence. Drunks stumble around near alleys, pushing you if you come near. At corners and in front of buildings you can here preachers and speakers shouting out insults about the enemy, proclaiming the graces of their leader. All in all, the cities feel quite real, capturing accurately what life in the 12th century probably was like.

Now, it happens on occasion that you will get into a fight with guards. This can be caused for any number of reasons, from a rather open assassination, to wander around rooftops, to simply being too obvious amongst the crowd. You fight with one of for weapons: your sword, your hidden blade (which I never had any success with…), your short sword (or your throwing knives), or your fists. The bulk of your fighting will likely be done with the sword. Fights are fast-paced and fun, at first seeming you be just button-mashing, but evolving with time into carefully-performed combos that result in beautiful animations of Altair stabbing the enemy through the gut, spinning and hitting them in the legs, or a number of other equally bloody scenes. Fights are, generally realistic, the blood never being over the top, Altair never maiming his enemies. The guards tend to circle around you, reinforcements coming as the fight goes on. Altair never attacks more than one at a time, but can switch targets mid-fight. In addition to the fight itself, the atmosphere created by the fight is excellent. Peasants run about, sometimes watching briefly until you slay a guard before egressing and other times running right through the fight itself. It's a nice touch, and adds yet another touch of realism.

Fighting, however, isn't always an answer, and it's nice to know that you're not required to fight. Instead, you can run. There are various hiding places scattered throughout the city, from piles of loose hay to benches along the street and small, curtained buildings on the rooftops. You can also duck into a group of wandering scholars to avoid capture. This enhances the stealth element, allowing for those who don't feel the need to betray their skills as an assassin to avoid doing so. It is a shame, however, that this element did not carry on. The bulk of the last mission includes an incredible amount of fighting, more than, I dare say, the average assassin would likely take part in.

When you're not fighting or performing investigations, or even when you are, you can enjoy the luxury of free-running across city rooftops, jumping from beams suspended between buildings or holding up signs, or climbing most anything your heart desires. This was the main reason I bought this game. The animations for climbing and running are perfectly done here. You'll find that Altair may wobble a bit as he runs across a support beam, that he'll leap and bound between buildings and over streets with a certain kind of grace. The controls are well thought out, too. They may take some getting used to, they always do, but with time you'll find that nothing seems out of place or clunky.

When you're not wandering the streets of Jerusalem, Acre, or Damascus, you'll find yourself exploring the holy land itself. The Kingdom (as it's called) is, you'll find, a far cry from the cities. It's quiet, open, and you get a horse. For the most part, you'll simply be traveling through the Kingdom area. There are about two or three villages that you can explore, though they are merely there for realism. Guards do become quite the problem, however. Most will attack you if you gallop by on your horse. There's no downside to this – you can simply ride away – but it would have been nice if I didn't have to slowly move past guards.

Upon completion of the game, you'll find that there is little replay value, other than to write a review or relive the experience. You can go back and complete the investigations, I believe, and save all the citizens and climb all the viewpoints. There is also some collecting you can do. Scattered throughout the Kingdom, Masyaf, Acre, Damascus, and Jerusalem are various sets of flags that can be collected. There's no reward for doing so, it's just another fun thing to do. There are also sixty knights templar that you may feel inclined to kill – whenever you near them, they tend to attack anyway. As before, there's no reward, but it can help appease your sense of accomplishment. At the end of the game, you're also left with a few Easter eggs that hint at a sequel.

That all said, the game is stunning, visually as well as audibly. The graphics may not be as good as the graphics of Crysis, but they are some of the best out there. The textures are high resolution, the models well done, the animations realistic. The effects are stunning as well, especially the white lighting of the Abstergo Industries lab. It had a very eerie feel to it. The menu system also had a very high-tech feel, which was another plus. The sounds were also quite nice, from the sound of the city to the voice acting. Nothing beats hearing guards shouting at you in Arabic over the bustling noise of a city crowd.

Despite all the positive aspects of the game, it does have its flaws. I've mentioned some of those flaws before, but there are others. The story line, though having some very deep, philosophical moments (and I mean it when I say that) as well as a few unexpected elements to it, did seem to have some very shallow elements to it, as well as some predictable ones. I've also never seen a game that was so hard to quit. It takes about five or six steps, I believe, with a loading screen between most. It became quite annoying.

That doesn't mean, however, the game is not worth the buy. Altair develops excellently as a character, growing with each mission, and as the missions go along, there's far more fun to be had. I'd recommend this game simply because you can climb walls and dive into piles of hay. Running through the city, randomly tackling guards or simply enjoying the view… these are things well worth your money, in addition to what I've said above. Definitely, if you can, get this game. You won't regret it.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 04/28/08

Game Release: Assassin's Creed: Director's Cut Edition (US, 04/08/08)

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