Review by lastfirstborn
Assassin's Creed: Blade in the crowd, or missed mark?
Many people have been eagerly awaiting this game's release for several years now. We've seen tons of pictures, teaser videos, and heard all sorts of things leading up to it's release. Ubisoft Montreal is a company that knows how to make a fun, pretty, exciting game. Tension built, anticipation grew, and finally we get the finished product, after being tortured for the couple weeks leading up to it by countless ads over several mediums.
Is it worth a buy or a rent? Is it worth it at all?
In a word, yes. It most certainly is.
Why build up the start of the review like this? To illustrate what many were feeling. You may have heard some negatives about this game. That it's repetative, slow, hard to play, etc etc. I will cover these issues and many more in this review. I hope to bring you something completely unbiased, from a real gamer, that cares about what he plays. I realize money is usually an issue, and that we should all feel gipped out of the cash we spend if we get an unfinished or subpar product. Read on to see if this game is for you.
Graphics - 10 The graphics are basically perfect. Giant cities, small towns, back end countryside, the works. These places look great, feel great, and most importantly, fully immerse you in the story. The animation for people, horses, birds, even the wind and sands, are brilliant. This goes the same for water. It all looks very realistic. Townspeople move simply about their day. Guards are a bit more rigid, and patrol set spaces. The main character, Altair, moves with fluid grace, defining purpose, and methodical approach in all ways. He truly looks the part of an assassin, but when he needs to blend into the giagantic (over 100 people on a screen easily at times) crowds, he can, naturally and with no hiccups in the animation whatsoever. Combat looks just as pretty as everything else, with battle stances, gory kills, and fabulous acrobatic getaway manuevers. Simply put, you will very likely love the way the character moves. Story scenes are also told mostly via in game graphics, and are just fine. You can also choose perspectives for most scenes with the press of a button.
Sound - 9 Everything here is mostly perfect as well. Sounds of combat, sounds of the city, sounds of life and nature abound. And it's all very acurate and mostly enjoyable. However, some sounds do get slightly repetative. Hence, the one point drop in the catergory. The alert system can get annoying with it's incessant beeping (you can adjust this and it's not hard to ignore later in game, however), and sometimes the repeated sayings of the crowd, of guards, and of combat/chase scenes can get a little repetative as well. But overall, the sounds and dialouge fit in fine with the overall experience. Story scenes also sound good, whatever perspective you choose.
Story - 9 Very good marks here as well. There is a twist I won't talk about for fear of massive spoilers. It is a well kept secret no one would expect, I will give you that much. It can also be a bit offputting, after you first learn about it, and sort of detatch you from the story. But by the end, if you fully pursue it's venues of exploration, you will find a very good story in and of itself here in the twist. As for Altair (al-tee-aeir), our main character, he's very good. Lead assassin, disgraced at the start of the game, he must earn his way back into his people's good graces. This story takes place during the Third Crusade, and is very interesting. Your people don't believe the Holy Land you live in belong to anyone in particular, and therefore set you out to assassinate nine major players on every side of the conflict, to hopefully put an end to all the killing and claims to land. However, all things may not be as they seem, you will learn as you kill each figurehead you are assigned to take out. You will also find minor side stories in other little missions in the game, and you can fully explore the holy land as much as you please. The story is solid, though the twist section may put some people off of the game by the end. All I can recommend, is that you give it a chance. I thought it got much better by the end.
Gameplay - 9 I say it's very good. Nearing perfection, but falling slightly short. Basicially, you play through short sections where you only affect dialouge. Then you play as Altair, where he leaves a hub town in order to traverse the large countryside (many towns lie here, with some challenges and fun to be found), until he reaches one of three major cities. He can travel to and scale up massive towers to fill in more map, and therefore get around better and quicker. Once you reach the gigantic city of your choosing, you can continue to scale towers and monuments until you fill in the map and find other things to do. Once you climb up and locate the assassin's guild, you can learn a little about your next target hit. From there (as part of your punishment, see my storyline section above), you are charged with researching your mark to a minor extent. From here you can move on to carry out the kill, or you can continue to do investigations and research on your mark even more so, to make the kill simpler when the time comes. To investigate (in all cities in the game), you must eavesdrop on people, pickpocket for information, help informants with random tasks (like killing their foes, or finding their lost objects within a time limit), or you can seek out people in the know and beat information from them in hand to hand combat. You are also free to traverse areas of cities to any extent (eventually), and you can save citizens being harrased by crooked guardsmen. They, in turn, grant you leway in their neighborhoods (help running from guards, or ways of sneaking into heavily guarded areas without using violence). Once you have the minimum of information about the target (or however much you want), you return to your guild and get the okay to go do the job. Time passes and you're back out in the city, with the marker on your map telling you how to reach your target. Each target has an indivual and realistic personality, and no one assassination will go the same way. Doing your research can really pay off! You can then do whatever you want to kill the mark. And I do mean almost anything you want! But for me, it's hard to beat getting your info, and then sneaking up to and slaying the mark without him every knowing he was about to die. Moving on, the fighting takes some getting used to, but overall becomes very addictive and satisfying. There are a few combos to learn, several weapons to use, and dozens of killing animations for counter attacking with each of the weapon types (medium blade, short blade, stealth wrist blade, throwing knives). Stealth killing is very satisfying, and easy to learn, though difficulty (in a good way) to master. Fleeing is incredibly fun and pulse pounding. Foes throw rocks, shoot arrows, try to box you into dead end alleys, and will even follow you onto rooftops! You can run in a myriad of ways, and hide almost anywhere to make them leave you be. There are specific roof gardens and hay bales used to hide the quickest and best, however. You can dive through merchant stalls, climb up sheer walls, flip about, roll from pursuit, shove guards off rooftops to get the others' attention away from you, etc etc. There is so much you can do to run away. Traversing the cities and towns are also tons of fun for just about any type of gamer. You will scale ledges and oucroppings, and make your own path in countless, creative ways, through winding city streets, or high above them on the well made roofline. And if you can see it, you can reach it, in this title. Any height, any building, any area you wish. Some places require thought, but just add to the replay value and fun factor. Some may find the constant climbing, eavesdroppoing, pickpocketing and all a bit repetative, or slow paced. That is a small reason I dropped this catergory down to a nine. I could go on and on about how much I enjoy this game, but I think you have the basics down by now.
So in the end, is this a rent or a buy? That all depends. If you really got hyped up for this game, but refuse to see any viewpoint on game style but the one you made up in your own head over these years, you may be dissapointed, as with many things in life. If you're open to an open world, decent fight system, some stealth, and a slowly paced but interesting plotline overall, you will probably want to buy. If you're an achievement junkie you will also probably want to buy, as there is alot to do in this game, and several of the achievements will take you days to finish and earn. If you find many games to be repetative and bland, or too slowly paced when you have to hold a trigger just to start running, you may want to rent. You may find the tasks of repeatedly eavesdropping, citizen saving, flag collecting, etc. a bit boring after your first three targets are dead. If you are worried about this issue, rent first, and buy later. In the end, I feel Asssassin's Creed delivers an engrossing, action packed experience. Travelling is good, traversing cities is better, fighting is awesome, and running and hiding is incredibly fun. You will often repeat your tactics and methods in order to get to your hits and take their lives, but eight out of ten of you will probably greatly enjoy this, over and over again!
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Product Release: Assassin's Creed (US, 11/13/07)
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