Review by KJX
"A combination of plot, action, exhiliration and conspiracy- And it can be played."
Often, we look for a refreshing change in games. This does not always mean we look for better graphics, or stories, or gameplay alone. Rather, we find them in games that contain many of these qualities combined- something that Assassin's Creed has achieved, I believe, with great success. With research into the past, combining with a partially historical, partially fiction plot set against a realistic crusade backdrop; and introducing a character whose years of devotion in an assassin force allows him to fight, run, and blend in; we are told, shown, and allowed to play in a middle-eastern world where social stability now depends on Assassins.
Admittedly, when I'm playing a video game, I rarely pay attention to the plot. This is one of those games where listening to the plot is not only essential to success in eliminating your target, but also manages to be a very enjoyable experience. You play as Desmond, a prisoner of a shady organization whose genetic memory device allows him to follow in the footsteps of an ancient ancestor, named Altair.
Altair, disgraced shortly after a failed mission, is allowed his honor back after he is tasked with the assassination of 9 men, all in Middle-East cities of Acre, Damascus and Jerusalem. As Altair does so, he becomes wrapped up in a conspiracy surrounding ancient artifacts- a conspiracy that continues even in Desmond's modern times. The story is rich with conspiracy and plot, containing several twists that lend credit to the motto that "Nothing is Certain- Everything is Permitted." So intense is the plot that it does ultimately lead into the gameplay.
Although at first glance the graphics seem to be on the downside considering the console's power, this is not the case- there are many nice textures and animations which sync with the audio very nicely, several visual effects that make for stunning views, and fluid motions that bring life to the characters, particularly Altair. His appearance will change only slightly over the game's course, but the animation detail on his body language is top notch- he will react to his surroundings, as will his enemies. Cinematic scenes are incredible even when viewed normally- when the "glitches" are activated, you may as well be watching a CGI movie with different camera angles. There is enough variety in the townsfolk to give the impression that nobody seems alike. The only flaw worth of note is that the game will sometimes freeze for a half second, most likely as a result of loading- this rarely happens enough to detract from the game, however, and aside from minor, understandable clipping effects, that is it.
The music in the game is incredible, using cultural influences from the Middle East to create stunning, moving tunes, exhilarating rhythm (particularly while running), and intense periods of low-volume music which reacts to the situation. The same cannot really be said for voice audio, however- although the voice actors are realistic enough, and although the positioning system allows you to faintly make out the town-crier's voice a city block away, the audio for it seems muffled for some of the characters. Also, multiple characters make use of the same audio clips- this is especially true among the beggars in all 3 cities. Multiple voice actors, particularly rescued scholars and citizens, also use the same bits of dialog. These minor flaws don't detract from the gameplay enough, however, and they do well enough for the game.
I would love very much to give this a 10, but I can't. There is a flaw, but I will first begin on the many positives.
Control is almost second nature after a few hours with the game. Within an hour, you will know exactly how fight and move, pickpocket and assassinate. The one-button combat seems simplistic, but the complexity of battle, mixed in with the ease on controller manipulation and the smooth beauty of combat graphically makes this a worthwhile experience, particularly in battles with more than 10 foes involved. Options don't cease- whether you wish to dispatch enemies with throwing knives at a distance, assassinate quietly and slip away, throw your foe from the rooftoops to their death, button-mash your way to victory, or make use of counter-attacking, you have many options.
As far as gameplay, assassination is an interesting endeavor- you are not merely set loose on your enemy. Rather, you are forced to investigate and learn of the target, to better understand what they may do when threatened. Although you need only a few bits of info to begin the assassination attempt, investigating all sources of knowledge proves a fun and useful option- the more info you have, the more you can refer to in the memory menu to better plan your attack. It goes further, as well- assisting the badgered and helpless citizens of the city will introduce either scholars, which you can use to blend in with to hide from enemies, or Vigilantes, who will attempt to hinder the pursuit of your enemies, should they give you chase for any reason. The stealth system is easy to understand and make use of, so there will very rarely be times when you won't know what's going on.
But why rate this a 9, if the gameplay is so good? Because of 2 groups of people that will hinder you more than is necessary- Beggars and Fools. Beggars are always looking for handouts, which is annoying enough to listen to, but for some reason they will only run up to you and try to keep you from walking. If you're jogging through the city, this is not really a concern, but if you are attempting to assassinate someone and they refuse to get out of the way? That's just weak. Fools, which are mentally unsound men, are worse- they will very nicely leave everyone else except you alone. You could be walking slowly in a praying manner to avoid detection, when randomly, a fool will lash out at you in an idiotic fashion, breaking your cover. This element could have used a nice bit of refinement beforehand. The best that can be said is that there is an achievement for grabbing and throwing around 25 beggars.
Other than that, though? Incredible gameplay.
The world you traverse is large. Just finding every flag in one town will take up a large chunk of time. Most times, I find myself spending over an hour just investigating on an assassination target before the assassination even begins, and that's not counting the assassination and escape, either- there is at least 15 hours of gameplay to be had, if one merely wishes to rush it, but you will not fully enjoy the game unless time and effort is put into it. There is a great story to be had, as well, which eats up a good bit of time. The game offers the ability to replay after the credits finish rolling, so you are given the opportunity to go back, locate flags, eliminate Templar, or even just perfect an assassination attempt. There will be a lot of time spent into this game- fortunately, I can say I regret nothing afterwards.
When it appeared at E3 for the first time, I was mildly intrigued. And as the date of release grew nearer, I became more interested. I can safely and honestly say that I would not have been satisfied with renting this game, so enjoyable an experience it had been. I cannot see myself returning this game for any reason at all- I actually see myself enjoying this game even as the years pass.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 11/19/07
Game Release: Assassin's Creed (US, 11/13/07)
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