Review by lVelothl
Assassin's Creed: The engine that almost did!
I like to visit the most important thing in the game first, and that is the gameplay. Is the game fun to play? Yes, it is very fun to play. The gameplay can be divided into three parts: combat, chasing, and social stealth.
Combat is intense, and the visceral feel of stabbing your sword into an oncoming enemy with a counter attack, or one of my favorites, slashing that shoulder and gut of an enemy that tries to attack you from behind, is simply exciting. The combat is deeper than most, and luckily you won't be pushing b x a a b a x b to get kills. Instead, it's based mostly on timing and positioning. I admit that it's easy to take on lots of enemies, especially when they slash at once and you move away, causing them to hit eachother.
There are a lot of animations, but there seems to be only three to four different counter kill animations and two combo kill animations with the longsword, about five counter kill animations with the shortsword and two combo kill animations, and last but not least, several counter kill animations with the hidden blade, which are all REALLY cool. Annoyingly, towards the end of the game, you'll end up using lots and lots of non-lethal counter attacks (the dreaded punch and kick duo) which will cause you to say "oh screw it I'm just going to slash him while he's on the ground."
Chasing is fan-friggin-tastic. It's strange that the guards can pull off many of the stunts you can, such as jumping from pole to pole, rooftop to rooftop, but they can't go EVERYWHERE you can. What's great about the chases is that they go both ways. When you are being chased, your goal is generally to break the line of sight and then find somewhere to hide. On the rooftops there are usually little pavilions with cloth walls that you can jump into, but the most common hiding place, in its rival being the 'bench blending,' would be the haystacks. They are all over the place, and you can jump from tall buildings into them to escape quickly.
When YOU are doing the chasing, the one you are pursuing will pull all the stops to get away, including tackling civilians and jumping from ledges.
However, as mentioned, even heavily armoured Templars can chase you into the strangest of spots, run just as quickly as you, and more. Also, sometimes I experience difficulty NOT running up walls when I happen to be too close to one, try to sprint away, but am sprinting towards the wall.
Social stealth in this game is pretty cool. Its effectiveness varies by what point of the game you're at. For example, at the beginning, guards will not know you very well, so you can go nuts with freerunning, but at the end, they'll be on a constant lookout for you, so you'll need to be much more careful. If you are particularly inconspicuous, you can use your hidden blade to assassinate (guards) in broad daylight and walk away. Another guard will come over and inspect it, then look around for the killer, but you can still get away with it.
Although these are intended features and are not necessarily detractors, there happen to be drunks and mentals, who stumble around mumbling madness to themselves and like to push you if you get near, as well as beggars, who approach you if you come into their sight and get in front of you constantly, asking for money. The only thing you can do, really, is ignore both, though you can throw or hit a beggar to REALLY scare them off. As for social stealth detractors, there really are none that I can think of.
Even though it is somewhat linear, I liked the story so much that I decided it deserved a 10/10. It's one of those stories that are just fantastic, good reads, wonderful experiences. I'm not one for reading books twice though. There are two parts to the story: the present and the past.
I'll try to give the story in a nutshell without spoilers. You are a person in the present to near future. Your ancestor is an assassin. Scientists are trying to see what your ancestors saw. In the past, you play as Altair, the ancestor. Your rank of Master Assassin is stripped of you due to breaking the code several times. The story also factors into penalizing the player in order to balance the game.
The textures and buildings are all very nice, weather effects (well, that there are anyway) are nice, the 'siege' feeling of Acre is realistic, and the draw distance when you're at a very high point in a city are all INCREDIBLE. However, the models, while pretty good, aren't the BEST. Also, there seems to be some anti-cinematic collision detection. For example, when you stab a guard with the hidden blade, it doesn't really look like you've stabbed him, it just looks like the blade has gone through his body and he has died.
Besides those two annoying but important flaws, the game looks very good, especially the blood sprays.
The music is ... well, frankly I don't even remember if I heard music. That means it was either forgettable or not present. The voice acting was great for everyone except Altair, who was somewhat robotic and sometimes had a strange delay between his conversation partner's line and his own reply. The beggar's cries for help are exactly as they should be; they make me want to KILL that beggar, but you WILL hear the same lines from the citizens you save and the beggars that harass you over and over again. Luckily, there is a nice variation in the remarks of the people that observe your deeds. Also, the swordfighting audio is just excellent.
The game falls somewhat short on this. I played the game practically in two, barely broken sittings that lasted about 20 hours for the main storyline. After that, I only needed to finish the view points/save citizen sidequests, kill all the templars, and get all the flags (which will take an eternity) and I would be left with little to do. Fortunately, I was thinking about some interesting things to do just screwing around, such as making drunken sailors become freerunning ninja at the Acre docks.
The game IS set up to be easily replayed, though, and you can go back to any of the chapters of the game you played previously through use of a resourceful story. However, except for filling in empty spaces and getting your last achievements, you won't be nearly as engaged as when you first started.
Rent or buy?
Rent, because the only reason to buy it would be to revisit it in the future, but since it's a trilogy, there would be no reason to do that. You would simply buy the second/third game.
Final word: like almost all games nowadays, Assassin's Creed was afflicted by the dangerous disease called "hype." Hype brought everybody's expectations up way too high. While it did not live up to the expectations that the fans brought up themselves, it is still a fun game and certainly worth at least a rent. It ends with a sort of unfulfilled cliffhanger, one that was expected, so buy Assassin's Creed 2, since Ubisoft will likely have learned from their mistakes.
Rating: 4.0 - Great
Product Release: Assassin's Creed (US, 11/13/07)
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