Review by Bob Bastard
A great game that could have been even better
After hearing lots about this game from my friends I finally decided to rent it and try it out. I loved the game but I thought it could have been improved in several areas. If you're one of those people who don't like to read the back of the game box in case it might spoil something, don't read this, because it discusses the storyline up to about 3 minutes into the game.
The story, an important part in these sorts of games, could have been a lot better, and is probably the worst part of the game. Instead of playing as an assassin who lives in the past, you play as the guy who's playing as the assassin who lives in the past. You are strapped in to something called the "animus", which is kind of like a computer interface, and you relive the antics of said assassin for the purpose of... of... I don't even know. I was hammering buttons in a desperate attempt to skip the unskippable cutscenes, not paying attention to the boring, irrelevant dialogue. The animus is used to explain why you have infinite lives, among other things, and it's really not necessary to have an explanation for most of them. But now let's move onto the good.
The gameplay is excellent, from jumping from rooftops to shoving your way through crowds to fighting off guards. First of all, the movement: You are able to scale almost every wall in a style reminiscent of Tomb Raider, and jump considerable distances with ease. This is useful when you are running from guards, and trust me, you will be doing quite a bit of that. You are able to blend into crowds by doing socially acceptable things like walking and pushing people out of your way gently. You are also able to barge through crowds knocking villagers every which way and sending everyone into a panic. People on the street react to your every movement and it's great fun to observe them.
I think the developers tried to make it so open combat took a backseat to stealth, and it worked (kind of). If you kill people, hurt them, or do anything else to annoy the guards, they will chase you. Your assassin really can't take many more than 5 guards at once, and he usually won't have to unless you expose yourself around somewhere that guards are gathered at, such as a city gate or a stand where they are listening to their leader talk. Draw attention to yourself around there, and you basically have two choices: skedaddle or die. If you choose the former, you will have to get out of the guard's line of sight and then get into a hiding spot. Some of these include a pile of straw you hide inside, a bench where you can blend in with civilians, and a group of priests that are friendly to you which you join in walking around and praying.
If you decide to fight, you will have four weapons at your disposal: a hidden blade which is used only to assassinate people (more on that later), a sword which is automatically drawn when engaged in combat against guards and is slow but strong, and throwing daggers that can 1 or 2-hit kill guards but have limited ammo. Once you run out of knives you use your last one for combat, and I prefer it to the sword because it's a lot faster and therefore better for fighting groups. You can also use your fists, which I only use to knock beggars out of my way when they come up to me, hugging me, pleading for money which I don't have. In addition, you can grab guards and innocents and throw them, sending them sprawling on the the ground. This is an invaluable technique when fighting guards on rooftops, you can throw them off and kill them if it's high enough.
With your hidden blade, you can walk up to people and assassinate them. You can do a stealth assassination which usually looks like a hug, and isn't noticed by anyone who isn't looking directly at you until they fall to the ground, and you can do a regular assassination where you do a variety of things including wrestling them to the ground and stabbing them. While faster and more convenient than a stealth assassination, since you can do it while you're running, it makes people scream for guards and immediately reveals you to any nearby ones. Assassination is the easiest way to kill running targets in close range. In addition, you can get on a horse and ride it to different cities. Horse riding is a functional if not groundbreaking experience- It's mostly designed to get from point A to point B as fast as possible.
The only real problems the gameplay has are the triggers for guards to attack you. Why does punching an innocent civilian get me shouted at and nothing else, but if I sprint in front of a guard he decides I'm a serious threat to the city and everyone in it and gives chase? Why, when I'm fistfighting with a hobo that hit me first, do the guards attack me and only me? Why is getting my horse to walk acceptable but getting him to trot makes everyone try to kill me? It may seem a bit nitpicky but it can get annoying when you're doing a mission in which stealth is required.
Astounding. All the character models look great, as does the water, and everything is crystal clear. The buildings look exactly like they supposedly looked like back in the 12th century. I've yet to come across a single graphical glitch. The only complaint I can possibly make is that all the cities look similar, and you'll run into deja vu several times across the landscape, which is forgivable because it's so vast. And this is coming from someone who has a standard def TV.
Sound effects are superb. Voice acting is good, although the whole thing where people's voices get softer if you go away from them fails in this game, as you can turn around and hear the same thing you would hear from behind a wall. Also, people repeat the same lines over and over as you run across the city, which obviously gets repetitive, and the important characters are sometimes hard to understand because of their accents.
This game's free roam is great fun but it gets boring eventually. The story is worth playing again, I suppose, just to do the fun missions again. The game is easily 10-15 hours long depending on how much you like sandbox.
Rent or Buy?
This game does not appeal to everyone, and I'd rent it and play through a good chunk of it before deciding to buy.
Rating: 4.0 - Great
Product Release: Assassin's Creed (US, 11/13/07)
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