|System: PS3, X360, PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Ubisoft Montreal||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Ubisoft||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: February 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Patrick Evans
July 13, 2006 - Pop culture has been good to the Crusades; careful not to completely murder it as other time periods have been (note: WWII). When we do finally see a game set in this time, we get a special treat involving acrobatic character movement, sweet counter-based combat, and an environment that acts as real as any videogame we've ever seen.
That, in a nutshell, sums up Assassin's Creed, the upcoming action/adventure/sandbox-medieval assassination simulator. Developed by Ubisoft's Montreal studio, this title takes a few familiar numbers from Prince of Persia, Thief, and any open-ended adventure game you can think of, and puts you in the position to change the political and military outlook of the 12th Century Middle-East.
Players will experience Jerusalem during the Third Crusade as assassin Altair, brother to a sect of warriors that attempt to stabilize the region by eliminating the leadership of both sides of the conflict. In fact, the brotherhood featured in this game is taken directly from the sect that had been coined "assassins." Ubisoft gets points for historical references!
These environments look unlike anything we have ever seen in videogames thus far. Teams of civilians react to everything that Altair does, whether it is slinking through a crowd quietly or otherwise. Take, for example, Altair creeping through a market in search of his target. If he quietly surveys his situation without doing anything to warrant extra attention, the surrounding civilians will think none-the-wiser and continue about their day. If he, on the other hand, drops from a rooftop on the streets below, surrounding NPCs will stare in amazement, some choosing to flee or defend themselves to your overly-aggressive maneuver. Even worse, guards will take notice of such activities and be all over you before in short order.>
Assassin's Creed has been designed with a sort of "urban camouflage" in mind. If there is a crowd listening to a public speaker or watching a public show, Altair can gently nudge his way through a crowd, much like you would politely maneuver through a Dave Matthews concert or something. This calls no attention to any guards in the area and, if you have the time, is the optimal mode of stealth movement. However, if your mark is making an exit, or time is otherwise running short, you can shove through the crowd and towards a quick kill.
Any good assassin, ninja, or CIA agent knows that the escape is more important than the actual kill. After all, slaughtering a military general, religious leader, or other high profile mark, in broad daylight is likely to piss off more than a few people. In escaping, or interacting with the world in general, just about anything is possible given the right frame of mind and understanding of physics. Plenty of attention has been given to "climbing physics." In this world, anything that juts out from a wall two inches or more can be scaled. Why settle for the ladder leading to that axe-wielding executioner when you can climb up that tavern wall using the awnings, tavern sign, and window sills? The physics behind Altair's movements are super-realistic, allowing players to perform sweet acrobatic leaps and hangs. On the other side of the coin, players are reminded of their mortality by increasing your tendency to fall as your speed increases. In other words, you can scale a wall like no one's business, but if you take a decent shove while running you will be put on your back.
The combat engine is mostly based on reversal maneuvers. For example, if you do come face-to-face with a guard, you could go swiping away at him, but you would most likely be cut down for your lack of finesse. Instead, it helps to let the guard make his first move and use your superior speed and agility to perform wicked-cool combos, with or without a weapon in hand. With this style of combat, one-on-one encounters should be little challenge, but large crowds will be difficult to manage.
There has been a little speculation with this title as the E3 demo that was given behind closed doors showed a "game over" screen that looked like a futuristic HUD that was totally out of place given the rest of the game's atmosphere. Perhaps Ubisoft has something up its sleeve for players later on? Or maybe, this is just a smokescreen that means little, or even nothing. Only time will tell.
CCC Former Staff Writer