|System: PC, PS3, X360||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: April 8, 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|
This issue is actually not as bad as it was in the console version. There are a few new kinds of missions in Director's Cut that help to mix things up. There is a rooftop variant of the stealth assassination quest, where you to take out archers atop various buildings. You might also be asked to escort a contact and play defender. These new missions are actually a bit more interesting than the originals, and it's good to see that Ubi recognized this issue, but there's still a lot of untapped potential, and it doesn't eliminate the feeling that this is just repetitive busywork to kill time between bosses.
As you'd expect from the premise, there's a major stealth element to the gameplay, and there are some very fresh ideas about just what "stealth" means. Traditionally, stealth has been a simple matter of avoiding being seen, but in Assassin's Creed, it's about avoiding being noticed. It's your behavior that determines how likely you are to be spotted. If you're strolling around with a bunch of scholars in white robes, no one will notice you, but if you're barreling over people, scaling walls, or waving a sword around, guards will be a lot more likely to take pay attention. You can use the anonymity crowd to hide in plain sight - a refreshing break from the usual skulking around behind backs.
Once you do get spotted, however, the system turns peculiar. We've come to expect that guards will give up after their target has left their sight for enough time, but Altair isn't so lucky. He still needs to escape his pursuers' line of vision, but no matter how long he does so, they won't give up until he "hides" in one of a few pre-determined spots, like diving into a bale of hay or sitting on a bench. Even though they don't witness the hiding itself, Altair's decision to sit on a bench somehow magically ends the chase, like reaching "home" in a game of tag. It's really quite annoying, as you likely don't have every safe spot nearby committed to memory, and they can be far apart.
Ultimately, Ubi might not fully understand just what makes sandbox gameplay work. It isn't just about the freedom to run around a large environment or tackle tasks out of order. It's about the ability to play creatively and make your own choices. There are simply not enough ways to express yourself in Assassin's Creed. If there were more complex consequences for your actions, and more ways to influence characters beyond simply killing or not killing them, it would be a richer, deeper experience. Instead, we are met with seemingly endless tutorials and rigid hand-holding that impose an unwelcome tedium.
There is a lot to like here. It's difficult to ignore why this was one of the hottest titles of 2007. The concept, setting, and production values combine to create something downright captivating, and a few months later the slightly upgraded Director's Cut is certainly no worse for the wear. Alas, beautiful and fascinating though it may be, it is not substantial. There's a severe lack of depth for a game so enamored with its aspirations of an "open world." The gates may be open, but the possibilities couldn't be more limited. Assasin's Creed is a game you'll want to love, but the wasted potential begs for a mercy that no cold-blooded killer should have.
CCC Freelance Writer