The wait is finally over, and Ubisoft Montreal has released the much anticipated Assassin’s Creed. Cinematic visuals, an engaging storyline, and ingenious gameplay make this one of the greatest titles for the next-gen consoles to date. However, this game may not be for everyone. The story is quite engaging, but the pacing can be rather slow at times. Additionally, the controls, while easy to use, are not quite as agile as one would like them to be. In any case, all of you who have been anxiously anticipating the game’s release will not be disappointed. There are many aspects to this title besides the obvious ones that make this an incredible and unique next-gen experience.
The storyline takes you from a dark, futuristic world to the deep memories of an old and all-but-forgotten ancestor. The juxtaposition of the two settings makes for an interesting and fresh take on the classic action-adventure genre. Assassin’s Creed plays like the Prince of Persia – evolved. You begin the game in the middle of what seems to be a tutorial run amuck. The screen will shutter and glitch and on-screen prompts as well as panicked voices relay instructions to you. This is your introduction to the mind-bending world of Desmond Miles and his ancestor Altair Ibn La-Ahad. Desmond awakens in a prison-like laboratory. He’s a human guinea-pig for the Animus Project. Lucy Stillman and Dr. Warren Vidic are trying to extract memories from his DNA in order to reveal the missing parts of Altair’s memories. As the story continues you’ll hop between the past and the future looking for answers.
While in the body of Altair, a lot of attention is paid to his acrobatic skills. He can climb up buildings, scurry across boards, and jump from platform to platform with the greatest of ease. His fighting prowess is also on display. Altair has access to a sword, a lethal hidden blade, a short blade, and throwing knives. As Altair, you can target enemies and defend yourself against them. If you find yourself surrounded by armed men intent upon killing you, you can take on the entire group by switching the focus from one to the next. The combination of acrobatic feats and martial dexterity are truly reminiscent of Ubisoft Montreal’s Prince of Persia: Sands of Time series. However, the gameplay of Assassin’s Creed has many more nuances that distinguish it from its predecessor.
You’ll take on a number of assassination missions throughout the game. You will also be tasked with freeing innocent citizens, obtaining information, and completing errands and favors for NPCs that will facilitate your quest. The world of Assassin’s Creed is primarily based in the 12th century Middle East, during the Third Crusade. It’s an expansive world that will take you through many ancient and beautiful cities. Upon entering any new region, it’s important to first climb the tallest building marked by an eagle flying over head in order to synchronize your map and GPS system. Once this is done, you’ll be able to easily locate points of interest throughout the level. Secondly, before an assassination can be made, you must obtain information by eaves-dropping from a nearby bench, direct interrogation, pick-pocketing unsuspecting marks, and doing favors for informants. Finally, once you have acquired the requisite information you can proceed to the assassin bureau leader to complete your deadly mission.
Altair is a stealthy character who blends into a crowd easily. He does so by keeping a low-profile. This is the default action set for his movements. If the situation dictates a more direct approach, switching into high-profile mode will allow you to sprint, grab, and attack. This is achieved by activating the right trigger. Selecting weapons is a breeze via the quick inventory that is mapped to the D-pad. The four face buttons control your head, weapon hand, empty hand, and legs. Specific actions are mapped to each button, and they vary depending on whether you’re in low or high-profile mode. Running up the face of buildings, fighting enemies, and even riding horses is a joy due to the excellent control scheme. The left trigger simply targets enemies and also, while in the midst of battle, you can enter a defensive position, ready to block oncoming attacks. All in all, the controls are very good without a particularly steep learning curve.
The visuals are emphasized in this game. The lighting, shadows, textures, and attention to detail are absolutely amazing. This is one of the very best examples of the power of next-gen consoles and modern gaming PCs. You’ll truly get lost in the gorgeous settings and busy city scenes. The frame rate is fantastic and the only glitches you’ll experience are those placed in the game on purpose, in order to maintain the specter of futuristic gloom. The camera angles are well placed, and the ability to change those angles during cutscenes heightens the cinematic experience. I absolutely love this feature and expect to be implemented in other games of this ilk.
In-game sounds, voice acting, and music are very good. The sound effects closely mimic the clang of swords in battle, the muffled landing of a dexterous rogue, and the vibe of the city streets. The voice acting is very good for the most part, save for that of the main character, which doesn’t really blend in with the other 12th century characters. I assume this is because these are replayed memories of Altair through Desmond’s mind. However, the accent is just too different and too modern for the antiquated language that’s spoken. The music is not very noticeable when you’re submerged in the gameplay, but it’s very appropriate and has an Arabic feel to it that gives the game authenticity.
There’s no online gameplay in Assassin’s Creed. It’s just a single-player experience, pleasurable enough to stand alone. You can collect flags throughout the cities and kingdom. This is by no means essential to finishing the story; however, it can be treated as a side-quest that extends gameplay. I find it to be a bit monotonous and not particularly enticing. You’re better off following the riveting story and moving on to the next title rather than reliving old glories.
I thought this would be interesting to note: Immediately preceding the title screen Ubisoft Montreal placed a disclaimer explaining that the game is inspired by historical events and characters. They also say “This work of fiction was designed, developed, and produced by a multicultural team of various religious faiths and beliefs.” Due to the current political climate they felt it was necessary to highlight this fact. I was not affected by the story in that regard, but some sensitive gamers may find themselves offended by the themes brought out by the storytelling.
Assassin’s Creed is certainly a must-buy title for gamers interested in following an excellent story. The wonderful visuals play a major role in the experience and easy controls and open level design will suck you right in. This is not a game for everyone and misses a perfect rating due to pacing issues. However, the majority of mature gamers will thoroughly enjoy this title and will once more applaud the creativity, ingenuity, and boldness of the game designers at Ubisoft Montreal. This game will be remembered for implementing a number of innovative elements that will be used in future titles.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 5.0 Graphics
The cinematic visuals are truly awe-inspiring. 4.0 Control
There’s not a very large learning curve and they’re reminiscent of Ubisoft’s Prince of Persia games. 4.2 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The bustling streets and fighting scenes are well captured, but the voice acting left a bit to be desired. 4.0 Play Value
The story is great and open level design allows for some modicum of replayability. 4.4 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.