Ubisoft has released their highly anticipated Action-Adventure game Assassin’s Creed. This game has undergone a tremendous amount of media scrutiny throughout it’s development and has built up a huge amount of hype. Does it live up to it’s lofty expectations? Read on and find out. Assassin’s Creed is a highly anticipated Action-Adventure game from Ubisoft, meant to be the cornerstone of their Holiday line-up. This game has undergone a huge amount of scrutiny and has built up a huge amount of hype. So, the question is, is it worthy of that hype? Does it live up to the lofty expectations? Well, sort of. Let’s start at the beginning and I’ll explain.
Assassin’s Creed is the story of Altair, a disgraced Assassin who must redeem himself by killing nine targets on a list. These targets are all integral figures in the 13th Century World of the Middle East during the Crusades. Or rather, I should say, that is what you have been probably gathered from the previews of the game and all of the television and print advertisements for the game. What those advertisements don’t tell you or show you is one of the title’s biggest drawbacks. This title has a HUGE plot twist, which increased my admiration for the story writers. However, my admiration was muted when the plot twist was blown for me in the FIRST FEW MINUTES OF GAME PLAY! This twist, handled properly, could have been one of the best story moments in a video game this year. Why the developers felt the need to squander this absolutely brilliant bit of writing is beyond me. Doing so actually cheapens the final experience as it completely kills the mystique that had been built up for so long leading up to the game’s release. It is an absolutely mind-bogglingly dense move on the design team’s part. I just wish I knew why it was done. It actually makes the game seem a bit uneven. SPOILER WARNING*** IF YOU WANT TO KNOW WHAT THE PLOT TWIST IS, HIGHTLIGHT THE TEXT THAT FOLLOWS THIS WARNING*** Here is the plot twist: You are not playing as Altair, but as a 25yo descendant of Altair reliving his memories through some kind of futuristic DNA Virtual Reality set up by a drug company who has kidnapped you. The entire game is really taking place in their lab.***SPOILER ENDS***
Let’s talk about the controls, because they are some of the most unique that I have experienced this year. Movement, as you might expect, is accomplished with the left analog stick. Camera control has been mapped to the right analog stick. Nothing new there. However, it’s the rest of the control’s that are innovative. Altair’s controls, outside of movement, are governed by a “puppeteer” system, where his limbs are mapped to the controller’s cross buttons. In other words, ? controls the head, controls the left arm, which houses the “hidden blade” used in stealth assassinations, ? controls the right arm, which is used for sword fighting and the “gentle push” move. and X controls the legs, which are used for running, jumping and climbing. This control scheme is actually extremely intuitive and works very well. The game’s movements are actually split into two distinct sets based on whether you are in high or low profile. In low profile, you are unnoticed and will not have to worry about the guards and soldiers so long as you make slow movements and your actions are not suspicious or threatening. This is the profile used for stealth actions. The only weapons that can be used in this state are the hidden blade and throwing knives. High profile is used for running, climbing and sword fighting. You play in low profile as a default and switch profiles by pressing the R1 button. There is a meter at the top of the screen which shows your “memory sync level” and your social status. The memory sync meter is your life bar of sorts. It tells you how in sync with your ancestor’s memories you are. If you lose all the sync bars, you are kicked out of the memory and must start over. The social status bar indicates how suspicious the soldier and the guards are of you. White means you are invisible to them, yellow means they are suspicious, red means they are after you. If you anger a soldier and do not wish to fight, you must run away. You must find a place to hide until the line of sight is sufficiently broken long enough for your indicator to turn white, indicating that you have become invisible. The soldiers will chase up onto rooftops and follow you at a fairly consistent pace. The chases are harrowing experiences, with guards calling out to each other when they spot you. Assassinations themselves are a lot of fun, providing you have a lot of patience, which brings me to my second problem with this game. This game is longer then it needs to be. There are far too many side missions that must be completed before you can attempt an assassination. Most assassinations have no less than six missions that must be completed and another ten or so that are optional. There is no chance of even attempting the assassination until you have finished the required missions, which kills the momentum of the game because some of these required missions are incredibly boring. One of them usually involves sitting on a bench and eavesdropping on two people talking about your target. It’s about as fun as it sounds. The assassinations themselves are spectacular cutscene kills, usually followed by a harrowing escape as you are chased by guards and soldiers loyal to the recently deceased. I just wish I didn’t have to go through so much to get to them.
Let’s talk about the graphics. I have only one word to say: WOW! Even on a standard definition television, this game looks amazing. On an HDTV, this must be a work of art. Building, textures, landscapes and people come to life with a definition and clarity seldom seen. The sun rises over a city, bathing it in light and creating incredibly realistic shadows. The architecture changes as you move between the different social caste sections of each city and features definition seldom seen. The worlds are huge and detailed and, at one point in the game, it is possible to run from one end of Jerusalem to the other. This is one of the most beautiful games I have seen this year on any system.
Assassin’s Creed is an ambitious project that, if the game’s cryptic ending is any indication, is the start of a new gaming series. The game features a unique and functional control scheme and mind-blowing graphics, even for a next gen game. However, the game is too long, with many unnecessary missions that must be completed to progress in the game. In addition, a brilliant story is crippled by the revelation of a major plot twist way to early in the game. It’s not the best I’ve played this year, but it is very good.
Assassin’s Creed is available now for Playstation 3 and X-Box 360 and is rated M for Mature.
Assassin’s Creed scores a 4 out of 5.