Review: Assassin's Creed

Review: Assassin's Creed
Review: Assassin's Creed

Perhaps one of the most untouched subjects in video games ever is one of The Crusades. A darker time in humanity's early periods, you can't exactly see an action game tacking place here that might do the period some justice, but Ubisoft think they might have something with Assassin's Creed.

Taking its cues from stealthy games like Thief and Hitman, Assassin's Creed puts you in the shoes of Altair, an assassin who will be repairing the damage to his name and the country he lives in by more or less smiting the evil found during The Crusades. You'll head to cities on foot in a fairly open world, look around for your mark and when it gets down to it, go for the blood of the one you've been sent to kill.

That's more or less how it progresses for every level and short of starting fights with random people or rescuing some innocent bystanders from the grips of tyranny, you'll basically be running, jumping, knife throwing, and sword fighting your way to victory when you're not trying to blend into a crowd by pretending to be a monk.

Graphically, the game is beautiful. Textures and colours all shine and the neutrality of the colours help lend some realism to the world that encompasses Altair in Assassin's Creed. You won't see any bright greens or red as that just wouldn't blend with the society but what you might see is jerky movement from some of the characters. Animations aren't brilliant and usually follow altogether simple movements but none of this hurts the game experience.

Control is easy and at all times there'll be a quick reminder of what the exact controls are on the top of the screen. Whether you're jumping between a fighting mode or just a regular movement mode that lets you do things like blend into a crowd or gently push people aside, the controls of Assassin's Creed will always show you what to do in case you've forgotten.

I suppose what might agitate you in the Assassin's Creed is the way the artificial intelligence plays itself out. While I don't doubt that the guards in The Crusades were anything else but rude pricks, I highly doubt that such a minor bump into almost every one of them would immediately cause them to launch out their swords and call out their friends for a showing of "impale the cloaked one". As such, just accidentally bumping into someone with a sword might find you in an armed conflict that ruins your day.

But don't worry because when you die, you're not really dead.

Assassin's Creed is one of those games that more or less has a Matrix-esque feel. In what can be seen from Alice In Wonderland, you might end up asking the question "am I really living this life or is this life in another life altogether?" Without getting into psychoanalysis, we'll just say that early in the game, you'll find you're not really Altair. No, you're a descendant of the assassin living in a present day city. You've been kidnapped and you're about to learn that memory isn't just limited to you or I but rather stored from what our ancestors have done.

By using a device called the Animus, your kidnappers will be able to unlock the mysteries they seek from the past. But there's a problem: you can't access some memories so instead you'll have to play out the life of the assassin inside your head.

This means a couple of things. First, you can't actually die. While that's becoming a frequent thing in games, the ability to not die is simply put down to synchronisation errors between you and the Animus.

Second, you're not actually going back in time but rather "re-living a memory". This makes you sort of stop and think that if you're actually just in your head and you know you in your head, why are you not invincible and why can't you just create a copy of Arnold Schwarzenegger to blow away all the enemies inside your head.

In the end it's best not to bother with trying to understand what makes Assassin's Creed tick. You'll probably find enough loop-holes and flaws in the mechanics of the story to overwhelm a high-priced lawyer's mind.

Getting back to the story, you'll be delving through several blocks of your memory in order to reach a secret. You won't really be told what that secret is... ever... so don't be surprised when the ending lets you down. It's getting up to that point that should entice you.

Strangely, with a menu design as cool as anything I'd seen since the installation to the first Command & Conquer, it almost grabbed me as being a game I truly loved. But as I was playing, I couldn't help get past the feeling that I was really playing through a series of the same chores over and over again. Granted, I was killing people for chores while doing really cool stunts but that didn't change the fact that I wasn't doing all that much different in each mission. I was still starting at a base location, hearing a narrative, making my way somewhere, killing a bunch of people, and going home. And that's fine, but you can't help but think Assassin's Creed could have been better.

What it really boils down to is this: If you're someone who loves the prospect of jumping around on rooftops, saving innocents, and slaughtering the bad guys because you can, Assassin's Creed will certainly hold your attention at least until the ending.

Should you buy it?: Not as good as I expected it to be, but a good game for people who never grew up with stealthy games. Expect to fall asleep during the tutorial though.

Developer: Ubisoft
Publisher: Ubisoft
Classification: MA15+
Formats: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
URL: Assassin's Creed

Reviewed by Leigh D. Stark

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