Assassin’s Creed Review

I will be the first to admit that Assassin’s Creed is not exactly the game that I anticipated it to be. What I expected was the best thing since the advent of the home game console, but what I got was simply an innovative blend of gameplay concepts, stunning graphics and sound, a stellar plot, and a few hampering issues thrown in for good measure.

The game is about the assassin Altair and his mission to eliminate a number of powerful and influential figures, as prescribed by the leader of his brotherhood. The story is of course much more in-depth, but to avoid spoilers, it can be described as a heavily-themed two-tiered plot, twists, revelations, and moral questions that make the gamer really think, even after the game has been turned off. It is one of the better narratives that I have encountered in the videogame world in some time, with a great ending that leaves things open for more.

At first glance, the game appears to be a high-flying, fast-paced, free-roaming festival of action, but players will soon come to realize that Assassin’s Creed is much the same as any other stealth-based videogame – it requires patience, planning, and precision for a player to be successful. Because the game’s action scenes are so pronounced, however, the portion of the game that falls in between story segments and the execution of targets (the information gathering phase) can feel slightly less exciting in comparison.

Between climbing towers, eavesdropping on conversations, picking pockets, rescuing oppressed citizens, and helping your assassin brothers, there is always something to be done in the sandbox that is Assassin’s Creed, and the more time you take to immerse yourself into the cities, the more fun it becomes. The game does its best to let the player figure out just how to proceed, especially later on in the game. Only the most basic advice from Altair’s confidants hint at where to seek out information, and players are left to engineer the demise of his next victim, piece by piece. It is a rewarding process, but going through it multiple times can leave players wishing for a little more variety in the available missions.

Leading up to its release, Assassin’s Creed’s biggest draws were the climbing and combat systems, both of which are controlled by Ubisoft’s new “puppeteering” control scheme. Controlling Altair is meant to mimic manipulating a marionette. Each face button on the controller corresponds to a particular part of his body, and all of his actions are carried out via the appropriate limb. In combat, the weapon hand attacks, the off hand grabs foes and the feet dodge enemy steel. While navigating the environment, the feet make acrobatic leaps and propel Altair up walls. The empty hand grabs hold should he lose his grip, and his head allows him to view his surroundings more clearly.

To add to this, the control scheme is divided into “low profile” and “high profile” actions, creating an easy distinction between actions like brushing aside a member of the crowd and laying him out with a forceful shove. High profile actions are obviously more likely to alert nearby soldiers, and doing so requires Altair to run, jump, and climb until he is out of sight – and then hide until he is forgotten.

Coupled with “free running” is Altair’s incredible penchant for climbing. He can climb just about any surface in the game, so long as there are proper hand and footholds in the architecture. He even reaches and steps specifically to the viable holds, and his ability to leap for the next in a series of grips is influenced heavily by what sort of support is beneath his feet. It would be difficult to make Altair’s methods of vertical navigation any more realistic than this.

Visually, Assassin’s Creed is simply beautiful. The middle eastern cities in which the game takes place are recreated in such painstaking detail – from high-resolution surface textures to dynamic light and shadow work, accurate representation of real world architecture, scenic vistas, etc – that one can almost place him or herself in that setting. The animation is top-notch, smooth, and lifelike. There is never a time when players might say, “that looks mechanical.”

The cinematography, too, is at times unmatched. Cutscenes offer gamers a variety of captivating camera angles, which, if a button is pressed at the appropriate moments, change periodically. Many portions of the game use a focus effect that plays off of the “bird of prey” theme, blurring the field of view at its perimeter while leaving the focal point crisp and clear.

Assassin’s Creed does have occasional issues, however, such as texture tears (which occur primarily at the screen’s edge), and the odd misplacement of a few fallen foes. These bugs do little to detract from the overall visual experience.

The game’s audio is equally as impressive. Aside from Altair’s sometimes mechanical delivery, the voice performances do very well to draw the gamer into the turbulent era of the Crusades. There is consistent chatter from everywhere along the city streets, adding to the feeling that Assassin’s Creed is truly alive, and the sound effects never feel forced or overdone. What’s best is that (aside from those fucking beggars), the soundscape is not intrusive upon the game’s beautiful score.

Assassin’s Creed introduces so many new and interesting gameplay elements and ideas that it certainly had the potential to be one of the best videogames of all time. However, the fact that the game is the maiden voyage of many different ships restricts it from achieving the perfection that it could very well have been. It may even be better thought of as the foundation for future games to build upon and achieve those lofty goals. Regardless, the final product is still an excellent piece of work, even with its few problems. I can’t see the justice in any serious gamer NOT playing this game.


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Author: Eddie Inzauto View all posts by
Eddie has been writing about games on the interwebz for over ten years. You can find him Editor-in-Chiefing around these parts, or talking nonsense on Twitter @eddieinzauto.

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