At the moment it would seem that the gaming industry is caught in the eye of the storm in terms of the amount of titles being released. By now, most of us are probably checking to see if there’s even enough cash in our wallets, or space on our shelves for more games. Well get ready for another, because Assassin’s Creed has finally arrived. The game that could be called the spiritual successor to the Prince of Persia series has been raiding the E3 awards for the past few years, and gotten a considerable amount of attention. While it may not be the game of the year contender we all hoped it would be, it remains a quality experience.
To begin with the story let me say that the futuristic aspect is by no means some sort of crazy twist that arrives partway through the game, it’s made apparent right from the opening cut scene. So since I’m not really spoiling anything the game takes place in the near future, where you are tasked with carrying out a quest in a virtual reality world within the genetic memory of your ancestor, the assassin Altair. This is all being done for the sake of some sinister organization that wants to recover something very important that occurred in the past during the crusades. In a way the setting almost demeans the historical immersion of the game, since when you are in ancient Jerusalem for instance you are made very much aware that it’s not real.
These odds aren’t fair, they need more guys…
The game play of Assassin’s Creed is set up like a free roaming game, where you can visit three different cities, and will be carrying out assassinations in each one. But before you can make your move against a target you must learn more about them by collecting information, which you do through pick pocketing, interrogation, or other mini assassination missions. Unfortunately the three types of investigations I mentioned are all that exist and don’t change much, so it becomes pretty repetitive after performing them throughout the entire game. On the positive side the main assassination missions offer much more variety, and require a good deal of strategy to pull off.
The controls may initially sound confusing, but they really aren’t that bad. Basically you move with the left stick and will walk around slowly and unnoticed, but when you want to get acrobatic you simply hold down the right trigger and the A button. This will send Altair climbing, jumping and swinging wherever you direct him.
It’s quite easy to do, which is good, because you will need to be quick to escape the many guards constantly on your tail. As the game progresses they become even larger in number and more vigilant so you must make sure to always keep a low profile. It can become quite frustrating because the slightest thing can trigger an alarm, making it a bit of a chore to simply move around the city to your objectives, which shouldn’t be this challenging in a free roaming game.
You can lose guards by hiding in roof gardens or piles of hay, but when there’s nowhere to run you’re going to have to rely on your combat skills. The combat in AC is all about timing, you lock on with the left trigger, block with the right, and attack with the X button. Later when you acquire counter moves it gets a bit easier to gain the upper hand. Altair possesses weapons such as: throwing knives, a sword, and a hidden blade in his left sleeve, prefect for stealth kills. When it comes time to carry out assassinations it pays to be sneaky, so you should only use force when it’s a last resort.
Now if AC played as good as it looked we would definitely have a GOTY contender on our hands. Its right up there with Gears of War and Call of Duty 4, as one of the best looking games for the 360, and it looks spectacular in HD. All three of the cities are immaculately rendered with very detailed architecture for you to climb on and each city possesses a very unique appearance and design.
You wish you looked this good…
When you climb up to the top of very tall towers the view is incredible, and possesses a very long draw distance. The lighting which falls everywhere over the cities looks very bright and with a realistic amount of contrast, unlike most games that go overboard with the bright HDR lighting. Another great highlight is in Altair’s animations, which are extremely fluid and realistic as he vaults over buildings and walls. There were a few instances where I noticed a slight frame rate hiccup, but they don’t occur often.
The game also possesses a decent score, with many kinds of Middle Eastern music that fits with the great environments. The voice acting is also well done, but some of the dialogue can get a little dry, since you need to talk to your superiors so often. The Middle Eastern flavor to some of the cities is definitely reminiscent of Prince of Persia.
As for the length of the game the main storyline is fairly long and can be completed in just less than 20 hours, which can be extended by optional objectives such as collecting flags or saving citizens from corrupt soldiers. It may make for more to do but there’s little to no variety, making theses extra tasks not all that rewarding other than for gamer score. I also want to take the time to tell you that when you do reach the end, stay till after the credits!
Assassin’s Creed is by no means a bad game and contains many entertaining moments. Unfortunately you are tasked with repeating the same basic formula throughout the game: collect evidence, assassinate, and escape to seclusion, again and again. At its core AC is a free roaming game, however it has not been fully realized as such due to its repetitive nature making it feel limiting rather than freeing. Fortunately the actual assassination missions offer different scenarios that are quite enthralling, and are worth working towards when you experience the thrill and intensity of successfully hitting your target the way you wanted. AC is definitely worth checking out, especially for Prince of Persia fans, but don’t jump into the game expecting the best of the year.