Ubisoft Montreal's latest creation; Assassin's Creed, is definitely a bold attempt to break into the foray of game concepts emerging into the next-generation game line-ups. Featuring a top notch soundtrack and visual presentation, it's clear Ubisoft Montreal's intention is to grab and immerse the player into their world of conspiracy, dystopian futures and time-twisting plotline of rewritten history. A story this deep and convoluted hasn't been done so correctly since Metal Gear Solid 2. Despite it's impressive assault on all the senses, Assassin's Creed is an example of where it's potential actually hurts the game.
Story: The tale of 2 assassin's. (The following contains spoilers of the very opening of the game)
The story of Assassin's Creed follows the primary protagonist Desmond Miles, a bartender in the year 2012 with a shady history abducted by a corporation called Abstergo. Abstergo introduces the animus to the player, a device that can read a person's genetic encoding in order to read the memories of their ancestors. Through the Animus, the player becomes acquainted with Desmond's ancestor, an assassin in 1191 named Altair. The story of Altair is introduced as he is caught disgracing his clan due to his acts of bad judgment which may have compromised the clan. Consequently, Altair is stripped of his status, and allowed the opportunity to rise the ranks once more in order to join the legion of Master Assassin's. The story itself progresses between Altair and Desmond as they come to learn of all the background dealings and secret alliances of many of the characters. The story and main dialogs are written fairly well and are easy enough to follow and compelling enough to keep the player engaged and interested.
Sound: Hit and Miss, the two extremes meet here.
The sound production in Assassin's Creed is first class in some areas, and woefully underwhelming in others. The music, is outstanding. The soundtrack to this game, for all purposes, accomplishes what it sets out to do, and it does it very well. The escape theme that begins after assassinating a major target is fast-paced, exciting, and does a great deal in making the player feel like they're doing so much more than just running away. The music that rings in the background while you walk around certain cities, or riding a horse, all fits perfectly with the setting and ambiance. Assassin's Creed falls short on its voice acting. Compared to other games, the voice acting sounds like it was recorded by performers with absolutely no experience. Most of the characters feel distinctly unattached to the voices that give them life, and thus, makes it difficult for the player to believe any of the performances as they all come off as sounding fake and forced. The dialogue on the common people littered through the city is very repetitive, and the same lines are read throughout the entire game leaving them stale and painful to listen to by midway through the game.
Graphics: A virtual tour of 1191.
Ubisoft pulled off one good looking game on both platforms, and they should be commended for it. Character models are fairly well detailed and Altair looks noticeably incredible in all of the shots. Everything is superbly animated and all of Altair's actions flow well and transition seamlessly. All of the post-processing effects are used at an advantage that suiting to the action happening on screen. When you lock on to a target, everything is blurred except for the target and Altair. This produces a frightening sense that only Altair and his target exist in the world and gives the impression that Altair has all his focus on only one thing. The environments themselves look great, and while there isn't a whole lot of variety between buildings and the different cities, they are well detailed, textured and positioned great nonetheless. There are a few graphical anomalies however. Certain standout cases such as the water being absolutely flat and motionless betrays the senses. There is tiny bits of clipping on Altair's model that is distracting if you choose to notice it. Character models are very repetitive and the player will encounter the same models in all areas thus the impression of sprawling masses of crowds is quickly broken down when you see only 3 or 4 different models in that crowd.
Gameplay: Treading new grounds, literally...
Assassin's Creed's gameplay relies on three major foundations of gameplay mechanics. Low-Profile actions, High-Profile actions, and Combat. Low-Profile actions consist of Altair not attracting any attention from guards or people. They consist of gently pushing people out of his way as he makes his way through a crowd, taking a pose in prayer to appear as a scholar, or to just casually observe the scenery. High-profile actions allow Altair to take evasive actions and enable free-running. The free-running feels excellent, natural and is pulled off with exceptional skill. The combat is a love-it or hate-it kind of ordeal. It's based off a context-sensitive system where you press certain buttons in time with a hidden rhythm to kill enemies. It works well with this game, but to some players, it may feel like they have no control over the flow and pace of combat. Mentionable as well, is that as you progress through the game, you obtain more moves that make the combat very easy. By the end of the game, stealth won't mean anything since you will effortlessly be able to take on legions and armies of guards without worrying.
The actual objectives of the gameplay are the same as most open-ended sandbox games. There is a radar, and you follow it to various objectives. The problem with this, is that the objectives are unchanging throughout the whole game, and you will find yourself playing through the same events over and over ad nauseum. You can choose how many of these objectives to complete in order to progress, and you don't have to do everything, thus, there is freedom to the never ending cycle, but to a completest, it can be pretty painful.
Bottom-Line: Assassin's Creed is a Great Game, albeit not a perfect one. If the player finds the story engaging, the setting and time likeable, enjoys the combat system, and can overlook the voice acting and repetitiveness of the objectives, there is much fun to be found in Assassin's Creed. The story is deep and enthralling and fantastically presented, but clearly enough, this game won't appeal to everyone. However, the one's who do find themselves liking Assassin's Creed, will like it alot.