Ubisoft Montreal were instrumental in creating a new type of action game with Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, but since the release of that game the team has spent the last 4 years developing Assassins Creed, a game they hope would redefine action. Again.
Assassin's Creed is a third-person stealth game in which the player assumes the role of Desmond Miles, an average bartender who is the last descendant of a long family line of assassins. Desmond has been taken to a facility where he is forced to use the Animus, a machine that traces and recreates the memories of his ancestors during the Third Crusade. Altaïr's objective in the game is to slay nine historical figures propagating the Crusades in the year 1191. (According to Ubisoft developers, all of the main character's targets are historical figures who died or disappeared in 1191, although not necessarily by assassination.) If none of this makes sense just think of the Matrix, and you should do fine.
I can see your mum from here
There is no denying Assassins Creed graphical punch, and now we finally get to see what all this next gen is about. There’s no shortage of production values either. First of all they have got the overall look down perfectly, you truly are immersed into the time period thanks to the visuals. The architecture of the buildings, the clothes the pedestrians are wearing, and just the vibe as a whole all adds up to one truly sweet looking game……set in the third crusade. With a game with such a large scope like this you tend to forget about the nice little visual touches that make it all the more amazing, but when truly analysing this game, there’s more that meets the eye. The dust effects for one have been done greatly and thank god as there’s plenty of it. And when you see birds and the like flying around in a game normally its there to look good, not so with Assassins Creed, everything is put in place for a purpose and these birds, well there actually pigeons and eagles in this case are visual clues to something of important relevance. The pigeons will show you were you can safely jump from, with the knowledge that you will come out alive from your multiple meter drop. The eagles are more important as they show you viewpoints to scale, and doing so will update your map. Now this is were we will truly get to appreciate the large scope of this title. When you’ve finally conquered one of the many tall tower’s It will move into a cut scene were Altiars perched like an eagle looking over the city, the camera will then pan around and WOW. Be prepared to pick your jaw up of the ground. There is virtually no draw distance and the scale is….er….well of the scale. (No pun intended) You will also notice some little lighting touches of genius. For one, when your doing your impersonation of Sir Edmund Hilary climbing up a building, at times you will notice a very subtle change of light. At first you more then likely wont notice it, but its actually clouds running over the sun, and therefore the picture gets a tad darker and then lights up back to normal as the cloud passes the sun.
The good news don’t stop there folks, no I’m just getting warmed up. Despite seeing the pedestrians throughout the whole game, you will rarely notice the repetitiveness of them, this is thanks to some new next gen tech, according to Ubisoft anyways. But what it means is that you will never see two of the same pedestrian models in the same location. Most wont care about this but I bet if there was multiple copies of the same pedestrian everyone will be up in arms about it. And it’s little things like this that will separate the good from the average. One of Assassin Creeds strongest points is the smooth, fluid, fluent, flush animations. Were this shines is in combat as Altair slices, dices, gices…..er Gazza that last one sucked. Point taken. Okay back to where we were, ah yes the combat animations. Altair will seamingesly flow from one attack to the next, without any juttering or sudden movements. Another aspect where the animation is of top class, Is when your running around the city jumping from building to building free running style. Its as if Altair’s body actually has weight to it, as when your sprinting, you wont be able to do a 90 degree turn and expect to keep your pace up. Same when he’s jumping, if he has momentum after a jump, it will take him a few steps to gather himself properly, and just dangling of ledges is a site to behold as its if every animation is different.
Assassins Creed is not without its faults however. Yes the textures are of top notch quality but this seems to have come at a cost, as there is regularly some texture pop-in, most wont notice but it is a minor annoyance. What is more then an annoyance and more like a f**king pain in the a$$ is the downright ugly frame rate jutters that occur in the latter parts of the game. Oh Gazza you sward. Yeah well that’s because this will occasionally cause the game to freeze full-stop and when you haven’t got to a save point, you have reason to swear. However it seems as if all the hate mail got to Ubisoft as a patch has been released since release, I haven’t played the game with the patch, so I cant comment on how it holds up now, but I’d say it shouldn’t be to bad now.
"He's goning to hurt himself"
Ubisoft’s production team deserve a pay rise, as they didn’t stop there with the visuals. While the sound aspect may not be as strong as the visual side of things, it does hold its own. One thing I picked up on was that while all the pedestrian chitta chatta gets a tad repetitive, they each have a unique accent based on the on the city your in. You will hardly ever notice any music during gameplay, and there’s a reason for this. But when you do hear it, its normally fast and upbeat when your running from guards. The lack of music actually adds to the game, as it allows for more atmospheric noises. This was a good design choice in my opinion, as trying to go all stealthy with music playing would just defeat the purpose, but with the environment making the noise its a lot more immersive. These noises consist of the hustle and bustle of the city at ground level, to the airy noises of eagles, when up high in the sky.
So how can this game have an average press rating of an average 8.1? Well I’ll tell you why. To me Assassins Creed is like that mix bag of lollies you get from the corner dairy down the road. You have your awesome lollies like the sour snakes and gummy bears, then you have your average mint leaves and minties, then there’s the boring old milk bottles and Macintoshes, and then you have the downright yuk, throw in the rubbish bin black jellybeans. Let me explain myself. As I said in the story section, the game is dived into 3 cities which are in turn divided into three districts (rich, middle class, poor) Which equals 9 levels, for 9 assassinations. $h!t I’m pretty good at this math thing. Section’s of the cities are locked when you start and are then unlocked as you progress, all pretty game cliché 101 stuff really. (The boring milk bottles, and Macintoshes)
One thing Ubisoft did get right was a very “common sense” control scheme that makes you wonder, were was this control scheme a few years ago, as it all makes perfect scene. Ya see, the iconic face buttons are the strings to Altair’s body. So if your looking to run or jump you would use the x button, if you wanted to swing ya sword….haha he said “swing ya sword” you would press the circle button which represents his right hand, if you wanted to take a look around you would use the triangle button. You also have the ability to be loud n proud, or go all solid snake and be a ghost. This is done with the trigger button, this also makes Altair break into a heavy sprint for those tight situations. And thank god this is all easy to pick up as the tutorials will not help you a bit. Advanced controls include parrying, blocking, and counter attacking which are all locked and taught to you as you progress.
Now for those yum az lollies, you know the ones you don’t let anyone touch and save for last. These represent the free-running aspect that makes up the greatest and most revolutionary part of Assassins Creed. Easily the most enjoyable and finest part of Assassins Creed is running around the city jumping from building to building, hanging on the edge for your life as you misjudge a jump, scaling the highest peak in the game, and making a cinematic escape from those goon guards. This single handily saves Assassins Creed from the tag of an average title. We were promised revolutionary next gen gameplay and in a way we have got that with this aspect. Anything that looks slightly grab able probably is, and that’s what makes it so great, every nook and cranny can be grabbed onto by Altair. This will make you study the architecture of the buildings, particularly the look out towers, as you will often have to check yourself and make sure there’s some art to grab onto or if there’s a little crack in the concrete that’s grab able. You can pretty much picture the city as your life size playground.
To assassinate your target you are required to do some investigation work before hand. This is all expected, and when you first do a few investigation missions, you will think “Wow this game’s immense” But its not until you finally notice you are doing the same thing over an over again, for all 9 targets that its pain stakingly repetitive. It doesn’t help that there’s a lack of Varity in these investigations. Your either pickpoketing someone, eavesdropping, interrogating, or hooking up with an informant. Picpoketing cant be more simpler. All you got to do is sneak… wait did I say sneak, scrap that, you could throw a party and the person wouldn’t have a clue on what’s going on. He even looks over his shoulder in suspicion and you could have your hand on his a$$ and he still does nothing. Then you have your eavesdropping which is a piece of cake. All ya gotta do, is locate the guys of interest and then sit on a nearby bench and press the head button and your away laughing. Interrogation would have to be the most interesting aspect of investigating, and this can even get a big tiresome after a while, as it just turns into a button bashing affair. It involves you following a suspect character into a spot out of the public’s eye. Once in this position, you pretty much beat the $h!t out of them and when you take in consideration that all these characters are about as old as Old Trafford itself, its not that hard. The informants will kiss you’re a$$ and then send you on a wild goose chase, after some bad guys, or to collect a number of flags scattered in a section of the city. Killing the bad guys is all normal but the flag collecting is quite cool, as this will force you to do some fancy free running. And offcourse the more investigating you do, the more Intel you get on your target, and well lets just say all this Intel is not needed as its virtually useless. You receive maps of guards positions, you will be given tips on how to escape unnoticed and blah blah blah. Maps are useless as you cant look at them, and since when did games make decisions for you on how to go about things, let the gamer decide for themselves, and figure it all out, as that’s half the fun. And that’s it really, this is how you will spend most of your time progressing through Assassins Creed. It gets repetitive fast, and I know of some people got so bored of it, they didn’t want to finish the game. It turns into a chore to get through to the predictable end. By the way this is those black jelly beans that you chuck out if you didn’t pick up on that.
The assassinations themselves, aint anything mind blowing either, but they do provide a distraction to the chore like investigations. You have a few options here, when heading into an assassination. You can either go in thinking, Casper the friendly ghost, or thinking, the Terminator. Now I know what’s my favourite out of the two, and its more then likely to be preferred by most as being in stealth mode often fails, and is not worth the effort as it doesn’t really matter what approach you take, because it will normally just turn into an all in brawl. Before and after every assassination, you are treated to some cut scenes, which a quite innovative, as you have the power to change the view every now and then to zoom up into the point of interest. Once someone has been alerted to the assassination the whole city will be put on alert to your presence and this is were those all n brawls come into play. These are actually not to bad thanks to the simple combat mechanics. But you could just run n gun and leave them all in your dust if wanted. And I suggest you take the high rout, as the roof guard AI seem to still be on holiday. Even when the city is alerted, they will just put there hand out and say “stop, your not meant to be here” and that’s that pretty much, they wont even draw there bow n arrow, let alone fire the darn thing. All the while the ground solders do anything to take you down. They will often get vertical and chase you from building top to building top, and when all else fails they will pick up a rock and throw it at you. To get your heat down, you have to break the guards line of sight, and to do this you simply jump into one of the many little curtain box’s that are scattered around the city or jump into a conveniently placed pile of hay. This is all helped by the useful hub, which shows how much heat you have and how long you have to stay out of the guards way. This is all pretty average stuff that you would expect from a game these days and this is those mint leafs and minties that I was talking about, all pretty average stuff really.
Understandably there’s no online feature to be had here, as its purely made for single player. So the lasting appeal is slightly drowned here. There is mini quest’s that you can do. These are very similar to those of GTA, all you do is run around the cities looking for flags, and that’s pretty much it. It will take around 15 hours to complete for the average gamer.
Assassins Creed had all the potential in the world to be a title that would define this generation of gaming and re write all the rules of the action genre, and while it does that in some cases, its hard to call this game “revolutionary” as a whole as it still has plenty of work to do before it can gain such a tag. It delivers in many aspects, but the problem is, is that it falls flat on its face in others. While it is highly repetitive at times, its still a thourely enjoyable experience, and I’ll leave you with this. “Welcome to next gen baby!”
No dout about it
Not to give anything away or anything but the end will leave you with more questions then answers. This leaves a huge window for the idea of a sequel and with the popular sales of this game I’ll eat my hat if we don’t see one. So if Jade Raymond has run out of ideas heres a few she might want to take a note of. ** That’s after I’ve tapped her off-course**
Now I have no idea on what the story is gonna be for a possible sequel but if its gonna run along the lines of this game, well then they will need to scrap the repetitive investigations, or at least make them slightly interesting to play through. Make the assassinations something to write home about, and when you think that these are pretty much the boss battles in this game, you want it to be memorable, and that’s far from the case here. Improve the AI somewhat. The ground AI isn’t to bad, but the guards on rooftops are like passive little pancies. But either then that its all pretty well n good, and I cant wait for the next offering.