Fantastic visuals. Character models are really good, but the game shines with the environments and scenery. As you climb up to your first building or roof top, you see the sunshine cut through the palm trees and you glaze to catch more of the glimpse before you're greeted by this sunset or sunrise. It is a beautiful game, and warranted enough to be my first point.
Brilliant Free-Running. You can almost fly in this game. Regardless of what people will say about Assassin's Creed, not even the most cynic of haters will deny how fun it is to run across roof tops, with your eyes and thumbs working together to look for another ledge or something to grab onto. All you press is a few buttons, holding down R1 and X as you move your right analogue stick for direction. It's fast paced, and enthralling to get from point A to B on roof tops and homes, and buildings, and crates, even poles, you name it - you can jump off it and automatically you're character will grab on to, on dangle on or even leap off as well another piece of the environment. You thought swinging on a web on Spiderman the first time you played that game was fun? You ain't seen nothing yet. The character animation is what really drives it though. You can play half way through the game and come across new movements of Altair as he tries to climb, or reach something to grab ahold of. The way he stands and balances on pieces of wood is incredibly realistic being the only next-gen game to rival Uncharted in this point.
Gameplay. This is the focus of the criticism the game received from others and I need to address this. Assassin's Creed is a not a gung-ho game. You cannot just leap from a building and land or head towards a group of guards and fight them. This is not a game to be rushed. The development team really put emphasis on the approach towards the mechanics to reflect the approach an Assassin in reality would have to his surroundings. Remember, the goal in this game is to complete your objectives with the minimum of contact as possible. Meaning you avoid guards, meaning when you avoid running in busy alleys or risk getting the attention of bumping into a guard in which you case you'll get frustrated. I play the game for around an hour each go, simply because it can get repetitive. But I guarantee that people will go back to it for more, simply to wonder around in that irresistible environment. I take my time as I progressed through the game even though I was more than capable of causing mayhem and still avoiding a scratch. Why? Because you learn to appreciate the certain subtleties, you realise how the game is meant to be played. Don't rush, take your time. You're a badass Assassin with a badass hoody, you're meant to look cool with your sword and dagger on your back. Enjoy it that way.
Sounds. I just began to notice this. Depending on the City you are in, or the area you are e.g. Poor District, walk about near the market places and you hear everything you could imagine from a medieval spot. The chickens running away, or being slaughtered in the background, the sellers trying to get the attention of others offering them great bargains - is amazingly well done. What surprised me were the cries of babies, in the street with their mother. You're constantly approached by beggars and this really builds the atmosphere that you're in a soul-lacking place on Earth, where the people are desperate for anything. This goes well with the theme of the story, as it heavily involves the people. Note I said "the people". I don't own a Sound setup but this is the first game where I've actually noticed and complimented the sound aspect.
Combat-system. The game is too easy in this regard. For all the effort you should, or do, go by avoiding these guards, once you learn how to counter it's pretty much a foregone conclusion. There is only one button you press, only one type of attack and that's the swinging of the sword. They can surround you but they rarely attack at once, in fact they can attack in two's but that's even more rare. All you need to do is hold down the R1 and nothing can touch you. You learn to avoid combat, not because it's just too easy, but because it's boring because of the difficulty.
Citizen Dialogue. Atrocious. I can't believe they put so much effort into this game and managed to forget that the entire script for the people you rescue or save, consists of probably half a page.
Story Directing. Notice I say 'Directing'? Well the story in itself, I won't ruin it for those who have played the game, is actually intriguing and you can sort of get an idea of how it shifts from the very beginning of the game when Altair is punished, in his eyes, unjustly. It's just that intercting with the characters relevant to the story, from your targets, to your associates and even your Master, doesn't do the sophistication of the story any justice. It's repetitive. The only thing you can do is watch the dialogue and change camera angle. What's frustrating is that you can see the story is evolving, beginning to develop, yet the choice to use in-game assets has really let this part of the game down. It should have been CGI with some acting happening because otherwise the characters are inept. Altair reminds me of Keanu Reeves in the Matrix - the guy can only do one thing, sound one way. He barely reacts. It's like you're in a school play rehearsal and people are reading the lines they don't really want to.
I would suggest you rent first and try the game out, or purchase it for the cheap. You have to try and play this game at a certain pace, take breaks, and come back when you want to explore again. You will most likely enjoy the game for the first few hours but once you've neared 50% completion; that enjoyment level crashes down as you begin to realise the potent annoyance of the repetition. I struggled to complete the game because I could not see the point of climbing up yet again another tower and jumping down into a haystack just to get a few more objectives, of which would include mostly finding another tower to climb and jumping down and so on.
Assassins Creed could have been potentially been one of the most excellent and innovative games to have launched since Grand Theft Auto but you get the impression that Ubisoft took a leap too big, and sadly, fell down into a haystack smelling of urine. But you wont't forget the stunning scenery whilst you were up high.