Assassin’s Creed
Developer: Ubisoft
Publisher: Ubisoft
Release Date: Out Now
Players: 1
Words By:

“Hello, my name is Edward McSmarmy. Please allow me to give you twenty pounds.”

“Why thank you Mr McSmarmy, you are a most generous and top fellow!”

“Not at all dear chap. Now let me now proceed to smash you in the gob you unintelligent pleb…”

Assassin’s Creed is Edward McSmarmy. A game that pretends to be one thing but is actually something else. A schizophrenic where all seems to be exciting, authentic and generous but is on the dark side a bit dull, preachy and restrictive. Everyone with any passing interest in videogames knows that the setting of the game is the 12th century Holy Land. By now, everyone probably also knows that the game has a parallel twist not entirely dissimilar to a certain Keanu Reeves movie franchise. And we all LOVE a twist don’t we? Or do we……

“Oh Lolita you are so beautiful. From your flowing blonde locks down to your plentiful bosom. My hands quiver as they caress you….”

“Then caress me lower my darling 4thy”

“Phwoor! Ok I will my sweet……..WAIT A MINUTE…. OH MY GOD! YOU ARE ONE OF THEM!!! ARRGGGHHHHH!!!!!”

The game looks wonderful. It’s the sort of thing I dreamed about in the earliest days of gaming when playing 3D Monster Maze was fun. Back then I never would have imagined that a game could be rendered in such detail. The lighting and shadows are spectacular and almost radiate Middle Eastern warmth. The rock and brickwork textures are sublime and draw distances dazzle from the towering eagle highpoints. The inhabitants look authentic and actually feel as though they are made of flesh and clothing. When riding out to Damascus I was presented with a sweep of the ancient walled city and I felt tingles down my spine. I would have cried tears of joy…

But underneath the sexy dress there is regular tearing. And the strange way that my character Altair (almost sexually) twitches his leg when having conversations with his superior at the bureau. Small blemishes to be sure that would normally be brushed aside by me. But then after an hours play, when I finally got away from the tiresome ‘twist’ scene setting and introductory hand holding, I began to realise that all of this graphical flourish and detail came at a much higher price. That price being the disgusting meat and two veg of linearity mixed with dull repetition.

“Help! Heeelp! I’m drowning save me!”

“Don’t panic 4thy! Here! I have just thrown you a life preserver!”

“OUCH! What the hell? It’s made of lead! It’s sinking! It’s taking me under you stupid GLUG GLUG GLU…..”

“Sorry! I though a lead life preserver would make a nice change from inflatable rubber dude…”

Indeed I found out soon enough that this game had made some unfortunate decisions. Whether the developers were trying to be too clever or were simply masking the game engine’s limitations I don’t know. But it made for gameplay that at times became repetitive and lacking addiction and fun. Being an assassin should make for a character that has fantastic moves and brings in an atmosphere of empowerment and stealth. Unfortunately most of the work seems to have gone into the free running aspect of the roof top acrobatics.

Now don’t get me wrong, it is PHENOMENAL. The animation and climbing abilities are a joy to indulge in. In a similar way to Crackdown, it is highly enjoyable to travel and explore the cities’ high points. But when it comes to the real business of being an assassin it’s really a simple affair of dropping down, walking up to your target and ‘sticking him.’ And then running off to lose the heat. There is little finesse or variation to it though the whole game. The same goes for all the other stealthy type things that you can get up to. Pickpocketing, eavesdropping, collecting flags and rescuing harassed citizens. When you have done them once you have largely experienced all there is barring advances in the story.

“Click on that picture of Michelle Marsh will you?”

“Ok 4thy here goes.”

“Heh heh, here comes her face, down to her neck and…. Oh it’s stopped! Wait a minute off it goes again. Down to her cleavage and…. Bloody hell it’s stopped again! What’s going on with your connection?”

“Erm, I decided to use 56k modem so this may take a while…..”

And this is the problem with Assassin’s Creed. It seems to go out of its way to make your experience as little fun as possible in a stop/start way that Crackdown, for example, didn’t. Travelling by horse is made tiresome because you have to slow down and hold the X button if you want to get by anyone who shows a passing suspicious interest and cut scenes constantly send you back to the lab in the future (oops I said it!) so that you can simply have a sleep! Not surprising after the psychobabble the scientist constantly gives you I suppose. The linearity of the game really does take away a lot of the good will and wonder that you may experience because within this rigid framework there is little more to do than access high viewpoints to see where everything is on your monochrome and indistinct map. And then go leaping and bounding to those places ad nauseam…..

But here is MY twist in the tail. I still actually quite like it. There are some Ico-esque moments of architectural grandeur. The sword combat is simple and brutal. I enjoyed sneaking into Acre by climbing the ramparts and swinging upon beams over Hospitaller’s heads. Sometimes the AI is excellent and provides a challenge and thrill when in hot pursuit. And I must admit whenever I saw a flag shimmering on a far roof top I had to leap around and get it. Perhaps most importantly only an hour or two after I shut down the console after a session I was mysteriously compelled to switch it back on and wander around taking in the sights. So I guess there really is something in the belief that a game so good looking, so authentic in its motions can entice you to play.

I just wish that the developers had the courage to make the game a straight-up, period Middle East adventure with greater freedom and a more addictive and varied gameplay method, as seemed to be the case months ago. And no cop out twist storytelling (which I can’t help thinking was added for reasons of political correctness). After all, a beautiful woman is just that, and needs no further unexpected additions downstairs…

Best Bits

- Superb Character animation and ‘Free Running’ manoeuvres
- Pretty and detailed realisation of Holy Land locations
- You can get medieval on enemies with some brutal, realistic moves
- Individuals and crowds actually feel like they have some weight
- Occasionally provides great atmosphere and sweeping vistas
Worst Bits

- Some tearing and the odd glitch
- Too much handholding and introductory exposition
- Being an assassin is not as fun and varied as it should be
- Missions become samey after a while
- The stop/start nature of the storytelling and objectives irritates
- Is the unusual twist to the story really necessary?

by: 4thy

Copyright © Gamecell 2007