A big thanks to everyone who entered the Assassin’s Creed Review competition, we had some very good entries which caused some problems for my judge… which is why this is late 😉
Congratulations to Dr E. Leets for his very well written (if not slightly long) Assassin’s Creed review which was chosen to be the top review by our independent judge.
I would also like to thank OddSock ZA for agreeing to judge the competition. If anyone is wondering I removed all personal details for the reviews before sending them off to OddSock to review to avoid any possible bias as well.
The full review is after the jump but be warned it contains all the spoilers you can think of and is quite long.
Thanks again for entering and keep an eye out in the new year for some more local competitions…
A huge thanks to Megarom and namely koldFU5iON for organising these prizes and congratulations to Swifty878ZA for winning the other statue sponsored by www.thexboxlounge.co.za
Review: Assassins Creed – Xbox 360 by Dr. E Leets.
I never really fell for the hype of this title. When all were espousing its game-breaking (pun intended) character dynamics and impressive attention to detail, trumped, apparently only by the impressive looks of the designated media face of the game, Jade, I was all over Charlie Oscar Delta.com. The cynic in me has resulted in my wholesale boycott of anything that relies on the female form to entice me to sample its wares. (Ok, almost anything.) Quality should sell itself and this was another reason I barely took notice of it. Fortunately I’m flakey and my principles are set in jelly so as I pen this Ubisoft’s logo is blazoned across my LCD TV.
In fact I picked this title up almost by mistake when I walked into Incredible Connection to buy a wired mouse for a work PC. I found the 360 stand beckoning me, not unlike the way a bakery does to a fat kid. It was easy to spot amongst the array of green edged DVD cases that seem to tug on the eyes of 360 users as if connected by some invisible thread. It was easy because it wasn’t there. Oh no, as if fate had somehow decided to spend my money for me, it was on the floor. In a big brown box, with courier bills stuck all over it, the contents freshly exposed and a sucker, by chance, waiting in the wings. ‘New’ is irresistible to me, like a moth to a flame I cannot stand idle while something has just reached the public domain. It would be an injustice to the tons of brand-new-never-took-off tech I have stashed in my garage. This baby was going home! I forgot the mouse.
My diatribe above does serve a purpose, these ramblings are important with respect to the context of this review – I had no idea what this game was about! I do know that it has received a mixed bag of scores from reviewers. I do know that it takes place in a time some refer to as ‘yore’. Let me begin.
Before the game starts you are presented with a beautifully rendered cut scene of a public hanging in a square in some town that seems to resemble Jerusalem. From high above, on a bell tower, an assassin observes the spectacle before him, an eagle takes flight. Within a flash the assassin strikes his target, a guard, with a hidden blade concealed by the sleeve of his robe, and disappears into the crowd. The cut scene is slick, graphically and audibly impressive and gives some subtle clues as to what lies ahead.
Once in the game, surprisingly, you find yourself in a modern setting, a laboratory/ observation room where you are introduced to Lucy and her superior Vidic. You are a twenty-something introverted American, a nobody, however you carry with you a history that could change the world. Scientists have recently discovered that not only does your grey matter house your own memories but it also carries the memories of your ancestors through your genetic makeup. The scientists are able to extract these memories from your genes and graphically present them through a machine called the Animus.
As what happens to nobody’s the world over, you are told that one of your ancestors was, guess it, an Assassin! Held against your will, you are forced, to relive your ancestor’s memories in order to lead Vidic and the company he works for, to what they are after. Faced with death should you not submit, your choice is clear cut. At this point I’d like to add that you are being held hostage, and I use that term loosely, in plush surroundings. Besides having a double bed to rest on, you have Lucy to look at when you wake up, not a disagreeable situation by any means. You are prompted to lie down on the Animus (which is pretty much like a futuristic CT scanner). A glass screen slides into view which acts like a heads-up display. The animus also functions as the games option menu screen, which I thought was a nice touch.
Once you are plugged in you start to re-live your ancestors memories and become the Assassin he was. A short tutorial follows where you prompted to perform the basics. The controls are complex at first glance, however they are intuitive and coming to grips with them takes little time. There are context sensitive buttons but they work as intended which is refreshing. As games become more complex, and with button real estate on controllers limited so as to still be functional, context sensitive controls are going to become more frequent. The test will be to see if they do what they are supposed to when they are supposed to. Interestingly each button controls a part of the Assassins anatomy – head, free hand, weapon hand and legs. Climbing and jumping is easy and is simply a matter of holding the ‘A’ and trigger buttons in and walking or running towards an object. Altair as you are known, will simply scale anything in his path, once you are up you just need to steer him in the intended direction. While this climbing system clearly involves very little skill, it does make navigating the roof tops of the cities a pleasure. Altair will naturally jump across beams or walls and as long as your navigation skills are moderate he will stay aloft.
The story that unfolds paints Altair as an arrogant, head strong member of an Assassin brotherhood. Because of this caveat he fails a mission which results in the death of fellow Assassins and town folk. Altair is stripped of his rank and weapons and is given a new mission -assassinate nine important people -which he has to undertake in order to earn the respect of his peers and as payback to the community. The game sends you on your way, with the first mission being an assassination in the nearby town of Damascus. However, in order to perform an assassination one has to complete some investigation – from pick-pocketing locals, to forcing information from them and eve’s dropping on their conversations. These investigations will render the clues as to the whereabouts of your target. Scattered throughout the cities, and the land between, are viewpoints. These viewpoints need to be scaled and once you’re at the top will unlock the locations of the different investigations on your map.
There is danger scattered all over the way. Guards and knights will attack you if you strut your stuff too boldly. Unfortunately the AI here is disappointing. Attacks generally happen one on one or even close to enemies who don’t even react. As an Assassin though, you should be sneaky- it is after all what makes an Assassin different to ordinary militia. Fighting is inevitable, and you are equipped with a hidden blade, two swords of differing length, throwing knives and a hefty punch. Fighting is mostly a one sided affair and once you learn the skill of counter-attack it really is a matter of waiting for a hostile to strike and then watching the excellent kill animations that follow. There is nothing like shoving a sword down an assailant’s spine, is there? An important feature in any scenario is your ability to become anonymous. The game refers to it as ‘blending’ – basically becoming one of the crowd. When you are being chased by guards, walk amongst some scholars and watch the guards run by, or sit on a bench or dive into some hay. It really is this dynamic that makes this game fun.
The story is told through dialogue with Bureau leaders within each city. The men you are to assassinate plan to take control of the holy land – through various means they plan to overpower the populace and install peace amongst man – however their intentions and methods are questionable. The storyline progresses in stages, from assassination to assassination and is intertwined with your present day dilemma of being held hostage by Vidic. Pleasantly the two come together at the end of the game and Ubisoft didn’t forget to include a twist and to leave gamers hanging! The game is concluded leaving no doubt that a sequel is forthcoming and I can’t wait to see how this story pans out.
Unfortunately there are some problems with Assassins Creed. The investigations are particularly frustrating as they are exactly the same for each assassination. Pickpocket, eavesdrop, interrogate repeat.
Even more frustrating is the static dialogue of the characters in the optional objectives. It becomes so tedious that I fear without the achievement incentive for completing all the investigations, most gamers wouldn’t bother, opting instead to complete the minimum and move on. The further you get in the game the more you are left felling as if Ubisoft spent all their effort on the eye candy and stealth portions of the game and then simply cut-and-pasted the rest. Luckily the game does reward you for sticking it through, and for those that read the credits there is hint of what is yet to come. It does well to redeem itself through the storyline and I am sure Ubisoft will only improve on this title in future releases.
No matter how good this game was though, it could never have lived up to the hype. Nothing really can when one considers the marketing forces and internet publications that blow things up beyond expectation. If you play games to add a notch to your joystick or if you are going to race through this game you are going to be bored. The missions all play out exactly the same – linear, linear, linear. BUT, I am so glad I’m inquisitive by nature. There is just no way I could play this game and not get stuck into the side missions – like collecting the flags or chasing silly achievements like jumping through market stalls and exploring the cities from the heights. In fact, I think a lot of game developers owe Microsoft a huge favour here – Achievements have really extended the longevity of games.
Assassins Creed gets an 8/10 from me. And that is damn good. I was lucky to have fate on my side that day I walked into Incredible Connection, and now wonder if my cynicism of the game’s marketing through Jade wasn’t just plain old sexist – she is damn beautiful and she’s produced a damn good game.
//Told you it was long 😉
Last Updated: December 19, 2007