Tuesday, November 13th was an odd day. The long awaited and highly anticipated Assassin’s Creed was released and the reviews started to make their way online. The way it all played out was what made it odd. 1UP seemed be the first to get their review online and it made its rounds like wild fire. 7.0, wow! Within a couple hours, IGN’s review was published… 7.7! W…T…F?! I this point, I was a little discouraged and couldn’t wait for my trusted source, GameSpot to get their review online. Just before I clocked out for the day the relief I was hoping for arrived. GameSpot ranked Assassin’s Creed a 9.0. Not only that, it seemed every review to follow was in the mid 8 to mid 9 range. So what’s up with 1UP and IGN? I think Gabe nailed it.
Assassin’s Creed is an absolutely fantastic game. The amount of time and effort that went into nearly every aspect of the game is clearly evident. The sheer scale of the environments is overwhelming in the best possible way. The 3 main cities are so massive that you don’t have access to them in their entirety from the get-go. After you’ve taken care of a business in each of them, you start to reveal the other districts that were previously closed off. Similar to how sandbox games typically work, but in this case, I think it’s more to the player’s benefit as it doesn’t feel like you’re simply not permitted to go somewhere. But more a feeling of not needing to go there yet. After all, it’s not like you’re going to find faster cars or cooler weapons on the other side of the translucent wall.
More Addictive than Crackdown
I never did write about Crackdown, but man was I ever hooked on that game. I spent more time running across rooftops collecting orbs than taking out the gang leaders. I think Assassin’s Creed might actually be even more addictive. In the fews days that I’ve had it, I must have sunk at least 16-18 hours into it. And here I am, with 5 of the 9 targets assassinated. You’d think I would have beaten it by now, and I probably could have. But I bet this post would read more like 1UP or IGN’s reviews if that were the case. There’s so much to do in Assassin’s Creed, that rushing through it to get to the end simply isn’t the way it’s meant to be played and your experience will be lesser because of it. I’m having an absolute blast and enjoy taking my time and having my attention stolen from the task at hand to help out some woman who’s about to have he hands chopped off, or to sneak up on an unsuspecting guard and thrust my hidden blade through his nick, or to snag that flag I just ran by. There’s a lot to do, and I’m planning to go back and tie up and loose ends I didn’t catch before I assassinate my final target.
(Not) Just Another Face in the Crowd
One of the coolest aspects of the games and watching the environment around you change to reflect your actions. At one point, I had to eavesdrop on a target in the middle of a bustling courtyard. As I made my way to the bench where I was to sit and listen, a disturbed homeless man shoved me. Pissed off, I grabbed him and tossed him. As he was stumbling to the ground, he knocked over a guard and everyone around us quickly scattered screaming. As the guard got to his feet, he began yelling and I quickly became surrounded. Since running is for cowards, I took down every guard that came at me and the courtyard was layered with bodies in a matter of minutes. I decided to leave the scene and let things cool down. After saving a couple more civilians in trouble, I returned to the scene. As I made my way to the bench I passed a guard who muttered, “Hey, I know you.” I slowed my pace and was about to sit down when he shouted, “Assassin!” From then on, any time I return to that area of the city I’m quickly identified and have to flee or stay and fight. That is just awesome!
I’m really happy with the way the main assassinations play out. Each is unique in its own right. While the end goal is the same (you take someone’s life), how you reach that goal is entirely different for each target. The first couple are pretty straight forward. A couple will lead you on a chase through the city. While others will give you all the time in the world to plan your strike and make your escape. The latter have been my favourite so far.
Adjusting to the Sword
One area that’s taken some getting used to, is fighting with a sword. I’ve been playing mostly shooters for months now, and I found it a bit tough having to stick out each fight and take down my opponents one-by-one. When I first found myself completely surrounded with no chance of simply running, my first intention was to pop a flash-bang and dash. But obviously, there were no flash-bangs in the 12th century. I find myself now, picking my fights. If a civilian needs saving but there are 3 or 4 guards making the rounds close by, I’ll come back later and hope in hopes of a quieter scene. After all, you’re an assassin, not a commando.
Elegance in Execution
You’ve all seen the videos of Altair hopping across beams and leaping from building to building, running up walls and taking a flying leap off the tallest building. I’m extremely happy to say that none of that footage was BS, and the game plays just as fluently as the pre-release videos we’ve been shown. Not only does it play well, but it’s very easy to pick up and being making huge leaps and bounds within minutes. There’s really nothing to the control scheme, which is both good and bad. I would have actually liked to have seen some of these daring moves me a little harder to pull off. But I’m sure in the heat of a chase, it would have only made it more frustrating.
Assassin’s Creed makes great use of many cinematic effects, like depth of field and motion blur. When you are locked onto a target, he becomes the focus while you are in the foreground out of focus. You can still move around as you normally do, but the camera is tightened up more than usual and is in a semi-fixed position, focused on the target.
Assassin’s Creed is not without its faults. As with any great game, there are flaws which hamper it’s awesomeness, if only a tiny bit. And this holds true for Assassin’s Creed. There seem to be only a handful of speeches civilians give after you save them, which gets annoying pretty quick. Every time a new weapon or skill is acquired, the same dude meets you outside of the fortress and says the exact same thing. They definitely skimped out in the dialog department. Another thing that is constantly annoying me, is once a civilian is saved and they’re giving their thanks, the camera locks onto the group of vigilantes that are now there to back you up, preventing you from making a quick exit if need be. But again, these are minors issues in the grand scheme of things.
Without a doubt, Assassin’s Creed has lived up to my expectations, and then some! If you like sandbox type games (GTA, Crackdown, etc.), then head out and buy Assassin’s Creed straight up.