It's not often we leap to an untested franchise with such glee, but between its clever marketing and mouthwatering premise, Assassin's Creed quick became a fan-favorite well before the game hit store shelves and hands met controllers. Alternating between the near future and the distant past, Ubisoft's medieval action-adventurer promised to redefine next-generation gaming.
But does Assassin's Creed nail the landing? Or fall hard?
Desmond, Meet Altair
While Assassin's Creed is being pitched as the tale of Third Crusades' Hashshashin, Altaïr ibn-La'Ahad; the central protagonist is, in fact, a man from the future. Desmond Miles - voiced by everyman actor, Nolan North - is but a lowly bartender until he is abducted by mega-corporation, Abstergo, who strap him to a device dubbed the Animus and force him to experience the life of his ancestors through genetic-memory.
It's here, in the Holy Land of 1191, where we meet Altair. Once a legendary assassin, a botched job has resulted in his demotion. Stripped of his rank, Altair is forced to locate and subsequently assassinate nine targets scattered across the Holy Land. Dipping back and forth into Altair's memory, back in the real-world, Desmond begins to suffer from prolonged exposure to the Animus, as he discovers more about his past and relevant present.
The story in Assassin's Creed is generally enjoyable, if a little heavy-handed. Weaving a complex and at times opaque mystery, Ubisoft demonstrate admirable historical knowledge in their depiction and realization of the Third Crusades, but suffer in the third-act when the plot takes a turn for the worse. Altair isn't a particularly engaging lead, a largely silent cipher in contrast to the whining Desmond.
A Leap Of Faith
While the plot might take a few stumbles, the gameplay in Assassin's Creed is a joyous ride. For the most part. Ubisoft have employed a radical new control-scheme, where simply holding the right-trigger and pointing Altair in the right direction will have him clamber up, mantle or leap across anything in his path. It's a brilliant system and showcases that showcases the smooth, seamless animations of Altair, with the developers paying close attention to where his feet are, what he's holding on to and so on.
But you're not interested in the platforming, right? This is Assassin's Creed, after all. You want to kill! Well, rest easy, as you can expect to be doing plenty of killing. Equipped with his trusty hidden-blade and a variety of sidearms, from swords and daggers to throwing knives, Altair is as capable a combatant as any to grace the virtual scene.
Stealth is an important part of Assassin's Creed's combat, as it dictates how you'll engage the enemy. Sneak up on an enemy, undetected, and you can perform a swift execution, usually involving your hidden-blade being introduced to a guard's spine. However, blow your cover and expect to whip out that sword of yours. It's a pity, then, that the swordplay devolves to a simple melee of countering and blocking blows, rather than chaining elaborate combinations or the like. It's satisfying, however, and suitably brutal.
Rinse And Repeat
Assassin's Creed is beautiful; the world is a vibrant, bustling place of medieval towns, sprawling landscapes and distant vistas. The revolutionary control-scheme is a joy to use, and the combat is mostly fun and meaty. But sadly, it all feels very unfinished. Other than chasing down targets, there's not much to do in the world of Assassin's Creed. We're not asking for an RPG here, but a little side-questing or distractions wouldn't go amiss.
The game also has a habit of repeating itself, time and time again. You'll track a target, or beat another into revealing his secrets. Maybe chase a suspect across the rooftops before slaughtering a dozen cards and fleeing into a haystack. On the subject of escape, the local security population in the Holy Land isn't quite up to scratch. You might have two or three guards chomping at your heels, before you leap into a bale of hay and they suddenly appear to lose sight of you. It's not a game-breaking flaw, by any means, but it is somewhat odd.
Thankfully, Assassin's Creed has enough good going on to far outweigh the bad. It takes a while to get going, and once it does hit full-steam the developers suddenly hit the breaks and it's over. The latter stages of the game are a slog, culminating in brutal, energy-sapping showdowns and disappointing boss-fights. But exploring the world is wonderful, and Ubisoft succeed in their ambition of making you truly feel like a member of the Hashshashin.
- A beautiful, engrossing world
- Revolutionary control-scheme
- Meaty combat
- Poor story overall
- Lacking in variety and challenge
- The end is almost painfully abrupt
The Short Version: Assassin's Creed is a bloody, athletic action-adventure title set in one of the most beautiful landscapes ever created. Ubisoft carve new paths with their excellent control-scheme and tech, but fall at the last hurdle when it comes to telling an engrossing, cohesive narrative. It has its flaws, namely a lack of variety and reliance on repetition, but it has enough class and promise to do away with such complaints.