Assassin's Creed

Assassins Creed
Assassins Creed Cover
Platforms Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Windows
Genre Repetitive Stealth Adventure
Score 5  Clock score of 5Gameplay: 5
Fun Factor: 4
Gfx/Sound: 9
Story: 3
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Assassin's Creed is the newest action-adventure game from Ubisoft. Since it was released about a month ago it has seen pretty good reviews and has become the fastest selling new IP since 2002 (The Getaway, seriously??). I can't argue with facts but I can't believe how many unbelievable scores this game has gotten: a 10 from Games Radar, a 9.5 from Game Informer, and 37/40 from Famitsu are just a few scores that make me go "WTF?"

For my review on just the first hour, please see my Assassin's Creed review at The First Hour.

Before I defend myself and get into why this game is both incredibly awesome and incredibly horrible at the same time, let's have a little more history. Assassin's Creed is in the same vein as the recent Prince of Persia trilogy, you can run up walls, kill bad guys with your sword, and basically just do cool acrobatics. Ubisoft made a good decision giving the Prince a break and trying something a little different. Breaking away from the Prince of Persia games, Assassin's Creed gives you a giant sandbox to play around with in three giant 12th century cities. Jerusalem, Acre, and Damascus are rendered beautifully and you can tell were created meticulously and carefully. The main character, Altair, is basically a white-clad ninja in the Holy Land, so it seems like it would be really fun to dive into his stealth-killing world. What could possibly go wrong?

One more thing I'd like to say before I hit the scores. Assassin's Creed was produced by a talented developer named Jade Raymond. A woman leading a project of this magnitude is a rare sight in our industry and I think it is absolutely great she headed Assassin's Creed. However, she was basically used by Ubisoft (and the gaming press) to be the "pretty-face" of the game and the company is now experiencing some backlash from this. Here is a great quote from Jane Pinckard regarding this issue:

"I think Ubisoft noticed the amount of press that she was getting, and they did what most companies would do, which is they exploited that. I like Ubisoft and all, but they don’t care about Jade as much as they care about their bottom dollar, and they’re going to do what they think works. And if the GameTrailers interviews that have Jade on them get like 20 times the hits as any other product that they put out, what are they going to do? They’re going to put her in front of the camera. I think they created a lot of resentment though, both internally and maybe externally. I think a lot of men were resentful of her stature, and maybe some of them thought she didn’t deserve it, and they deserved it more or whatever. It’s difficult. It’s complicated." - MTV Games

Well, enough about all of that, let's get to my review of Assassin's Creed.


Gameplay: 5
Assassin's Creed is the single most repetitive game I have ever played in my history of gaming. The game is repetitive on so many different levels too. Combat is repetitive (one button counter, kill, counter, kill), missions are repetitive (save citizens, eavesdrop, pickpocket), and the assassinations are even repetitive (listen to target's speech and watch them do something mean, kill them, listen to them say that their actions were just, run and hide from guards). Your mission as Altair is to kill nine baddies, and each one is pretty much the same two hours worth of gameplay, which is extremely disappointing.

On the other hand, the actual control of Altair is really good. Running up walls is executed just about perfectly, leaping from building to building is fun, and even shimmying is not that bad (no double jump though, guess that was too "unrealistic"). My single favorite thing to do in this game was to find view points, basically just the tallest buildings in the city. You scale them with a great wall climbing engine and are rewarded with an awesome view of your surroundings. Then you can jump down from the tower onto a bail of hay, the climb is brilliant from top to bottom. Viewpoints are scattered around the city and was always the first thing I did after entering a new part of town. Everything after that is simply dull. The combat is pretty simplistic but the variety of blades available mixes some things up even if it doesn't change too much. Killing counters are usually rewarded with a unique camera angle and lots of blood, fun stuff. Horseback riding and running people over in large groups is also entertaining.

Fun Factor: 4
Repetitive gameplay does not a fun game make. You know what's not fun? Getting seen by guards when you're just chilling out in the city streets minding your own business so now you have to spend 3-5 minutes trying to lose them. You know what else sucks? Having the game freeze on you about 20 times in a 20 hour game, forcing you through a three minute boot up so you can just get back into the game, never mind the time it takes you to get back to where you were (when the game freezes on the Pause menu you know something is wrong). And the thing that really disappoints is that Assassin's Creed doesn't come close to meeting the hype it generated. The game had an incredible amount of potential, but boils down to just a tech demo for some awesome graphics and a great wall climbing engine.

It's kind of sad the most fun in the game was when I was scaling buildings looking for viewpoints. That was definitely fun, but the repetitiveness of the assassination missions really ruins things. After the second assassination you basically understand exactly how the next seven will play out, I would have rushed through the game if I didn't want to get all the viewpoints and save all the citizens (an optional side mission). But really, you can't rush through Assassin's Creed because the boring cutscenes are unskippable, the dialogue is boring to death, and the cities are so huge it takes a long time to go from point A to point B. The first two things are signs of bad game design that ruins the fun, the third is a side effect from a grand vision that is never realized.

Graphics and Sound: 9
Assassin's Creed is a gorgeous game, the highlight being the expansive cities. My favorite part of the game was climbing high towers and simply looking out over Jerusalem (or Acre or Damascus). The draw distance includes the entire city and you really get an idea of what you've been thrust into. The townspeople themselves are also highly detailed, they look, act, and react like real people with unique facial expressions and body movements. Clothing billows in the wind and blood splatters from blades, Assassin's Creed's graphics are easily its high point.

The sound on the other hand falters a bit due to the inconsistent voice acting. The game takes place in the Holy Land in the 12th century, I don't care that people speak English (the Animus machine translates their voices for us), but when the main character talks like a typical American, I raise an eyebrow at that. Altair's voice stands out so harshly against the rest of the Middle Eastern-accented cast that it was just about the first thing I noticed wrong with the game. The rest of the sound design is good, the music especially sets the mood for a city chase or an assassination. And the city crowds barter, beg, and scream just like I imagine a real crowd would, great little touches everywhere.

Story: 3
Let's start with the end of Assassin's Creed's story first... it's horrible. Actually I'm not really sure if there was an ending, let me describe the situation with no spoilers: a man sees some writing on the wall (literally) and says, "I wonder what all this means?" then the credits roll. It's basically an advertisement for Assassin's Creed 2... which hasn't even been announced yet but is inevitable. Anyways, the ending sucks. The worst since Shenmue 2, but at least with Assassin's Creed there will be more to the story. Crap, I just made myself really sad.

But there is actually a plot before the final credits, and it's really not much better. There's really two stories going on in this game, one is set in modern day and the other is set in the 12th century (this is supposedly a "twist" but I've never known of a twist to be revealed in the first three minutes of the game). In the modern day we have a man named Desmond who is being held captive by two scientists (one of them modeled after and voiced by Kristen Bell). They stick him in this machine called the Animus so he can connect with Altair, his assassin ancestor in the 12th century. Altair is kind of a disobedient assassin, which is made possible due to the stringent creed all assassins must follow. He gets yelled at for a bit and then is told to kill nine bad men across three cities.

All the men do despicable things but when you actually assassinate them, you and the target are transported to some "other-world" where the dead men plead their case to Altair. And every time, Altair almost believes their words and has second thoughts about murdering them, but he kills them anyway (that's what assassins do). This happens over, and over, and over again. The targets themselves are also not very interesting at all and are never really developed enough to make you feel one way or another for their deaths. There is a theme of Altair becoming more mature in his life and career, but that climaxes at an unsurprising end. Between Altair and Desmond, I actually think our modern man Desmond had more potential, but he's extremely underdeveloped for being a main character.

Overall: 5
If Ubisoft ever makes another Assassin's Creed game (which they will), I have the following tips for them. Don't use Altair in the Middle East again, go somewhere else; I'd recommend the Far East somewhere between the 17th and 19th centuries. It may not fit into their current storyline but Altair is such a flat character and I refuse to endure playing as him for another game. Ubisoft should also expand Desmond's role in the game. He's supposedly a former assassin but they never explore that at all. At one point you can grab a pen and he sort of puts it where Altair's hidden blade would be, making you think that he's going to stab someone's throat out with it later. As you can guess from the lack of any kind of ending, that never happens. Also don't make the game so darn repetitive, variety is the spice of life.

Assassin's Creed is a very average game with many high points and just as many low points. I would actually recommend trying it out though, as the beginning is kind of fun and hints at a lot more. And once you assassinate your first target, you have pretty much finished the game, so that's a good place to stop. You will have fun over those first 4 hours or so, but don't get greedy, quit while you're ahead.

Assassins Creed Art