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Review: Assassin’s Creed

The prophets of yesteryear’s next-gen gaming promised us that the new slew of consoles would bring us more than just better and more realistic graphics, such as more immersing worlds and deeper, more intricate gameplay. Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed has been one of the spearheads of this development, and with its release comes the time to pass judgment upon whether the oft delayed game really presents the revolution it was lauded to bring.

In an industry ruled by hype and fail-safe sequels, the world cheered upon Ubisoft’s initiative to introduce a fresh new franchise in a brand new and seldom before seen setting. It certainly got its fair share of the hype train though, as initial videos at X06 showcased a level of interaction with a living and breathing world that went not one, but several steps at once further than anything we had witnessed before. Here was a man running through overcrowded alleys, pushing civilians aside, provoking realistic responses, instilling fear and awe through his actions. Gamers were impressed, and expectations of the game had risen to a level that one could realistically doubt to be realistically achievable. Not long after booting up the disc, these fears will be washed away like snow in the sun.

Assassin’s Creed can be disrespectfully described as ‘medieval Crackdown stars hooded Splinter Cell‘, blending in the wide open world with unlimited freedom of the former with the cunning, stealth and intricate plotlines of the latter. The starring protagonist is Altaïr, a master assassin living in the era of the Third Crusade. After his arrogance and selfishness made him violate his order’s Creed time after time, he gets punished for his actions, and he is forced to redeem his honor and rank through completing a list of tasks, unsurprisingly all boiling down to the assassination of a key player in the political spectrum.

From the second you enter the world, through means touched upon later during this review, it becomes clear that Ubisoft meant business when it promised to innovate on the concept of gaming with this title. Right away you will be stunned by graphics that are by all means brilliant, bringing its medieval world to life in a shocking showcase of colorful realism. Inhabiting this beautifully rendered world are not ten, not a hundred, but literally thousands of people, living their life, doing their thing, and generally not minding your presence until you interfere with them. And once you do, you will quickly notice that the crowd control governing their actions goes deeper than basic instinctual actions, with people correctly responding not only to what they see you do, but also to emotions they see and hear from other people. Stumble into the wrong person, and his friends will come to his aid, literally scaring away the faint of heart with their aggressive intentions.

To steer you through this world the designers behind Assassin’s Creed came up with a contextual control scheme, with the four face buttons executing actions related to your head, left or right arm, or feet, depending on situation and profile. While Altaïr keeps a low profile by default, pulling the right trigger enables him to execute high profile actions such as running and bumping people away. The system works surprisingly well and intuitively, and proves a powerful control scheme that allows you to seamlessly blend into a crowd at one moment, then tackle everyone in your way to make a quick escape a second later with the same button if need be. Sword fighting is also, while basic, highly intuitive, coupling movement commands to your contextual buttons to dodge, counter or grab opponents. Many of the more complex fighting combos trigger special camera positions for a short duration, highlighting the excellent character animations and choreography of the game.

Reading all this praise the casual reader might be convinced that Assassin’s Creed is the best game since Pac-Man. Rather depressingly, it is not: the game’s many delays have clearly not been enough to make it so, and after completing it one could even suspect that it was the marketing department’s decision to release the game as this year’s Christmas cash cow, rather than finishing up properly what they had started. If so, they would probably be the same marketing bozos responsible for introducing a completely unbelievable parallel storyline into the game. Assassin’s Creed is intended to be the first of a trilogy of games, yet rather than blending the franchise’s uniting storyline into the rather good main story of this installment, someone suggested a futuristic corporate setting in which the lead character plugs into a Matrix-like parallel world. While that movie’s success was based on the fact that the story as a whole added up to a believable conclusion, Ubisoft Montreal opted for letting the so-called Animus machine replay genetic memories of ancient ancestors over twenty generations before, encoded deep in the subject’s DNA. Right. Apart from ranking up so high on the bullshit meter it makes the entire side story unbelievable, the futuristic sections are also tediously long-winded and messy with the overload of information they provide. While at the end of the game the stories fall together well enough to more or less justify its existence and facilitate a sequel, it all feels tacked on in a way that was never originally intended, and to top it all off the future sections look like a 5 year old game graphically. The most positive thing to say about the parallel story is that it does a nice job of explaining controls, menu system, and the presence of GPS and the like in a medieval game.

The game as a whole also has a more than unnoticeable number of technical flaws and outright bugs. These range from the mildly irritating ones, such as the graphics engine suffering from occasional severe tearing and Ubisoft’s trademark clipping and culling issues found in many Tom Clancy titles before, to highly irritating ones, like on screen information about your mission not disappearing after a few seconds like it should, but keeping 60% of the screen covered until you trigger a new one, and people spontaneously disappearing so you cannot complete a task you just slew 25 guards for. There’s even some rather hilarious bugs: soldiers getting triggered into alarm state by witnessing a murder are frequently slightly misplaced, causing them to plummet off buildings to their death, and for some reason buff templars can run straight into water at times to a watery instant-death grave.

Design flaws are also present, and it’s mainly these that handicap the game’s replay value severely. First of all there’s the notable absence of a difficulty level, meaning the average slightly experienced gamer will never run into any kind of trouble during the entire game. Secondly, there’s no option whatsoever to skip through dialogs, and people were apparently very long winded in the 12th century. Failing a mission or dying means you have to restart it from a recent checkpoint, which always means listening to the entire mission description again, so expect to be shouting nasty words at your console a few times while you wait for the game to finally allow you a second attempt. Furthermore, restarting sections of the game after you have completed them will not alleviate anything here, and you’ll have to wait through seemingly endless conversations every time you want to see something again. While on the subject of shouting at your console, it deserves mention that the audio team apparently spent all their disk space on pre-mission and future-world dialogs, and then found out to their horror that they only had a few megabytes left for samples to be played in the cities during the core game. The lack of variety in people’s exclamations, merchants’ sales blurbs and thank-yous from rescued people will be on your nerve within an hour of actual gameplay.

The biggest flaw however is that someone in the design team decided one day that a grand and long introduction section, a well-written storyline full of trickery and deceit and a spectacular finale are enough to make a great game, and somehow completely forgot about the actual game itself. Assassin’s Creed tasks you with murdering nine key victims, which are spread throughout three cities all having three districts. To perform an assassination you must enter the victim’s district, climb a high point such as a church, perform two or three out of six investigations, return to a central location, and then do the actual assassination. Optionally you can decide to scale all high points in the district and rescue citizens being harassed by guards there, there will be about seven to twelve of both. That’s all there is, and you have to do it 9 times. That means the game consists of climbing about one hundred high points in an identical way, saving one hundred citizens in an identical way, playing 54 investigation minigames and doing nine big assassinations. That’s a whole lot of repetition, before even diving into the fact that the six minigames always consist of some no-efforts eavesdropping missions, identical 3 minute interrogations, identical 3 minute pickpocketings, and some informer missions, which thankfully occasionally introduce some sort of creativity in the shape of timed flag collection races and minor assassination requests. Realistically, after four or five assassinations, you will be yearning if not screaming for a change and some variation, yet the game brings none until you completed all nine. What happened to complex quests and missions found in other free-world games such as Oblivion and GTA? Why do we gamers have to repeat the same action over and over while identifiable quests, guild elements, complex chases, tailing, or essentially anything more creative could have made the game so much more entertaining? It is plain and simple boredom that guides your hand through the rest of the game, and the admittedly correct expectation that it will at least have a worthy ending to a good storyline.

The game attempts to introduce replay value by having you gather flags scattered throughout all the areas, much like the agility and secret orbs found in Crackdown. In that game however there was a clearly audible hint whenever you came near an orb, and they were easily spotted in their surroundings. In Assassin’s Creed many of the flags are barely noticeable given the background, hidden in back alleys or obscure corners, and they are so numerous that only the truly devoted will be able to collect the related achievements. Most of the other achievements are simply story markers, or milestone counters that you will automatically collect in the course of regular play anyway.

Painful as it is to consider, it seems that Assassin’s Creed has fallen victim to its own hype, and ultimately provides a relatively empty shell to showcase an at its core truly brilliant next-generation game engine. While the graphics and the game mechanics, coupled with an excellent introduction and finale, absolutely make the game highly enjoyable, its flaws and the lack of challenge and variation pull the game back from its potential classic status into mediocrity, destined to gather dust after a single playthrough. As a package, it stands above the crowd, but not remotely as far as it could and should have been.

Final Score: 7 out of 10 - Above Average (How do we rate games?)

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45 comments on 'Review: Assassin’s Creed'

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Comment by UK JAY on 2007-11-22 01:43:07 | Reply

Absolutely Spot on - enjoyed reading it. I am really hoping there will be a 2nd one with more indoor challenges as well as just walking the street. Loved it - but once done, have to move on from it…no replayability factor (if that’s even a word) and couldn’t be bothered to look for flags.

Comment by MoD Gunslinger on 2007-11-22 16:25:10 | Reply

Replayability? Yep, it is.

Comment by Jamzy No 2 on 2007-11-22 20:14:23 | Reply

i think thats the most perfect review ive ever and i totally agree with u jay i would have rather they put it into tomb raider style levels(which ive said before) so that the varitey of gameplay and replay value increases mabye still have a big city to gather missions and do bonus quests and then have specific designs for the levels

Comment by kevgallacher on 2007-11-22 01:45:34 | Reply

I totally agree about the repitition and lack of creativity with the missions, but I’m not sure about most of the glitches mentioned in the review. There are clipping glitches sure but I can’t remember people just disappearing or anything like that.
The fact that to replay this game after completion, you have to sit through a 3min cutscene every time is just unacceptable really.

I’ve experienced the ‘lost citizen after rescue’ twice, and the guards dropping off buildings on their own three times.

Comment by whatev on 2007-11-23 17:27:36 | Reply

Every time I “lost” a citizen I saved, my buddy told me that I actually slayed him in the fracas.

Great review. I still haven’t finished the game, and I’m already fed up with it. They could have done so much with this game. Don’t get me wrong, I think it lived up to expectations … and exceeded none of them. Great graphics … immersive plot … realistic crowd interactions … fun gameplay. Met Expectations.

I would have enjoyed this more if they would have made it Prince of Persia 4, or tomb raider 17. The gameplay in those games are terrific. I guess I just imagined the game to be … more imaginative. There only five or six mission types in the entire game … which is why I just sprinted through the last 2/3’s of the game. I’m prety sure GTA 2 had more variety then that. I mean, you could play the entire game throgh doing only pickpocket and eavesdropping missions … and It would probably only take you like two hours. Sad.

Maybe this is a result of me sucking at this game, but I never succeeded in a truly stealthy assasination on one of the main characters … i feel like after all the work you do there should be some clearly defined way to assasinate them without a fight … I mean delay the epic battle with the guards until after they’re dead.

I imagine that Assains Creed 2 will be the full realization of the potential of this franchise. If anyone knows of a “please make assasin’s creed 2 play like it’s Prince of Persia 4″ petition that I can sign/circulate … please post here.

Every time I “lost” a citizen I saved, my buddy told me that I actually slayed him in the fracas.

If you do that the game will fail the mission instead of pointing out on your GPS that he ended up in a wall right in front of you.

Comment by Arian on 2007-11-22 01:57:24 | Reply

I hate how, considering how they talk so much, they’ve actually neglected to put in subtitles. I have a hard time hearing and I wear hearing aids, and while I can hear most of what they say, I can’t get it 100%.

My brother, who occasionally sits in while I play, says that he’s having a hard time understanding too, and he’s got good hearing.

Comment by UK JAY on 2007-11-22 02:16:19 | Reply

You know I swear I saw subtitles?
I sold it after completion so can’t double check.

Comment by Arian on 2007-11-22 03:12:33 | Reply

I checked the whole thing over, no subtitles option anywhere.

Yeah I wasn’t too happy about the lack of subs too. I always enable it in my games.

Comment by Jimi on 2007-11-22 04:41:21 | Reply

I didn’t see an option for sub titles either.
Anyway, my biggest complaint about the game is the cutscenes. There are many of them, and they last a long time. The camera isn’t perfect either, and the controls are too hard at first, and too simple once you learn them. I can take on a hundred guards in one fight and win… infact I have the achievement for it… lol. The character models are weak, but otherwise it is graphically amazing.
They should have worked a market aspect into it, where you earn money and can purchase weapons, but hey, it’s good.
Overall I’d give it a 8.5, maybe even a 9.
With downloadable content it could even go higher.

Comment by barkingdogs on 2007-11-22 05:54:03 | Reply

PEOPLE this is a good game, XBOX 360 has nothing but NFL this NBA that NHL this and a but load of FPS, something diferent came and you people are not taking it for what it is, “a diferent kind of game” thats just what it is, In my opinion I this game deserves a 9

Comment by Arian on 2007-11-22 06:17:31 | Reply

That’s not without some faults. Different is always good, if it’s a good play too.

Oh I agree. I thought the game was superb tbh, and I’m on the last mission right now and still loving it.

I do agree that the mini-missions before the assassinations do get repetitive but it depends how you handle those. There’s always different ways to carry them out. There’s enough randomness in the fighting side of things because there are a lot of moves available too. I love the fighting side of things - and throwing soldiers into the water…which results in instant death Vice City style (lol)

Incredible visuals, very good crowd AI, I haven’t seen issues with the soldier AI yet and the sound effects are ok too.

I’ll be giving it a 9 when I review it anyway.

Comment by 88 on 2007-11-22 07:48:53 | Reply

completely agree…hell its replayable for me just cuz its that fuckin awesome…truley one of the best stealth type games n one of my favorites from ubi

Comment by MoD Gunslinger on 2007-11-22 16:58:25 | Reply

Obviously haven’t played Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory.

Comment by sock on 2007-11-22 08:21:37 | Reply

so this game should get a better review score because it dares to be different!!whatever it has flaws we deserve to hear them and the score should always reflect this!thank you for a honnest review

Comment by papukaija on 2007-11-22 08:56:18 | Reply

I red some where that people complaint about the fact that designers decided to put many (i mean more than ten) options to choose your language coz it would eat so much space. I thought that therefore there would be many options to choose your language AND subtitles.

Comment by Verbs on 2007-11-22 10:26:41 | Reply

While I agree with all the criticisms I’ve read of the game, there was at no point through my first play-through where I was thinking ‘I’m not enjoying this’. Even though I was thinking ‘I’ve done this task like 6-7 times now’, I still did it and enjoyed it.

I practically couldn’t turn the thing off until i completed it, and it held my attention very well.

I really enjoyed it from the story, the gameplay, just a shame they couldn’t have varied up the investigations, even a little would have really made up for a large part of everyones criticisms.

As for the ending, awesome, I didn’t think we’d see a developer take a chance on an ending like that in a long time. Very Lost/Heroes, and gives you a lot to think about and ponder for the next one.

Comment by Assassion's Rocks on 2007-11-22 10:37:59 | Reply

Disagree with the review, think AC deserves a 9, it lose 1 mark because of the lack of side missions i was expecting, i’ve also seen no mention of the physics in the game in many reviews, it is brilliant. I had a couple of memorable moments, i attempted to run at and push a guard of a roof only for the guard to turn i missed the push, hit him in the shoulder and we both went flying of the roof, luckily for me i landed on a market stall sending wood and ceramic pots flying everywhere and had a very angry owner actually yelling at me. Another moment was when u hav to take out the docter, i planned it perfectly and whilst he was busy with a patient and moved in ready with hidden blade, only for one of his other patients to lunge at me, i stumbled backwards into a guard and sent alarm bells ringing, the best laid plans….
I also disagree with the point about the future story, althougth obviously not as good as the main one, i think the game benefits from it, I think the idea of the animus is like the reviwer says unlikely, but the theory that he hold memory’s of our ancestors in our genes is quite a popular theory in the scientific community. The future story also helps put the events of the main story in context and the scenes between Dr. Vidic and Desmond where possibly the best in the game as they discuss the role of religion in people’s lives, the amount of freedom people should be granted etc. The developers are AC done well with the story as they seem to have taken inspiration from the MGS series, MGS2 in particular. Does anyone have any idea what those messages on the wall mean at the end?

i’ve also seen no mention of the physics in the game in many reviews, it is brilliant.

The review mentions explicitly that the game engine is absolutely brilliant, and that includes physics. In these days realistic physics don’t get a separate mention anymore if they’re just on guards and sparse environment objects, we’ve become entitled to expect that since Half-Life 2.

As for the messages at the end, google for ‘assassins creed ending’ and you’ll find a very good article over at our colleagues of CVG :)

Comment by Assassin's Rocks on 2007-11-22 15:02:37 | Reply

Sorry i wasn’t clear i meant most reviews, i didn’t mean yours

Comment by UK JAY on 2007-11-22 18:50:16 | Reply

..lol that sounds worse…

Comment by Voyager2k on 2007-11-22 14:00:57 | Reply

Very good review Niels. Kudos to you for spelling out loud what the fanboys don’t want to hear.

Comment by The_Glovner on 2007-11-22 14:16:28 | Reply

Wouldn’t worry about it, you should know by now that if your review doesn’t agree with everyone else opinion that comes here then they are going to bitch cry and moan because you don’t agree with them.

Rather than taking a review as one persons opinion (displaying the facts that caused them to reach it) and going out to read other reviews on the same subject to get a balanced impression, they just opt for the “I’m 14, I know more than you, I play games, this rocks, you suck Boooooo!”

Comment by Assassin's Rocks on 2007-11-22 15:05:25 | Reply

This is what the forum is for, for people to express their opinions about AC, people are just politly agreeing and disagreeing

And since we appreciate that we offer the facilities ;)

Comment by The_Glovner on 2007-11-22 19:14:31 | Reply

Is that what goes on in the front pages?

Wow, either I am mistaken or you ain’t been coming here long.

And the post wasn’t really aimed at you specifically so don’t worry, you actually had the decency to explain yourself and comment that you mearly “disagree” with the review, which is prefectly acceptable.

But hang around a while, you will see that the commments are far from that most of the time.

Comment by mu on 2007-11-22 18:33:10 | Reply

i feel like these comment sections are like an extension of the review itself. especially if the people responding have actually played the game. it is always at least INTERESTING to hear what everyone has to say, even if i do have to get all upset about it. the more opinions shared, the more balanced the review becomes.

i am loving assassins creed personally. i think roof surfing is done better than any other game, and crackdown is an excellent comparison. yes, it is already getting a little repetitive, but there is so much else to play (mass effect, cod4, orange box, etc)that i can break it up into fun little pieces.

and i find the scifi portion of the story to be excellent. changes the pace of the game, gives you tons of filler info, and provides perfect excuses for the hud, and even allows me to listen to music in game without being even the slightest removed. it is definitely interesting in concept to me.

the game was obviously rushed out for christmas, and a 7 is a completely fair score, but the game is good, at least a rental.

Comment by mu on 2007-11-22 18:46:21 | Reply

oh yeah, speaking of which, nice job niels. excellent review, thank you.

Comment by The_Glovner on 2007-11-22 19:09:25 | Reply

I agree 100% about the comments but only the ones that actually give some reasoning behind their opinion.

What I can’t be doing with is “You’re wrong, I’m right, purely because thats the way I see it and don’t have to offer an explanation”

The review can never be wrong as it is opinion, all it can be is different from the view that you hold. It can be badly reviewed I admit, but I really don’t think I have read a “bad” review on here (no matter what the fanboys think). Every point/opinion I have read concerning a review on here is well crafted by explaining the pro’s and con’s with the added element of a little humour. Finished off with fair scores based on the points that were raised previously.

To reply to that by saying “that reviews crap, I love the game” is both childish an ill explained and is therefore not worth any note.

(Thats not aimed at you mu, just an explaination of my feelings on the subject, both with my opinions and the sort of attitude that leads me to it).

Comment by mu on 2007-11-22 19:54:03 | Reply

you are absolutely right glovner. and people do a fair amount of “i’m right and you’re wrong” around here, but i gotta say, there is also a lot of real information being passed around. you can pretty much differentiate the substance of the comment immediately, and there are definitely people around here that i benefit from hearing from, and yes, even butting horns with. i like learning how other people have learned to appreciate something new in a game that the reviewer may have missed. i love hearing how some people are experiencing certain problems with a game, and hearing people chime in to help solve the problem. it may be masked in “proving them wrong” but people are genuinely helping each other out around here.

it is too bad we have so many attention seeking ten year old whores posting every couple of comments, but hey, i’d say it is worth it, and maybe in a couple of years, they will be posting some meaningful shit themselves. i mean, everywhere there’s whores.

Comment by The_Glovner on 2007-11-23 18:01:30 | Reply

Yes Mu, you are correct, everywhere there are whores.

Watch me being a whore right now.

Our Myspace site was shut down and I had to start a new one, get yersel’s over and have a listen and add.

SMILER

I think it’s a great game, not perfect!but, bloody good. Can’t wait for part2! so UBI can sort the issues. It will then truely be AAA.

Comment by mass9 on 2007-11-22 19:36:02 | Reply

I still don’t know….
I feel like UbiMontreal has dropped the ball with their last two titles (AC, and I’m fairly certain they did the most recent Spinter Cell, Double Agent).

maybe as a rental……maybe if I didn’t have other (IMO better) games that are still untouched….maybe if I could get past that retarded storyline…..maybe if I wasn’t impatient with listening to stories….

lots of maybes.

So much potential.
So far from hitting it.

Comment by mu on 2007-11-22 20:00:00 | Reply

i gotta say, i agree with that. assassins is a game that has so much more potential than play, but i still think it is a title worth checking out.

after playing through cod4, i was starving for some slower paced story driven gameplay, so i have been enjoying that aspect of the game, but now that mass effect has rolled into town, i may be putting the creed on hold.

the general impression i have of this game (granted, after only four or five hours) is that it could have been brilliant, but was forced out before it had come to complete fruition. it is fun, but it certainly could have been infinitely better with only a little more time.

O so true review! Couldn’t agree more.
Been playing it for couple of hours now, and already it is boring. Looks great, but game play is a lot of the same.

Comment by James on 2007-12-19 18:22:04 | Reply

ye the game is stunning… the first time you play, (the ‘replayabiity’ needs some work)… Also im not sure if im alone on this one but even though the story was very clever and origanl… what the hell was up with the ending?? i wanna know wot happened!

Comment by ManoDestra on 2007-12-20 15:10:14 | Reply

The only real tangible elements bringing this game down is the repetetive nature of the activities leading up to the actual assassinations and that you can’t CUT the CUTscenes. Occassionally, enemies will appear and disappear before your eyes. I also went through a wall of a building once and fell into a black abyss and died. These however are minor considerations. Even though it can get a little repetitive, it’s still enjoyable. Much as I am a fan of GTA, the game play in those missions also gets repetitive, but you don’t mind because it’s so much fun. You don’t mind something repetitive if it’s something you enjoy immensely. And this game I am enjoying immensely. Crackdown crossed with Splinter cell in a beautifully rendered medieval world is fairly accurate and that’s no bad thing. I would have gave it 9 out of 10 personally (objective review, probably 8), but 7 seems awful low given the quality of this game and the amount of enjoyment that can be had from playing it.

Comment by steve jedrek on 2008-01-20 15:08:31 | Reply

the game looks good, but i gotta say its a let down. its repetative its shallow, its boring, its a let down, theres just not enough to do, not enough interaction with the in game world. i think its all unforgivable, this game had sooo much hype and i just dont get how the people who made this game can look at it and say ..yeah this game rocks!, because it dont. it does not deliver in anyway except graphicaly and that dont cut it AT ALL!!!
i felt ripped off and misled.

Comment by UnGreat on 2008-01-21 12:10:43 | Reply

The repetitive side missions really let this game down.

I was expecting smaller assassin missions, the kind of “kill the commander of the guard to confuse troops” type missions.

I also found most of the actual main kills a bit boring without the multiple routes and assassination options I was expecting.

Good game but lacked that little bit extra that makes a great game.

Comment by Squints on 2008-01-28 20:41:05 | Reply

Good points, reviewer. I went through this game rather quickly, and that included doing every side -mission other than the flags.

Amusingly enough, I got the “Blade in the crowd” achievement on the final boss.

Comment by gpsonar on 2008-03-06 15:39:38 | Reply

Great game. beautiful graphics, gameplay, sound and a story line that develops feeling for the charactor. at times i found myself running around jumping from rooftop to rooftop and forgot about the missions because i was so into trying to find the high points on the levels. Getting chased by 10-15 guards to then turn around and start taking names. fun expecially when you put your own soundtrack to it. should of got a better review in my opinion.

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