When Ubisoft first announced Assassin's Creed in Los Angeles at E3 ?06, people were literately in sheer amazement as they left the demo room. Unfortunately for Xbox fans, at the time it was rumored to be a PS3 exclusive. Anticipation was already at an all time high based on the fact that the talented Montreal development studio was at the helm. The game showcased a unique storyline, and an uber cool character who was mysterious, fast, stealthy, and dangerous! What more could we want? Plus, based on the studio?s past accomplishments, we knew we were in for a treat. One year later at this year?s E3, Jade and Silent Bob (a.k.a Patrice) demonstrated the game once again, but this time with a more intimate and in person presentation, and on Xbox!
Everyone I spoke with at the show was in awe at what they had seen. But what did I think? Honestly, I was dying to get my mitts on this puppy, but wasn?t really sure if I?d ever get to play it before its actual release to the general public. I knew right then that I
needed to rush over to the Ubisoft booth and ask my Canadian public relations rep if they had a playable demo. She said, ?Stephen, we know you?ve been dying to play this game. Do you wish to play?? I quickly replied, ?Does Bill Gates burn money?!?!?
As I ran to the television monitor like an anxious five year old (the controller shaking in my hands), my jaw dropped to the floor. They literally had to kick me off the demo kit; and this was back in June!
First off, I will not dive into the unique storyline of Assassins Creed. Why is that you ask? There?s just no need to. You?ll quickly discover the reasons why you?re an assassin, and it really doesn?t downplay the overall gameplay. Let?s just say I wasn?t expecting this type of story so it was a nice surprise indeed.
What can be said though is that you play a character named ?Altaïr?, a young assassin that has some major issues, in the year 1191 A.D. The game starts off with a cut scene that sees Altaïr getting in a whole lot of trouble for doing the wrong thing at the wrong time. As his punishment he loses all his weapons, basically starting you from scratch and doing various trivial tasks for your head honcho. To define the way Assassin?s Creed feels and plays in a few words is interesting. It?s a little bit Prince of Persia (Ubisoft Montreal), a little bit of Splinter Cell (Ubisoft Montreal), all rolled into one very unique gaming experience. Personally, I think this mixture makes for one bad-ass game.
There are main contact locations in every city, at a place commonly called the "Assassin?s Bureau". These are a central returning point throughout the game, and the NPCs there send you on various tasks and missions. And if you?re in need of more tasks, climb a high building in the city and ?synchronize?. This will give you a ?bird?s eye? outlook on that particular area, and allow you to pick up more.
These tasks or quests range from picking pockets, eavesdropping, interrogating, and last but not least, assassinating greedy lowlife scum bags. These scum bags are all the same throughout time, they want to rule the world because the current one sucks. The icing on the cake comes AFTER you?ve finished one of them off. You must get the hell out of that situation, because everyone is now running after you. RUN!
While you?re making your escape for cover, there are various ways to stealth yourself. The game?s unique level design let?s you plan, or rather quickly improvise how you make a clean getaway. Scaling walls, or jumping from rooftop to rooftop, it?s totally up to you how you ?get the hell out?. There are just so many options for escaping at your disposal. For example, as you make a run for it, climb a building and hide in grass drying hut (not sure what these things are really called), and wait out your pursuers. The game gives you that much freedom. Also, the buildings are designed in such a way that if you can reach it and grab it, you can climb it. No hidden walls or invisible barriers here.
The NCPs (not the guards) in the game are incredibly poor (financially), and there is always some stupid citizen that comes and crimps your assassinating style and gets in your way. They either beg for money, or generally come to you at the wrong time, making your assassination attempt all the more difficult. You can take the sorry begging individual out, but be prepared to suffer the consequences in return.
I?ve heard a few people concerned with this game being very RPG-like, but don?t worry, as its not really like that at all. As you complete quests, you unlock more abilities, receive more weapons, and are given more tasks and missions. But it?s in no way an RPG, as it?s not that deep, nor do I think it was developed to be one either. The controls in the game are very intuitive, easy to control, but hard to master; especially when you?re attempting to fight large groups of enemies towards the end of the game.
Graphically, the game is absolutely stunning. If I?m not mistaken, Assassins Creed uses a highly modified Unreal 3 engine, and it?s very polished. Every building is crafted with attention to every little detail, and that is a little scary. Each of the five very large cities is uniquely designed, and possess their own look and feel. For example, in the poor areas of Jerusalem, the buildings are not as tall as the rich areas of the city. The sheer power of our beloved Xbox 360 , renders out the game?s massive cities from a bird?s eye view. I want to let you guys on a little secret; I suffer from severe vertigo. Assassin?s Creed has helped me deal with that, especially when I?m about 600 feet up on the roof of a cathedral. All in all, two thumbs up.
In the sound department, the details are very nice. Large crowds near the town?s center really helps make it feels like you are cutting thru a lot of people in order to get to your target. The music of this game, as is the soundtrack is very immersive. Well done.
There are so many nuances in this game that it?s impossible to tell you about them all. Basically, it?s all about not attracting more attention to yourself than needed. The replay value of the game is quite high, as you can go back and collect a variety of little flags, similar to how Orb collecting worked in Crackdown. This is good for all the achievement junkies out there.
In closing, Assassin?s Creed is a masterpiece; a true gem. It deserves a place in any serious gamers? collection. Even though it?s strictly a single player experience, it is a fresh and much needed title in this over crowed sea of average next-gen games. All I have to say is thank you Ubisoft Montreal.
P.S. Did I mention that Altaïr is a terrible swimmer?