Assassin's Creed

Assassin's Creed is one of the most hyped games of the year right up there with Halo 3 and Bioshock. I got my copy of the 360 version yesterday. From the team that wrote the wonderful Prince of Persia:Sands of time this new game from Ubisoft Montreal puts you in the role of a assassin called Altaïr in the time of the third crusade. There is more to it than that as people may have guessed from some of the videos but I won't spoil that element since it's part of the fun.
At the beginning of the game Altaïr disgraces himself by breaking the Creed and is stripped of all his weapons and rank. The rest of the game is about him earning way back into the good books of the head of his order.
He does this by killing people. The game has a somewhat odd control system that takes a bit of getting used to. It has a concept of high and low profile modes which are selected by the right trigger.
By default you are in low profile mode which is all about blending in and passing unnoticed, holding the right trigger switches to high profile mode which allows you to run jump attack and generally cause mischief.
The game uses a puppeteering concept where each of the face buttons is assigned to a a part of the body.
The top y button is the head so it generally is used for a first person looking around mode which can give information about the people around you (Allies enemies targets and so forth).
The X button is your left armed hand so attacks with the currently selected weapon mode.
The B button is the unarmed right hand which does things like grabs or tackles or gently moving people out of the way again depending on the mode.
The A button controls the legs to running jumping dodging or in low profile mode allows you to blend in inconspicuously.
The A button combined with the right trigger also is used to go into the games much vaunted free running mode, hold the trigger and press A and you can run up a wall and grab on to a ledge or a window frame anything that sticks out slightly.
And this is pretty much any wall you can in the city game areas climb up pretty much anything, once in the mode you don't need to press anything (which took some getting used to) you can just direct Altaïr with the left stick and he grabs and leaps his way up the building. It is quite astonishing to see it in action and to get to control it, unlike the games of the past where only designated areas could be traversed you can just pick a likely spot and climb up onto the roof tops.
From there you can leg it about across the roofs intelligently leaping across gaps just by aiming Altaïr in the right direction and very occasionally tapping A to leap across beams (though mostly you just hold it down and concentrate on guiding his path) it works wonderfully well.
The meat of the game is about assassinating people but to do this you first need enough information to proceed. You gather this by doing side quests in the cities pickpocketing people, listening in on conversations, a few interrogations, and the odd bit of assassination or traversal puzzle. For a side benefit you can also help out citizens/monks being harassed by guards in order to gain their favour, this means that you either get a group of monks you can use to blend in and get past guards, or a group of vigilantes that will block the progress of guards pursuing you.
The game has a sort of visibility level which tells you if noone watching if you are being watched or if the guards are after you. Do something to draw attention to yourself like run through the streets knocking people over or attacking a guard and the local guards are alerted. You can then either kill off all the guards, which can be tough, or you have to run.
When running you first break the line of sight, you do this by making use of your free running skills or knocking stuff down to slow the guards progress so you get out of their direct line of sight. Once you've done this the indicator switches to tracking the guards don't see you but are looking, you then hide on a bench, in a group of monks, in a roof top shelter, or in a haystack possibly by performing the wonderful leap of faith jump from height into the hay.
You then wait till you are anonymous again for more mayhem.
Fighting is a fairly simple affair though brutally animated, you lock on with left trigger and then use x to attack or when blocking perform a counter by tapping it at the right point when an enemy is attacking for a brutal killing move. You can also grab enemies and throw them about. The combat is probably one of the weakest areas of the game it's very simple and has very little depth to it enemies surround you and attack one at a time, it's still fun and the animation for the counters are probably some of the most brutal I've seen recently.
For assassinating you make use of a hidden blade strapped to your arm. You can sneak up on a target using the blend low profile move and then by tapping X while they are unaware you grab them and perform a killing blow. The victim remains standing briefly so you can move calmly away without attracting notice. This stretches plausibility somewhat since I have stealth assassinated a guard fairly close to his mate and walked a little bit away not even out of sight then waited, the other guard sees his mate dead and comes over saying things like "Who did this, what happened here?" and so on, I calmly wander up and kill him without him noticing me coming. As a mechanic it probably could have done with a bit more work but it's still fun none the less.
Another move you can do with the hidden blade is to leap on your target knocking him down and stabbing them which is a lot of fun to pull off.
In addition to the sword and the hidden blade you also get throwing knives (which I haven't gotten yet) which allow for ranged take downs.
The graphics in this game are truly fantastic, the cities are rendered with a wonderful attention to detail and you can see the whole cityscape if you get up on to the roofs which is truly breath taking.
The people in the game are well rendered and the work ubisoft did to make the crowds different rather than all the same 6 faces seems to work quite well. The crowd mechanic works well people move about realistically and you get a real feeling that this is a living breathing city with people going about their daily chores traders selling people carrying goods about.
With the gentle push in low profile you can weave you way through them in a realistic manner sliding around people or gently pushing past. When on the run the crowd become a dynamic obstacle you can use to your advantage or can be a detriment, running into someone sends you tumbling allowing guards to catch up but you can knock other people down by tackling them leaving them in the way of anyone pursuing you. Guards are quite agile and persistent they can climb the roofs and navigate the streets with almost as much ease as you so you need every advantage you can get.
The audio is good voice acting very well done, it still has the same issue from oblivion and morowind where the random people in the street will say the same three set phrases over and over again, but in actual action it's very well done.
The stealth aspect is something I felt they could have made more of, the idea of the assassin of blending in and moving unseen though it is used for things like pick pocket and some of the assassination stuff but a lot of the time you just have to move carefully. It just seemed like they could have made more of it.
Story wise it seems interesting it's a bit dual threaded for reasons I wont go into so as not to spoil things, but it seems interesting with enough depth to keep me involved.
As for the longevity some of the reviews seem to suggest it gets repetitive after a while, maybe it will I've only played it for an evening but I must admit that it was great fun so far. The freedom of movement it gives you is a lesson to all game designers of how things should be done and it's living city and crowd mechanics are revolutionary. Down sides are the somewhat simple combat and the stealth element being a little sidelined.
It is definitely worth a go even in a month of top titles being released it stands out.
Highly recommended.


Nice one mate, sounds like a good game.

That would have been a lot more readable with paragraphs though...

byrn's picture

Paragraphs are for chumps

Evilmatt's picture

Mate, they do make a huge difference. If I saw a post like that from someone I didn't know I'd just skip it. I did consider just giving up on it at several points, not due to content, due to lack of formatting...

byrn's picture

The content is great, makes me want to buy it. Needs paragraphs.

brainwipe's picture

Looks fine to me but then my brain doesn't work the same way as most people when it comes to text

Evilmatt's picture

Regarding the game, the handful of reviews I've read seem to suggest that the combat system (which seems to universally agreed to be a weak link) is overused in the latter stages of the game. The movement system is universally applauded and noted as excellent.

Regarding the text, little things like paragraphs make a huge difference in readability, they act as a static reference point for the eyes to stop them getting lost when returning to the left-hand side of the page. Just get in the habit of double-returning.

Saying that, I'm really anal about typed work, including tenses, separation of information etc. etc...which is a bit of an issue as I tend to utterly overuse ellipses and brackets (a bit like this in fact...). I also tend to read stuff I've typed about a gazillion times to try and pick out all the "teh"'s in there, and other shockingly bad typos...

babychaos's picture

In time honoured fashion...

You have typos in "univaersally" and "paraghaphs".


baron's picture

I finished this off last night, it does get a little repetitive towards the end but still enjoyable. The ending is somewhat anti-climatic.

Still I definitely enjoyed it even as I got towards the end, it's a fabulous engine I just wish they'd put a bit more depth and variety in there. Some of the stealth mechanic is a bit odd, I walk up behind a target on one of the informer missions (main missions work a little differently) kill them with the hidden blade while in "blend" mode and walk slowly away. Guards run up shouting "who has done this!" not noticing the man in white robes covered in swords tip toeing away through the group of guards in an otherwise empty room. Maybe people were just stupider back in those days and couldn't put "Man covered with swords walking nonchalantly away" "dead body that's been stabbed" "room otherwise empty" together.

Evilmatt's picture

Got this, very pretty, much fun. Combat system has a definate "knack" to it... I am naturally bad at sneaking!

Nibbles's picture

Finished this now, I've really enjoyed it. There is a lot of grinding to be done in this game but at the end of the day I really liked buggering about on rooftops and occasionally getting involved in oversized scraps. The fact that it is so eye bleedingly beautiful means that the game insisting you climb to the top of a load of tall things is actually a pleasure. Pulling off a clean assassination gives a feeling of immense satisfaction as well.

The story bit that was set in the past was cool, but the whole future bit was rather crappy. As a device to shift the plot on it worked ok... Sort of... It sets up a sequel too but I'm sure if they'd sat down and thought about it for 15 minutes then a better way of doing it would have emerged.

Back to killing various things on ME.

Nibbles's picture