Assassin’s Creed review
Daniel reviews one of the most looked-forward to games for the Xbox 360 and finds it sadly lacking...
With so many popular franchises dominating the Xbox 360’s release lists this Christmas, it was a wonder that such an unheard of new title was getting so much hype. They had all of the right criteria for the game: an distinguishably cool lead character, an extremely original setting, beautiful looking visuals and a great concept. What could go wrong?
Throughout the game you play as a man who has been caught by police and who is being run through a machine called the Animus which that allows him to act out his ancestors life story. This, in turn, is supposed to implicate him to some crime or other that he has commit. His ancestor is a man named Altair, a member of the Assassins Creed in the time of the third crusade. He has gone on a mission and broken the rules and as such has lost all of his privileges as an assassin and has to start from the bottom again. To repay his sins he is asked to assassinate nine evil men. This is where the game begins.
The control system relies on two levels of control. The first is low-profile; it involves things like blending into a crowd, moving through a crowd inconspicuously and basically moving around in a manner that does not arouse suspicion. The second is high-profile and this is activated by holding down the left trigger. This changes the actions of all of the face buttons. It also makes you run instead of walking. This is where the fun stuff comes in – here, you can attack guards and you can run through crowds and knock people out of the way. It also opens up the climbing and free running that makes this game special. Altair’s greatest ability is his manoeuvrability. This allows him to escape the chase of the city guards. The way this works is that everything is scalable. The architecture of buildings has been designed in such a way that they are perfect for climbing, given the agility of Altair. Creases, cracks and other features allows him to climb pretty much any wall and when atop the buildings it allows him to leap from building to building. It is a very easy control system, worked by holding two buttons and guiding a direction. Altair does all the hard work of actually climbing and jumping himself but this allows you to look further into the distance to see where you need to be going. It’s a fantastic system and it really makes for exciting play.
For about ten minutes.
The problem with this game lies in its layout. For each of the nine men you have been asked to kill, you have to complete three tasks before you know where and how to kill him. These involve four different missions: Eavesdropping (sitting on a bench and listening), Pickpocketing (walking up behind a designated person and holding B), Interrogation (beating someone up) and performing tasks for an informant (either killing someone or collecting flags). These mini-games, if you can even call them mini-games, are the thing that really destroys these games. These become more of a tedious chore than anything merely because they are easy and pointless. They provide you with information but it never feels like this information is important enough to listen to because you know you are going to be told where to go afterwards anyway.
After performing these tasks, you go and assassinate the man, which is another disappointing moment. Some are extremely easy but quite satisfying; you stalk your man until his back is turned and then deliver one swift blow, or they involve a basic sword fight, which is difficult and boring. After this, you have to run from the scene and escape the guards which somehow is turned from a fun and exciting prospect into extreme frustration. The tactic I would have most often adopted would be to fight a few of them off and then turn and run when there are less to run from. This is nigh on impossible as the targeting system won’t let you stop fighting half the time, meanwhile you are getting hacked to pieces. It does not allow for the free flowing game that I thought this was going to be. The game goes on like this all the way through and it gets very repetitive.
Because of the story’s set-up, you are trying to follow two stories at once, and as a result I found that I couldn’t care less about either. I stopped listening to the dialogue and lost track but I still didn’t really care much. The whole idea of having a secondary universe in the modern day feels like a stupid and pointless idea which only slows the game down. In this mode, you can’t run or perform any action, you can only do things when told to. It makes the entire game feel fake when they could have just set it in Altair’s time and be done with it.
The good thing about this game is that the visuals are stunning. You spend your time in three cities: Acre, Jerusalem and Damascus. Each city has great architectural presence and looks great. People walking through the streets make for a busy atmosphere and this adds to the mentality of the city and the general feel of the game. Outside the cities, the scenery is beautiful, it looks realistic but at the same time dreamlike. The costumes of the characters adds to the drama and when you’re sitting atop one of the many tall towers that help you get your bearings, the detail in the scenery is amazing.
Assassin’s Creed is not a bad game by any means. It lacks depth. How the designers didn’t realise people would just get bored, though, is beyond me. For a game with such promise and originality, it’s a shame to see it go this way. Some varied missions and a bit more work on the fighting would have gone a very long way.
Find more by Daniel Griffin at his blog, Wannabe Game Journo