Assassin's Creed Review

By Mike on 8:28 pm

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Assassin's Creed received a lot of hype when it was released last year. I've been mulling over whether or not to do a review on it though my goal is to do full reviews of each game I own or play. The game was published developed and published by UBIsoft Montreal. I have a lot of animosity towards UBIsoft. While they don't have the infamous reputation that Electronic Arts has, I can certainly say they deserve it. What with terrible games like Lock On and Blazing Angles; and their use of the highly controversial Starforce copy-protection scheme for PC games. Therefore, when Assassin's Creed came out, I was quite skeptical of the game. Being smart, I picked up a used copy for the Playstation 3 (it's on PC now too) and decided to give it a whirl. AC is pretty much the visual masterpiece it was made out to be, but to be quite frank, it's a bad game.

Those who like Assassin's admit that the game is best played in small doses. It's a bit like Metal Gear Solid, but in the 12th century with less action and even less of a story. Genre wise, I guess you could call it a tactical espionage game like MGS4 is. The story is kind of bizarre and poorly explained. I admit I haven't even finished the game yet so bare with me. You're a bartender named Desmond Miles who's been kidnapped by a scientist named Vidic. Apparently, Vidic has discovered that all your ancestors' memories are stored in your DNA and has developed a machine to extract them. Desmond's ancestor Altair was an assassin during the Crusades and Vidic wants to learn more about them. Apparently he wants to adapt the assassin's creed of Desmond's ancestor to modern times. That is, killing a select dangerous few to maintain peace and order in the world. The game doesn't really explain why Desmond is being kept locked up by this scientist. Personally, I would have strangled Vidic with a lamp cord and escaped but I guess he isn't that smart. Desmond in a sense is your PC but you play the game as Altair. The vast majority of the game takes place during the Third Crusade, which lasted 1189 to 1192 AD. In the war, the Assassins are a neutral party attempting to restore order. Your character was one of the best assassin's around but was kicked out of the order for violating the assassin's creed. Eventually, he is let back in but his rank and title have been stripped. Altair has to earn them back by killing nine politically dangerous individuals on both sides of the conflict. The game takes you to several cities around Israel as Altair tries to complete his mission.

Gameplay is neither simple or strait forward. It is hampered by its slow pace and rather clumsy control system. When you arrive at a city, you have to visit the local assassin's bureau to get your mission, gather information about your target, locate your target, kill them, and return the the bureau without getting caught. Most of the game involves aimlessly wandering around the city trying to find evidence. All the while, you have to keep guards from noticing you. A social status indicator blinks yellow if your being watched, or red is guards are aware of your activities. Doing things that are socially unacceptable will send guards after you. When they're chasing you, you first have to loose them and then get to a hiding spot and wait until they call off pursuit.

You have a choice between high and low profile actions. For most of the game, you'll want to remain in low profile to avoid attracting attention. This includes waking, gently pushing civilians out of the way, blending into the environment, and silently assassinating unaware targets. You can also use eagle vision in this mode, which allows you to see potential enemies highlighted in red, yellow, or green to indicate their current awareness mode. High profile action is your combat mode. It allows you to run, jump, and fight. I'll discus combat in a moment.
For gathering information, you can do a variety of things. First is scouting the area by locating towers called view points. You can also save civilians or scholars being harassed by guards, eavesdrop on targets, and pickpocket targets. Some missions, such as saving civilians, require combat. Rescuing scholars (portrayed as older men in robes) will unlock scholars, who you can blend in with to get access to certain areas. Scholars have free reign of the city and can go where guards will not allow civilians. Rescuing civilians will unlock vigilantes who can block guards chasing you.
One of the problems with this mission structure is that its vary repetitive and doesn't really give you any clear idea of what you're supposed to do. You can easily find yourself wandering the city until you get fed up and log onto GameFAQs. The missions are basically identical for all nine assassinations. Another thing worth noting is evidence gathering. Sometimes, you can unlock your target with one piece of evidence, even if it seems insignificant. Sometimes you'll have to go around the entire city gathering information. There's no set pattern to this.
Between cities, you'll have to ride on a horse across Israel to get to the next town. This is pretty strait forward except every guard on the road is trying to kill you. You have to blend not to attract attention, which makes getting from point A to point B vary slow. Fortunately, you can easily escape the guards since they're on foot while you're on horseback.

The combat system in game is pretty clumsy. On the outside, it's simple enough. You get a choice of four weapons. A hidden blade used for assassinations, a sword, throwing knives/dagger, and your fists. The square button unleashes an attack while R1 is used to guard. Hitting square while pressing R1 can counter enemy attacks if you hit it before they strike. X button is used to dodge. However, Altair is very slow and clumsy in combat for someone who's supposedly the top assassin in the land. It's hard to guard, his attacks are slow, and it is difficult to properly trigger combos. Targeting by hitting L1 is useless against multiple enemies. The combat system is probably best described as controlled chaos and is vary demanding on the gamer. Enemies in game can seem unbalanced at times, though it's hard to tell if this is the AI or just the bad combat system. There is a knack to it though, that is learning how to time counter attacks with R1 and the Square button. You have to time it accurately. I have run into occasions though where I've done this but the controls do not respond. All other attack functions besides this are pretty much useless. One last thing worth noting is that if you die in the game, you're returned back to the last Assassins Bureau you visited. This can be a real pain during more difficult missions when your target is way on the other side of the city.

Assassin's Creed is a visual masterpiece of a game. It's not on the level of Uncharted or Metal Gear Solid 4 but it still looks pretty good. The environments fit the time period well, cities are lively, realistic, and filled with all sorts of NPCs. Textures are well done though I think NPCs were not up to par with the rest of the game's graphic level. The game doesn't use a lot of HDR, so lighting is realistic. Effects are also well done. Graphics though can be a tad on the blurry side. One issue I noticed is the game box states that AC supports 720p or 1080i. I have my PS3 set to 1080i mode but I noticed the game would only play in 720p. This means that the box is claiming AC supports a resolution that it doesn't. UBI played this trick again when they released the critically panned Haze, which did not even run at HD resolutions after they said it would. Some people have reported freezing issues with the PS3 version of AC but I haven't run into this. They apparently come up if the game is played for extended periods. However, I have noticed occasional frame rate drops and some image tearing. Another bizarre issue with the game is it keeps claiming the disc is dirty and needs to be cleaned. Of course, the disc isn't dirty or else this error message would make sense. Themessage always pops up the first time I load the game cold, always at the Assassin's Bureau where you start off. Restarting the game corrects the problem.
For audio, sound effects are realistic and even minor NPCs are voiced. The music is pretty good and fits in with the overall cinematic effect of the game. However, one criticism I have with it is that the game's soundtrack is vary cliche. It's similar to what was featured in God of War, and movies like 300. It's not what I call a major problem but they could have been a little more original.

Assassin's Creed has a lot of the same problems that MGS4 does, however, these are amplified ten fold. While UBI has come up with an overall nice looking game, Assassin's lacks substance. Like Metal Gear, the AC is probably too realistic for its own good, though it takes this to a much further extreme. The game suffers from dry repetitiveness, slow pacing, and a clumsy control system. In other words, its just not fun to play. I can only stomach it in low doses. I had not even picked the game up for at least three months before I decided to review it this week. The whole gameplay experience is just not pleasant and the game is pretty boring. I can't really recommend Assassin's to anybody at all. Supposedly the game can be beaten in 10hrs but I have absolutely no desire to finish it. If you want a good espionage/assassin type game, go get Metal Gear. AC is the perfect example of an over-hyped game that falls flat. While it's not a typically poor UBI title, it's not something that's worth spending $60 on.

What Works
-Excellent graphics and sound
-Lively world filled with NPCs making cityscapes realistic

What Doesn't Work
-Clumsy combat system
-Dry and repetitive mission structure
-Confusing storyline
-Too realistic for its own good
-Vary slow pacing
-Does not support 1080i resolution, though box claims it does
-Some frame rate and tearing issues

Score: 5 out of 10

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