Killing for Peace is like F****** for Chastity
Assassin's Creed has been one of the more high profile games to grace the 360 this year, and with good reason. In this game you can find three gloriously rendered cities--full cities, mind you--that upon climbine a view point (a critical objective that gives you a lay of the land) gives quite an awe-inspiring view. The graphics to be found in Assassin's Creed are stunning. The facial animations for most models are fantastic, and the models that they've used for each of the main characters are fitting, and perhaps give the most realistic human models to be seen on this generation of consoles. The architecture, style, and fluidity of movement gives this game a clear polish that is only reserved for the AAA+ titles.
However, digging under the surface of amazing graphics, the problems found in Assassin's Creed become apparent, very quickly. Assassin's Creed was developed by Ubisoft Montreal, the creators of the Prince of Persia games. While I am a big fan of those games (mostly due to the great writing and insane acrobatic ballet), I have to say that while Assassin's Creed is beautiful, has a fun combat system, and a good, open-world feel, it does fall short of many things.
The first of many I have to say, is the combat itself. It is button-tapping at it's finest, with a one-button-does-all control scheme for attacking, and another for countering, and another still for dodging/stepping. The layout and control scheme is fluid and it flows well, the animations are wonderfully rendered and the blood spray gives the combat a realistic crunch that is not gratuitous or explicit, but realistic.
The problems stem from the fact that in the end, Combat is boring in Assassin's Creed. When you are exposed, guards will rush to bring an immediate end to your life. The resulting battle usually results in five or six guards standing in a circle around you, one trying to attack, and it usually comes down to whether or not you can counter said attack since attacking the guards outright tends to be rather hit or miss. Pretty much every attack you lay out is blocked, and while this does give Assassin's Creed's combat a sense of timing and skill, it's also a detriment because while you attack, one or two other of the guards will stab you to death in as much time as it takes for you to attack the third. The end result is usually you standing in the circle, holding the Right Trigger and hoping to hit the X button as they strike. Now, this wouldn't be a problem if the guards didn't take about thirty seconds in between each attack.
Combat with the guards winds up playing out like an incredibly slow-moving RTS, and the last I checked, Assassin's Creed was an Action/Adventure title.
Another issue with Assassin's Creed is the enemy AI. While they are intelligent, it would seem as though the slightest movement would set them off and bring unholy hell upon you. I'm not talking about knocking people in the crowd over, or scaling buildings after *****-slapping a peasant begging for coins, but simply walking past guards in a crowded part of the city can set them off and send them charging after you. This makes the game incredibly slow, having to blend into a group of monks or sit down on a bench every few minutes and wait until the chaos is over. It's really annoying, more than anything.
And it's sad, because the most fun to be had in Assassin's Creed is the free-running/climbing feature that has been carried over from Prince of Persia, and vastly improved upon. Virtually anything that looks
climbable, is. Anything that might seem like a good spot to jump, is. I have had hours of fun just jumping from roof top to roof top and finding view points to get an amazing view of the city. There are also a ton of optional missions in this game. In true sandbox style, you must find your own way to each target, whether by completing informer missions, Eavesdropping, pickpocketing, or intimidation... the problem though, is that there isn't much variety in them.
Every optional mission that leads you to your target winds up telling you almost the exact same thing the previous one did. With this, there is virtually no incentive to keep investigating your target until you have completed every optional investigation. Since the bare minimum is two (and later in the game, three) investigations, you can really start to see how irrelevant they can become.
With that said, Assassin's Creed does not force your hand with, well, anything really. There are tons of flags to collect (if you're hellbent on the achievements that come with them), lots of citizens that need saving in true Super Hero fashion and... and... well, that's it, actually.
Saving the Citizens is actually pretty fun, but after awhile it can become tedious. It always leads to the aforementioned combat with guards. If you want the achievements, however, you'll most likely grin and bear it because that's the kind of whore you are.
So you may be asking yourself, with the combat a yin and yang of fun and tedious repetition, and the investigations not really entirely necessary for absolute completion, what exactly IS fun in Assassin's Creed?
The truth is, there is a lot of fun to be had, if you can take the time to sit down and play it. Walking through the cities, revelling in their archetectural brilliance and the ambience, it's pretty easy to get lost in the world of 1191, the Third Crusade. Scaling rooftops and jumping from spot to spot is as much fun as actually doing it--providing you don't die from a miscalculated jump. Aside from that, where Assassin's Creed really hits the mark is in its story and musical score.
The music in Assassin's Creed has been composed by Jesper Kyd, a brilliant scorer that is most recognized for his work in the Hitman games. He returns to perfect form here, providing ambient and sometimes genuinely catchy music that will be burned into your brain. Not because it is the most catchy ever, but because you'll remember the music from the fond memories of running through the city of Acre, Damascus, and Jerusalum to his fantastic score.
The plot is also pretty solid. There is a weird conspiracy going on, and while it is not the most engaging plot I've witnessed (that honour either goes to Mass Effect or BioShock for this year, sorry Ubi!), it still provides a good enough reason to stick to it, and not just wander around aimlessly through the Holy Land.Closing Comments
Assassin's Creed is fun. There is no mistaking that. The most fun I've had were in the first six hours or so (there is about 15 in all), Wandering aimlessly and just taking in the beautiful environments and learning as much as I could about each target. It was a lot of fun, but the novelty wears off, and you begin to realize that Assassin's Creed just doesn't do enough to keep it fresh for the entire experience. For me, playing it all the way through was mainly due to the plot, which was not the best, but kept me interested to see it's conclusion.
Hopefully, Ubisoft Montreal will be able to fix the problems found in Assassin's Creed for the sequel. Repetitive, tedious combat, investigations that discern nothing new, and optional missions that aren't really varied or fun really bring this game down.
Still, there is enough to be found buried beneath the rougher gameplay edges to find a quality experience. Just don't expect to be blown away and have your perspective of the world changed forever.