Every once in a while a game comes along that is generation defining. Mario 64, Halo, God of War. Those games that can in no way surpass the more than considerable amount of hype associated with them, but still manage it. Assassin's Creed
should have been one of those games.
From the moment it was announced it had potential. Play an assassin? Cool! Play a medieval assassin who can between buildings and scale any wall? Uber cool! A mysterious Sci fi twist?! *Faints*.
The demonstrations shown at various points of the game's development indicated that the free running mechanic was viable, and the play areas were large enough to accommodate this kind of free form gameplay. In a lot of ways we were led to believe that it would be a bit like an ancient, middle eastern Grand Theft Auto
. Instead we are presented with a hierarchical mission structure which completely ruins the flow of the game.
instead of allowing you access to one city at a time, the game only gives you access to a third of each of the cities at a time. The problem is that none of the cities feel at all different. They are all so similar in fact that they have to have their own colour tint to the screen so that you can tell which city you're currently in. Not that you'd care much any way. It's not as if there are different things to do in any of the cities.
Each city has a few side quests for you to partake of. However, there's no variation in any of the missions, a problem that's reflected in the rest of the game. You'll be tasked with assassinating some guards whilst remaining hidden, fighting some guards to rescue a citizen, collecting some flags in a timed race or (the most fun) climbing up to high vantage points over the city. However, none of the cities attempt to make any of these missions different at any time, even going so far as to recycle the same tired dialogue over and over again. The amount of times someone has told me "I'll find a way to repay your kindness, I swear it!", in a kind of ancient cockney accent are unbelievable.
The biggest criticism levelled at Prince of Persia
was that the combat was boring and repetitive. Ubisoft have gone a long way to making the combat in Assassin's Creed
much more interesting by including a large variety of finishing moves and a timing based counter system which makes every battle feel dynamic and challenging. It's a shame that they also took out the awesome platforming sections that made PoP such an amazing experience.
The free running sections work well enough, but much of the time the levels aren't laid out well enough to capture the fluidity that would make the game so much more of a spectacle. Climbing fares slightly better, with the protagonist placing his hands and feet in precisely the right places as he scales up walls like Spiderman. The whole mechanic of climbing and running over rooftops and up walls is technically well implemented, but in the end it feels like little more than a tech demo. There's just not enough of the gameplay butter to spread over the 12 hour story bread.
And it's pretty mouldy bread too. The sci-fi twist is revealed right at the start of the game, and from then on starts to feel more and more unnecessary. After nearly every assassination you're dragged away from your free-running hitman to wander around a small room looking for clues as to why you might be there. It's such an unnecessarily boring change of pace that you wonder why Ubisoft bothered to include it at all.
The story itself isn't very interesting, with all the assassinations blurring into one by about the halfway point. It also leaves the sci-fi portion on somewhat of a cliffhanger - in my eyes a terrible decision, especially when the rest of the story wasn't gripping enough to hold my attention. Dialogue too, is both poorly scripted and acted, with lots of reuse of the same speech and voices. Throughout the course of the game I heard at least four variations on the name "Acre" - Ackar, Acer and Ack-re seem to be most prolific, although I heard at least one character refer to it as Arse-r. This lack of attention to detail does a lot to spoil the immersion.
Rounding off the game are a few collect all the flags missions. There are a total of 400 flags to collect, but no rewards for doing so other than a meagre amount of Gamerpoints.Assassin's Creed
may have a stunningly beautiful face, but its body seems thin and malnourished
, severely lacking in variation and story depth.
This is one assassin who can stay hidden.