Back in 2007, Assassin’s Creed could’ve easily been one of the best games ever of that year. It is however without question that it is very impressive on several fronts. However developer Ubisoft Montreal took a few missteps along the way. The huge potential for the title’s pseudo-stealth/action mix is taken back by a bland story, repetitive game-play and poor AI. Assassin’ Creed could’ve been one of the greatest games of the generation but instead it’s nothing more then another action game.
You play as Altair, a member of the Assassin’s (or Hashshashin) a real-life group who performed politically-motivated murders between the eleventh and thirteenth centuries. Set in the Middle-East during the third crusade, Assassin’ Creed is rich with historical fact and detail. Each of the three main cities were well researched and recreated beautifully. The nine men that Altair is tasked with disposing of did in fact either die, or disappear around the time the game takes place. It is commendable seeing how much work and detail went into recreating Jerusalem, Acre, and Damascus. Were it not for the “glitches” that filter around characters, you would have little reason to question if this is what both those cities and people looked like centuries ago.
Even though Assassin’s Creed is technically just an action/stealth mix of a game. It’s story actually plays a considerable role even though the story itself is a little heavy. This proves to be somewhat of a detriment in the long run. There is a major twist in the story, the kind of twist where if you haven’t already known thank to the internet, would likely cause your jaw to drop at the surprise. How Ubisoft Montreal fails in regards to this twist is that instead of showing the twist at the end of the game, it’s shown in the first five minutes. That would be like if you were watching The Avengers and Coulson dies when Loki appears and takes the tesseract. The moment with Altair are interesting and well-told, but every time the “twist” comes into play that momentum that you’ve been building while following Altair’s story come to a screeching halt. When the overall game is between ten to twelve hours long, this gets annoying after a while.
A weak story is nothing new to video games. It’s the game-play that can really make or break a game. (Although a decent story also helps make a game great) Assassin’s Creed does some great and revolutionary things. It also does things poorly as well. Even though Assassin’s Creed never does reach its full potential, there are fantastic element that can, and was improved upon in the sequels.
Each of the three major cities is broken up into three subsections, poor, middle-class, and rich. That’s nine sections for nine assassinations. As the standard video game operating procedures dictate, a new section of the city is only opened upon receiving a new target.Once you have the entire city unlocked. you can appreciate what could be the best aspect of the game, vertical exploration. The lengthy load times which can take up to five minutes at some points can be forgiven considering that once in game, you can run from one end of Jerusalem to the other, and from depths of the darkest alleys to the tip-top of the highest building.
The assassinations themselves are well-done for the most part and are enjoyable. Almost every assassination allows for either a stealthy approach or a direct attack. The choice is yours though often attempt at stealth fail turning the assassination into nothing more then a brawl. Before you can even attempt to do the assassination you must first watch a cut-scene of your target being an evil person which in turn makes it justifiable to kill him. Once free from the cut-scene you must stalk your target, and only act on the assassination when the opportunity prevents itself. In the earlier missions, these came quickly but later on, you will have to sneak into heavily fortified areas which will make the overall assassination mission longer.
It doesn’t hurt that Assassin’s Creed’s animation system is very top-notch. Half the fun of fighting is getting to see Altair’s slick movies. His motions are fluid and it’s like watching a ballerina with a sword. Seeing Altair climb a building is a treat as well. His body has weight and his movements are life-like. His ascension can sometimes be a struggle to reach higher elevation. And like I stated before, the cities are truly remarkable pieces of art. These big, open and interactive worlds come at a price on the PS3. There is considerable texture-pop in and noticeable frame-rate issues. Playing back-to-back from the 360 to the PS3 and it becomes obvious that Ubisoft didn’t devote enough resources to the PS3 version.
If Assassin’s Creed focused more on it’s open world and less on the minutiae; if it was a bit more clever and a little less bland, it could have turned out to be an incredible game. But this is a title that delivers on to little of its potential. There are some baffling design decisions and even though you play as an Assassin, the final hour of game-play devolves into a series of combat exercises. There is no way to be stealthy and no opportunity to run along rooftops in these final missions. You fight and fight until you reach the end boss. Many won’t make it that far as Assassin’s Creed is too slow and too repetitive which is a shame as there are some really good things in Assassin’s Creed. There are just some bad things as well.
If you play Assassin’s Creed for an hour, you may probably think that it’s a great game. However with it’s dual story-lines and repetitive quests it begins to grow tiresome. There are plenty of individual elements that make the game decent, but they are lost among the missteps of Ubisoft Montreal. Wasting the big twist on the first five minutes of game-play is a huge mistake. This isn’t as bad as the ill-conceived assassination investigation quests which get old fast. The combat and exploration aspects are both huge pluses but these two elements are only a small part of the whole experience.
Final Rating: 7/10