Ubisoft Montreal are renowned for creating some great games, especially for consoles in the last few years; with both Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell and Rainbow Six series given critical acclaim. Both series were given such great responses because of the great innovation, superb gameplay and stunning visuals. When I heard of their latest rendition, Assassin’s Creed, I was personally quite excited due to the success of previous Ubisoft Montreal titles. But does it live up to the huge amount of hype that it has been given? Well, if you want the quick answer to that question skip down to the last paragraph of this review, if not, you obviously want the long answer, so read on!
Assassin’s Creed is set in the modern day era and you play Desmond Miles, a relatively normal bartender, whose assassin ancestors got him into a spot of bother. Desmond is forced into an Animus; a device used to go into Desmond’s mind and pick out his ancestors memory which are believed to be inherited down the family tree. Desmond, and in turn you, then take the role of Altair, a member of the original assassin’s in 1191AD. From here, you relive Altair’s assassinations and memory to find out exactly what happened at that time.
Each ‘mission’ of the game is an assassination, with you taking the free-roaming Altair through the streets and crowds acquiring information on your target before striking. There are various ways of getting the information, including pick-pocketing and interrogation, but the problem is the variation between each assassination is very minimal. Each time you visit a city you have to follow the same routine, find the information, plot your assassination and then make the attack before disappearing.
Because all of the story with Altair is done within the Animus, parts of that story can be ‘fast-forwarded’ meaning that the arduous parts of the journey can be cut out, leaving you with much more action and a lot less travelling.
In theory this a great idea, however it seems as though Ubisoft are aware of the repetitive assassination missions and are trying to split up the action with long horse-back travelling between cities, and cutting back to the modern day Desmond Miles to fill in a bit of the story; making you walk from the Animus to the bed and then back again.
That being said, the assassinations themselves are still quite original. Each target is hit in different parts of a city, ranging from during a banquet right up to taking him down on his own private boat. Each hit reveals more of the storyline, as it soon becomes evident that all is not as it seems, with each of the assassinations being linked in some way.
I’m banging on about the bad points here and maybe I’m not being that fair as in reality, Assassin’s Creed does deliver in some very key areas. One thing that really is quite stunning is the graphics. Each city is superbly recreated, with huge bustling crowds creating a fantastic environment in which to be part of. Sadly though, at least on the PlayStation 3 version, you do sometimes experience a slight drop in frame-rate during very detailed areas. Although this doesn’t detract from the game play itself, it’s a shame that a machine with such power is still not being fully utilised.
On top of that, Altair has the impressive talent of being able to free-run (if you’ve not seen any videos of free-running, pop over to YouTube and view some videos). Free-running is basically a group of nutters leaping between buildings and leaping off areas in outrageous ways. Altair adopts this style, allowing for easier get aways as you jump between thin poles and building roof tops. Along with that, almost every wall and building can be scaled, with Altair being able to grab every out-sticking brick and window ledge to get to the roof. That alone, is rather impressive. The animation for this is quite superb, with seamless motions that look fantastically realistic.
If you’d rather stand and fight, then you’re in luck, as Altair is also a dab hand at sword fighting. The brutal battles between Altair and six or seven other soldiers look great, especially when you pull off an attack-counter; which changes to the camera to a close up as you launch your sword through your opponent. The only annoying part of the battles is that sometimes the opponents will stand around and watch you slaughter their friend without jumping in at all, even if they are helplessly on the floor. That being said, it still doesn’t detract from the enjoyment of taking down a bunch of soldiers without batting an eyelid.
So does Assassin’s Creed live up the huge amount of hype? Well, yes and no. The free-running and gameplay itself is as impressive as it looked in the videos shown before the games release. The easy to pick-up control system, coupled with some enjoyable combat makes Assassin’s Creed a good game despite the repetitive and sometimes laborious build up to each assassination. It’s still worth picking up, and is a decent game that sets the standard nicely for a follow-up sequel; hopefully with some more variation.