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Assassin's Creed (PC) artwork

Assassin's Creed (PC) review


"Ruthless, if at times overaggressive, protagonist Altair must use his swords, his agility, and occasionally his brain to save the world. Ubisoft has proven once again that they may be the finest and most creative development group in the market today. Although Assassin's Creed suffers from its share of game design flaws, the overall experience is a testament to the fact that you don't need to do everything right as long as you most things incredibly well. "



Ruthless, if at times overaggressive, protagonist Altair must use his swords, his agility, and occasionally his brain to save the world. Ubisoft has proven once again that they may be the finest and most creative development group in the market today. Although Assassin's Creed suffers from its share of game design flaws, the overall experience is a testament to the fact that you don't need to do everything right as long as you most things incredibly well.

The party piece of the game is a wall-crawling and ledge-leaping engine that would make spiderman blush. Altair has no superpowers, but, in the cobbled together world of Assassin's Creed, every building is made up of dozens of handholds, grips, and ledges just waiting to be climbed on, around, and over by an assassin on a mission. Whether you're on the hunt or just exploring, you'll find yourself flying across rooftops, dashing down alleyways, and scurrying up walls, each new movement smooth and intuitive. If there were no missions, combat, or story, the game would still be worth playing just for the delightful engine it gives you. Also of note, the game features perhaps the most enjoyable simulation of horseriding I've ever seen. There isn't a whole lot of it required, but you can do as much as you'd like just by leaving the cities, and it provides a nice change of pace.

Fortunately for us, the game also features a fairly solid combat engine to boot. Altair will battle opponents alone and in large groups, and, aside from a kung-fu movie tendency of enemies to attack one at a time, the delightful and rapid clink of swords that ends with a few well placed thrusts feels weighty and powerful without being unrealistic. Unlike many games where enemies possess unnatural amounts of health, here they die just as easily as you would hope with only a few swipes of your sword or a well placed dagger. You're given several weapons, including a hidden dagger built in your sleeve for use when catching enemies unaware, and they all feel valuable and well suited to their individual purposes. If there is a complaint to be made, and it is minor, much of the game is spent without your full compliment of weapons and abilities. Although to some degree this is standard fare, it really makes the first few areas less enjoyable from a combat perspective than the later ones.

With exploration and combat so strong, you would desperately hope that Ubisoft would be able to instill the kind of personality and purpose into the game that we saw in such gems as The Sands of Time, Beyond Good and Evil, and Splinter Cell. Here, unfortunately, things are a bit rougher. While the voice acting is typically excellent, Altair himself is pretty much irredeemably boring and unsympathetic. He stays pretty much the same from beginning to end, and the "save the world" mission of the game may well be a reaction by Ubisoft to the sense that players wouldn't care enough if there weren't something on the line. The cities Altair visits are at least large and reasonably varied, with good character to their various citizens and fantastic vistas to be had for those who seek out heights, which should be everyone. You'll feel free as a bird at times, free not only from the shackles of gravity and reality but from the struggles of one Altair the assassin. At these times, it becomes obvious that this is the true emotional response the game is going for and that the story elements are only there to fit with genre expectations.

Feeling even more tacked on than the storyline are the actual missions you'll engage in. These fit into basically 2 types: generic missions and assassination missions. Generic missions are exactly what they sound like. If you played Spider-Man 2 then you know what I'm talking about. Random people asking for help, the same annoying unskippable cutscene of thanks, and on to the next random person asking for help. The generic missions seem there only to ensure that people in search of a game rather than an experience don't turn off the console after an hour and return the game. By comparison, assassination missions are at least somewhat interesting. You'll be tasked with taking out several important local figures, and each will involve a unique if predetermined approach and execution, though in the execution area you will at least have some control. No doubt the mission aspect of assassin's creed was tacked on late in the development cycle as the game was being rushed out the door for financial reasons. In order to reach the later areas and weapons you'll need to slog through them, which can feel a bit like a chore at times. Like multiplayer fighting games that require the player to jump through hoops to unlock all the characters, Assassin's Creed would have been well served by an exploration option open from the start of the game that gave you full freedom to go anywhere and do anything you wanted without any missions to distract you.

This review being of the PC version, a few observations must be made. System requirements don't appear to be especially steep, though audio glitches may occur if you have an old sound card as I did. Playing the game with a keyboard and mouse is about as natural and effective as cutting cheese with a cardboard knife, so you'll want to invest in a gamepad if you haven't already. I used an old logitech clone of the dual shock, and the game is I believe compatible with the xbox360 controller.

Assassin's Creed is more than the sum of its parts. An epic quality exploration system, a good combat system, and horrific storytelling and missions shouldn't add up to an excellent game, but they do here. If you're looking for an assassination simulator then you're probably better off sticking with hitman and splinter cell, but if you've got an itch to climb on beautiful scenery and duel guards on the rooftops then this is the game for you.

The exploration and combat are a 10/10 (as good as it gets)
The rest of the game is a 4/10 (not good)
Overall: 8/10 (very good)

Rating: 8/10

Typodragon's avatar
Community review by Typodragon (April 20, 2010)

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