Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Following the Creed of the Assassin

In my mailbox Saturday was a copy of Assassin's Creed, and I was expecting not to like it before I even played it. While I had read great reviews, a few friends had reported to me that it was over-hyped and ultimately not that good. I think the combination of great mixed with bad actually helped Ubisoft's latest ambition in my case. For what I've found in Assassin's Creed thus far is a game wholly its own and an increasingly enjoyable experience to boot.

I know that just about anyone who really cares has already played it, but I still don't want to spoil the story so let me preface this little post with a...

!!SPOILER WARNING!! Read no further if you don't want the story spoiled.

None of the promotional materials for AssCreed really mentioned the fact that the player would actually be a modern-day bartender who is held captive by scientists in order to use this genetic memory machine called an Animus and help said scientists obtain "something" they require which will help them "bring peace to the world".

Within the first half-hour of the game, you're affronted with a surprisingly unique science-fiction plot, that involves using the Animus to hijack into your ancestor's memories... who just happened to be an assassin named Altair (Al-thai-eer) during the time of the Crusades. So throughout the game, you wind up following two presumably linked storylines: one for the bartender who is being held captive (though not ill-treated) and one for the historical assassin. In premise, it's rather awesome though whether or not the great early writing pays off is yet to be seen by this gamer. I'll let you lot know when I wrap up the game.

The presentation, all the game's menus and HUD activity, are supposed to be the interface of the "Animus" and it comes together really nicely. When the game loads a new area, it offers you a chance to run around a misty, pixelated, blue space as Altair which is intended to represent your ancenstor's memory being loaded into the Animus. It's very stylish, and very well done.

Little electronic touches like this are spattered throughout the game, like when Altair takes too much damage and the image of his memory starts to flicker and distort. When you target an enemy the character is distinguished by showing little code-like white text flickering over them and about them. And perhaps the most cool aspect of the interface is how during cutscenes the screen with glitch, signaling you to press any button on the controller in order to view the scene from a more dynamic vantage point. Something possible only with the help of the Animus.

There is some repetition in the actual gameplay. You do a lot of citizen rescuing, you spend a lot of time scouring the city for viewpoints that will uncover data on your map for use, and before each assassination you must collect data on your target by doing things like eavesdropping or pickpocketing. The only annoying aspect of having to do these tasks is that pickpocketing is not done entirely well. You first watch the target talk to a colleague, then follow him when they part ways. And I mean you obviously follow him to the point where anyone would be capable of sensing it, no matter how inept they are.

You've got swords, armguards, a glowing white cloak, and you're just waltzing behind this guy until you can get close enough to grab what's in his pouch. And when you do, he turns and sees you, looks pissed that he's been pickpocketed and then continues walking. It's just hard to believe compared to the other aspects, even hiding in hay to get away from guards. There are other unbelievable aspects to the game, but they're all far easier to overlook when compared to how awkward pickpocketing is. Still, it's a small annoyance in what is otherwise a very fun game. You only have to do it once or twice per assassination, and it takes very little time, so no biggie.

I'm about 4 or 5 hours in, and 3 kills down. The story's really revving up, and I honestly can't wait to see what happens. One of the friends who liked it, but had his complaints says he lost steam around 5 kills in, so we'll see if the same fate befalls me. I tend to be a lot more patient with games, so I expect to finish it within the next couple weeks tops.

If you have yet to check the game out, I'd definitely recommend at least renting it. It's certainly going to be one of the more interesting franchises to watch over the next few years. I'll be picking up the sequel in one form or another... I'm almost certain of it.

1 comment:

*vlad* said...

My nephew has Assassin's Creed. I was thinking it was a cross between Hitman and Prince of Persia.
Thanks for your insight (may have to play it next time I visit).