DISCLAIMER: I feel there are no real spoilers in my review, but if for some reason you are extremely
worried about the story, don't read it.Story:
Desmond Miles wakes up inside of a device. He is held within a "lab", in the future, as a Dr. Warren is peering overhead. An attractive assistant, Lucy Stillman, is across the table. Warren explains to Desmond that he is being held captive and will be killed if he doesn't comply to their commands. The machine he lays in is called the Animus. It reads memories that Desmond never knew he had, memories from his ancestor; an Assassin named Altair.
This leads into the memories, which have you playing as Altair. The entire game takes place in both the "present" and the past memories, swithching to the present when you complete a block of memories.
Altair's story is that he has lost rank and weapons because he has broke the 3 rules in the brotherhood. You must complete assassinations to earn respect, yet the brotherhood doesn't kill innocent people as one rule, so you must gather evidence that your target actually is a bad man. Altair is up against the Templars, a group that is bent on taking over all of the kingdom and snatching the Arc of the Covenant.
All of this occurs while you unravel two mysteries. One occurs in Altair's day, somewhere in the 12th century, and the other is back in the present with Desmond. The story is fairly complex and can get trite or corny in some aspects, but still, overall it does a decent job of tying things together, keeping you involved, and shedding light on the situations at hand.Gameplay:
As I very much enjoy the action genre, this was a fun venture to say the least. Climbing your way up and around the cities is very gratifying, not only because it is done well, but It's always fun to explore new paths and jump around, much in vein of the likes of Spider-man 2 or Prince of Persia. The game makes being an acrobatic assassin very simple as all you need to do is hold down RT and A to perform the actions. Even though more control would be great, I've always felt this works well, at least for this first outing.
Not only is it easy to control, but the city truly is your playground. Altair can grab onto most anything as he climbs, jumps, and swings on the sides of structures. Very rarely will you find yourself without another brick or wooden piece one jump away.
Also, finding places to climb is very easy while running through each portion of each
city. Although the city's do somewhat change in look and feel, the mechanics are the same.
There are three major cities in the game, Damascus, Acre, and Jerusalem. Each city is broken into poor, middle, and rich districts. Each area is locked until you are required to go to it for an assassination. With nine leaders you are meant to kill, you can see where the areas fit into play. In addition to the cities there is also a vast kingdom to travel through to get to one city to the next, a small village by your brotherhood's hideout, and the hideout castle itself.
The combat is fun, but gets very repetitive. It doesn't vary much from: target, block, hit at the right moment to perform a kill. The best kills being two dozen or so very quick animations, that is, after you perform the correct timing. These are fun to watch, but get old. The AI is extremely dumb, and within a few fights you should be able to have everything
they do memorized. In addition, escaping from them is too easy, only taking a few seconds to accomplish once you've had a few "practice" rounds.
A huge problem in the game is advancing to the next block, and even to the assassination. The evidence missions amount to little more than do this task, and there are only a handful of types. You can interrogate an individual in the know, eavesdrop on a conversation, save someone being picked on, pickpocket a letter, collect a few flags (an obstacle course in a way), or kill a few people in exchange for some info. While fun for the first few blocks, it gets to be extremely tedious and feel like the same thing (obviously).
When this game was released there seems to be a lot of push on the stealth aspect. Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be too much opportunity to do it, and even less of a need for it. While you can hide amongst monks or walk in the streets in low profile mode, this is incredibly boring and slow after the first few times, especially since you can quickly scale the nearest building and jump from roof to roof to get to your destination. It is not only faster and safer this way, it's just plain more fun. Add to that the AI being incredibly stupid, and there really isn't a whole lot of point to rely on any stealth approach.
The actual assassinations are each unique and very fun, but sometimes their effect is worn out due to the amount of boring tasks you went through to get to it. Even so, this is probably one of the best portions of the game, second only to running through the cities.
Finally, there are no Xbox live features at all, but it is somewhat understandable.Graphics/Technical:
The graphics are great, one of the best features of the game. The models are good, the environments are beautiful, and there are not that many errors, animations included. Altair looks graceful when moving around, and the killing moves are amazingly well done. The soldiers all look respectable, and move fluidly as well. The immense crowds that can be on screen also have great animations and usually are aware of their surroundings enough.
The city is well modeled and highly detailed. Not only does each district look different, each city has a unique feel. All of these places yet still maintain the same general structures, which is fine as it ties it into the time period and area.
There are some errors with clipping and drawing in the distance, yet it doesn't ever become too bothersome. Also, each city entrance is glorious. Usually you can see the entire city in the distance without a problem from a cliff, or a great 360 view from the tallest viewpoints.
The mechanics of the free running are almost flawless. As I stated the controls may be too simplified, but by no means is that really a downside other than personal preference. The fact that it is so easy and seamless to bound across the cities is a feat.
The only glaring and annoying problems in the technical department lie within combat. Although it is fun at first, the effect wears off and it becomes boring and flawed. Altair is just too good, and the AI is just too stupid. In and out of combat,the AI is only a challenge to the gamer during the initial learning curve, which is a very short period. Achievements:
The achievements in this game were great for the most part, with a few exceptions. There are pretty standard complete the mission ones. There are many achievements based on performing actions x times: 50 stealth kills, 100 guard assassinations, pickpocket 200 knives. There are ones for completing all free missions.
Ones that are easily missable are the observe 85% of glitches, talking with Lucy every time you can, and assassinate all targets with a full DNA bar. Then, there are the annoying ones. Because I had no idea, I missed the Lucy conversation one, and definitely didn't get all the collectibles. There are roughly 400 flags scattered across the cities and kingdom, in addition to 60 "hidden" templars to kill. Although not difficult, getting these will be time consuming.
Overall though, assassin's creed is not difficult to get 1K on, just time consuming.Final Verdict:
Despite its flaws Assassin's Creed still feels like an original action, stealth, platformer with a decent story to boot. It's very innovative and if this is the kind of game you crave, there isn't really much else out there that is similar. Yet, keep in mind it comes from the same studio that brought us Splinter Cell and Prince of Persia, which means we shouldn't feel too guilty for wanting a little bit more.
This is allegedly the first of a trilogy, and it will be seen as to whether Ubisoft listens to fans in regards to improvements to the second game. Assassin's Creed is definitely worth a single playthrough though. Anything more than that would be a good indication you are whoring some achievements you missed on the way through it the first time (like me