Game: "Assassin's Creed"
System: Xbox 360
Genre: Action
Published by: Ubisoft

Reviewer: Dr. Boogie
Posted: 3/17/2008

Review: When I think of great games based around the idea of assassinating someone, I naturally think of the Hitman, and to a less extent the Splinter Cell, series. Both franchises execute (no pun intended) the idea of stealthily dispatching your foes with excellence, but that's not to say there's no room for improvement. Rather than sticking with the modern era, Ubisoft has decided to take another shot at the genre, this time set in the 12th century, with Assassin's Creed.

That you control the assassin mentioned in the title is only half of the story. You control a wimpy bartender who's being forced to relive his past life as an assassin via a fancy VR machine called ANIMUS. And why? It seems your character has some important secret that is somehow locked in his subconscious, and the only way to unlock it is for him to play out the memories of his ancestor, Altair. It's a little odd, but I can't fault it for being unique.

What I can fault it for, however, is Altair himself. It's hard to sympathize with the guy because, frankly, he's a dick. He's a dick, and the major plot point of his memories comes as a result of him being an arrogant, unapologetic dick. They want you to believe that he's a highly-ranked assassin who's been killing for years, and yet he displays the kind of irritating cockiness and bravado game developers normally reserve for the brash new cop on the force who winds up getting killed early on so the main character has something to fight for.

Anyway, because of Altair's dickishness, you must start as a novice assassin, and climb your way back up the ladder. You may have had to give up your fancy equipment, but on the plus side, Altair is one of the strongest and nimblest men in the era. If you hold down a button, he'll run up walls, hop across narrow beams and flagpoles, climb with the smallest of handholds, and in general do whatever he can to move in the direction you tell him regardless of obstacles. It's very handy, even though most of the guards in the cities you'll visit can do the same thing.

The way the stealth system works, sneaking up on a target involves you walking up behind him, occasionally using the "blend" button to fold your hands and disguise yourself as a scholar. A scholar with a sword at your waist, a knife on your back, and a girdle full of throwing knives. Anyone, once you're discovered, you'll need to break your pursuers' line of sight and then duck into a hiding place. In other words, the stealth system is slightly simpler than the one used in Manhunt.

What's irritating about the stealth system is that guards will immediately attack if they see you running or galloping lightly on a horse. I admit it would look a little suspicious to see a person running through a crowded city, but to the point where you need to try and kill anyone you see in a hurry? This is especially annoying in the interim between assignments, when you travel on horseback through a massive traversal zone that leads to all the cities. At times, the ANIMUS will "fast forward" through Altair's memories to get to the good part, including skipping the return back to base after a successful hit, but for some reason, the machine seems to think the long journey to each city is important enough to show in full.

The developers try to make the hit itself interesting by requiring you to investigate your targets before you can actually try and kill them. Unfortunately, "investigation" amounts to little more than a handful of tiresome mini-games repeated ad nauseum. Each one you do will give you a little extra help with your post-kill escape, but in all truthfulness, the only reason to do more than the minimum is to unlock an achievement or two. It's nice to have an advantage when you're running from the law, but considering the work you need to put in to get the help vs. its actual usefulness of said help, you're better off just winging it, running away, and hiding as best you can. More likely than not, you'll do fine as long as you just keep moving.

The "Creed" in the title includes a rule about harming innocents, but luckily, Altair plays pretty loosely with the Creed (part of the reason he gets into trouble). Sure, they penalize you for punching an innocent person in the face, but you can shove them, tackle them, and even trample them with a horse without being penalized. I know it sounds a little mean, but there are some civilians in the game that really deserve it. In addition to the normal rabble, you have the most persistent beggars I've ever seen in a video game, and my person favorite, crazy guys who will flat out shove you if you come within 6 or 7 feet of them. In one particularly memorable moment, I was caught between two crazy guys, and Assassin's Creed quickly devolved into a game of Monkey in the Middle. Good times.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that this game is boring. The developers did for their game what Michael Bay does for movies, trying to mask mediocre gameplay with exciting visuals. To Ubisoft's credit, the game does look good, but the huge leadup to an assassination is boring, the main character is a jerk, and the context-sensitive actions look cool, but are so abundant that you hardly feel like you're controlling Altair at all. Add to that the assassin guild's master strategy of killing the target and running like hell, and you've got one seriously mediocre game. If you're in the market for a fun stealth game that focuses on killing people in the feudal era, check out the Tenchu series (except for the Xbox 360 game, skip that one).

Overall rating: WholeWhole
(Scored on a 0.5 - 5 pickles rating: 0.5 being the worst and 5 being the best)

Reader Comments

Spiteful Jerk
Mar 17th, 2008, 03:13 PM
Holy effing hell, I agree with you on a game! Well maybe not entirely; I thought it was a little better than you seemed to. I bought this the day it came out and I was incredibly excited at the prospect of a game that was stylistically similar to PoP: Sands of Time (the sequels are dead to me). I quickly realized that was not to be, but I still enjoyed the first couple missions, then got really really sick of it. I had more fun exploring the city and throat-stabbing the occasional suspicious guard than actually playing the game. I do love the crazy opium addicts (in the arab-controlled cities) and drunks (crusader-controlled city), since I perfected the art of the "no, fuck YOU" shove-back move. Anyhow, yeah you pretty much nailed the game.
Suicidal Chipmunk
Mar 17th, 2008, 05:08 PM
A friend of mine described this game as, "Hitman, based in the 12th century, except..you know...without the excitement." You review seems to agree with his statement.
Forum Virgin
Mar 17th, 2008, 06:20 PM
Good review, I completely agree.

I'm surprised you didn't mention that not only is he a 12th century dick, but he is also a 12th century dick with a New York accent. I mean, he is plugged into the matrix... er... ANIMUS, and has the genetic memory of everything except Altair's voice? Alright.

Overall, I found the game repetetive. Did two or three assassinations and was too bored to continue.
Mar 17th, 2008, 06:37 PM
I'm glad somebody did an accurate review of the game for once. I keep imagining Ubisoft buying off reviewers to try to peddle this game. I never found the info on the targets to be of any help, and the stealth part is atrocious. THe only way to loose a tail is to find one of those hiding places (instead of just stayinh out of sight) and 2/3 of the time I ended up just stabbing the guys. The problem with this is that the swordplay is just soooo boring that it makes the game seem like a chore. Sad thing is that this game is probably going to get a sequel in a couple years time.
Crazed Techno-Biologist
Mar 17th, 2008, 07:12 PM
the first one was fun they say, but this one was just milking the cow until they got blood and nipple bits and called it a strawberry milkshake.
Spiteful Jerk
Mar 17th, 2008, 07:20 PM
Originally Posted by Dungeonbrownies View Post
the first one was fun they say, but this one was just milking the cow until they got blood and nipple bits and called it a strawberry milkshake.
First one? huh?
Forum Virgin
Mar 17th, 2008, 07:39 PM
Its strange they used the word ANIMUS which was a big part of Xenogears. Maybe Square will sue for copyright infringement, which might be good so that we are no longer subject to ridiculously stupid plots like this. BTW, Xenogears prolly had one of the best plots for an RPG ever.
Forum Virgin
Mar 17th, 2008, 08:11 PM
@Ancient Echo: You might want to check the wikipedia entry on Animus/Anima. It's not like Square invented the term.

I agree that the game gets boring fast. I thought the story was somewhat interesting and the sequel could turn out pretty good if they can add some more diverse gameplay and improve the AI. Kinda like the difference between Splinter Cell 1&2.
Forum Virgin
Mar 17th, 2008, 08:28 PM
The plot was interesting? I thought it was dull and bland, personally.

Then again, I played this directly after Mass Effect, so maybe I am a bit biased.
Shining Beacon of Virtue
Mar 17th, 2008, 11:05 PM
It's like Ubisoft made a sweet looking City, some awesome moves, then they said, "Okay multiply everything by ten, change a few textures and sell it!"
Can't touch this
Mar 18th, 2008, 02:46 PM
I gotta say that the Tenchu series is my all-time favorite of any video game. I don't even own a 360 and don't intend to, so I'll never even play the shitty one they made for it. Bob bless the PS3 with Tenchu 4, PLEASE.
Mar 18th, 2008, 04:02 PM
Well, given that I could barely score above "Thug" in the original Tenchu (My friend and I used to compete for "Worst Ninja Ever" and spawned the phrase around our gaming commune of "Look! Rice!") I should probably steer away from this. Pity. Does look like such the shiny game, but I do dislike things that turn out to be a chore. Challenge is fine, chore is another matter.
Big Red Cat
Mar 18th, 2008, 08:18 PM
Some parts of it are pretty sweet. The free-running aspects of the game are pretty good. Unfortunately, that's about all the game really has going for it. The story is majorly weak (hell, the game doesn't even really have an ending).

Rent, don't buy.
Mr. everywhere
Mar 18th, 2008, 08:42 PM
i actually liked this game. especially the part where u can basically kill almost anyone without any consequences (just so long as you slowly walked away), and other then the complete repetitiveness of the mini games, the game, i think it was overall, a three out of five
Forum Virgin
Mar 18th, 2008, 10:07 PM
Well I had to suffer that game incredible hype to a rather high degree as the ubisoft studios who made that game were in Montreal (my province) and therefore the more "local" media were on it (both newspaper and tv) and ended up explaning to my mom three times that we didn't have a xbox360 and therefore couldn't play it (she's very receptive to hype even when it's stuff she have no idea about)
Mr. everywhere
Mar 19th, 2008, 03:03 PM
haha sucker
Mar 21st, 2008, 07:52 PM
This game was fun for the first three levels.
Can't touch this
Mar 22nd, 2008, 01:15 AM
Well I'll agree that the first Tenchu pretty much sucked. Wrath of Heaven is a Slice of Heaven though.
Mar 27th, 2008, 10:27 PM
A bunch of guys at my school said this game was really awesome,
but quick and pretty easy to beat. I thought it looked pretty
neat.. I'll probably just rent it.