Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Assassin's Creed Late Review (PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360)

What if historians could use our DNA to uncover the secrets of the past? Well that’s the premise of one of 2007’s most talked about games, Assassin’s Creed. While the game was released a while ago, I only recently managed to play the game and wanted to experience what the hype was all about.

Technically you are Desmond Mason, a bartender who is apparently the descendant of a famous Assassin, Altair. it seems that, the events carried out by our ancestors are embedded in our DNA and are passed from generation to generation. An interesting concept, but definitely restrictive, since the moment of conception, that data is stuck, so anything they do afterwards cannot be transferred. Since Altair is essentially a relative of Desmond, he carries some vital information that certain people need. Desmond is ‘kidnapped’ and agrees to let a doctor (Dr. Vidic) and his assistant (Lucy) to take a ‘look’ at this information to try to uncover some secrets from the past.

While you are Desmond, you become Altair when you take control of him during these memory blocks. Your goal as Altair, is to complete tasks given to your by your Assassin’s Guild. You begin your memories with an unsuccessful mission where you are punished and you must regain your skills. You proceed to take-out important figures and solve the mystery of your environments. As you complete these Assassinations, you regain your skills (similar to every Metroid game).

The game takes place during the Crusades and all the missions begin with you traveling to one of three Middle Eastern City: Acre, Damascus or Jerusalem. Upon arrival in the city, you must travel to your Assassin Bureau to get your assignment. Once that is given, you’ll need to find certain people through the city to get more information. In some cases, you might need to pick-pocket a person. In others, you will need to over-hear a conversation. Once you have enough information, you return to the Bureau, are given permission to take out your target and you execute your man. It is an interesting method, but pretty mundane and you’re essentially doing the same routine over and over again. Of the various investigations you need to do, the easiest ones (Pick-Pocketing and Eavesdropping) are the ones you’ll do first and since you only need to do three to have permission to assassinate your target, it can make things a bit easy.

While the game ‘can’ be easy, it’s actually quite not, thanks in part to the horrible controls and auto targeting that hamper a large chunk of the game. If you encounter a problem in the game, it will be because of the extremely sensitive controls. Since you need to do a lot of climbing and jumping, the touchy controls can cause you to miss an easy jump, jump to the wrong ledge or have a problem trying to grab a ledge. The controls also pose a problem when attacking, in particular when you have a lot of characters on the screen. You will often encounter groups of 3, 5 or even more guards and it can be problematic trying to target them thanks to the far from perfect auto targeting. If and when you do ‘die’ (you technically do not die, but you need to restart the memory: it’s the past, so the events have already occurred) it will be because of the controls.

The controls do make the game a pain, but thankfully the game looks great in terms of the environments. All the cities look stunning and sometimes you might just want to admire the architecture. The character graphics are good, but at times seem extremely stiff, especially with Lucy and Dr. Vidic. The cut-scenes are done well and look good, but it’s a bit of a disappointment that the movements of NPCs are not fluid and realistic.

The sound department is nice and fits the time-frame of the game. While the voice-acting is not bad, it’s not that good either. You’ll get annoyed after hearing the beggar-woman or the random character repeat the same thing over and over again.

This is a Good game, but because of those pesky controls, be prepared for some challenges along the way, and may turn off most from this title. The premise of the story original and the sandbox options (climbing ledges to synchronize, saving pedestrians, etc…) does give the game a lot of longevity. It will take you a good 15-20 hours to complete the game and if you’re playing on the 360, you’ll want to spend the time to find the flags and completing all the tasks to unlock the achievements. I would also recommend playing this game on the 360 over the PS3 for that reason alone. It looks good on both platforms but the collecting and extra tasks are better suited for those looking to improve their GamerScore on the 360.

It’s almost a certainty that there will be a sequel some-time down the road, and if they can fix the extremely sensitive controls and stiff character animations, the series will be absolutely incredible. Until then, try this one out, have some fun, but keep your voice when you want Altair to climb a wall instead of using it to jump off it.

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