Assassin's Creed Review
This conversation is happening, right now, in every Starbucks, Gamestop and bar in America. Assassin's Creed is every bit as fun and cool as Ubisoft promised it would be back in June, but the opening sequence/set-up/plot is just too slap-you-in-the-face stupid to ignore. St. Elsewhere was an autistic kid's dream. Stewie didn't really kill Lois. No one shot J.R. on Dallas. Maggie Simpson shot Mr. Burns. Laura Palmer… well, Twin Peaks never made any sense. Regardless, these disappointing revelations pale in comparison to the line of tripe Ubisoft and the Assassin's Creed team expect you to swallow. Completely off-the-wall plot and lame "twist" aside, Assassin's Creed is every bit as good as you hoped it would be. But, if you take nothing else away from this review, take this: Assassin's Creed's first half-hour is easily in the running for the most disappointing, most terribly thought-out and ill-conceived moment in the history of popular entertainment. Seriously.
Keeping in mind that the beginning of Assassin's Creed's storyline will not only insult your intelligence, but make you question the very existence of goodness in the universe, the game itself is very fun and a joy to play. Leaving out the set-up, the game puts you in control of Altair, an assassin who, when you first meet him, has a serious attitude problem to go along with his basic misunderstanding of the assassination game. After a short tutorial and opening sequence, you'll be placed directly into the promised next-gen "living, breathing world," and even the most jaded of gamers will be astonished. People mill around, talk to one another and behave extremely realistically. The surroundings look as though they've been torn straight from the world's most interesting History Channel documentary and literally everything about the game's look and soundtrack is there to demand your attention. I'm not usually one to worry too much about how a game looks, but Assassin's Creed is so detailed, so polished, that if the game included a mandatory trip to Lens Crafters, just to make sure every player could see every detail, well, it would have been worth sitting through the ever-unpleasant glaucoma test to ensure that I could pick out every scrap of cloth, every speck of dirt that is amazingly detailed in the game. With the graphics, sound and level design as good as they are, the inane start to the game will be (almost) instantly forgotten.
If Assassin's Creed were just nice to look at and listen to, it would be a movie. I think we all learned that lesson with Final Fantasy X, didn't we? No, the gameplay is, astonishingly enough, where the brilliance of Assassin's Creed lies. Any building or structure you see, you can climb. Through what has been labeled the "free-run" system, Assassin's Creed allows you freedom of movement not often seen in video games. Go anywhere, climb anything, run up walls, dive off buildings - if you can imagine it, you can do it.
The combat, though rewarding and fun, isn't anywhere near as complex as it could have been. The silent assassinations you are capable of look cool enough, but don't require too much planning and can be accomplished with a simple button press. I wasn't a huge fan of Manhunt 2, but it did the whole "sneaking/killing" business with a bit more style and flash than Assassin's Creed. Not to say that Altair isn't good at what he does, but the game doesn't make it any more difficult to pull off the advanced kills than it does the basic ones. At least in Manhunt 2, getting the most violent executions came with a sick sense of accomplishment; here it just feels "meh." The actual combat is simple as well, but feels a tad more rewarding, due to a timing-based counter system that rewards the player with a neat cinematic of your enemy's end, rather than just the "smash the x button until the other guy falls over" cop-out that has felt dated for at least 10 years. It might not be brain surgery, but Assassin's Creed's fighting is a nice counter balance to the amazing freedom the game gives you.