Platform(s):PS3 (Xbox 360)
Developer:Ubisoft Montreal
Website:Assassin’s Creed US

Ubisoft Montreal's Assassin's Creed tells the story of a young man who is an assassin in the Holy Land, but he's not really that, but he's not really anything else he's actually something else entirely if you know what I mean. I'm already confused. Let's just say that you play as Altair, an assassin during the third crusade responsible for getting to the bottom of things and killing folks that deserve it and there's conspiracy intertwined. All the while fantasizing about Jade Raymond. Wait, where did that come from? I'll try keeping that to aminimum and just talking about the game from now on, but I make no promises.

As we’ve come to expect from this generation of games, the first thing that you’ll notice are the gorgeous graphics. So what if they didn’t put it at HD 1080i, you can tell right away that the folks at Ubisoft Montreal have put so much care into the way this game looks that you might get confused and coddle it making baby faces at the screen thinking it is someone’s child. Then Altair shoves his hidden blade into a guard’s back while stepping on his calves. The quality and precision of the graphics on this game are absolutely amazing. Technically it holds up too. Unfortunately, as is the case with streaming worlds that are enormous, not every glitch could be worked out. I had an amusing five minutes of circling the camera around Altair’s horse as it was frozen two feet off the ground and mid-gallop while Altair has the “Yee-haw” look on his face. Once it wasn’t funny anymore I had to turn my PS3 off and go back to my last check point. Aside from the two or three… or four times that I had to turn my system off and on, the game does interact seamlessly and loading times are negligible.

That’s enough about how good the technical specs are because anyone who has been playing games for more than a decade knows that the most beautiful cake could have Bea Arthur in her birthday suit inside… that was the worst 21st birthday party ever… The important part is how the game plays. The likenesses to the Prince of Persia series of games are countless, especially in how you get around. The difference is in the improvements. Scaling walls and leaping from building to flag pole are less about guess work now. This is achieved because there’s not an emphasis on pressing a series of buttons, it’s just like moving now and the 3D environment makes sense with how you interact. In other words: If it looks like you can grab it, you probably can. This is great.

Another thing that has changed is the fighting. There are a few different ways to handle yourself around the mean streets of Jerusalem based on the different parts of your body. Each button represents a different part based on the layout of the controls. For instance, on PS3, the triangle button is at the top, so it represents things that have to do with the head, looking and searching. The X button represents your feet. I think you can figure out the rest from there. It’s an interesting way to look at a controller layout. The way you get stealth kills didn’t really make me stand up and say wow. I’d seen similar gameplay in Wolverine’s Revenge or any other number of stealth kill related games. However, just like Bungee said with Halo, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

If you can’t manage to get that coveted stealth kill, don’t fear because just like his predecessor, the prince, Altair doesn’t have a lot in the skill department if you’re not trying to be fancy. So for casual gamers who aren’t interested in timing attacks, do your best to avoid fighting because hack and slash will only get you killed. For people who do time attacks and count the steps it will take for your opponent to get to you (and no I’m not kidding, I do that and it was invaluable in this game), you’ll enjoy the fighting. I just stood around and let the guards attack me while pulling reversal after reversal finding new animations all the time. It’s entertaining seeing how many dead guards you can get in one place. There’s so much about how the game plays and the innovative features to the gameplay and story, like saving citizens adding real help in the game, that it doesn’t make sense to try and list them all.

Then there’s the walking. Oh the walking.

This is the one big problem with how the game plays. Yes, jumping around buildings and running away from or killing bad guys can be fun. To do that, you’ll have to get to those buildings, which means walking. Getting to and from cities will take most of your time in this game. Apparently during the crusades it was illegal to run in public, so if you go over a speedy one mile per hour you’ll find yourself doing an impression of the guy who dropped the soap. That’s right, every guard in a two mile radius will be after you and the time you would have spent just walking, you’ll spend hiding in a bail of hay. None of this would be a problem if you didn’t have to cover what feels like a scale map of the Holy Land. The walking and the hiding and the blending in and the… criminy! It’s not even stalking or being sneaky, it’s just walking really slowly. Even your horse has to go slow or someone might notice you and hit you with a rock. A villager threw a rock at me when I started running! Okay, that was cool, but the point is that a game shouldn’t add an extra two or three hours just getting from one place to another.

This is a game for aficionados. Casual players can learn a handful of tricks and just blaze through the game, but the depth it goes into is what makes the game worthwhile. Exploring a vast, gorgeous landscape makes this game so much more than it seems which gives it great replayability. While it’s not open ended like Oblivion there are a lot of distractions in the game even if it’s just seeing how far you can leap and bound before you run out of rooftops . It’s a game with a lot more potential to add more stories and more features. I’m looking forward to the inevitable sequel. In the meantime, I’m going to go back to see what else there is that I missed my first time through.

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