Disgraced for failing to live up to the assassin’s creed, Altair must climb his way back to the top, sticking to the shadows and taking out his targets. Using brute strength, reflexes and stealth, you must navigate the streets of Damascus, Acre, and Jerusalem, gathering information and help as you take out nine historical figures during the Crusades.
Essentially Assassin’s Creed is a glorified open world map game such as Grand Theft Auto, just placed in the middle ages. Where it doesn’t match the variety in the GTA series it more than makes up for with gameplay, ambiance and story. You will totally immerse yourself in three cities, packed with citizens going about their daily business. Beggars harangue you, people in trouble call for help and preachers proselytize as you navigate the streets in this richly detailed game. Beautifully intricate, the cities breathe with life to the point where you can almost smell the dirt and filth in the gutters. The story only solidifies this world as you overhear conversations and gather information about your intended targets, driving the point home that this is more than just a simple game.
The only thing better than walking around in this world, is fighting in it. As a demoted assassin, your tools of the trade are stripped from you in the beginning, but as you complete more and more missions, you regain access to these weapons and abilities. In the beginning this may be daunting to the casual player, as a single enemy proves to be a difficult fight. But with more of your arsenal at hand, you will take out groups with ease. The fluidity of the controls and combat only enhance the immersion, making this more than a passive movie-like experience. Two buttons let you attack and block, but combine these two with good timing and you can do so much more. Simple controls prove to be anything but in the hands of a master, and though that may sound daunting, it won’t take long for you to get comfortable. Once you do, you will be actively looking to take on more and more just to welcome the challenging odds.
You must scout out the city and report information to your local contact before actually attempting the assassination. By climbing towers to fill out your map you gain locations of informants and save-the-citizen type side-quests. Completing these will increase your health bar, and also encourage the occasional vigilante group to back you up; they help slow down pursuing guards and can mean the difference between life and death. Beyond that, you can gather flags strewn around each area. This doesn’t give you any more than bragging rights, but adds something else to do. A little more effort in side-quests might have greatly enhanced the game experience past its basically linear story progression.
Graphically the game is stunning on both systems. Some 360 users’ claim the PS3 version is washed out, but with a few changes of the display settings they appear indistinguishable. The animations are also extremely impressive, such as Altair’s gentle pushes while navigating through crowds, or his seamless climbing. Overall, the graphics and sound help further the cinematic quality of the game, with only minor nits on an otherwise perfect mesh of form and function.
In the end, Assassin’s Creed will be remembered as a high-quality endeavor that beautifully blended action, control and intrigue into a completely immersive gameplay experience.