When Desmond Miles is kidnapped by Abstergo Industries, a powerful corporation with some very sinister plans his life takes a turn for the worse. One day he’s just a bartender trying to keep a low profile and the next he’s strapped to a weird machine called the “Animus” that can read the ancestral memories buried in the DNA of its subject. It seems that Abstergo is very interested in information about one of Desmond’s ancestors called Altair. Altair was an 11th century assassin in the holy land during the third crusade who got demoted after he botched the recovery of an artifact called the “piece of Eden” from Solomon’s Temple. Some Templars (the sworn enemies of assassins) were also interested in the artifact and in his eagerness to keep it out of their hands Altair broke all three the codes of his order’s creed. Nearly paying for this mistake with his life he is stripped of his rank in the order and instructed to redeem himself by killing nine key figures which would help facilitate peace between Crusaders and Muslims. His quest takes him to the cities of Jerusalem, Acre and Damascus and the truths he uncovers has some far reaching consequences for mankind.
Assassins Creed was a big hit on the consoles and for once computer owners gets a nice conversion with a few extras. Graphically Assassins Creed looks amazing and thanks to the higher resolutions available on computer never ceases to wow. Each city is rendered in exquisite detail and teeming with citizens going about their business. All this graphical splendor comes at the cost of fairly high system requirements if you wish to experience the full effect but trust me it’s well worth it. The animation’s alone is worth the price of admission. Watching Altair climb up a building and realistically reaching for foot and handholds is an awe inspiring sight and must have been quite a technical achievement to pull off considering the enormous scale of the environments. The Prince of Persia might have set the standard for acrobatics in games, but Altair takes the concept to new heights.
As a highly skilled assassin there is virtually no area that is inaccessible to Altair with his ninja-like abilities, providing he can stay one step ahead of the city guards. Assassins are obviously not very well liked and if Altair does anything suspicious they will be all over him like white on rice. Altair is no slouch in the combat department but it’s obviously better not to have 20 guards baying for your blood while you are trying to secretly gather information about your target. You’ll definitely want to partake in at least a few battles just to see the spectacular moves Altair can pull off. While combat never becomes gruesome like in some other games that contain severed limbs and heads Assassins Creed isn’t squeamish with blood spraying around and thanks to the fluid animation you’ll wince in sympathy each time some poor guy ends up on the wrong end of Altair’s sharp weapons.
What is most amazing about Assassins Creed is how simple it is to play. Obviously there is an initial learning curve as you have to get to grips with the unique control scheme, but once mastered you’ll be scaling tall buildings with ease and leaping from roof to roof without even thinking about it. I’d advise the use of a gamepad however, as playing with the mouse and keyboard combination works but results in some finger bending combinations. While the relatively simple controls provide some very impressive acrobatics the same cannot be said for the gameplay. Once the initial wow factor wears off you’ll soon realize that the missions on offer are pretty repetitive and becomes tedious after a while. Computer owners are lucky because they get four extra mission types, but this still doesn’t make up for the lack of things to do in the vast cities. Sure you can climb up, over and around almost everything but when your only incentive to do so is to collect “hidden” flags that serve absolutely no purpose to the plot whatsoever it’s hard not to become a bit bored. Don’t get me wrong the first few hours of the game you’ll be way too busy exploring and causing havoc to notice this, but towards the end of the game it becomes very apparent that Assassins Creed has a lot of wasted potential.
Being an assassin Altair obviously has to keep a low profile while information gathering and missions, so a large part of the game is taken up by evading guards and staying out of sight. Since all missions take place in broad daylight you don’t have the option to slink around in the shadows so instead you have to “hide in plain sight”. If you are being chased by guards you’ll have to break their line of sight and then blend in by sitting on a bench between two other people for example. Or you could dive into a haystack or roof garden until the danger blows over. A convenient alertness level meter will indicate how aware or suspicious guards are of your activities, but later in the game you can hardly walk past a guard without hordes of them trying to kill you. In fact it’s one of the game’s biggest failings that towards the end things fall apart and degenerate into a repetitive series of fights where the odds are stacked way against you. The game also has a spectacularly unsatisfying ending, but since it’s apparently only the first in a trilogy of games I guess it makes sense.
While all of this might make it sound like this is a game you might as well pass up nothing could be further from the truth. True, this won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but Assassins Creed definitely brings some very cool innovations to the genre. While a lot of the stuff you do in the game like the horse riding and assassinations has been done before the overall package and presentation has never been this polished. From the bustling cities filled with people that can help or hinder you to the epic musical score and atmospheric sound effects it’s clear to see that a lot of care and hard work has gone into this game. It’s not often that I just sit back and admire the views and locations in a game, but with Assassins Creed I found myself doing this quite a lot.
Assassins Creed has one of the most interesting and intriguing story lines I’ve seen in a while and while some of the cut-scenes can become a bit long winded the story had me gripped right to the end. The mix of modern conspiracy theories and near future science coupled with the historic setting for the assassination missions makes for an interesting contrast. If you are expecting this to just be a fancier version of Prince Of Persia think again, Assassins Creed might not live up to all the hype it has generated, but it’s a very good game in it’s own right and hopefully the series will only go from strength to strength. Hopefully the next games will pick up some tips from the Grand Theft Auto series on how to create compelling and varied missions within a free roaming and open ended city environment.
*Review originally published in 2008.
- Supported OS:Windows® XP/Windows Vista® (only)
- Processor:Dual core processor 2.6 GHz Intel® Pentium® D or AMD Athlon™ 64 X2 3800+ (Intel Core® 2 Duo 2.2 GHz or AMD Athlon 64 X2 4400+ or better recommended)
- System Memory:Windows XP: 1 GB RAM / Windows Vista: 2 GB RAM
- Video Card:256 MB DirectX® 10.0-compliant video card or DirectX 9.0-compliant card with Shader Model 3.0 or higher (*see supported list)
- Sound Card:DirectX 9.0 or 10.0-compliant sound card (5.1 sound card recommended)
- DirectX Version:Direct X 9.0 (Windows XP) or 10.0 (Windows Vista) libraries
- Hard Disk:8 GB available hard disk space
- Supported Peripherals:Keyboard, mouse, optional controller (Xbox 360® Controller for Windows recommended)
- *Supported video cards at time of release: ATI® RADEON® X1600** /1650**- 1950/ HD 2000/3000 series, NVIDIA GeForce® 6800**/7/8/9 series. **PCI Express only supported. Laptop versions of these cards may work but are NOT supported. These chipsets are the only ones that will run this game. For the most up-to-date requirements, please visit the FAQ for this game at: http://support.ubi.com.