Assassin's Creed

Assassin’s Creed is one of the games I picked up in the 2009 Christmas sales on Steam. Finally getting around to playing it, and—after a bit of a slow intro—am really enjoying it. What’s not to love about being an assassin? Owning the rooftops in some beautiful and historic cities?

The game is from late 2007 (early 2008 on PC) and looks slightly dated. Reminds me of Jedi Academy. Having just played Batman: Arkham Asylum, I can’t help notice some similarities in the stealth and fighting techniques. It’s not quite as polished in comparison, but I think that’s the age. Still a good looking game.

So what’s good about it? Fun, simple gameplay. A little repetitive, all that assassination, but there’s something satisfying about the solid chunk of a hidden knife ramming home. Ouch! (Only in games folks, that would not be cool in real life!)

The soundfx are suitably meaty, and the combat relatively easy. Assassinate, fight, counter, dodge. “Health,” called “synchronisation” in this game, is generous. I would explain the sychronisation part but that would entail many spoilers. I will give you one: Veronica Mars is in it!

Character dialogue is a weakness. The mini missions in each city have characters recycling the same few tired lines repeatedly. Different characters, with a small set of different voice actors, saying the same lines. Ugh. Take a leaf out of Left 4 Dead, which has 50 different ways of saying “Boomer!” (I’m exaggerating, but only slightly). While on the subject of dialogue, where are the subtitles? This is the first game I’ve played in a while that is missing them. And I miss them. Much of the dialogue is too quiet for me to hear. It’s that or have the fight scenes too loud, or constantly twiddle the volume control. Subtitles please.

Controls are nice on the xbox360 controller. You can lock onto targets (as with many console games ported to PC) so there’s no need for a mouse. I had to remap some controls, so the button layouts and colours matched those on the controller, which helped a great deal. Calling some of the triggers and bumpers “Button 5” and “Button 7″ is not helpful, but I think I’ve got the knack of it now. It did take me a while to overcome the differences between this and Batman—”run” is now “blend” (walk slowly). I still occasionally assassinate folks I mean to gently brush aside. Oops. Luckily blending in with conveniently passing monks will get you out of strife with the law.

As mentioned earlier, health is generous. Resets, when you “die” are too, placing you back at the last checkpoint. These are frequently placed throughout cities and works well. Walking about and the endless climbing can feel a little tedious at times, but diving from fantastic heights into bales of hay, and walking away unscathed, remains a treat. There is always the choice to run along the rooftops. And the risk of being spotted, and having to … assassinate one’s way back to anonymity! (hey, it’s a game, it doesn’t have to be realistic.)

Vice City style, you cannot swim. But you can climb ladders, walls and windows, jump on poles and across rooves with acrobatic skill rivalling Lara Croft. You can sit on benches, pickpocket knives, hide in hay and knock pots off the heads of the passers-by. What more could you ask for?

The cut scenes, ugh! You retain some small control over your character and camera angles, but not enough to make it interesting. Spinning in circles is the way to have fun at these times.

These small niggles don’t detract from the fun of climbing those ridiculously tall towers, and running rampant across rooftops like some unstoppable crazy assassin type fellow. Not really stealthy, come to mention it, but you’re the player so it’s your choice!

All in all, worth a look. I’ll be keeping an eye out for specials on Assassin’s Creed II and Brotherhood—the latter of which is not released yet but claims to feature co-op. Excellent!