From everything I have read online, it seems that gamers everywhere are split into two camps when it comes to Assassin’s Creed: those who love the game and those who find it painfully repetitious. After beating the game over the course of four days, I found myself graduating from one group to the other. For the first third of the game I was frustrated, annoyed, angry, and bored. (Incidentally, three is an important number in the structure of Assassin’s Creed. There are three cities in the game, each with three sections and three assassination targets – one per section. In order to complete an assassination the player needs to collect three out of six available pieces of information about the target. So, judging the game in thirds seems to be a logical way to go)
And yet, despite all of the initial boredom and general dislike of the game, my final verdict is that I like Assassin’s Creed. But, (and this is a big but, at least for me,) I stared liking the game only after I gave up on some of my preconceived notions of gaming like an anal retentive RPG player who considers himself a failure if he misses a single chest in a single dungeon.
Before I proceed, however, let’s get one thing out of the way: Assassin’s Creed is a game that provides a true next gen experience. Please note that this is different from the question of its quality as a game. Whether you love it or hate it; you must admit that it is a different kind of game. And when I say different, I am not talking about the pure aesthetics of the game. Yes, Assassin’s Creed is a very pretty game. (And if you don’t think so please stop reading this and for the love of all that is holy kill yourself.) But, a lot of other games are pretty as well. Even on older systems you can find games like Jade Empire or Resident Evil 4 that pass the aesthetics test with flying pixels.
So, what is different about Assassin’s Creed? Here, I could say that what is different about Assassin’s Creed is that it is Different. But, nah, that argument would fall short of describing the total experience of the game in the same way that the aesthetic evaluation would. I mean, after all, if you really want different with a capitol D then just get your self some Katamari Damacy action and call it a day.
What truly makes Assassin’s Creed a next gen game are the multiple subtleties and details which blend together in such a way as to present an immersive and innovative gaming experience while simultaneously obscuring those very same details into the background. I appreciate that. Even if I end up not liking the game. And I like Assassin’s Creed. I mean people’s voices get fainter as you walk farther away from them or climb further above them…and the climbing, oh the climbing… its executed with such believability and realism that it is by far the “funnest” aspect of the game. Well… maybe it’s on par with stealthily shanking a roof guard and hearing his body smash into a group of pedestrians as it rolls off the roof. Sounds fun right? I know. And yet there is a myriad of things reviewers have hated about Assassin’s Creed. So, let me indulge myself by passing judgment on a list of some of the most widely complained about features of the game. (FUN!)
1. The information gathering for your assassinations is repetitive. LEGITIMATE – However, please remember you do not have to do all six sub-missions. Doing three is enough to locate your target. Also, don’t always eavesdrop; (by far the easiest of the mission types), go compete with an informant, go beat the living Jesus out of a prophet. Diversify. And above all else don’t beat the game in just a few days over a few marathon sessions. I am convinced that the majority of the negative reviews out there were skewed by the fact that the reviewers feverishly purchased the game on the day of its release and then proceeded to beat it with equal fervor as quickly as possible. If you play Assassin’s Creed in one session from beginning to end you will gouge your eyes out with the thumbsticks and hang your self from that ugly ceiling fan of yours with the console wires. But that is an unfair test to put a game through. I know many games that could prove equally lethal if you played them all the way through in just two or three days.
2.The big secret that none-of-this-is-real-and-you-are-actually-plugged-into-a-futuristic-genetic-memory-retrieval-machine-by-the-modern-day-Templars is blown in the first few minutes of the game. (people really hated this) ILLEGITIMATE — This is silly! Do you really care less about your success in the game if you know that you are reliving a memory? I don’t. As a matter of fact, if Ubisoft had stuck the – it-was-all-a-matrixy-dream – twist at the end of the game it would have been much more clichéd and disappointing. I appreciated it up front. Even if you think it’s bull shit, it’s good to have your bull shit up front. As it is, the second, modern, storyline does not take up much time at all. And if that serves to set up a better developed sequel I’m all for it. As a matter of fact, the second storyline in this first game serves to foster doubt as to the appropriateness of your actions. I like that. Doubt’s a big thing with me. In anything.
3. The lead character’s voice acting is terrible. LEGITIMATE — the guy sucks. But then I honestly think that it was done on purpose. I think Ubisoft wanted to reflect the “modernity” of the main character not only through the modern plotline but also by giving him an American accent in the Holy Land of the Middle Ages. A terrible decision; but who knows maybe it was not really a memory machine but rather a time machine and you were really actually there during the Crusades. Maybe the sequel will reveal that you ARE Altair. Dan-dan-dan…
4. Long load times. — ILLEGITIMATE — hey I have an idea, maybe you can use those longer load times to shampoo my crotch, you impatient twit.
5. Repetitive comments from passers by. ILLEGITIMATE — I did not really find this to be true at all, unless we are talking about the citizens who scream for help as they are harassed by the guards. I actually thought that made it easier to locate them so you could rescue their nearly raped asses. The beggars, however, ARE annoying. And yet, if you think about it, you must admit that nothing raises tension like a beggar draping themselves all over you as you are stealthily sneaking towards your pray for that perfect kill. If tension was their goal, they did well.
6. After you stab them, your victims talk to you in a cut scene for far too long. — Please see # 4. (Whoever thought up this complaint has obviously never crossed paths with a cut scene from Final Fantasy X.)
7. Sub Par AI, example: the guards on the roof are too passive. ILLEGITEMATE — this one is just plain untrue. I’ve been shot by guards on rooftops numerous times. Granted this was before I had a chance to locate them visually and go all house-of-flying-daggers on their asses. The guards on the rooftops seem like they have poor AI because it is easier to kill them with throwing knives or by pushing them off buildings. Something you can’t do as well on the ground, you see.
8. The final two assassinations devolve into pure combat. LEGITIMATE — this is quite possibly the most frustrating part of the game. I don’t mind it when fighting is a part of the mission, but in the last two assassinations stealth is not even an option. They goofed on this. Suddenly a game that had multiple ways of doing things forces you down a singular path that devolves into mindless fighting. You versus forty soldiers, and then even more formidable Templars, can get frustrating; even if it is fun to watch Altair’s combo kills. In a game that necessitates patience around every corner, this was the point where my patience almost broke. The bottom line here is that the last hour of the game is unnecessarily restricting and hard. This is the one thing I hope not to see in the sequel.
Well, if you are still wondering about Assassins Creed, I recommend reviewing the first and last items in the above list. If you are the kind of player who is bothered by such things you might want to skip the game. You will, however, be missing out not only on a good game but also on a refreshing demonstration of what it is that the next gens can truly deliver.
Assassins Creed demands to be played a certain way; and if you take your time with it, and just dive into its world, it will pay off. You would not look at a painting while standing three inches away from it, would you? Or drink fine wine right out of a bottle, and then complain that the tannin count is not quite right? No, you’d pour it into a proper glass, at a proper temperature first; then let it breathe, swirl, smell and sip. That is if you want to optimize your experience and pleasure.
Similarly, you have to help Assassin’s Creed achieve its full potential by taking your time, being patient and redefining just a little bit of what it is that you do while in a video game world. (Oh, and by the way, if you think that such concepts are too lofty or snobby to apply to video games I would suggest that you have no respect for them and can not call yourself a gamer. You might even be a frat-boy who thinks Halo is the best game ever.)
In the end, whatever you might wish to detract from Assassin’s Creed, one thing is unavoidable: it’s just fun to be in the world that the game creates. And that, you can suck on long and hard.