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Rating: Not Rated

A Great Idea with Pretty Good Execution

Talraen's Review of Assassin's Creed (360) (Video Games)

Assassin's Creed is one of those games that has a lot of good, original ideas, but was released before the implementation of those ideas could be perfected. The biggest knock against the game is that it's repetitive - indeed, after the first few assassination missions, you will not see any new gameplay mechanics introduced. As a result, the game overstays its welcome a bit. But that said, it's still a really fun game, because the basic idea is very good.

Assassin's Creed feels in many ways like a Medieval-era Grand Theft Auto (or Crackdown, which has a very similar plot structure). You'll spend most of the game exploring and fighting off or running from guards. A number of mechanics make these things a lot of fun. First and foremost is the parkour style running system. It's a bit unwieldy (you have to hold down the right trigger and A to really go for it), but jumping around on things and running all out never really gets old. I do wish that it was a bit less exacting - missing a ladder by a few degrees can result in you wasting time running up a wall, which can be a real problem if you're running from guards. And don't get me started on the dock area - apparently assassin's can swim no better than the Avatar in Ultima VIII could.

Running around is fun, but it has to have a purpose. Assassin's Creed features three cities, each divided into three districts, and throughout the game you will thoroughly explore each of these nine districts. The first order of business is usually to climb the tallest buildings you can find, which reveals nearby map elements (including mission requirements). While this mechanic can get a bit boring by the end of the game, it's one of my favorite exploration mechanics of all time. This is partly because climbing around on buildings is fun (again, see Crackdown), and partly because the whole "look at the city from high places to find out what's going on" idea makes sense and seems rewarding as a result.

Your actual missions require you to do a number of investigations. You don't need to do all of them, and completionist that I am, I'm not sure what happens if you don't. (The game implies the actual assassinations would be more difficult.) While there are over 50 investigations in the game, there are only 5 types of them, and they really don't differ much. Some get harder as the game goes on, but others are just the same thing, and a few can be pretty frustrating.

That brings me to the biggest issue I have with Assassin's Creed, the behavior of guards. They will use any excuse to come after you, which is fun and interesting early on, but can get annoying later in the game when there are guards everywhere and they are extra paranoid. The problem is that angering a guard quickly degenerates into an escape sequence which really just feels like a waste of time. The escape mechanics are cool - you need to break line of sight and then get into one of the dozens of "hide spots" in each area - but escaping is often more frustrating than it needs to be. Many times guards regained line of sight literally a step before a hide spot, effectively starting the chase from scratch. And once you do escape, you're often on the other side of the city from whatever you were trying to do.

One key way in which Assassin's Creed differs from GTA is that here you don't need to run from the guards - you can just kill them all. Of course, later in the game this will mean killing as many as a dozen or more. The combat mechanics are really good, but they don't have the depth to support that much fighting, especially not over and over. Toss in the fact that being seen by the guards often resets your progress in your current investigation, and it really starts to wear on you.

In the end, Assassin's Creed needs to either be shorter, or have more variety of gameplay. Despite that, it's really fun - combat is great, as is parkouring around the city. What really made me fall in love with the game, though, is the way gaining skill in the game directly pays off. There is a large incentive to learn how to avoid guards, how to escape, and how to fight, more so than many games. For that reason, despite its flaws, I can't help but give the game a very high rating.

Score: A-

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