Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Video Game Review - Assassin's Creed

Sigh. Here's the big one I've been "foreshadowing" for the past few days. Assassin's Creed.

Now, I've already touched upon two of the major flaws of the game, and if you'd like to have them expounded upon, then read the full articles, but the main character Altair is winner of the blandest character ever award, and the voice acting was pretty repetitive. And bad.

But let me talk about what the game is actually about. The game is set in the 12th century Holy Lands during the crusades, and you play an Assassin named Altair. Only that's a lie, because you're ACTUALLY a bartender named Desmond Miles. I automatically associate the name Desmond with my third favorite character from Lost (Brotha') so that distracted me only momentarily from learning that the plot is ACTUALLY that you've been kidnapped by a shadowy organization using a machine called the Animus to have you relive your ancestors "Genetic memory" so they can learn a hidden secret. Which I have to admit, is one of the coolest plot devices I've EVER seen in a game. It actually explains why you are able to take so many hits before dying (you didn't actually get hit, you're just remembering it wrong and being "desynchronized") and explains things like the lock on system and just in general a lot of really good explanations implied by the Animus.

So you're reliving the memory of "Altair" resident jerk of the Assassin Brotherhood, and at the start of the game you break the "Assassin's Creed" (the rules which the Brotherhood live by) and are demoted to the lowest rank Assassin. You have all your weapons taken away... And your physical skills. Wait what? Ok, I get taking away weapons, but HOW can being demoted take away, for example, my ability to DODGE? Or to TACKLE someone? Sigh... I really hate when games do that.

Anyways, you're sent on a quest to kill nine dudes who need killin' to earn your rank back. And thus begins your quest to go to Damascus, Jerusalem, and Acre and kill 9 noteworthy guys, and about 8 bajillion guards.

Which is really unfortunate because the sword fighting is really really... Mediocre. It's not the WORST sword fighting I've ever seen, that honor is given to the 2008 Prince of Persia reboot, but it feels extremely stiff. Basically every sword fight will end up with you pressing L1 (I was playing on PS3 not 360.) and then holding R1, and hitting X every time you see a guard about to attack you. Then you do a counterattack that will either knock the guard back, or if you're lucky do a one hit kill. A very bloody one hit kill. Lather rinse repeat until you've killed every guard in Jerusalem. You can also opt to flee from battle if you're a sissy coward girly man, and run until none of the alerted guards see you and then sit down on a bench. No, I'm not kidding, you're apparently invisible when you're sitting on benches.

"But," I hear you saying, "this is a stealth game! Certainly the best way to go about it is to just avoid killing people at all, or committing any sort of crime?" You'd like to think that wouldn't you? But not so! Apparently it was against the law to run in 12th century Jerusalem, or to stand anywhere near a guard, or to be pushed into someone by the THOUSANDS OF LEPERS WHO WILL PUSH YOU INTO PEOPLE. Or to walk at slightly faster pace. Huh. Learn something new every day.

Basically, unless you're holding the X button to blend the entire time, you will be attacked by guards. Oh, and I ask you, how does this make any sense, you've killed a guy, and everyone is running, yet for some reason if YOU run, the guards automatically notice you're the murderer, however if you WALK VERY SLOWLY through a crowd of people RUNNING, you are blending in. What is this I don't even

Oh, and by the way, game makers need to learn the difference between having a CLIFFHANGER ENDING, and NOT INCLUDING AN ENDING. There is a difference. I would have been really ticked if I hadn't already bought the sequel, and thus been able to immediately continue when I finished the first game.

The missions you do to "investigate" people you're going to assassinate are repetitive. For each of the 9 assassinations, you do the same 4 missions over and over and over. You are either pickpocketing a map, interrogating a guy for information, eavesdropping on some people, or performing missions for other assassins. They aren't bad, but by the end of the game, you'll be getting sick of them.

At this point most of you are probably saying "Wow, he really hated this game. He wrote two seperate articles about why it sucked, and then bashed it in a full review!" so what I'm about to say may surprise you... I actually do give Assassin's Creed a recommendation. And the weird thing is, I'm not exactly sure why. The story... Stories? I dunno, either way, both the past and present stories are predictable and rather "meh", but for some reason I was still engaged by them both. The combat is repetitive and annoying, but that never managed to turn me off from the game in general. The mission variety is tiny, but what they have is actually very entertaining.

I think the reason I recommend this game is because.. Well.. There's just something really really COOL about it. I don't know how else to put it. Maybe it's the graphics (which are pretty good) or the setting, a semi-accurate portrayal of the Holy Lands in the 12th century, or maybe it's just the Assassination Missions, where you slowly take out guards one by one, and then stalk your victim, before finally striking, and killing him. It was incredibly COOL. And you know what? It was fun. Even though every few minutes it would annoy me with combat, the counterattacks you do look freakin' sweet, dodging past someones blade, cutting his leg, knocking him to the ground, and finally finishing him with a satisfying stab to the chest, all in one sweeping motion. Or the one where you dagger a guys foot, and when he looks down and cries in pain, you slit his throat.

Maybe it was the "leaps of faith" in which you fall from absurd heights, only to live by falling into a tiny pile of hay? Maybe it was the stealth missions, to kill multiple people without anyone catch you, within a matter of minutes.

I don't know, but the point is, I really enjoyed Assassin's Creed. I might not have enjoyed it quite as much if I had gotten it at launch, but I paid $8 for the game, and you know what? I liked the game. It was fun, sneaking around and stabbing guys, throwing knives at any archers who caught me on a roof, and pickpocketing thugs.

Therefore I give Assassin's Creed a recommendation. It's far from the best game I've ever played, it's not even in the top 20, but it's not a bad game, and it entertained me.

Buy this game if:
You're willing to ignore a few blatantly bad design points, to get to the good bits, which are absolutely amazing.
Don't buy this game if: You have to pay more than $20 for it. It's bargain bin material, nothing more.

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