by December 12, 2007 @ 11:34 am
Before we can get to the review proper, we need to clear a bit of space for ourselves. In case you haven’t been following the reviews, there has been a huge range for this game, from GameTM’s 4/10 to Games Radar’s 100%. There has been so much said for and against Assassins Creed. Much vitriolic tone has been exchanged between the doubters and the defence force. Today, we hope to shed a little common sense into this pumped up arena.
It may be true that Assassins Creed is something of a one trick pony, but what a trick. It delivers a superbly imagined and well executed sandbox world the likes of which has not been seen since Crackdown. What’s more, this game enables you to scale its heights with simple free-running skills rather than relying on super abilities. Even so Altair’s ability to jump, swing and ultimately flow through the environment is not a million miles for the zooped up abilities of the crackdown Agent.
Around this not insubstantial centre Ubisoft have wrapped the trimmings of a mission structure and a plot device that aims to give some sense of coherence to the whole experience. But we need to remember this, these are trimmings around the genius centre they are not the game itself. It maybe a testament to the quality of these directed missions that they have made so many players forget what they first fell in love with the game for, the environments.
There are three distinct environments Jerusalem, Acre and Damascus, in addition to the assassins’ stronghold Masyaf. Each of these spaces sits there on your 360 and invites you to play, investigate and ultimately party. But this is a party where you need to bring the fun. Food, drink, music and girls are all metaphorically laid on, but it is up to you to imagine how these will all combine to produce something fun and engaging. This trusting of the gamer to be creative with the new toy that they have created is a risky step for Ubisoft. It can easily look like they have sold a half finished game. Furthermore it questions what we think games should be, what we are buying when we put our hard earned cash down for a GBP40 title.
Whilst it is easy to compare games to movies and expect them to deliver an emotionally compelling story, this is not what games really do best. Games primarily deliver experiences that involve the player as a real participant of the action, they give people agency. Different developers achieve this to varying degrees and with a varying amount of success. However, there are some common components that the best games seem to call upon to make the player’s agent experience involving.
Assassins Creed pulls a trick that was powerfully implemented in Shadow of the Colossus; it creates a landscape that stands on its own merits and evokes an emotional connection. Into this environment it places landmark targets, and trusts you to both find them and get something substantial out of the encounter. This is very different to a film, which delivers its wares on a plate, as the game developer is looking to woo the player into experimenting with the toy they have given them.
This dependence on the player to bring the fun means that different people will have different experience. This magnifies the truism that whenever we read, watch or listen to something, out experience results from a combination of who we are and the content we encounter. Connections start to fly the moment we turn on any media, as the content sparks memories of an almost bottomless store of meaning we store up as we go about out life.
All this goes to say that this is a truly great game. We could have talked at length about its breath taking visuals or character setting voice work, but for us the killer feature of the game is its ability to let the player simply have fun in a wonderfully robust and explorable sandbox world. To that end, Assassins Creed will entertain you for many many weeks, long after you have finished the main story threads and got to the oh so controversial ending.
The environments are simply stunning.
Escaping capture as you free-run away is so much fun.
The rhythm based combat is ingenious once you ‘get’ it.
Those looking for a more involving directed experience will be disappointed.
The combat strays from the traditional structure which can be off-putting.