So, one thing that the frustrates me about reading reader reviews is that you never get the context of how old the reviewer is... so, for the record, I'm 30 years old.
I've been playing games for a while (normally after my wife is in bed and asleep). If I'm on a good game I find myself stealing time from work in the morning to stay up late and play past bedtime! Anyway, onto Assassins Creed.
My initial reaction was something like awe - the environments are some of the most beautiful I've ever seen in the game. The lighting and texturing is truly an artistic accomplishment. There is a real 'solidness' to everything. When you look up at the tower you are about to climb and see it against the sky, you truly believe that you are about to climb a real tower. The character moves so fluidly, and his interactions with structures and people are wonderfully believable. Most people point out that the main character's voice acting is poor, and I would have to agree... but it's really not a problem. All the other characters are incredibly well voiced, and I even began to like his voice by the end anyway.
The combat was amazing, though it took some time to adjust to. After reading the EG review I knew that it got combat intensive towards the end, so I spent a good part of the early game saving citizens and getting in fights. Before you get the ability to counter, it's frustrating at best, but once you have it things change. If you treat it like a button masher you will just get annoyed- it's more like a mini rhythm game. Control the tempo by guarding and circling to keep your back free, then counter attack for quick finishes. Guards can take hold of you and throw you, and as annoying as this is, that simple fact saved me more than once - in a crowded situation you will often be thrown clear. Once it all clicks you will find yourself in the most realistic and amazing sword fighting situations ever seen in a game.
So, the story - if there's one thing that reviewers have universally panned, it's the story. Having played through to the end, I'm not sure that's justified. It's not amazingly intricate or detailed, and might even be a little muddled, but when I look over the games I've played in the last few years, few have had stories that actually try to be original (of course there are exceptions). If you think it sucks you've either thought to hard about it, or too little. It's not complete, so it remains to be seen how good it really is.
I guess there are plenty of things to nitpick about with this game, but I think that's really missing the point. For people who want to get immersed in a gaming world that is focused, pretty consistent, and beautifully realised, Assassin's Creed is pretty much at the top of my list. We really don't get offerings like this more than once or twice a year. If anything, after you have played it you will completely change your views on how characters should interact with their environments. I started playing Drake's Uncharted Fortune after this and it was like stepping back a gaming generation. The way that you move in Assassins Creed is just so natural that Drake was initially very jarring.
My final word is this - the vast majority of games these days take the easy road. Stick to safe play mechanics (first person shooter springs to mind), focus on one thing like 'cool story' or 'amazing graphics' or 'enourmous world' etc etc... but how many games have a go at everything? On top of that, how many games go for everything and get anything right? Assassin's Creed must have had the mother of all feature wish list, and they really tried to get it all working. Not in a naive kind of way that usually ends in a ambitious mess, but in a measured, intelligent way that, to their credit, seems to have worked. And wonderfully at that.
9 / 10