Assassin's Creed Reader Review
It's always jarring when playing a game, your protagonist acts like a spastic* and doesn't interact in manners that you would have thought most logical. Like using their arms, legs, hands and feet to manoeuvre around objects. I mean, they're already using their legs and feets for getting around, and swinging their arms and hands to keep balance; just why couldn't they use them to do other movements naturally.
So now going to be difficult not to always think Assassin's Creed when I'm playing a third-person action game. Admittedly there are some slight animation/keyframe issues, but the animation and world interaction can barely be faulted. You, as Altier (the assassin), are able to run, jump, grasp and clamber over practically everything in the Middle-Ages world with superb fluidity and weight. Imagine the recent Prince of Persia games but without the limitations of the rooms and set pieces. Essentially, it's PoP in a sandbox world. All it requires is for you to aim, hold the right-trigger and run at the object. Smooth, natural transitions with no stop-start animation; foot to hand movements are just so great. No doubt you've seen Parkour (a.k.a. Free Running) movies on the television/internet; it is exactly that.
What is a real pity is the nature in which the developers make you play the game. Starting out as the ultimate assassin, things quickly go wrong and you're stripped of your rank, skills and weapons. Rank and weapons I understand, but losing your learnt skills is one of those just plain stupid design decisions. My reasoning is because the skills make the game fun (losing the instant counter-kill move can immediately result in buttons bashing, losing those 'special' gloves means you can't grab in mid-fall which means you don't make those risky jumps, etc.), and once you have regained everything the game becomes less repetitive. And that's another gripe.
With nine districts to open sequentially (three cities with three districts each), each consists of some recon and murdering, and the final assassination. There's a point to each assassination, some over-arching story explaining why you've been sent out to kill. And the recon for information (at least three sub-tasks must be completed before the assassination) provides other little snippets of the soon-to-be-dead's life style. But other than those elements, there's not much else to the entire game. Seriously, it really is quite rinse and repeat, and I'd deny anyone to say that it doesn't tire. I thought it wouldn't, I tried to play it not to be, but when you do decide to do each and every sub-task you will soon find that nothing wavers into the unexpected. Real shame because I'm sure that there could have been so much more. It's fair that being an assassin means subtlety and bad results should never be forced upon you, but when you have such acrobatic abilities, it seems a waste not to utilise it within the missions other than the set-up stages.
Still, it's quite lovely that you can traverse between districts that are open (within the same city) because each city becomes a ridiculously huge park swing-set. It takes a little getting used to and prejudgement to get things flowing (and the more-often-than-not pitching down of the camera doesn't help), but once you realise that pressing the jump button in advance of the object (to be landed upon) actually helps to traverse even quicker, you'll be flinging Altier around like nobody's business. (Holding the interact button will suffice, but you'll notice the difference. Plus it provides the opportunity to be part of the Altier-object interaction.)
And the supposed storyline leak from way-back when? Well, I don't actually know/remember what it was (I think I tried to shy away from all of it because I didn't want to ruin the game), but if it was the fact that you're actually someone in the present/future held captive by some mad scientist who's trying to read into your genetic memory, then it really wasn't much of a secret as it's revealed after the tutorial level. And I've quite possibly ruined it for you too. Oh well.
It's a good premise and certainly will require you to listen to what the people are saying. And because it's another of those triple-episode titles, it sets itself up nicely towards the end. There's no Parkouring in the present world, but then there's also not much to climb. However, it's almost certainly going to be in one of the future games (for you will see how/why when you finish the game).
And I know I shouldn't say this, what was all the recent London stabbings, but how much fun is it to pile those dead bodies in one area?! I played for ten minutes stealth (and not so stealth) killing passer-bys, and then the guards that come to investigate, and then the guards that see me killing, and then more random civilians fleeing. My word, almost certainly, no one under the ages of being alive should play this - it's a little unnerving but ridiculously fun(ny). (Oh, the tabloid horror if there was an Achievement for a number of killings, a la Dead Rising.) If anything happens to be to get me locked up, this review is not going to help my case.
And if you can look past the repetitiveness of the game for 15-hours, and the rather odd collection of fights towards the end, then all the better for you (and it). Furthermore, it's quite a beautiful game and the game world seems so real. The bustling population, people listening to speakers, guards walking around or holding their ground outside certain buildings, beggers and drunks - it's actually a city population, not just a collection of random people.
Beyond anything else, it's all in the way Altier interacts with the people and the world when he makes his way from A to B (with a bit of C and D in between for good measure). There's a real sense of presence and purpose, and not just your character barging through and smacking into walls.
This is character interaction at its best; this is what all must do from now on.
*Okay, that might be a bit harsh, but they've quite clearly not got a brain that works.