You may find this odd, but I've struggled to get into Assassins Creed. I've had the game for a year now - a full 12 months - and every single time I think, "Ehh, I should finish... (Insert another game here)". For some reason, I've taken a year to blast a game that usually would have taken me nothing more than a weekend.
That, really, is not a good start. For one, being a bit of a die-hard gamer, it shows that the game didn't really get its claws into me. It didn't grab me and take me for the ride. For someone who still maintains that Tenchu is a valid addition to the stealth genre (quiet at the back!) it's actually quite a bizarre admission for me to say that this is a game that has failed to pull me in.
So, me being the uncouth censored that I am, you're expecting me to pull down its trousers, bend it over my knee and commence the most brutal and unashamed spanking of my many years here at EG. You'll expect me to be savage and unrelenting in my criticism...
And you're exactly right!
But that's probably getting ahead of myself, because even I, bitter and jaded and vile as I am about the state of video games today, cannot fail to admire Assassins Creed - and there is an awful lot to like about the game as well. Technically, as a feat of design, Assassins Creed is simply gorgeous to behold. The controls are tight, the sound is brilliant and visually the game is just one step away from the Miss World competition. It's a simply stunning piece of work, one that you can admire from afar. And perhaps probably should admire from afar, but no bad Kami, be nice! BE NICE!
One thing I must stress is that in an industry that suckles hard on the technological... umm... joystick that we currently have, it is often extremely difficult to come across something that feels wholly original. Assassins Creed is one of those rare breeds that actually, even now, feels rather fresh and new and daring. The concept of being an assassin is hardly new in gaming, but this isn't wholly about that. There's a vein of softcore sci-fi running throughout this game, of a former assassin who is being experimented on - unlocking the genetic memories of his ancestors with the help of a crazy scientist, a modestly hot lady scientist assistant and a flashy new-fangled piece of technological wizardry called The Animus. It's rare to find this sort of thing working, but if anything the multi-layered plot and intriguing dialogue is actually rather charming and interesting.
But pulling into the station is the QQ train, and I have much to complain about unfortunately. So, the little praise I had said, time for a spanking!
To start with, as much as it is the most stunning piece of design I've seen in years, clearly someone forgot to mention that a game has to "flow". You know what I mean, even Metal Gear Solid does this - you get a big chunk of meaty plot and then you get into the game and get on with things. Assassins Creed doesn't do this - traversing the world in its stunning beauty is one thing (and it is worth getting lost from time to time) but when you arrive, you want to be getting down and dirty with the assassin stuff. Which you cannot. You have a few little "minigames" to do, scouting out the cities and gathering information with the occassional scrap, some more side missions, then you get to do something but not before another side mission, then you get a proper goal with... umm... a side mission on the side. This is actually necessary padding because once you take away this artificial rusk, the game itself really is about as sophisticated and deep as Paris Hilton's nail polish. It's pretty and sparkly but like the wearer, lacks substance.
As you traverse the cities, you constantly run into things that just border slightly on the side of horse manure. Optional "Citizen Rescue" (more side missions! HURRAH!), and running into guards... actually, this is as good a point to mention that the combat reminds me somewhat of Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time - i.e. boring, crap, clunky, annoying, frustrating, badly designed and quite frankly an unnecessary and unwelcome distraction from the game at hand. Okay, we get assassins are far more adept at slipping it in quietly from behind (Waited long enough to get the cliche joke in!) but you'd think they'd be a little handy in a scrap when push comes to shove, and our friend Altair really has the combatative skills of a freshy laid egg. It just doesn't really make much sense.
Maybe I should dedicate a special passage now to the beggar women. Yes, we've heard about them. Their shrill, hateful voices and awful look make me even now want to stick rusty spoons into my eye sockets and put an electric drill into my ear canals. In any civilised society you'd probably not be punished for giving these women a deft backhander and telling them to take a hike, but nooooo. They're "INNOCENT". They're pure and you must not touch them upon pain of a dozen guards teabagging your soon-to-be-very-dead corpse. They are... absolutely hateful manifestations of pure, unadulterated hatred. The person who came up with the idea to put these people into the game must have a serious and deep-rooted grudge against gamers as a whole, because all the patience in the world isn't enough to prevent me wanting to ram my trusty finger-spike into their malicious, disgusting, hateful little hearts.
And then you finally get to assassinating people, and finally you think to yourself, "Yay! Actually this isn't so bad...", at which point you are forced to watch a lovely little scene where the victim - who under normal circumstances should have been dead five minutes ago - harp on about everything from how they feel to conspiracy theories to what they had for breakfast that morning and which buxom blonde they were getting ready to pork before you so rudely interrupted their day by killing them. But that's okay, right?
Wrong. Because the last few paragraphs? Copy, paste and repeat over. And over. And over again. This is a game that requires patience and tolerance that clearly are not within my bounds, and when you consider I still highly regard Martian Gothic: Unification as an excellent game it is a rare thing that I am so disinterested that I'd rather go off and play something else. Anything else. I'd even play that new Powerpuff Girls game if it meant I could take a few days away from this game.
But, spanking done with, I am not without heart. As I said earlier, I admire Assassins Creed. I admire its originality, I admire its pluck, I admire the cut of its jib and I certainly admire a game engine that can pull off the spectacle that this game clearly is. I admire it and respect it and even, in part, love it for being so unconventional and so different. It is a breath of fresh air in an industry so hell bent on sequels and cheap licenced tat, so the fact it even got released at all is actually a wonderful realisation that not only is there original content still to be had, but companies are willing and capable of taking a chance and putting such daring new material onto the market.
The problem is, as a game, I don't love it. It's frustrating, annoying, riddled with filler and meaningless distractions and hateful characters. It takes ages to get from one place to another, having to always go from your orders base to wherever the heck you are needed next. It takes ages to get through the boring padding and get to assassinations proper, and then you have a lot of dialogue and plot to get through before the game lets you get stuck in again. It's just an abysmal, shameful and often painful experience to get those brief flashes of genius that do emerge from time to time.
It's a game which is artistically fantastic, and you cannot help but admire it. But like a good work of art, it's probably best admired from afar. Get too close and you just see the flaws and imperfections and wonder if this stunning work of art is the genuine article or a bit of a forgery. Even now, I'm not sure. I am torn. I am struggling, becase I don't WANT to rate it so hideously low that everyone turns into Altair and surprises me in the shower with a friendly little pointy object. Err, sorry. But it isn't, truth be told, a good game. It's painfully slow, painfully clunky and painfully average.
So perhaps I should put it in the middle. I admire it. I even respect it. I really do. But like most modern art, don't get too technical... because sometimes a dirty lavatory seat is a dirty lavatory seat, and no amount of visual trickery and good staging and fancy lighting can really distract you from the fact you paid good money to walk into the gallery and spent twenty minutes looking at what is, at the end of the day, a dirty lavatory seat.
Such is modern art. Like it, loathe it, but at the end of the day - we probably do need it.
5 / 10