Reviewed by Obigone for the Xbox 360

Rated M: for Blood, Strong Language, Violence

Assassin’s Creed is a third person stealth shooter which places you in the shoes of an assassin trying to reclaim his honor in the year 1191 AD. While the game shines in many areas, repetitive gameplay, replayability issues, and weak lead voice acting bring out some substantial frowns amidst an experience that could have had us smiling all the way through.


During its development, Assassin’s Creed was said to take place in the year 1191 AD. For those of you that don’t know your history too well, this means during the Crusades that were fought between the Christians and the Muslims. The developers were quite good, however, at keeping its actual time period a secret, which would be that it technically takes place during modern day.

The basic premise is that an evil genius has found a way to go back in time and explore the memories of those long dead; in this case, an assassin from 1191 named Altair. The only way to do this, however, is through the DNA of an ancestor’s distant offspring. This grandson (known as Miles) is connected to a mysterious machine called the Animus, which allows him to control his ancestor like a puppet.

Two storylines branch out in this way, though there is a heavy emphasis on Altair’s plot, with Miles basically only coming out of the Animus to take a potty break and talk with the evil genius. With each assassination, the plot thickens, and the closer the evil genius comes to finding whatever it is he’s looking for inside Altair’s memories.

The ending to the game is a major disappointment and is one of the most blatant setups for a sequel since Halo 2’s ending back in 2004. What’s worse is that the ending is poorly executed and puts a black mark on a story that would otherwise have been excellent.

Gameplay – 17/20

The gameplay in Assassin’s Creed is built around a simple scheme. At the beginning of each assassination mission you travel to one of the three cities (Jersusalem, Acre, or Damascus) wherein your target is located. Once inside the city, you start an investigation to determine exactly where your target is, when is the best time to strike, etc. You begin this process by climbing to the top of very high buildings/towers (called viewpoints). From the top of these viewpoints Altair can spot a number of different possible tasks that will help him in his investigation.

The tasks that Altair can perform aren’t as varied as they could have been. He can eavesdrop on conversations about his target (and for some reason he always has to be sitting on a nearby bench to do this), pickpocket select persons carrying information, interrogate people, or perform some menial task for a fellow assassin in the city.

You also have the opportunity to save various citizens that are being harassed by the guards, which wins you the favor of various scholars and vigilantes who will occasionally help you if you find yourself in some trouble.

This setup, while easy to understand and get the hang of, becomes repetitive after the third or fourth assassination. The process is repeated for every target in every area of every city. Some of these tasks tend to be continually satisfying. Climbing to the top of a viewpoint or taking out guards that are roughing up some poor old lady, while fun, loses its original entertainment value after a while.

Fortunately, the combat and climbing are so entertaining that it makes the repetitiveness almost forgivable…almost.

Altair is always in one of two modes: High Profile or Low Profile. High Profile allows him to perform actions that are more aggressive and socially unacceptable (thus attracting the attention of guards), while Low Profile allows him to perform more stealthy and socially acceptable actions. The change between the two is done with the pull of the Right Trigger. Holding the trigger down brings Altair into High Profile, letting it go brings him into Low Profile. This control scheme, while simple, is incredibly effective and easy to get the hang of. My learning curve was about ten or fifteen minutes.

The system for combat is just as satisfying as free running across the roof tops. Most of the time you’ll find yourself squaring off against a number of guards, all of whom are intent on putting sharp pieces of metal into your body. Running away is an option, but not always the easiest one. Often, you’ll have to pull out your weapon and bring your game, son.

The question is: which weapon will you choose?

After your equipment is returned to you (you’re demoted in the first level), you’ll have four forms of combat to pick from: Altair’s sword, his knife/throwing knives, his fists, or his nasty hidden blade.

The combat system works the same for all the weapons save for Altair’s fists. The best way to take out enemies is by performing a counter move that must be timed when an opponent begins his strike. These counter attacks can be somewhat tricky to perform, especially later on in the game, but the result is worth it.

The sword and the knife operate the same, though using the knife allows Altair the option of throwing his small knives at far away opponents and provides for some rather nasty killing animations. The fists are somewhat of a disappointment, as I expected an assassin to be somewhat gifted in hand to hand combat. The only time that his fists are really used is when interrogating some unfortunate soul for information. In battle against guards, they are nearly useless.

Finally, he can use his hidden blade. The blade is used mostly for stealth kills and for taking out your assassination targets. I was surprised to find out that you can also use it in combat, though doing so is quite risky as you have nothing to defend yourself with. Performing a counter attack with it is, however, always fatal.

One issue I had with the combat was the camera angles. The camera set up for the combat is actually quite good. The view will elevate when Altair zooms in the target, giving you a better look at what your opponent is going to do and is also very helpful when fighting against multiple targets. The only problem is that occasionally trees or poles or other various objects get in the way and obstruct the view. This doesn’t happen often, but it’s still an issue.

Graphics – 9/10

To put it simply, Assassin’s Creed looks beautiful. The cities themselves are the best looking that I’ve ever seen in a video game, wonderfully constructed and (even cooler) historically accurate as well. One of the most entertaining things is climbing up high to a view point and gazing at the incredibly expansive borders of Acre, Jerusalem, and Damascus. Aside from being beautiful, the cities are huge. At the end of the game, when certain districts of the city aren’t cut off to you anymore, you’ll feel like there’s no place you can’t go. Which is mostly true.

The citizens that make up these cities look decent which is a fairly impressive feat in itself when you consider just how many citizens there are. There are a wide variety of player models for the lovely innocent bystanders, but even so, you’ll often come across two people walking side by side who you’ll swear are twins. They all walk smoothly enough, and they all run well when they panic after seeing that one dead guard that an unknown assassin killed.

Altair looks absolutely gorgeous (speaking graphically, of course). His movements are all graceful, whether he’s doing something as simple as walking through the crowd or free running across the roof tops to escape angry guards. The fluidity of the motions make you believe that it’s actually possible to do some of the amazing acrobatics that Altair performs.

Sound – 9/10

Ubisoft has always been good with their sound, and there’s no exception here. In fact, the sound is what makes the cities of Jerusalem, Acre, and Damascus so lifelike. People shout at you from the market to buy their goods, the beggars plead for a morsel of food, and the guards quickly reprimand you if you get in their way.

The voice acting is some of the best I’ve heard in a video game, helping to add to the list of recent popular games that set the bar high for that area. Surprisingly, the one character that is poorly acted out is Altair himself. The assassin’s lines are delivered in the same fashion throughout the whole game, barely changing emotion, often speaking in a boring monotone and never allowing for us to get a strong feel for his character.

The developers are lucky that the rest of their voice cast is so good, because Altair’s acting had serious potential to be a thorn in every gamer’s side. Fortunately, the rest of the sound is done so well that it becomes more of a pebble in your shoe that only bugs you every now and then.

The sounds during battle are equally impressive. The swords clang loudly when they connect, arrows hiss as they whiz by Altair’s head, and there’s the sickening, but realistic noise when Altair’s blade strikes its intended target. All add to a very intense and already impressive combat experience.

The soundtrack for the game is subtle but well done; pretty much what you can expect from a modern video game. The music is pretty and quiet in the background when walking through the streets, fast paced and heart pounding when Altair is fleeing from the scene of one of his kills. All in all, a good soundtrack.

Stability – 4/5

One strange thing happened to me on the last level where Altair actually fell through the map (apparently, other gamers have had this issue as well). Another time the game slowed done, but after I died everything went back to normal and was fine. Other than those select instances, it runs very smoothly.

Controls/Interface – 5/5

The key goal of all game developers when it comes to the control scheme is to make the player forget that he is holding a controller in his hand. Everything should come naturally, simply, with pure instinct taking over and the thought of what button to push not even entering the gamer’s mind. Few games are able to do this, and Assassin’s Creed is one of those few.

As I said before, High and Low Profile are performed with the right trigger, and the right trigger also brings Altair into a defensive stance when in combat. The left trigger locks your view onto a target, which helps for when following someone through a thick crowd. The “A” button allows you to either sprint or “blend.” “X” is used to assassinate or attack/counter attack. “B” either makes Altair gently push someone out of his way or grab and push someone when in High Profile. The D-pad lets you select which weapon you want. “Y” brings Altair into his Eagle Vision when he’s standing still, though I never found much use for this feature.

Simply put, the control scheme is one of the best I’ve seen for the 360.

Appropriateness – 34.5/50

Assassin’s Creed is rated “M” for Blood, Strong Language, and Violence. Ubisoft milked that rating for all it’s worth. It’s one of the few video games that actually made me compare it to an “R” rated movie (in this case it would be the Director’s Cut of Kingdom of Heaven).

First off is the obvious premise of being an assassin. Your job is to kill another human being, and if you do your job well, you will kill that human being when he is defenseless and not expecting you to strike; in other words, cold blood. The people that you kill are all evil in their own way, but then again, Altair isn’t exactly the pope, either.

The first thing that surprised me in the game was the amount of blood that will burst from a body when you strike it with your weapon. Strangely enough, while it shoots out nice and thick, it seems to evaporate in mid-air, as blood never stains the ground nor gets on anyone’s clothing. This is good for Altair, as he is always wearing white. On a positive note, the blood can be turned off.

The gruesome deaths, however, cannot be. These come in hoards when Altair wields his knife. After performing a combo move or a counter attack, he gets in close and strikes at the enemy’s vitals. He will slash throats, stab the heart repeatedly, or use his free hand to snap the neck.

His hidden blade is somewhat nasty as well, as it is used to go into the neck. The animations for when he fights with the hidden blade are gruesome as well, and the first thing that popped in my mind when I used the hidden blade in combat for the first time was, “Gee…what a terrible way to die.”

The ESRB is known for putting Strong Language on their content rating when such a label really isn’t justified. Assassin’s Creed is fairly deserving of a Strong Language warning, but it’s not nearly as heavy handed as the violence is. You hear almost all of the minor swear words during the game; bast*rd is used fairly frequently, and the F-word is used once.

Some theological issues come into play as well. At the beginning of the game, Altair is fond of the saying, “Nothing is true; everything is permitted.” This worldview is often reinforced by the ones that Altair assassinates, claiming that the bad and often cruel things that they have done were for the good of the people. Their words are crafty, and make Altair wonder if they speak truth. At the end, he decides that his slogan at the beginning of his journey is wrong, but the worldview is still present.

At the end of Assassin’s Creed, there is a cut-scene where many of the events from the Bible are labeled as nothing more than illusions. It should be noted that the one who claims this is the antagonist in the story - your stereotypical power-crazy bad guy.

Bonus Points: + 3 (The game shows the consequences of evil and/or messing with the occult)

Final thoughts: Assassin’s Creed is a very impressive single player gaming experience, though repetitive gameplay and a disappointing ending taint it.

Final Ratings

Game – 44/50
Gameplay – 17/20
Graphics – 9/10
Sound – 9/10
Stability – 4/5
Controls/Interface – 5/5

Appropriateness – 34.5
Violence – 1/10
People killing people in cold blooded murder: -5 pts
Blood – Blood sprays on the walls: -1.5 pts (+1 Blood can be turned off)
Gore – Gruesome Details: -2.5 pts
Language – 5/10
Swear words used in a R rated movie are present: -5 pts
Sexual Content: 10/10
Sexual Dialogue/Innuendo: (No sexual dialogue) 0 pts
Sexual Content/Nudity: (No Nudity) 0 pts
Sexual Content: (No sexual content) 0 pts
Occult/Supernatural: 10/10
(No occult/supernatural content): 0 pts
Cultural/Moral/Ethical – 2.5/10
Game requires active rebellion to play: -2.5 pts

Overall rating: 77.5/100 


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