Assassin’s Creed (XBOX360) Review

I remember when this came out a lot of professional reviews were rightfully down on the game due to the repetitive nature of the missions, but I was too busy marvelling at the surroundings, having fun with the combat and generally enjoying the open world for it to bother me. Yes, eventually it all wore thin, but even then I thought to myself “what a great starting point, I bet the second one will be amazing”, and it was! Still, all these years later (and it’s weird talking about an XBOX360 game the same way I do a NES or SNES game, but there you go…) and it obviously hasn’t aged well due to the 1001 sequels that have improved and redefined it. Still, is it at least more fun than the film? Let’s find out!

Background:

The first of many lovely historical views…

Assassin’s Creed was released for the PS3 and XBOX 360 in November 2007, with a PC port coming April the following year. It has seen some digital re-releases in the recent past, as well as bundle re-releases, but has yet to be remastered in any meaningful way.

The game started off as a Prince of Persia spin-off before being branded as too far removed from the license and so given its own IP. So in an alternate world this game, and therefore the film reviewed alongside it, might have been moved to straight after the Prince of Persia reviews from a few weeks ago…

Gameplay:

Stealthy!

Ignoring the walk around the modern day lab (as all Assassin’s Creed fans do…) the core of the game is an open world structure based in the “Holy Land” during 1191, specifically Jerusalem, Acre, and Damascus. You, as Altair, are given assassination targets in these areas, leading you to travel there, gain information via the same few means (eavesdropping via “follow them without being seen” missions, interrogate smaller related targets, pickpocketing key items, etc… well, I say “etc”, but that’s pretty much it…) and then, well, assassinate them. It’s really fun, the first few times… Then, it’s not.

The gameplay has little hints of being great, and were fairly original at the time. You can free run up the side of buildings and the like, and jump from rooftop to rooftop, but it’s not a smooth experience, and in fact even far latter games in the series still had the old “just trying to run through town but I accidentally climbed a lamppost” problem, this has a similar issue but made worse by the animations being simpler and the collision detection being worse. The combat is just swords (so no picking up enemy weapons or using the hidden blade as a melee option) and it is literally a parry button and an attack button, with the ability to hop backwards during combat as well. The smooth counter-kills are still here, but there are only a small handful, and some of them ain’t that smooth! You can still kill people via stealthily hiding in bushes and hidden blading them, or jumping off ledges to instant kill a single guard, plus smoke bombs and poison are still on the menu, so you can see the blueprints to what eventually became the great Assassin’s Creed II, but it’s just not there yet.

For those not familiar with the game the main thing you’ll be doing is accidentally revealing yourself, taking out a couple of guards and then running down a dusty marketplace and hiding in a cart of hay, or sitting on a bench with some random civilians in order to lose your pursuers. When you’re not doing that you doing one of the many similar missions I mentioned in the first paragraph, or you’ll be doing one of the collectables, like hidden flags or killing Templar members scattered throughout the map, or the now-iconic method of unveiling the map by climbing high points, “syncing the viewpoint” and then diving off into a handy (and still deadly but we’ll ignore that bit) pile of hay. This is the first game to do this method, a method that even Nintendo are doing nowadays!

That’s about it, there’s a lot to do, but a lot of the things to do are the same. I didn’t mind too much at the time, but definitely retrospectively I can appreciate how this was very much a “beta” to ACII’s full game (and even the “Ezio Trilogy” is still guilty of reusing similar mission ideas…).

Graphics and Sound:

A countdown timer and lots of beams to run across… Sounds about right!

Graphics were good for the time, impressive draw distance and I remember being wowed by the amount of characters on screen at one time, but it is quite early in this generation’s life so there are some muddy textures and pop-in. Nothing too bad though!

Sound is perfectly fine. Voice acting is a bit flat but fine, sound effects are very satisfying (especially steel-on-steel clank-ing) and what little music is very fitting for the surroundings but by no means something you’ll want to hear in isolation…

Story:

“I want you to assassinate someone.” “Yes. I thought as much…”

Regular every day man Desmond Miles is kidnapped by a company known as Abstergo, who are the modern-day Templars, because his ancestor and member of their rival “The Assassins”, once had his hands on the Apple of Eden, a powerful artefact from a civilization before mankind, and they want to know where it is, so they subject Desmond to a piece of technology called an “Animus” that allows him to relive his own ancestor’s memories.

He sees a chunk of the life of a man named Altair, a member of the Assassins guild that takes out a good number of high-ranking Templar members on behalf of his master Al Mualim, eventually finding out about the apple and that his own master had been scheming to take the artefact for himself, which he does. Altair fights his own mentor and father-figure, kills him, and then takes the apple and unlocks a map to where other “pieces of Eden” are hidden across the world, the thing Abstergo was really after.

Desmond is eventually rescued by the modern day Assassins guild in the set up for the next game in the series…

Thoughts Then:

All these years later, I still remember the excitement of arriving on the outskirts of the new city…

As I’ve mentioned, I really enjoyed Assassin’s Creed back then, a unique open world, fun combat and lots of things to do, but it did eventually get old, I never did find every flag or kill every Templar and once I stopped playing, I stopped for good (apart from playing it for this review!). It really was Assassin’s Creed II where things took off for the series.

Thoughts Now:

One down, sixty to go! …. Ah, screw it. Can’t be bothered.

Now? After how many Assassin’s Creed games, including a recent complete overhaul? Funnily enough, it feels extremely basic and looks “only okay”, but then I wasn’t expecting anything else. It’s not old enough to be something I can look back on with nostalgia glasses, so I just see it for what it is: the framework for something better. Good for a quick mess about on and nothing else…

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