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December 6, 2007
Assassin's Creed - PS3 Review
Release Distributor Publisher Developer Offline Players Online Players
21/11/2007UbisoftUbisoftUbisoft Montreal1None
Media HDD Space Resolution Sound Format Tilt Controls OFLC Rating

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Altair is moving through the crowds.
Originally expected to be a PS3 exclusive, Assassin's Creed has actually hit both Sony and Microsoft's systems this year, with a PC version to follow in early 2008. It must be noted though that content between the versions is pretty much identical, so whichever version you choose you are in for a great experience. Assassin's Creed has a pretty big storyline twist which - unlike some other sites and reviewers - we won't reveal here. Suffice to say, not quite everything is as it seems, and as the story progresses you will encounter quite a few twists and turns, and an ending that will leave you wanting much more. So what's it all about then...

Set in 1191 AD Assassin's Creed allows you to experience the power of a feared Assassin named Altair. The Third Crusade is tearing the Holy Land apart. You are an elite Assassin sent to stop the hostilities by suppressing the powers on both the Crusader and Saracen sides. But as you carry out your missions, a conspiracy begins to unfold. You find yourself tangled up in a conflict that threatens not only the Holy Land, but the entire world.

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Entering the town - in a big way!
Played from a third person perspective (although at times you can switch to first person) Assassin's Creed sees you carrying out a series of assassinations on a number of targets. It's not as simple as walking in and killing everyone in sight though as before you attempt to even take out the target you will need to gather intel. This can be through interrogating an individual, pick pocketing someone with vital information, or eavesdropping on a conversation. Unfortunately this is where I have to point out my first gripe with the game, there simply isn't enough intel gathering variety in the game for my liking. Each of these three scenarios plays out many times throughout the game with little variation to the enemy reactions. Pickpocket someone and they will turn around and not even question anyone, or alert the guards. Interrogations are simply a case of waiting for the individual to stop talking, then when they walk down a quiet laneway sucker punch them a couple of times.

The controls in Assassin's Creed are fairly complex, but it actually gives you a larger range to use. The triangle button allows Altair's to enter an Eagle Vision mode which highlights characters in the city as either friends and enemies. The square button controls the handheld weapon, circle (with R1 pressed as well) is for grapples and pushing while X activates the ability to blend into the crowd, or when used while holing R1 allows Altair to jump from location to location - which is especially useful when running around rooftops. etc.

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Overlooking the town below.
By far the most enjoyment we had from this game is simply traversing the environments. Altair can climb a building simply by going up to it, finding some hand or footholds to hang onto and then moving around. In each area the highest points will allow you to map the local environment by looking around (that's the best spoiler-free way to say it!). Climbing to the rooftops does a lot more then that though. When you've killed someone the guards will be alerted to your presence, climbing to a rooftop, and then running and jumping from building to building is often the quickest way to escape. The game has various levels of alert status as well. Break the line of sight and you will be able to hide until the soldiers have stopped looking for you.

Travelling from city to city is best done by jumping on a horse rather then walking through the countryside. Some of the locations you will visit are simply glorious, with some of the best scenic viewpoints ever seen in a video game. Like Altair himself, horses can walk, gallop or full-on sprint but you'll have to be aware of enemy soldiers who will be alerted to your presence by rushing around.

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The countryside looks fantastic.
Having said all that, Assassin's Creed isn't without its flaws. The biggest of these is simply that the missions feel too similar. After you have completed the first few assassinations the game simply feels like it is repeating itself. While the targets are different, the means of attack are pretty much the same. Sure, we know that you're an assassin with a limited range of weapons - and the object is to kill people - but why can't we set traps, or perhaps block paths so the assassination target is channeled towards you, or even be able create distractions to draw the guards away from whomever they are protecting.

Also being able to hide in the numerous huts on the rooftops makes too easy to be hidden away when soldiers are actively looking. The same applies to the benches which you can sit on. Surely if you commit an assassination guards would check every nook and cranny in the immediate area, and not ignore vital 'hiding spots'. Another issue is that when you gently push your way through the crowd Altair will move his arms around rather strangely. It looks fine when you're near crowds of people as it looks like you are gently pushing them out of the way, but he also does it when there's no one around which looks rather odd.

Finally we come to the bonuses. Yes you can find and collect dozens of King Richard Flags, Masyaf Flags or even the Jerusalem Crosses, synchronize from every viewpoint, or kill the Templars but your reward for doing that is, well, pretty much nothing. At the very least the developers could have thrown us some production artwork, or behind the scenes videos. Just something.

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Riding the horse is quite enjoyable.
Much has been said about Assassin's Creed locking up on the Playstation 3. Possible solutions include disabling the Information Bar that was included in Firmware 2.0, or turning off the Internet connection prior to playing the game. Needless to say in about 6 hours of playing prior to installing the patch we only had the game lock up once. Annoying yes, disastrous not exactly. On November 30 Australian and European gamers were able to download a patch that apparently fixed the problem - or at least many causes. The patch has also been released in America as of December 4th.

So let's talk visuals. They are certainly the most impressive part of this game, but also the most disappointing as well. First the good news. There is no denying that this is one of the most visually impressive games ever to hit a console or PC in terms of size and scale. The three cities featured in the game (Jerusalem, Acre and Damascus) are absolutely massive with hundreds of buildings and thousands of people going about their daily lives. Detail close up is impressive, however I would have liked to see more buildings actually open and able to be accessed. Still, these are not deserted towns that for sure and each looks as authentic as we could have ever expected.

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Guards are even on the rooftops.
Animation is also another highlight of this game. Altair moves with so much fluidity be it walking through the crowds, or battling in a sword fight with several enemies. Certainly the coolest thing though is the way he climbs and scales the buildings around the game world. Grabbing onto the smallest ledge or brick hanging out from the main wall it looks stunning. With over 10,000 animations throughout the game this can't fail to impress.

So, I also mentioned that the graphics in Assassin's Creed bring with them some problems. The biggest of these is that the game suffers from some pretty bad screen tearing on the Playstation 3 - perhaps more so then the XBox 360 version. While you're running around the streets and from rooftops this isn't too noticeable, although it is there, however it's when you reach a high vantage point, be it the top of a building or the edge of a cliff and rotate the camera around you will see the screen image tearing horizontally. Assassin's Creed also includes some clipping issues here and there including defeated foes (or at least parts of them) dropping through the ground while the game also includes some draw-in and popup for objects in the distance.

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Climbing to the top of a building.
Assassin's Creed also manages - for the most part - to impress in the audio department. The music has been composed by Jesper Kyd (who also worked on Hitman and Unreal Tournament III) and it is absolutely glorious with epic orchestral scores. Not to be outdone the effects, including the clashing of weapons, footsteps across different surfaces, and even the birds fluttering around, are second to none.

Where the audio does fall down somewhat is with the speech. While the scripting, particularly that used for the many cut scenes, is impressive, and the quality of the voice work is also up to the task there is certainly dialogue repetition while walking around the streets. It will often only be a couple of seconds between hearing the same lines such as 'What is he doing' or 'Why would he do that' when climbing a building. Whenever you save a citizen they will repeat the same 'you saved me' speech as the last couple of people you saved. Would it have been too hard to record different dialogue for each person saved, even if it was shortened. It's almost like Ubisoft were developing this game to suit the smaller storage space on the XBox 360 DVD disc.

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Another impressive Assassin's screenshot.
There is no denying that Assassin's Creed is a next-gen title. The size and scope of the game world can not be understated in the slightest the storyline and production values are impressive. What does disappoint is that the gameplay isn't varied enough, there is no multi-player, there is repetitive speech and the game lacks some polish here and there. Perhaps most criminal in our minds is the screen tearing that is apparent. Sure, it may allow more detailed graphics but for a videophile like myself it becomes quite distracting. Still this is a solid game that certainly keeps you interested. Recommended.

Review By: Dave Warner

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GRAPHICSClose up detail is impressive but the screen tearing annoys.
SOUNDSome magnificent music and effects, speech becomes repetitive.
GAMEPLAYIt can be a little pedestrian and repetitive, but it's entertaining.
VALUEA fairly lengthy game with hidden items to find, but no reward for taking the time to do so. No multi-player either.
OVERALLAssassin's Creed is a brilliant game that lacks some polish, variety and bonuses to add longevity. Worth it? Yes. The masterpiece we hoped for? Not quite.

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