Assassin's Creed, this one has been a while coming, both in game development and the review itself. I wanted to see what all the fuss was about so I set myself the challenge of beating it, so Gabe @ Penny Arcade, if you're reading this (you're a Legend) I have the 'Visions of the Future' achievement on my console. I happen to agree with Gabe's point of view on the subject but here's my own review garnered by actually playing/completing the game. And yes, I did find a lot of the sub-missions repetitious; it didn't bother me all that much since I remember similar from the likes of GTA and Saint's Row.Story
You begin the game as Desmond Myles, someone who has the blood of Altair flowing in his veins, you've been kidnapped by a corporation and introduced into their project Animus, a machine that can bring to life ancestral memories and re-create them in a near-perfect virtual world simulation. You very quickly find out that your ancestor Altair, the assassin of the Third Crusade is an arrogant sod that falls from grace and is quickly stripped of all rank and skill. It's worth mentioning that the mix of sci-fi and medieval gameplay is an odd one at first, I found it somewhat jarring to begin with but soon settled into the story.Gameplay
The first memory block/part of the game you encounter you'll be at full strength, the cocky Altair will all his skills and abilities. You'll be given a tutorial level in Solomon's temple where you're going to learn about free running (parkour) and how to perform hidden-blade (stealth) kills. You'll move on to the assassin's fortress and village and notice that Assassin's Creed does a very good job bringing to life the Third Crusade in both the look and the design.
It creates some wonderfully detailed vistas and the first starting area is quite massive, the fortress is suitable imposing and there are numerous things to do before you get to take off the training wheels and get out into the game proper. I'll also mention here that you'll be able to collect 20 or so flags scattered all about the place, these seem to be a staple of free roaming games like this, see Spiderman and so on.
You're introduced to the staple elements of the game from Solomon's temple and the fortress, after learning to free run and leap around like mad you'll be taught the basics of combat as the place comes under attack, it's up to Altair to defend it and help the good people survive. You have access to:
Short blade: good for attacking and defending against multiple opponents, this swift weapon has a decent balance of speed and attack power.
Throwing knives: on the same direction as the short blade these are one-hit-one kill weapons (except against bosses) that can be useful when you're in a fight and need to thin out some enemies that are out of blade range.
Sword: slower than the short blade this weapon has more power however; it can break enemies' defences easier and is a good way to counter heavier armoured foes.
Hidden blade: it can be employed in a fight but best used for sneak-kills and showing off by knocking an enemy to the ground and quickly dispatching him using it.
Fists: are you mad, who puts up their fists in a sword fight, put that blade back on now. Useful only against thugs and unarmed opponents, or you'll be minced in no time.
Grab: not really a weapon but a useful tactic if you can nab an enemy and throw him towards a wall, or his friends.
Each hit depletes Desmond's link (DNA bar) with Altair and by remaining hidden or defending in combat, health comes back. The DNA bar is also increased every time you complete a series of missions or a specific task, like saving a citizen or climbing a View Point. Lose the entire DNA bar and you're completely de-synched with Altair and must start again from a checkpoint.
Yes, the game uses checkpoints, so it's not save anywhere.
Later on you'll learn about counter-kills, dodges and grab breaks.
As you move through the area, you're not confined to just pegging it across the ground, you can gain an advantage and look good as you parkour across from roof to roof, if you see a cluster of birds that marks the Leap of Faith, a useful move where Altair can hurl himself blindly off a high point and into a safe landing spot (bale of hay or cart full of hay) to hide from the guards, or just quickly get down from a View Point.
You can also do it for fun, it looks pretty cool and you can do it whilst running from roof to roof.
Eventually you repel the enemy attack and you're given a stern lecture (not to mention a severe punishment) for your behaviour at Solomon's temple. Finally after some lengthy exposition you'll be let out into the world proper and this is where the game becomes more interesting.