The big fat kill
You have to make your way to a predetermined location, taking out guards on the route or just roof-running like mad until you get there. You're often treated to a short cut-scene (fully interactive, where you can walk around, change the angle and perspective when a strange graphical effect glitch appears on screen) that explains more of the story. Once that's over you're given the freedom to scope out the area some more, find a way in past the guards or just blast in and take down everyone with some seriously quick swordplay.
I preferred to try and be as stealthy as possible, used knives to take out rooftop guards and make my way to the target quickly but quietly. I was able to often take them down via hidden blade before anyone could do anything and once I even slipped away without having to battle a whole retinue of guards.
When you kill your main target, you'll get a death scene where they advance more of the story and you can change the angle of this cut-scene using the buttons when a glitch shows up.Phase 3: Running away
Should the worst happen and you're discovered after you kill your target, sometimes this is unavoidable and I'd have preferred to have the chance to sneak away myself. You're going to have to escape though and you can use a variety of methods to accomplish this, without resorting to combat. Altair is a nimble bugger and you should make sure you've done a lot of parkour to get used to the system; it's the best way to get the guards out of your hair.
You'll need to use high profile moves, sprinting for definite and you'll also want to tackle enemies or civilians to create chaos. Dive through market stalls and pick alternate routes over small beams, anything that allows you to break your pursuer's line of sight. I found that getting off the streets once I'd got some breathing space made for an excellent tactic, at one point I was able to round a corner and sit on a bench to fade away as my errant pursuers ran straight past me. Other times I wasn't so lucky and I made it to the rooftops, hid in a rooftop garden. At one point I was able to run across six separate buildings at breakneck speeds with a hoard of guards following me.
I reached the edge of the roof where I saw some birds, went into sprint mode and watched Altair execute a Leap of Faith fluidly from one movement to the next. That was fun!
If escape isn't for you, then there's always:Combat
If you're cornered or you're just in the mood to leave a trail of bodies to upset the local guards, it's time to fight. Battles in Assassin's Creed can be huge affairs of many quick strokes against a large armed force of guards, or a quick exchange of blows as you break and run for a new area. Left Trigger allows you to lock onto an enemy and strafe around them, whilst RT puts Altair into a defensive stance.
If you are in normal stance you can execute combo attacks, step attacks and grabs. The combo attacks are a matter of timing and vary based on pressure; they can mean the difference between being diced by numerous guards or Altair getting away without a single block of DNA damage. The enemy AI is more aggressive and it will send men at you more than one at a time, looking for weak spots and getting multiple hits in.
You can freely switch between your weapons as you fight, using the hidden blade on downed foes if you're quick enough. The AI reacts to threats and the more you dispatch their men and leaders, the worse their morale becomes until they break and run.
If you're in defensive mode, you can execute grab breaks, counter attacks and dodges. The counter attacks are your best tool against a large number of foes and the timing is critical in that respect, it's not about button bashing. These are normally one hit kills against the weaker guards, but against guard leaders they become a knock-down or stun move.
There are numerous counter kills based on your two weapons and they're context sensitive.
I found the combat system easy enough but it has depth to become quite tactical if you take the time to master the various moves.
Once you've escaped the guards and gotten back to the HQ, you are debriefed by the guy and usually sent back to the Assassin's fortress. Here you'll gain more insight into the story, new equipment and perhaps a new move. You'll also gain more DNA.
Rinse repeat is the order of the day from then on; this is where the game falls into repetition. The story assassinations are all different but the side-missions are painfully similar and there are 3 sectors to each city and 3 cities…and that means 9 areas where you have to rinse/repeat the same old same old.