Close your eyes, you're dead.
In the gaming world there are a couple of different game types that you will notice. There are games that have some of the most mediocre graphics of its time but deliver in every other category. Then there are the games that have gorgeous visuals but seem to fail in one or more of the other categories. Assassin's Creed resembles the likes of the latter. That doesn't mean that the game isn't worth playing, because it is.
The story isn't as mind blowing as Ubisoft probably hoped it would be – with all that cover up and such that they did for so long. Basically it's modern day, and a medical corporation that has found out how to recover your ancestor's memories through the use of your DNA has abducted you. All they need to do, and demand you do so, is to slap you on what is called an Animus. The Animus is what allows you to live out your ancestor's memories, and thus make the game possible. From there you take the role of Altair – an assassin that lived during the time of the Crusades (roughly the year 1191). From the start of the game you are stripped of your rank and weaponry after a mission goes awry, and you are forced to assassinate nine men to recover the respect of your peers, your rank, and of course your weapons. In between the odd killing you will be brought back to the present and control Desmond long enough to walk to a bed and sleep (everyone needs sleep, even the distant relative of assassins). However, you will spend the vast majority of your time in the shoes of Altair. You will go on a journey that gets repetitive quickly as you go collect information in the same ways (eavesdropping, interrogation, pick pocketing, informants) every time before getting permission from the local Assassin's Bureau to actually kill one of the nine. You can also save some citizens from the guards, and in return you will be aided in the form of thugs, which hold the guards at bay the next time you're running from them and are in the area. All of these things are made easier to find by getting to high points in the cities. See that eagle in the sky? Go climb that building that it's flying around and have a look around before you go on your information hunting – it makes life easy. Oh, and you also get to jump off said buildings into conveniently placed piles of hay (if you ask me, no amount of hay will stop your body after dropping nine stories but that's just me).
Since we are dealing with the times of the Crusades, you will be spending a lot of time in the Middle East. Specifically, you will be enjoying the sights that Damascus, Jerusalem, and Acre. Masyaf is also in there, but is basically your hub of operations – the location of the Assassin's Guild. In between each of the towns you will travel through what is called the Kingdom which is basically just the world outside of the towns with predefined paths that allow you to get from place to place without much confusion via horseback.
It is of course quite obvious from the get-go that Assassin's Creed is a great looking game. With the time period it's set in, the developers had some serious work ahead of them since the architecture of the period can get quite intricate. They did an awesome job though, and in the end, made one of the better-looking games of 2007. The buildings are spot on, the lighting is fantastic, and the character models are also very well done. You can, however, tell that this is an Ubisoft developed game when you take notice of the gestures of the NPCs. For some reason, a lot of games published by Ubisoft tend to take superfluous hand gestures to the next level. This is fine though as it only shows up in the NPCs that are least important – those who have any actual significance are a little more toned down and realistic in their movements. When you take in the art direction, the technical prowess and the two melded together, you have one truly magnificent looking game. The only hitch in the graphical department is the odd time you will see some harsh clipping. This usually only happens when fighting close to buildings and isn't noticeable otherwise.
Assassin's Creed is, for obvious reasons, heavily reliant on its combat and movement around the places you will be gracing your presence with, and for the most part they nailed it. The big selling point of the game from the time the first trailer was shown was the ability of Altair to be the ancient version of Spider Man, sans web slinging. This is the heart of the game, and is what makes it as fun as it can be. The controls are the perfect combination of interaction and autopilot for what feats you will be pulling off. For what it's worth, this portion of the game will never really get old. Running from the 5-0 of the 12th century has never been so thrilling.
Of course, when you do on occasion get stuck in a corner, or just feel like committing acts of guard genocide, being able to use a blade or two is a good idea. The combat system is well mapped to the controller and won't get you too confused when you're in the fray. In the beginning you don't have any special attacks to help you out but by the middle of the game you will have an arsenal of moves under your belt. The most useful of these is the counter attack. The problem is, it makes the game a tad too easy. If you have even the slightest bit of timing in you, wiping hordes of enemies from existence is a cakewalk. When you first see the achievement for winning 100 battles in a row your first reaction is probably going to be "Holy #@%$ !" but then when you get the counter attack ability you will randomly see the achievement pop up. Again, your response will probably be "Holy #@%$ !" Luckily though, the animations that come out of the special attacks are all brutal and completely awesome to watch over and over again. If you get bored seeing Altair chop a guy in the neck and then remove his sword by kneeing the person in the face… well you're obviously not hip or with it.
The downside other than the ease of combat is how Ubisoft set up the difficulty curve. You will blissfully walk through the entire game until you land yourself in the middle of the last two missions and ending sequences of the game. Normally you would figure a game would get progressively harder – this is not the case with Assassin's Creed. I can see it now, the meeting of the minds, and someone says, "You know, wouldn't it make life easier on us if we just threw in more drunks and beggars in the street…oh and make random guards God-like?" Nothing will cause an ulcer to grow faster than walking down a street and seeing a drunk or two walking towards you. It will cause such illness due to noticing them not pay attention to anybody…until they see you. Then their eyes almost explode as they start rambling on and move towards you. In a fit of uber-drunkness, they then push you violently for no reason. This wouldn't be so bad if it wasn't always right in the middle of a group of guards, which you inevitably hit and then have to wade through with your blade. Of course, the beggars only get in your way, which again – not so bad, but they are the only people you cannot brush off with the B button…
Speaking of those beggars, if it isn't the path blocking that annoys you, it will be their voices and repetitive dialogue. It would have been nice to see some diversity in the voice acting for the citizens of each town, but apparently everyone has one of three voices pitches due to what seems to either be inbreeding or a bad throat infection. When you have hundreds of NPCs around you, all spewing the same lines and in the same voice, it really nags at you and makes you wonder why they couldn't have mixed it up a bit more. Luckily, the important characters have great voice acting behind them, and lends to the story very well. Altair has a couple of weak moments where the voice acting is poor, but on the whole, it's done very well.
As for the rest of the audio department, well, it's average. The music won't get you very hyped or on edge during the times you would hope it to…say, like when you're about to take someone's life. The sound effects are pretty solid though, and do a great job of making you believe you did in fact just slice the back of that dudes knee.
In the end, Assassin's Creed is a slightly above average gameplay experience wrapped in a very pretty package. The monotony of the missions and side quests will be ever so slightly enhanced by the exploration experience and cool battle animations. Unfortunately, some annoyances toward the end that ultimately lead up to a disappointing conclusion might leave a slightly bitter taste in your mouth (In the end, it all comes down to seeming like an altered version of "The Da Vinci Code."). You will more than likely not play the game more than once through, and if you have the gumption to go and collect the plethora of flags that they have set before you for extended play, then you probably have more patience than most people. There doesn't seem to be much room for Xbox Live downloadable content expansion, and so you will probably have to patiently wait for Assassin's Creed 2 to get any more of your Creed on. Unless you will die without having an action/adventure game in your collection, the better choice would be to rent Assassin's Creed.