Silent but Deadly... and other fart jokes.
I remember last fall, the colors on the trees, everybody going ape-shit over this Halo 3 game that looked only a little better than Halo 2 did but had 4-player co-op which was the appeal of the original even though Perfect Dark on the N64 had a two player co-op but only with the RAM expansion which was included in Donkey Kong 64 but more necessary for a game made by this company Factor Five that had to do with Star Wars and I remembered the commercials for this game that I'm writing the review for and how awesome it looked. It was like you got to control a ninja, because let's face it, the Tenchu games don't really give you that feeling nor has Ninja Gaiden ever presented a realistic depiction of one. So you get to control this ninja, except he's wearing all white and in the Middle East and he invented parkour and that impression from the adverts got me interested in the game which if you haven't played or heard the plot then stop reading now.
Giddy like a school girl, I bought the game the day it came out and popped it in the 360. Right away, these cool little bleeps of molecule structures appear with the title so you know something's up. Oh, and the intro video is pretty bad-ass. The game makes a good first impression.
After some initial play and tutorials to introduce you to the expressive mechanic system (low action and high action), you find out that the white Ninja is called Altair and he's a talented sneaky death dealer that knows his bad-assness like a hot girl who knows she's hot and his gang (the Assassin's Guild) is fighting this other gang (the Knights Templar) for control of a space artifact that warps people's minds to the user of said space artifact. And then you learn that you're just some little bitch named Desmond and you're in this machine called the Animus (a byzantine Christian reference) and that Altair is your ancestor and you are reliving his memories because they are locked in your DNA and that the A-cap at the end of a single DNA strand is tangentally related to the aging and breakdown of eukaryotic cells and the Animus makes this happen. Science help us! and that run-on sentence. After you wrap your head around that bit of awful sci-fi and the mind dump that is Desmond (I'm just a bartender), who didn't inherit a single awesome thing from his ancestor, you meet the evil scientist and his hot and caring assistant and they either throw you in your room or stick you in the Animus.
And here is where the new set of video game cliches kick in. Having violated the Creed (Assassin's not Apollo), you lose all your super awesome abilities and are now just kind of awesome, which happened in God of War 2, Devil May Cries and countless other games. Oh, and that life bar is your synch bar, how in-sync you are with your DNA memories. But, you do have the coolest switch-blade ever. Ever.
The free-running is a lot of fun and the jumping off of buildings into the conveniently placed hay in the three major cities looks good. The cinematic deaths are well done as well and the entire game looks really good. So why the low score?
The game moves really slowly. You are moving at a snail's pace most of the time through your nine main missions because if you just walk the wrong way, guards are going to chase you. And you want to run away since the Prince of Persia style combat does not suit this game what-so-ever. You stand and block for two minutes and hope to counter kill or parry kill so you don't keep hacking at the same guard and sometimes these don't trigger and god the combat is mediocre for a Middle-East white ninja assassin. So you walk around looking like you're praying and praying that you could just go a little faster.
And then the mini-missions. These get progressively worse. There's the collect all the flags in such and such time where in the last set there's 50 flags and two minutes or some bullshit. There's the eavesdropping and beating up where they throw the crazy drunks around to make it harder. I really liked the assassin mini- missions but then the timers appeared, the lamest way ever to increase difficulty. And this is the meat of the game. The mini-missions are the same from hit to hit and don't feel more difficult, only cheaper and uninspired. Oh yeah, the white ninja parkour guy can't swim. Lame.
The actual assassinations are really fun with variety and originality and if you didn't have to go through the terrible mini-missions to get to them they would be even more enjoyable. I guess Ubisoft was going for the Hot Girl with Ugly Friend approach to where the ugly friend serves to make the hot girl look hotter. The mental Hospital one was my favorite. But after you kill one of these guys, who are usually surrounded by guards, they talk to you for 5 minutes, while you're still surrounded by guards. Must be some cultural thing back then over there, where the person who killed another gets 5 minutes to hear the person's last words about how they're making the world better. And then you're zapped back to the guild while you listen to the guild-master talk and you're allowed to walk around while waiting that out, which is pointless and just seems like a missed detail.
Just to go over the mandatory things. Graphics are great even if the cities have parts that look repetitive and the cinematic deaths are almost worth giving this thing a 3 for. Gameplay is good in theory, poor in execution with pacing issues do to the stealth system, but the parkour is well done with a few problems of path determination. The beggars are so f***ing annoying, just like real-life bums, and all the beggars say the same thing and they don't go away, which I guess simulates the real world pretty well. So if you want the harassment experience of a bum but in a video game, Ass Ass got you covered. The music is okay with a decent arc to match gameplay, even though I turned it down in the audio because the sound effects were pretty sweet, especially the ones for the switchblade wrist blade. The voice acting is decent if stereotyped for each character that matters and Altair could sound more hard and bad-ass than he does. Achievements include: jump off all the towers with the eagles, kill all the Templars, find all the flags for each set of maps, and various combat ones you'll receive anyways. Finding these flags, waste of time, not enough points.
So, be prepared to have fun for about four hours or so with this game, and then you just have to struggle the rest of the way to the weird ending which is completely sci-fi and doesn't mesh well with the Holy Land setting. It could be worse. The gameplay could suck as bad as Mass Effect's does. That gameplay is diarrhea compared to the silent-but-deadlies this game exudes. But if you like climbing things and jumping off of stuff and the most realistic bum simulation seen yet in video games, Ass Ass is for you.