Free Running Through the Holy Land
Assasin's Creed is a game with a great story, great locations, a good set of gameplay mechanincs and but a few minor annoyances.
The game features two inter-linked story arcs: one set in the near future, and another nearly a thousand years a go. The main story (from an overall plot perspective, not the story most heavily featured) has your character Desmond captured by a scientific research organisation. There intentions are to use a device call 'the animus' to access your genetic memories (memories passed on from generation to generation through the gentic code) in order to find something. Entering in to these memories grants you control of Altaïr, an extremely agile 12th century assasin who caught in the holy land in the middle of the crusades. The majority of the game is then spent assasinating various targets for your master, Al Mualim, and learning of the connection that these men hold, bringing you closer to that which your modern day captors seek.
For the most part, your main interaction comes from receieving targets from Al Mualim, leader of the Assasins Creed, and heading out to the city where they can be found. It is then your job to move about the city in order to gain an understanding of the surroundings and aquire information that will help you locate and kill your target. You do this by scalling tall towers, or 'view points', to spot where you can find information and then do a vaiety of tasks to get this information. These tasks include: eavsdropping on certain conversation, pick pocketing people for relevant maps and letters and helping other memers of the Creed in exchange for details they have already aquired. These tasks can prove to be fun, with individual dialogue accompanying each one - but the limited number of task types can feel repetitive towards the end of the game.
Once you have learnt enough to locate the target your attentions then turn to the assasination. The target's location is added to your map, and can usually be found at some sort of public event. You watch a small in game scene, which helps flesh out your targets, before you can move in and kill them. Sometimes this will be a case of sneaking behind them to steathily take them down, and other times you will be spotted and have to chase the target down while the city guard attempt to stop you. After the assination you must escape to the local Assasins Bereau with the entire city on high alert, resulting in any time you are spotted you will be chased. Any time in the game that you are being chased you have to either fight and kill all of your pursuers or break their line of sight and then hide in a mound of hay, a roof garden or blend in with a group of scolars until the coast is clear.
You repeat this formula for a number of targets, each one cryptically revealing more of the underlying plot. While the method is similar, each assasination has a unique situation and context to keep you interested on top of the ever developing story.
The fighting in the game does a good job of enabling you to fend of multiple attackers, whose number genrally increases over the course of the game. Your main weapon here is your sword, while your hidden dagger, fists and to a lesser extenet your throwing knives/short sword are more suited to other situations. You can attack and block, and as you proceed though the game you learn to, amongst other thins, counter enemy attacks. The fighting is good, but later in the game I did feel that the game could allow you to be a little more aggressive, as you tend to rely mainly on counters to win battles. The free running is excellent, feeling smooth and fun to do. Climbing is well animated and manages to feel organic thanks to excellent level design, with movement only available is there is a ledge, crack or outcrop for Altaïr to grab on to. Sometimes, however, you may find that you cannot get Altaïr to move in the direction you want, despite having a route to move on, occasionally resulting in him leaping to his death instead of hopping across to the next hand hold.
As mentioned at the start the scenery is breathtaking and each city is populated with thousands of citizens - creating an effective city atmosphere. There are three main huge cities to explore, with a large open 'world map' type area to cross on horseback to reach your destination. A nice feature is that later on you can skip the travelling between cities to help keep the story moving. The sound design is also strong with good set of voice acting, both in Desmond and Altaïr's world, and a suitable accompanying soundtrack which varies with location and level of tension/action.
While some parts of this game may feel a bit repetitve, the visual design, the excellent game engine and a good, if not confusing, story to tie it together, more than make up for this. Even if the objectives get tiring, you can always run and leap across the rooftops or dive huge distances into a cart of hay because it is simply fun to do and watch. My only critisim of the game is that for all that it does well, it leaves you wishing that some of the repition and other small annoyances had been dealt with to make a great game even better.