Good, but with plenty of problems.
Assassin's Creed is a great game that due to a few small technical problems is held back from being the ambitious experience it wants to be.
It looks amazing visually. The animations for the main character are very intricate and detailed, and this detail is consistent with every other person you come across throughout the game. Outside of the animation, the ancient Middle East atmosphere that the game is set in is extremely immersive. The first moment that you gaze off into the distance from the top of the tallest tower in Jerusalem, you will see how amazing the city recreations are.
But for every awesome moment there is always something equally as annoying or frustrating waiting just around the corner, sometimes literally.
The story in concept is very intriguing. Full of mysteries and conspiracies about the world, it will definitely keep you wondering what happens next. But these sequences only make up about twenty percent of the game. The rest of it is...well, I guess a little bit of explanation is necessary first. You play as Desmond, a bartender who is being held prisoner by the Abstergo Corporation while they test a machine called an Animus on him. Without going into spoilerific detail, the Animus is basically a big TV screen screen on which you play your ancestor's memories. There is no gameplay outside the Animus, aside from slowly walking around and talking to the doctors who work the machine. Even though this is all you can do, the storytelling here is the best in the game, and its only about twenty percent of it. Once you lay your buzzcut, hoodie-wearing head down on the Animus, you play a completely different game. One that isn't remotely as compelling.
Inside the Animus is where you actually play the game. You become an ancestor to Desmond, named Altair. Altair is a member of the Brotherhood of Assassin's, or, at least that's what I think it's called. The story in this main portion of the game is a mixture of boring ancient speaking styles, long hard-to-pronounce names, and plot changes that seem to have already been discussed before you realize that they even happened. But where the story falls short is made up for by the actual assassinations that you carry out, you are an assassin after all.
The assassinations are undoubtedly the best part of the gameplay. The feeling of anticipation as you climb the walls and roofs to your target's hiding spot, or hide in the nearby crowd as they move closer to you is something that isn't done very often, and definitely not with this much original style. Unfortunately, you only do about nine of these throughout a 10 to 15 hour game. The rest of the time is spent walking around the three main cities gathering information about the target. Only a few of these reconnaissance activities actually have to be done in order to go ahead with the assassination, but to know everything you can, you have to do all six of them. It's not so bad, until you realize that there are only five types in the entire game. This amount of repetition tends to ruin the overall pace of the game, making it a struggle sometimes to want to advance the already weak story.
The game's strength's lie in the way that Altair moves about the city. His range of movement coupled with the level of detail in the animation makes the simple act of climbing and even walking fun. One of the original ideas introduced in Assassin's Creed is the Altair's ability to use parkour to quickly get from one end of the city to the other. It is extremely simple to control, but sometimes a little too simple, to the point where it can cause more problems than solve them. To use this ability, you simply hold one button while you run, and point in the direction that you want to go. Pretty simple right? But apparently Altair doesn't have any common sense when it comes to knowing how to stop. Not pulling back on the speed in enough time, and we're talking a window of less than a second here, will cause him to reach the end of a ledge or rooftop and just jump to his death. This can be especially frustrating in a late game section where you are required to jump across a couple of small perches over water, and you can't swim. Climbing uses the same easy hold-and-point mechanic as parkour does. It feels a little better here though, since the speed in which Altair climbs is much slower and methodical. Occasionally, being a few millimeters off on the the analog stick when you are ascending a wall will cause you to stop and be stuck there as you fumble with the controller trying to finding the right direction, even though the handhold you are trying to get to is right next to Altair. This can be a little troublesome when you are trying to escape from guards, since they will throw rocks at you that immediately knock you back to the ground if hit. Overall though, these are small issues that aren't gamebreaking in the least.
Even with its few flaws, Assassin's Creed has such a unique concept and gameplay style that they make up for much of the story and movement problems that sometimes keep the game from flowing well. While Altair's story was pretty lackluster, Desmond's excellent one opens up much more by the end and it becomes clear that the developers have great plans for the inevitable sequel. If there is anything that can be taken from Assassin's Creed, it is excitement for what Ubisoft will do with this franchise in the future, both in gameplay and in story. But until then, this is a great starting point.