Repetitive but Innovative, Visceral, and Highly Entertaining
Assassin's Creed is a beautiful game. Sure it's somewhat repetitive but almost all open world games are. Sure it's somewhat derivative, sure the writing isn't particularly interesting and the plot predictable. But the gameplay is just so damn fun and visceral that it's hard to care.
Speaking of derivation, it will only take a couple of leaps off ledges or a couple of climbs up a building for anyone to realize that the basic mechanics of the game is very similar to a previous Ubisoft franchise: the Prince of Persia series. Fortunately, however some of the more frustrating controls of the PoP games have been alleviated here and Altair seems to glide across the rooftops with no effort at all, allow for almost consistently fluid gameplay from start to finish. In fact, half the fun of Assassin's Creed is merely jumping and scaling your way from one tall building to the next, which is surprising when you consider the purpose of the game is to find and assassinate nine high-profile targets .
In fact, it's a shame that the actual events related to the assassination or the main plot itself aren't nearly as interesting as going out and exploring on your own. The various tasks you undertake (many of which are optional but will help improve your "synchronization") are quite repetitive. It's not to say they aren't worth doing but they simply feel uninspired, and often feel only necessarily for the completionist. In addition, none of the cutscenes (which you cannot skip btw) are particularly interesting, but they are somewhat long and tedious. Similarly the combat mechanics are simple, and after you learn counter attacks that's pretty much all you need to do to survive fights with guards or soldiers.
As for the stealth elements, well they aren't particularly well implemented. Guards sometimes react far too quickly and seem far too attentive. For instance, climbing buildings will arouse suspicions but most of the time not cause guards to come after you. However, bump into them the slightest and more often than not they'll immediate come running. It also seems to easy to sometimes sneak up on un-alert guards who seem to very narrow vision but yet will easily detect you in other places. This can make the game easier on some occasions but frustrating on others.
Taking the previous paragraph you would think Assassin's Creed is a bad game. But this is far from the case. As Ubisoft themselves touted, Assassin's Creed is an "open world" game. And in that sense, Assassin's Creed excels quite well. Whether it's galloping around the kingdom on your horse or scaling across the rooftops, or silently stabbing random guards in the back
on your whim with your concealed blade, the "open world" aspect of Assassin's Creed is what makes the game so fun and addictive.
As for the crowds, well they are certainly more reactive in this game than any other games of its kind, though this might not be saying much. In most games of this type, the crowds just kind of stand around and you can just run up to them and get no reaction at all. Not the case in Assassin's Creed. If you're running too fast in a crowded area, you'll end up running into pedestrians who will not only react angrily to your intrusion but also block your way and cause you to lose your balance. This can be a major hassle when you're trying to escape pursuing guards. Thugs will engage you in fist fights if you get in their way, beggars will throw rocks at you if you attempt to climb a building in their line of sight. Crazy mad men will attack you for no apparent reasons. While these actions aren't by themselves necessarily impressive, it's at least a forward thinking approach to crowd AI that few games have ever taken into consideration. While Assassin's Creed doesn't revolutionize crowd AI it certainly is taking it in a promising direction.
It doesn't hurt either that Assassin's looks beautiful. Okay so admittedly, the art design is reminiscent of games such as Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time and its sequels. However, the fantastic dynamic lighting effects, excellent use of motion blur, and the impressive view distances really create an incredible and immersive atmosphere. The sheer detail of the cityscapes will lead you to spend hours just gazing from viewpoints high above and marveling at the bustling cities below. The only other game on the 360 this year that immersed me in its world so well was Bioshock. Not only that but it ran smoothly and fluidly with very little issue. There was one time when the framerate starting boggling down for no apparent reason but otherwise I literally played this game for hours on end without any issue at all (which unfortunately is often not the case for some 360 games)
My own personal distaste for collecting hidden items aside, Assassin's Creed is very fun, very immersive game that isn't very original and somewhat repetitive but definitely very innovative and very addictive. With its good looks, solid open world gameplay, and forward thinking crowd interactions, Assassin's Creed is definitely worthy of your time and effort.