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Assassin's Creed review

Stabbing Crusaders in the neck is more fun than we ever expected

Each of the game's nine central missions breaks down in a similar way: when Altair enters the district where your target lives, his knowledge of the area will be a complete blank - the map is fogged over, and there are no visible objectives. To unfog your map and reveal points of interest, you'll need to seek out and scale an assortment of "View Points," dizzyingly tall structures that range from relatively small watchtowers and minarets to gigantic, realistically detailed castles, cathedrals and lighthouses. Climbing to the top of one reveals the locations of the others in the area, as well as opening up access to a couple of side missions. The best part is that, when you're finished climbing, you can get down quickly via a vertigo-inducing swan dive into a conveniently placed haystack (which will automatically break Altair's fall from any height, anywhere).

Key to getting up there in the first place is the game's free running feature, which takes a little getting used to but is incredibly fun once you do. Rather than worrying about jumping over obstacles manually, you can just hold down two buttons while running and you'll automatically parkour over anything in your way, whether it's a crate, a wall or a series of tightropes. It feels a little like cheating, until you realize that it enables you to effortlessly get around in a hurry, which is especially useful when a bunch of guards are hot on your tail and you don't want to deal with any complex jumping puzzles.

Each of the game's nine central missions breaks down in a similar way: when Altair enters the district where your target lives, his knowledge of the area will be a complete blank - the map is fogged over, and there are no visible objectives. To unfog your map and reveal points of interest, you'll need to seek out and scale an assortment of "View Points," dizzyingly tall structures that range from relatively small watchtowers and minarets to gigantic, realistically detailed castles, cathedrals and lighthouses. Climbing to the top of one reveals the locations of the others in the area, as well as opening up access to a couple of side missions. The best part is that, when you're finished climbing, you can get down quickly via a vertigo-inducing swan dive into a conveniently placed haystack (which will automatically break Altair's fall from any height, anywhere).

Key to getting up there in the first place is the game's free running feature, which takes a little getting used to but is incredibly fun once you do. Rather than worrying about jumping over obstacles manually, you can just hold down two buttons while running and you'll automatically parkour over anything in your way, whether it's a crate, a wall or a series of tightropes. It feels a little like cheating, until you realize that it enables you to effortlessly get around in a hurry, which is especially useful when a bunch of guards are hot on your tail and you don't want to deal with any complex jumping puzzles.

The side missions you discover by climbing view points, meanwhile, are what you need to pursue in between entering a district and actually killing your target, and they break down into a few simple tasks: eavesdropping on conversations; pickpocketing sensitive documents; interrogating some preaching demagogue by following them into an alley and beating them senseless; doing a favor for an informant (which always either involves stealth-killing soldiers or collecting flags in some inane rooftop race); or saving some citizen who's being pushed around by a small group of guards.

That last one is the most repetitive by far, as it always involves breaking up the fight and then getting into one yourself, although the rewards it offers - releasing a group of monks to hide among or vigilantes to waylay your pursuers - make it completely optional. In fact, unless you're a completist, most of the side missions can be ignored altogether; you'll only really need to accomplish two or three of them before you'll have enough intel to go after your intended victim.

The side missions you discover by climbing view points, meanwhile, are what you need to pursue in between entering a district and actually killing your target, and they break down into a few simple tasks: eavesdropping on conversations; pickpocketing sensitive documents; interrogating some preaching demagogue by following them into an alley and beating them senseless; doing a favor for an informant (which always either involves stealth-killing soldiers or collecting flags in some inane rooftop race); or saving some citizen who's being pushed around by a small group of guards.

That last one is the most repetitive by far, as it always involves breaking up the fight and then getting into one yourself, although the rewards it offers - releasing a group of monks to hide among or vigilantes to waylay your pursuers - make it completely optional. In fact, unless you're a completist, most of the side missions can be ignored altogether; you'll only really need to accomplish two or three of them before you'll have enough intel to go after your intended victim.

More Info

GenreAction
DescriptionUbisoft Montreal's formerly secret project seems to mix elements of Splinter Cell and Prince of Persia.
Franchise nameAssassin's Creed
PlatformPC, PS3, Xbox 360
US censor ratingMature
Release date8 April 2008 (US), 1 January 1970 (UK)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

After graduating from college in 2000 with a BA in journalism, I worked for five years as a copy editor, page designer and videogame-review columnist at a couple of mid-sized newspapers you've never heard of. My column eventually got me a freelancing gig with GMR magazine, which folded a few months later. I was hired on full-time by GamesRadar in late 2005, and have since been paid actual money to write silly articles about lovable blobs.
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