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Monday | January 25, 2021
Assassin’s Creed

Assassin’s Creed

Assassin’s Creed has been out for around six months now on the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 and has proven to be not just a big seller but a very good game. Finally it has made the leap to the PC platform and I am pleased to say it has been worth the wait.

The game environment is rich, beautiful and very alive, the attention to detail is simply wonderful to behold. As you explore this world you take control of Altair, a white robed, incredibly gifted assassin. It is your task to complete goals across gloriously rendered cities such as Jerusalem, Acre and Damascus. These cities are the heart and soul of Assassin’s Creed, each of them is vibrant and bustling with life. People mill the streets going about their everyday business, you get approached by beggars looking for money, drunks out to harass you and more dangerously you will have to deal with over eager soldiers. Wandering the cities is just as you imagine it would be in real life all those years ago, orators delivering political speeches while town guards bully the poor peasants for money and kicks. Every city has its own personality and identifiable stylised look, adding to the overall atmosphere of the game environment.

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The cities are huge and while certain parts are locked out earlier in the game, as you explore and progress, more and more sections become unlocked. The PC version has some beautifully rendered cityscapes with touches of bloom and HDR aiding the appearance of real world weather conditions. Everything meticulously casts a shadow and has an effect on any objects in their path, again just like you would see in real life.

The animations are first class, as Altair bounds effortlessly from building to building and enters into the fray of combat with the plethora of foes he has to fight on his way to the ultimate game ending goal. His movements are both fluid and a joy to watch and there are no noticeable glitches in the animations between various set pieces. The mass populace aren’t treated to the same level of animation quality, however with literally thousands of them roaming around it is only a minor quibble.

If you have a high end PC this game is utterly breathtaking to watch and puts the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 versions to shame, from texture quality to environmental detail. The downside however is, you need a very high specification to get the most from it at high resolution. Dual core is necessary and Quad core seems to give minor benefits. If you are lucky enough to have 8800 cards in SLI then 1920×1200 is possible with everything at a high level, otherwise be prepared to lower the resolution or detail levels. With a low end graphics card be prepared to lose most of the visual impact that Assassin’s Creed delivers.

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The control methodology is unfortunately not as seamless with mouse and keyboard as it was with a controller, however it is possible to use an Xbox 360 controller or gamepad so you can get the best of both worlds. If you remain with the generic PC control system the game becomes rather cumbersome, particularly in the heat of battle.

The audio is just as impressive with ambient sounds leaping from every speaker. The rush of wind, the creaking of wooden floors, people talking to each other and birds chirping are all perfectly delivered; the voice acting is also stellar. Make no mistake, this is clearly a high budget production. Cleverly, when important events or set pieces are unfolding, the ambient noise dips slightly, bringing your focus naturally to the crucial dialogue. Equally impressive is the musical score which is cinematic quality from start to end, memorable orchestral soundtracks add impact and emphasis to important scripted scenes. I have noticed that there have been mention of some audio issues around the net, however with my onboard Realtek I did not experience a single problem.

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The storyline is a little bizarre, however it is effective and quite original in execution; there are in fact two storylines unfolding at the same time. During the game a fellow called Desmond (Altair in a past life perhaps) is reliving Altair’s past glories via a series of enforced flashbacks from a mind machine called the Animus. We follow Altair’s life as he assassinates nine important public leaders, all at the command of his complex and rather dubious clan leader. I don’t want to ruin the story by delving into it much deeper in this review, but rest assured there will be quite a few surprises along the way. Much has been said of this storyline since the game met its debut on the console platforms around a year ago, with many saying it was convoluted and confusing, but I think it is a modern day masterpiece, especially if you spend time analysing the cut scenes and absorbing all the subplots and dialogue. Nothing is ever black and white, and quite frequently Altair is walking the fine line between right and wrong, making the game seem more true to life than many two dimensional plots we have forced upon us. The ending of Assassin’s Creed in particular is certainly leaving the door wide open for a follow up.

All of this authenticity is wrapped around a fun and entertaining game. You have a wide variety of exploration, spying, pick pocketing and assassination options throughout the game, and while I will agree that by the time you get to the end you will have tired slightly of a similar mission mechanic, overall it was a thoroughly enjoyable game. Discovering the whereabouts of assassination targets normally requires spying on a possible lead. Sometimes you will sit on a bench blending in with people around you while they talk, other times you will have to pickpocket someone carrying an important letter. Equally as fun, you can beat the living daylights out of the person to get the information you require, however doing so can alert nearby guards so you need to choose a secluded location.

The PC version also has some new tasks such as timed sprints and escorting a specific person to a particular location, I like the fact the developers went the extra mile to add something new to the PC version, however I would be lying if I said they were my favourite parts of the game. Just like before there are optional missions which aren’t key to progressing the game, you can rescue innocent people from the clutches of the evil town guards and in doing so, you get rewarded with a group of vigilantes who enter the area to aid you if you are being chased.

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This leads me into my least favourite part of the game, the combat. While it isn’t necessarily "bad", it focuses far too much on counter attacking. You can attack enemies with your hidden blade (one stab kills) or you can use daggers from roof tops to take out archers or other foes. Your sword however is the main weapon in your arsenal and while combat looks and sounds great, it becomes a little unfulfilling later in the game. No matter how many foes are on screen, only 2 or 3 will attack simultaneously and by simply counterattacking, you will gradually work your way down them. When I played the game on the Xbox 360 I had mastered the art of counterattacking (basically timing) so proficiently that I simply only had to counter attack every foe to walk through most of the combat sections (I once counted 56 dead on one of my little rampages and I only lost 2 health bars). This can be forgiven a little as the combat is so amazing to watch, with ducks, parries, overhead attacks and jumps adding to the grace and style already associated with the athletic Altair.

The game plays better however if you do so in the way it was intended, with stealth. There is a certain feeling of satisfaction in mingling with crowds and silently assassinating your target while everyone looks on in bemused fashion, unaware you did it. If you need to escape there are many ways to do so, Altair can scale almost any wall with ease, so you can make a break for it over the roofs, and when you are up there you can not only fight but you can throw the soldiers to their death with a well timed grab. You can then hide in bales of hay or curtain covered garden. When a certain amount of time passes (signified by a coloured meter) the guards give up the chase and move away. You can even hide in groups of scholars who can be found wandering at ground level while deep in thought.

All these touches bring so much life to the world of Altair, and the engine, if backed by suitable horsepower is marvellous to behold, there are literally thousands of independent processes happening at any one time.

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As I briefly mentioned, climbing buildings and jumping around rooftops is great fun however with the keyboard and mouse it can prove to be troublesome at times. With a gamepad, the face buttons are mapped to Altair’s head, hands and legs which is intuitive and second nature to operate, however with a keyboard you have a plethora of keys and movements to execute a similar procedure. It is also harder to time counterattacks using the mouse buttons and I strongly recommend the attachment of an Xbox 360 controller for fluid gameplay.

Assassin’s Creed on the PC is fantastic, but only if you have a modern day high powered gaming rig to get the most from it, especially if you wish to game at the highest resolutions with all the eye candy cranked.  If you are lucky enough to have a big monitor, either one or two Nvidia 8800/9800 graphics cards and a dual or quad core Intel processor then this is one of the rare system benchmarks you will be dying to showcase to your friends. Just don’t forget the Xbox 360 controller, for without one, the game just doesn’t play the same.

Absolutely brilliant and well worth the wait.
Finally a game to showcase your high end hardware.
Great attention to detail throughout with a top notch orchestral soundtrack.
25 hours of gameplay to beat it and I still hadn’t completed all the minor missions.
(Not an Average)

My favourite PC game so far this year. Highly Recommended.

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About Author

Stuart Davidson

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