September 12, 2007 // 11:10 pm
- Taking place 101 years after the foundation of the Assassins as described above, and inspired by actual historical events and characters, you assume the role of master Assassin Altair (الطائر, Arabic, "The Flying One"). "You are an elite Assassin sent to stop the hostiles by suppressing the powers on both the Crusader and Saracen sides.
But as you carry out your missions, a conspiracy begins to unfold. You find yourself tangled up in a conflict that threatens not only the Holy Land, but the entire world - Jerusalem - 1191AD." While the game begins in the sprawling city of Jerusalem, you will also travel to the equally detailed cities of Acre and Damascus during the game.
All of the environments in Assassin's Creed are fully interactive. You can climb and go anywhere you wish. If something sticks out from a wall as little as two inches, you can climb it. While you cannot venture indoors too much, the vastness and detail of the outdoor environments should keep most explorers quite satisfied.
Ubisoft has strived to make the gameplay in Assassin's Creed conform more to 'real world' rules as opposed to 'video game' rules. Your abilities are based on real human abilities (albeit, a human capable of jumping, climbing and moving like the world's best Olympic athletes). You can jump distances of 26 feet and jump vertically over 6 feet.
While a bit far-fetched for 'real human abilities', your exceptional agility will be necessary for navigating amongst the beams and rooftops of the cityscape (it should come as no surprise that the Ubi team from Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is the same team who has been working for the past four years on Assassin's Creed).
Each city in the game is heavily populated with NPCs, each modeled on one of over 200 generic character models. How you move amongst the crowd will have a direct influence on how these characters react to your presence. If you walk through the crowd slowly, brushing past people or perhaps using a hand to gently move someone aside as you pass, then there will be little reaction to your presence. You will be perceived by the NPCs as just another inhabitant of the city. You can use this to your advantage to 'hide' in plain sight in the streets of the cities.
If, on the other hand, you go charging through the crowd, weapons drawn, knocking people over or possibly even killing someone (which can become necessary sometimes as you attempt to flee the city guards), then the city's inhabitants may fear you or could even band together to revolt against you, forcing you to find a route of escape. Whether you choose to fight the guards or try to evade them is up to you.
Keep in mind, however, that there are quite a few guards in each city; and even if you kill all of the guards in the immediate vicinity, the rest of the guards in the city may still be on alert. You can get away with dispatching a few for fun or as part of your escape, but you are not invincible. The guards will measure their reactions based on other events and knowledge in the game - for instance, do they know yet that there is an assassin in the city? If they do, you'd better watch your step.
Control and movement in the game is very fluid. Virtually all of your movement in the game (running, jumping, climbing, vaulting, etc.) is controlled by the left thumbstick. However, this is augmented by different button presses corresponding to different body parts or actions. Arms (with or without weapons drawn), legs, etc.; and the character animations involved will correspond to how you approach each obstacle (jumping over something vs. using your arms to vault over it, for example). Then, of course, there is the move we've all see in the trailers: The Leap of Faith. When you are high among the rooftops, there will be certain spots where you can perform this move - indicated by pigeons flying overhead. Done correctly, you will land in a crate full of hay positioned below. Miss the crate and you're in for a world of hurt.
During combat, holding the right trigger will put you into defensive stance. When in this stance, you will automatically parry attacks from your opponents. The targeting system for attacks is very intuitive. Just tap the left trigger to lock onto a target. However, the system is dynamic and will automatically switch to a different target as soon as you are attacked by another enemy. The targeting system is active regardless of the weapon selected; be it your fists, your sword, your Assassin's blade, etc.
Each attack you perform or movement you make appears to look and feel more 'natural' than most other action games I've seen. This can be partly attributed to the vast number of animations in the game: over 10,000 in all. You also get to control Altair 100% of the time. You read that right. Even during the game's fully integrated cutscenes, you still have freedom of control and movement. Essentially, you are controlling Altair all of the time, from the beginning of the game to the very end.