First impressions of Assassin's CreedStewart Burns was one of the lucky HEXUS readers to attend the behind closed doors Ubisoft events in London yesterday, where he had the chance to play the final version of the action adventure Assassin's Creed prior to release.
Stewart has been kind enough to write up his impressions of the day and his opinion of one of this month's hottest releases:
HEXUS were kind enough to allow me and a friend to visit the recent Assassin’s Creed event, at the Crypt, just off Holborn Circus in London yesterday. The Crypt is a fitting location for the event given the religious significance of the games narrative, the Crypt is in a church.
We were uncomfortably early and arrived while they were prepping the rigs for the event; we introduced ourselves and were asked to return in ten minutes. After what was a vicious KFC sandwich we returned, at which point they told everyone there was a problem with the power i.e. they had none. But very soon we were let in, offered drinks and sat before the main rig at the back of the room for a quick presentation.
The room was candle lit and draped in white linen. In it were two rows of tables, each table consisting of at least two rigs, each rig containing a nice HD TV, Xbox 360, some headphones and a recent build of the title.
The presentation was a short introduction to the basic mechanics of the game, free running, the fight system, social stealth etc. The game is very much a new take on the stealth action genre and because of that you can’t really have any past precedent for reference, with the exception of the camera which is as bad as all the 3D cameras found in such games, no changes there. The introduction along with the showing of the launch trailer (known as the Cello trailer to some) and a new TV advert were shown, and quickly followed by an opportunity to question the Ubisoft staff (the stunning Ms Raymond was absent unfortunately). We were forewarned against asking questions about the futuristic twist, I did ask if the Lucy character (played by upcoming Hollywood actress Kristen Bell) would be in the section we were going to play, they declined to comment.
Then everyone went to a rig and started playing, we all started around a third of the way through, having just ‘synchronized’ with the gripe ability (I would assume this location was chosen because the gripe function is vital to the freerunning experience). We were then given close to five hours to play uninterrupted, with the exception of the delightful waiting staff with seemingly endless supply of hors d’oeuvres (no mini sausages and sticks here) and alcohol.
The Ubisoft and Microsoft staff mostly lingered waiting for things to break, although they also gave pointers to players and asked our general opinions of the game, and even conducted some interviews with certain guests.
Upon leaving we were all thanked and given some very nice free gifts, they were two t-shirts, an assassin’s creed one, and a bunnies creed one (the DS game apparently, I haven’t been keeping up with that title myself), a cool pen which has a laser pen top that shows the Assassin’s Creed logo. They were also gracious enough to allow me to take one of the big artwork boxes, there were some big life size cardboard cut outs also but I was returning on the tube so that was a no go.
THE IMPORTANT PART, THE GAME.
Assassin’s Creed is truly an amazing achievement for Ubisoft, the free running is the most impressive game mechanic I have ever seen, and it is implemented flawlessly, to the point where you can play it perfectly in just a few short minutes. They have worked at the game so it’s to the point where there is almost no learning curve, even if you enter the game some time in, such as I did. The controls are very intuitive and within hour most people will be playing minus HUD (all the elements of the HUD can be displayed or not, independently).
Some people had recently been speaking about the invisible walls, they aren’t invisible, they are very visible, they are huge blue things that stretch to the sky and they are to do with the futuristic twist, and speaking of which it might be a good time to mention the ‘load screen’, Ubisoft have gone a different root, it’s not a loading screen, they have a loading room, a room made up of those same blue walls that limit you to areas within the game before you should be there. In the blue room stands the games star, Altair along with a computerized voice (I’ll stick my neck out and say Kristen Bell’s character with the aid of a vocoder), you can move in the load room as you do anywhere else, however there is no where to go. You know a company is on to something when a load screen is as interesting as the real game.
For those who don’t know in Assassin’s Creed, you have to visit three large cities, find the assassin’s hideout, visit large view points, conduct several side missions then assassinate a specific target, of which there are nine. Unfortunately two hours into my play through the game crashed when entering the ‘Lucy Room’ as I’ve taken to calling it. So I had to do everything twice, although it wasn’t a problem, I actually enjoyed it equally even though I’d just done it all. The side missions I took part in were enjoyable, they included saving citizens (for which they are grateful and their big friends will return the favor when you are in a fight and they are close by), pick pocketing and even a mission to collect some flags in a certain time, kind of reminiscent of trying to get in the secret basement in Lara Croft mansion. All very enjoyable, and all a nice distraction from the main mission, which I won’t spoil for readers.
The free running is the biggie I assume, and I should talk about it. It is amazing; it’s very simple and very fun. Anyone who was forced to watch Mary Poppins as a child will have dreamed of throwing themselves across room tops watching at the mere mortals below having to walk everywhere. Well in AC you can, yeah Altair is a real sixties Dick Van Dyke and he can move as freely as we had hoped. The free running is addictive, it’s not really the best way of getting around as it’s a hindrance to your social stealth and is only really intended for a quick escape when your cover is blown, however it just looks so cool that you’ll do it and just hide out in a stack of hay later, it’s worth it.
The game isn’t quite the open sandbox developers had lead people to believe. It’s true you can ride from city to city, but the distance between them is very small, you can ride from Acre to Jerusalem in a little over a minute, and you have to go the Lucy Room every time you enter any of the four major sections (the four being the three cities and the connecting ‘Kingdom’). However it feels nice, it’s not daunting like GTA: SA, it’s comfortable.
The futuristic elements are not what I expected, they are in your face and they are frequent bordering on constant, for the people who were down on the futuristic element and hoping it could be ignored; you are bang out of luck. But over all it is an excellent game and the best I have played for a long time. A strong contender for GOTY, (yeah BioShock, you should be worried). A closer, go and buy it next week, it’ll blow your tits off.
Written by Stewart Burns.Thanks!