Assassin's Creed Preview
Ubisoft has a ton of high-quality titles to their name, especially in the last few years. The good news? It doesn't look like they'll be slowing down any time soon, especially if Assassin's Creed proves to be as good as it looks. Featuring an impressive level of freedom of movement, stunning visuals, incredible lifelike animations, top-notch AI, and a borderline impossible level of detail, the game is guaranteed to turn some heads.
Previewed at E3 with more details and info emerging over the past few months, Ubisoft's highly anticipated next-gen title's fluid animation is very reminiscent of the company's Prince of Persia franchise. The medieval setting and open-ended gameplay may spark comparisons to Grand Theft Auto and Oblivion's massive environments, and Creed's gigantic, lifelike cities remind us all of Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter. But we should also recognize the use of stealth and ingenuity by the game's main hero, which is similar to something like Thief or Splinter Cell.
It takes place during the Third Crusade under Richard the Lionheart some time in the late 12th century, and the assassin's creed is, "nothing is true, everything is permitted." Given this theme, the gameplay should be awfully appealing. You play as Altair, an assassin by trade and armed with a lethal wrist blade, an unconcealed sword, and a quiver of arrows on his back. He's a skilled fighter and horseman, and can slice his way out of any nasty situation by utilizing deadly, fluid attacks and counterattacks. However, even the best can't handle an entire guard sqaud, so it may pay to keep a low profile in Assassin's Creed.
You may find yourself attempting to accomplish objectives amidst the teeming throngs of civilians in large cities and towns, and this leads to one of the more innovative aspects of the game. Up until now, developers haven't really been able to recreate exactly what it'd be like to work your way through a throng of people. Now, Ubisoft seems to be presenting us with the first truly realistic city-street environment. When Altair moves through the crowd, he'll gently use his hands to make his way, much like anyone might do on a overly-populated section of a New York City sidewalk. However, you can also draw attention to yourself by shoving people out of the way, so freedom of action is a big selling point.
And even better, the reactions you might receive are awesome. The populace will react to aggressive actions by visibly frowning or raising their eyebrows, and when Altair goes to attack a civilian, true-to-life panic will ensue. "Altair," by the way, is Arabic for "flying eagle," and the creative director even confirmed that the eagle was the inspiration behind the lead character. All of the hero's animations are inexplicably done by hand, and this guy has an answer for any given situation. He may slip when moving too quickly, but the maneuvers he has at his disposal is second-to-none.
There will be three cities in Assassin's Creed, and these fully realized environments will represent a veritable playground for Altair. The designers insist that the character will be able to latch on to anything that sticks out from the wall more than two inches, which means he can scale and scramble like a madman. And if you check out the visuals in those screenshots we've provided, you can see just how detailed those cities should be, and just how many options Altair will have.
All this being said, we have to remember that, despite all the comparisons to other games, this one doesn't limit you to any one particular pattern. If you want to fight your way to the final conclusion, feel free. If you want to go stealth, have fun. And in addition to the main adventure, you'll have plenty of side-quests to undertake, alliances to create and maintain, secrets to uncover, and a ridiculous amount of exploration. Overall, Assassin's Creed should be amazingly pretty, meticulously detailed, and an absolute blast to play...at least, we hope it will. As is, we can easily say it's got an insane amount of potential.
10/12/2006 Ben Dutka