Assasin's Creed Artwork (Click here for more)

I have to hand it to Ubisoft. The people they've got in their PR department are marketing geniuses. They could sell refrigerators to people living on an iceberg, or a stack of Bibles to a group of atheists. Look at Assassin’s Creed. The smooth operators behind the ad campaign have taken what is essentially a tech demo propped up by a rudimentary mission structure and parlayed it into one of the most anticipated titles of the season. My hat is off to them; the work they do is without equal. However, the developers in Ubisoft's Montreal studio who actually created the game still have a way to go.

The epitome of "high concept," Assassin's Creed is split between two worlds. The first closely resembles modern times, just a short hop into the near future. In this setting of minimalist furnishings and sterile surfaces, two scientists use a supercomputing analytical device to extract "genetic memories" from a kidnapped bartender named Desmond. The information the machine mines from his DNA makes up the second world, and is the setting for the action in Assassin's Creed.

When reliving the "memories" conjured from Desmond's biological data, the player assumes the role of Altair, an unorthodox and incredibly acrobatic assassin whose life took place centuries in the past. After being disgraced by his own poor judgment, he's tasked with eliminating nine targets described as slavers, warmongers, and people corrupt with power. By removing those who stand in the way of peace, he hopes to regain his status and place within the assassin order.

Although bits and pieces of this "past/future" twist had leaked long before the game's release to cast doubts about the true storyline, I have to say that the dichotomy works beautifully. (And no, none of this is a spoiler… it's all revealed within the first five minutes.) I occasionally wondered whether or not the "future" portions should have been held back for a dramatic twist once players had gotten further in, but that's not a complaint. The whole thing is handled rather cleverly, actually.

Assassin's Creed Screenshot

As much as I can appreciate the concept, that's not the same as appreciating the game—which I don't. Although it looks stunning in demos and short clips, I became bored and disinterested with Assassin's Creed long before it was over. I would never have guessed that one of the titles I had been most looking forward to would end up being one of the most tedious slogs I've forced myself to sit through all year.

There are so many areas where the game goes awry that it's hard to know where to begin, but I'll start by saying that for a game about assassins, there's precious little assassination going on. I'm no expert on the subject, but it seems logical to expect subterfuge, hiding in the shadows, and slipping into a villain's lair unseen before silently delivering death's kiss on the deserving ne'er-do-well. Instead, Assassin's Creed completely bungles the concept by taking stealth and cleverness out of the equation, instead relying on cumbersome swordplay and tediously scripted scenes.

For example, at several assassinations I saw my subject in the process of murdering a helpless townsperson or some other similar act. Preparing the hidden blade concealed on Altair's left hand, I constantly tried to make my way through the masses in order to strike. I was always allowed to draw close enough to prevent the townsperson from being cruelly murdered, but consistently prevented from taking action until the scene played out. (In itself, a huge missed opportunity). Immediately following, my target would usually "see" me, my silent assassination becoming a clumsy, artless brawl and the complete opposite of my intentions.

Really, nearly every mission follows much the same pattern; rather than striking unseen from a vantage point earned by stealth or careful observation to escape anonymously, Ubisoft Montreal made the bizarre decision to craft the majority of these situations around chasing someone down busy streets or struggling through tiresome melees after expository cut-scenes. These choices don't make any sense until the "free-running" aspect of Assassin's Creed is taken into account.

Assassin's Creed Screenshot

Rather than making the player work for pixel-perfect jumps or split-second timing while navigating the rooftops and detailed architecture of the game's three environments, all that's required is to simply press a direction and let Altair find his own way. Although this system was originally seen in Toby Gard's Galleon on Xbox, the way Altair moves and adapts to the environment is a major technological achievement and the developers should be proud. However, just because the system is an impressive success doesn't mean that it's substantial enough to keep players engaged over the course of the game, because it's not.

Within an hour or so of venturing through Creed's Middle Eastern-themed cities, the novelty of Altair's Spider-Man act wore off and I started to wonder where the rest of the game was. This adaptive movement system should only be the means to an end, not the end in itself. Unfortunately, the developers seem to not understand this. Instead, they force the player to travel as much as possible, climb incessantly, and base everything in the game around this function. My guess is that they spent far too much time and energy creating the climbing aspect to the detriment of all else. I can see no other reason behind the nonsensical, so-called "assassinations" and the overuse of an incredibly dull combat system.

Adding insult to injury, the game's story burns as hot as a soggy matchbook, never fulfilling the promise of the ingenious DNA contrivance mentioned at the review's beginning. The too-frequent unskippable cut-scenes are enough to beat anyone into a vegetative state of bored submission, each one saying extremely little and taking an intolerable amount of time to do it. As if those weren't bad enough, every "boss" target drowns Altair with the sort of insipid deathbed filibustering that makes Metal Gear Solid's famed talkiness seem positively tight-lipped. If three quarters of the game is climbing, the last quarter is staring at the screen while characters spew endless amounts of emotionally empty dialogue.

Lapsing into formulaic predictability just moments past the title screen, Ubisoft Montreal makes players repeat the same tasks from start to finish while crisscrossing its beautifully-rendered cities an absurd amount of times, wrongly hoping that the impressive means of navigation would be enough to fool people into believing there's any sort of interesting, engaging gameplay to be found. The sad truth is, Assassin’s Creed is a prime example of basing a project on a single mechanic rather than creating the appropriate mechanic to support a project. Everything except Altair's athletics feels underdeveloped and painfully shallow, making the end result an overhyped attempt to recoup the development costs for something that's little more than an extended tech demo. Rating: 5.0 out of 10.


Disclaimer: This review is based on the Xbox 360 version of the game.

According to ESRB, this game contains: violence, blood, and strong language

Parents would be wise to steer their children away from this game. There are several scenes of fairly explicit blood and violence, and one of the main ideas of the game is to stab people with a knife when they're not looking. Factor in the bloated amount of sword fighting (complete with picturesque finishing flourishes) and you've got something that's not for the kiddies. There are a few brief occurrences of language, but in this case, I'd say the most important thing to be aware of is the violence level. There is no sexual content.

Stealth gamers and assassination fans, don't believe anything you've seen or heard until you've read my review. This game is not at all about stealth, it's about climbing walls and jumping from rooftop to rooftop. This game has basically nothing in common with any of the other games that could potentially fall into the "sneaky killing" genre, so be warned.

Action gamers and Prince of Persia fans, this game is probably not for you either. Although coming from the same publisher, there's almost nothing in common between the two titles. Lacking the same sense of structured pace and careful level design, there's there's no way this could be mistaken for a next-gen version of the Prince's continuing adventures except on the most superficial level.

Deaf and Hard of Hearing gamers get the shaft. There are no subtitles anywhere in the game, so it's impossible to follow along with the story or dialogue. One of the development team was quoted as saying that adding subtitles was not as important as making sure the game was translated into several different spoken languages, but I'm afraid that isn't a sacrifice that should ever be made. Without access to the audio, several important gameplay tips will be missed and very little of anything will make sense, although to be honest, that's the case for hearing gamers as well. If you insist on playing this, track down an FAQ before starting to clue you in.

Brad Gallaway

Brad Gallaway

Brad Gallaway has been playing games since arcades were a thing and Atari was the new hotness. He's been at GameCritics since 2000. Currently, he's juggling editing duties, being a homeschooling dad, a devoted husband, and he does try to play a game once in a while.

Brad still loves Transformers, he's on Marvel Puzzle Quest when nobody's looking, and his favorite game of all time is a toss-up between the first Mass Effect and The Witcher 3. You can catch his written work here at GameCritics and you can hear him weekly on the @SoVideogames Podcast. Follow Brad on Twitter and Instagram at @BradGallaway, or contact him via email:

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Anonymous
Anonymous
11 years ago

I finally got the game yesterday because it was really cheap. While I do find it pretty entertraining I must say I agree with many points in here. I was most disappointed how the game doesn’t offer enoug choices for assasinations. There’s no real stealth in there, no hiding in shadows and planning a careful strategy. I’m a fan of Thief and Splinter Cell series and what bothers me about AC is that the stealth is almost nonexistant. Way too many times the assasinations end up being huge brawls. That doesn’t really meet my expectations of an expert assassin. The… Read more »

Omer Altay
11 years ago

I Generally agreed with everything you said in your review, except the bit at the end about the game’s ‘frequent and unskippable cutscenes’. Come on, they weren’t that long and they were meant to get the gamer ‘into’ the story. If you want to complain about Cut-scenes, play Xenosaga :).

Anonymous
Anonymous
11 years ago

agreed.

Anonymous
Anonymous
11 years ago

I Agree with you all the way

Anonymous
Anonymous
12 years ago

[quote=John]I rented this game to see if it was worth buying, and I came away with a definate “NO” Sorry, I do not want to walk slowly past EVERY DAMN guard I see, I do not want to have to ride 30 FRICKIN miles to get from town to town. I do not want to CLIMB around with a mostly fluid but sometimes odd climbing system…..anyone else here get half way up a tower and then inexplicably jump off/backwards and die after plummeting 60′? While the scenery and the sound in the game are excellent, I didn’t rent it for… Read more »

Anonymous
Anonymous
12 years ago

[quote=Anonymous]SUMS THE GAME UP JUST RIGHT.
[/quote]

Have u even read the whole thing. Dont comment if u dont know wat yur talkin about SHUT UP and get a life.

Anonymous
Anonymous
12 years ago

[quote=Raqueem]I’ll keep this simple and short, just like the game. Repetition is of course what types this game, but i’m looking at the missed potential; and then i truly regret having played this game. It looks as if the most time has been put into the conversations that sucked anyway. Less is more in this case. Story with missions is what people want, not this kind of crap. 4 out of 10 for the nice graphics and the controls.[/quote] How can u say something like the conversation sucks EVERY game/story has conversation just because you don’t wanna listen 2 it… Read more »

Anonymous
Anonymous
12 years ago

[quote=Ray]This game is def not worth $60. I bought it used and am taking it back. On ebay, its already going in the mid twenties with shipping. I would buy it for $10ish and thats about it. Although this game has great (but glitchy) graphics, that does not impress me in a game. So disappointed from this repetitive, generic Prince of Persia ripoff that requires no skill. [/quote] I agree that 60$ is a lot how can u say somethings worthless if you can’t make it interesting and i hate the way you guys can’t use your own words. Anybody… Read more »

Anonymous
Anonymous
12 years ago

i have no idea what you guys are talking about, this game is so addictivly fun i could barly tare myself away for a couple hours while i splept. And just because you didnt take your time to assassinate the people smoothly and silently doesnt meen that is the only way to do it.

Anonymous
Anonymous
12 years ago

For the areas that this review covers, the author was very accurate. So are some of the posts. For example, I agree that the graphics, sound and free run environment (all being the game engine) are indeed quite good. There could have been more music though, especially for ambience. I’m surprised no one has mentioned the third person camera though. Maybe it’s just me, but I constantly found myself fighting with it, and it really ruins the fun. It resets too often, and is always getting stuck. Being near walls (which you frequently are in this title) is often a… Read more »

JD
JD
12 years ago

I don’t see why everyone complains about repetitive gameplay. Maybe instead of trying to getting all the achievements and boring yourself you should actually enjoy the game and play it as you wish. You don’t have to do EVERYTHING on your first try of the game because that ruins the game experience. I would have also thought that people would realize that when you see something about a game being released or hear about it, that it isn’t absolutely guaranteed to be in the game. Last minute alterations are always made. And maybe instead being a thug and just running… Read more »

rose
rose
12 years ago

“the game’s story burns as hot as a soggy matchbook” – loved that line!

AnAverageGamer
AnAverageGamer
12 years ago

I realize this game has been out for a while, but I only just decided to finish playing it. After all is said and done, I have to disagree with the reviewer over the overall quality of Assassin’s Creed. I will begin by stating that I do agree on some points with the reviewer here. Some actions are extremely repetative. It would be nicer to avoid having to scale so many view points in order to find the same tired side missions over and over. Moreover, having to run extreme distances to reach objectives is also a large inconvenience. The… Read more »

Anonymous
Anonymous
12 years ago

1st of all ALL GAMES ARE REPETITIVE you’d have to be blind to think otherwise 1st person shooters… you click your left mouse button, one of the most repetitive game types, yet people love them.(second only to Hack and Slash… like Diablo) RPG’s, same basic concept each match… build a base up, army, then attack them/defend Fighters, mash buttons Life is repetitive Wake up, eat, go to work/school, get home, relax, sleep… So stop complaining about things being repetitive In my opinion, sneaking in this game isn’t as fun as just killing them all, getting in a fight against 20… Read more »

Assassin
Assassin
12 years ago

Foshi is right you know. There are many other ways to kill your target… It was funny when I found Garnier busy talking to his “patients”. I looked around and saw few guards… So I ran as fast as I could and took Garnier’s life… And what was funny? Garnier didn’t see me coming :P. Aside from repetitive missions you can do other missions like the informant which provides many different missions. If you still think thats too repetitive then why dont you experiment with the game? You know… do things you never done, try somthing new. I learned that… Read more »

Ray
Ray
12 years ago

This game is def not worth $60. I bought it used and am taking it back. On ebay, its already going in the mid twenties with shipping. I would buy it for $10ish and thats about it. Although this game has great (but glitchy) graphics, that does not impress me in a game. So disappointed from this repetitive, generic Prince of Persia ripoff that requires no skill.

Anonymous
Anonymous
12 years ago

This is a stupid review. The only problem with this game is that it is short. Period its fantastic, and it does end quickly without rapping up setting for a sequel but come on its a much better review than this critic.

Anonymous
Anonymous
12 years ago

Well this is exactly why I bought the game in the first place.. Renting games is not option for me, I work alot and usually only play on the weekends and even then I get bored fast. Anyway I bought it, thinking the game looks great, and that climbing looks cool. Plus it’s an Assassian game..I was sold. Oh the reviews I read made this game ” A Try for yourself game” So Yeah… This game is indeed beautiful, and the free running is awesome. But everything else is very boring.. the fighting is clumsy, the free run climbing doesn’t… Read more »

Anonymous
Anonymous
12 years ago

another aspect of the game is the evidence you find does almost nothing but tell you where your target is and has almost no value at all to the assasination itself, although many would speak otherwise it is sometimes best to be told what to do in a game, like maybe u had to throw a knife at a chandelier and make it fall on the person based on the info that your target will be making a speech in the center of a large building etc. because if you have to do all that work for information it should… Read more »

John
John
12 years ago

I rented this game to see if it was worth buying, and I came away with a definate “NO” Sorry, I do not want to walk slowly past EVERY DAMN guard I see, I do not want to have to ride 30 FRICKIN miles to get from town to town. I do not want to CLIMB around with a mostly fluid but sometimes odd climbing system…..anyone else here get half way up a tower and then inexplicably jump off/backwards and die after plummeting 60′? While the scenery and the sound in the game are excellent, I didn’t rent it for… Read more »

Anonymous
Anonymous
12 years ago

[quote=Foshi] Anyone can watch a trailer for this game and see how pretty it looks. If a game sucks in gameplay it sucks. Who the hell buys games to be impressed by scenery alone? Substantial gameplay is what is important and AC’s is boring after the first few hours because by then you’ll have done everything at least three times over and have to do it three times more.[/quote] First, “Gameplay” is an all-encompassing term that can imply many things, so if you are talking about controls or mechanics than simply state accordingly. And of course no one would buy… Read more »

Anonymous
Anonymous
12 years ago

SUMS THE GAME UP JUST RIGHT.

js

Fog of Eternity
12 years ago

It is a hugely underwhelming game because of the potential that was there. It’s fun for a while but it’s just so massively repetitive and limited. Unlike the reviewer here I’m not a big fan of the “modern day” story – the Crusades setting is good enough to stand on it’s own. But I think it’s all engine and no real content – the engine is fabulous and really deserves a more immersive and much deeper game than it’s got. If Ubisoft take on the criticism that it’s received and really push the gameplay boundaries in a sequel then it… Read more »

Foshi
Foshi
12 years ago

[quote=Anonymous]um…I thought that reviews usually looked on both the good and bad parts of a game, instead of someone with an extended vocabulary whining the whole time? Sounds to me like you were seen before you could assassinate a primary target a few times, took a hissy fit because you couldn’t do it proficiently, and therefore slapped a bad review on it. In your review you also managed to forget about the scenery, the textures, and the lighting. They are absolutely BREATHTAKING. The sound is noteworthy too. Stop and you can hear birds chirping, or merchants selling their wares. It’s… Read more »

Anonymous
Anonymous
12 years ago

[quote]Story with missions is what people want, not this kind of crap.[/quote]

What do you mean by what “people” want? I’m pretty sure I want something different than you do and AC has a story with missions, so why are you calling it crap? It appears to fit your criteria for what people want which clearly equates to what is good.

Raqueem
Raqueem
12 years ago

I’ll keep this simple and short, just like the game.

Repetition is of course what types this game, but i’m looking at the missed potential; and then i truly regret having played this game.

It looks as if the most time has been put into the conversations that sucked anyway. Less is more in this case. Story with missions is what people want, not this kind of crap.

4 out of 10 for the nice graphics and the controls.

Raqueem
Raqueem
12 years ago

I’ll keep this simple and short, just like the game.

Repetition is of course what types this game, but i’m looking at the missed potential; and then i truly regret having played this game.

It looks as if the most time has been put into the conversations that sucked anyway. Less is more in this case. Story with missions is what people want, not this kind of crap.

4 out of 10 for the nice graphics and the controls.

Anonymous
Anonymous
12 years ago

um…I thought that reviews usually looked on both the good and bad parts of a game, instead of someone with an extended vocabulary whining the whole time? Sounds to me like you were seen before you could assassinate a primary target a few times, took a hissy fit because you couldn’t do it proficiently, and therefore slapped a bad review on it. In your review you also managed to forget about the scenery, the textures, and the lighting. They are absolutely BREATHTAKING. The sound is noteworthy too. Stop and you can hear birds chirping, or merchants selling their wares. It’s… Read more »

Anonymous
Anonymous
12 years ago

[quote=Foshi][quote=Anonymous]I think it’s because he doesn’t “know” how to remain unseen.[/quote]

Yup that is some compelling gameplay there. Holding down a button to “blend” in while walking at a snails pace through massive cities. Thats almost too much fun. [/quote]

Wow, did you even read what he said after that? You take out the guards so that the guards don’t alert the target…there are OTHER ways of remaining unseen instead of just holding down one button and sneaking through. Are you too retarded to understand the concept he presented before you?

Foshi
Foshi
12 years ago

[quote=Anonymous]I think it’s because he doesn’t “know” how to remain unseen.[/quote] Yup that is some compelling gameplay there. Holding down a button to “blend” in while walking at a snails pace through massive cities. Thats almost too much fun. You said that a person only has to do three or four of the side-missions in a city to get an assassination mission started. That’s where the repetitiveness comes from. All of the side-missions are the same in every city. Pickpocket, interrogate, eavesdrop, run around the city and collect flags, and intel missions. After the first few hours of the game… Read more »

Anonymous
Anonymous
12 years ago

The game isn’t so bad. All the talk of repetitive gameplay, i just have one thing to say: you don’t have to do all the task in the game if you don’t want to. You can choose to do just 3-4 and you will have enough intel to assassinate the target. The reviewer said about easily being seen by the target. I think it’s because he doesn’t “know” how to remain unseen. The effective way i get to kill the targets without them being aware of me and running off is by following the intel gathered about the safest/undetectable way… Read more »

Foshi
Foshi
12 years ago

AC is such a shame. It could and should have been incredible from start to finish. The developers lost focus somewhere by not giving the player interesting things to do in every location. The game is just too repetitive too fast. Not only that, but the game has some horrible technical issues that clearly needed to be worked out before shipping. All we can do is hope that a sequel takes in all of the complaints and puts us in an explorable world which offers unique and diverse gameplay throughout the adventure. Oh, and skippable cutscenes or at least interactable… Read more »

Martin
Martin
12 years ago

Its a fun game… Threw the first half. I chose to get everything and agree that this game is very repetitive. Fighting is no challenge in this game, was their even a change of difficulty level from your first kill to your last?

I really hope their will be a 2nd cause that ending was more anti clymatic then Halo 3.