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Review: Assassin\'s Creed: Director\'s Cut Edition - PC - 9.1

20 kwietnia, 2008

A mostly smooth and faithful translation of a slightly-flawed console gem...

I\'ll be honest: the Prince of Persia: Sands of Time trilogy and the Splinter Cell series have ranked amongst some of the best games I\'ve played. Both of them have offered fun and innovative gameplay combined with interesting story elements that fully immersed me in their worlds. I loved POP\'s acrobatic moves and interesting puzzle, and I just can\'t get away from knifing guards from behind as the now-legendary Sam Fisher. This is why I grew excited when Ubisoft Montreal announced their newest game, Assassin\'s Creed. Made by talented people from the teams behind both franchises, AC looked to combine stealth, assassination, and acrobatics that were inherent to both series. The console versions were released late last year, and they mostly stunned the gaming world, earning high reviews and selling over three and a half million copies. Now, not even half a year later, Ubisoft has released the Director\'s Cut on the PC, looking to improve upon the previous version and garner even more success.

AC\'s first surprise happens right off the bat when you start the game. Your character is Desmond Miles, and he has been kidnapped by unknown people. He is forced to interface with the Animus, a machine that extracts memories from the DNA of the user, passed on from descendant to descendant, allowing the user to replay those memories as if he were there himself. Apparently, Desmond is the descendant of Altaïr Ibn La-Ahad (الطائر at-ta\'er in Arabic meaning "Flying One" and his last name meaning "Son of None")  a member of the Assassin\'s Order during the Third Crusade of the Holy land. He soon starts to adapt to the Animus, and becomes able to access a series of memories that leads to the researcher\'s ultimate goal. The rest of the plot becomes intertwined with the memories that you journey through as Altair. Fortunately, unlike most games released nowadays, the game\'s plot is mysterious and filled with twists and intrigue. It was enough to keep me going through the game\'s 15 hour campaign.

Let\'s get down to the gameplay. The bulk of the game takes place in Altair\'s world. The game takes place on a vast, open map that connects the major cities you visit, including Acre and Jerusalem. Altair is controlled from a third person perspective, with various keys/buttons controlling the different parts of his party, such as feet, eyes, and arms. You can do actions in either socially acceptable or unacceptable ways, such as walking calmly down the street vs running and tackling innocent bystanders out of the way.

Altair is given nine assassination targets, and the bulk of the game focuses on these assassinations. You journey from the Assassin\'s base to the city where your target resides. While cool at first, traveling between cities does tend to take a while, even on horseback, and is really a one trick pony. Thankfully, after only a few visits, the game begins to offer you quick travel options to the cities, since you tend to revisit them.

Once you get to the city, you can\'t just start killing. You have to investigate around the city to gather information about your target, and so come in the changes done for the Director\'s Cut. The original game featured five different investigation "types," such as escorting informants, eavesdropping, etc. However, since you need to do three of these each time you investigate, and there\'s nine assassinations, it tends to get very repetitive. Ubisoft looked to alleviate that with the Director\'s Cut. It adds 4 new missions, like archer assassination and sales stand destruction. They are fun, but after a while, you still end up doing the same things.

Once you\'ve done your investigation, its on to the kill. You have a brief chat with the city\'s Assassin\'s Bureau "representative," and he gives you a feather with which you must smear with the blood of your target to prove the kill was successful. And then, its off. You witness a brief cutscene which sets up the situation and are given free rein to kill your opponent in any way you want. You can approach him stealthily and stab him from behind with your concealed blade, fight like a madman through his guards, chase him all over the city, incapacitate him with a throwing knife, etc. These are amongst the most memorable moments in AC, and they are set up in some interesting situations, such as a party where all the wine is poisoned and archers wait in the shadows to kill off the guests.

After a brief chat with your dying target that moves the game\'s plot forward, its on to a pulse-pounding chase through the city. If you think that the Prince\'s level of interactivity with the environment was impressive, think again. Altair can grab onto and climb virtually any object, outcropping, window, etc. He is very nimble and the game\'s platforming is essentially boiled down to two or three buttons. You essentially point Altair in the direction he wants to go, hold down one of the buttons, and Atair makes the appropriate moves. It is awe-inspiring to watch yourself running and jumping across the rooftops of Jerusalem with five or six guards behind you.

Assassin\'s Creed most stand-out achievement is the amount of detail and life put in each one of its cities. The buildings and streets are incredibly detailed and lighted well. People walk around, seemingly minding their own business, and preachers stand talking to crowds. This is one of the most realistic and impressive game worlds I\'ve seen in my several years of gaming, and almost nothing compares to the detail, scale, and scope of these areas. The game supports DirectX 10, but contrary to most games, it doesn\'t add effects and actually improves performance.

Unfortunately, as I said before, certain elements of AC tend to get repetitive. Once you get on to your fifth or sixth mission, you feel like "I\'ve done this before." The game does eventually change gears and offer up a pulse-pounding sequence and interesting conclusion, but the middle of AC drags on for too long. Once you do get to this part, you might be discouraged to play on. I would recommend that you stomach this part, as the rest of the game gets better.

All in all, AC is an incredible technical feat. With its huge cities, impressive graphics, and stunning interactivity; it presents a world that rivals that of Crysis in its immersion factor. It\'s gameplay and story premise is interesting, but the game does tend to get dragged down in repetition towards the middle. If you can stomach this, you\'ll find that you\'ve played one of the most intriguing games of this generation. And that, my friends, is the mark of a piece of art.

Presentation: 10 - Amazing production values: voice acting, sound effects, etc.
Graphics: 9.5 - Assassin\'s Creed brings some of the most authentic large-scale environments in gaming, Altair\'s animations are top-notch and lighting is impressive.
Sound: 9.5 - Its hard to find a fault with Assassin Creed\'s soundscape. Cities are filled with background noise and most of the voice acting is top-notch.
Gameplay: 8.5 - The game offers an interesting premise and some intense combat and parkour, but trips up a little with the repetitiveness found in later levels.
Value: 8 - Assassin\'s Creed is mostly a blast to play through, but once you finish it, you won\'t find much else to do.

Final Score: 9.1 - Assassin\'s Creed is a technical and narrative achievement, with a few questionable design choices that can\'t manage to stop it from being one of the most intriguing games of this generation.

Marcin Skok
"The Gaming Corner"