The massive open world is a joy to explore.
Side missions repetitive. High system requirements.
The death-defying urban acrobatics of free running—seen recently on the big screen in the Casino Royale remake, The Bourne Ultimatum, and Live Free or Die Hard—are replicated to great effect in Assassin’s Creed, an action-adventure console port that puts you in the nimble shoes of a 12th-century assassin. Light feet and tremendous upper-body strength, rather than overwhelming firepower, are your greatest assets as you scale walls and barrel across rooftops in one of the most refreshing games we’ve played.
As the assassin Altair, you are charged with executing nine high-profile targets spread across three Middle Eastern metropolises. Hunting down these ruthless slave traders and hedonistic rulers is no easy task—you must first complete a series of mini-quests to acquire information about your target. Eavesdropping and pick-pocketing missions test your patience and ability to blend into dense crowds, while eliminating tower guards and racing across rooftops challenge your ability to vault across the tops of cities with finesse.
We were entranced by the free-running aspect of the game and spent hours exploring the highly detailed open world. Climbing the tallest peaks of each city let us survey breathtaking vistas—gorgeous visuals justify the game’s high system requirements. Mouse and keyboard control let us deftly navigate the world with ease, but we found the gamepad to be more intuitive when complicated sword fighting was required. The story—an unraveling conspiracy—featured enough twists to keep us interested but became secondary to the unrelenting action.
It’s not often that we come across a game that not only introduces revolutionary gameplay mechanics but does so without compromising a sense of fun. Assassin’s Creed does for action-platformers what Grand Theft Auto III did for driving games—infuses a wondrous sense of exploration and open-endedness into the genre. We can’t help but admire its ambitious design and adore its killer execution.