Monday, December 03, 2007

Assassin's Creed (XBOX 360)

- I'm a few hours into this game now. I just finished up the investigation part and I'm about to start my second assassination.
- Graphics are really incredible: ability to render an entire city without load times, incredibly detailed textures, some of the best animations in any game, good frame rate most of the time, and great shadows and lighting.
- Pretty big learning curve. You won't get a feel of this game until you complete your first assassination. Once you hit rank 2 and gain the ability to counter, combat becomes much easier and much more enjoyable. Once you get use to the unorthodox controls it really does work quite well. Tip: you'll want to read the manual on this one.
- I can see the mini missions in the investigation part getting a bit repetitive.
- Voice acting is pretty good so far. Story is pretty average. The Music is great.
- Combat is excellent and is all about timing. Do NOT button mash. The death cam animations never get old. I especially like the running jump hidden blade kills. Free running works great. After a while you get good at spotting which parts of the city you can climb. The vertical exploration aspect of the game kind of reminds me of crackdown like finding that one path to get up to a very high tower..
- The pseudo stealth using the crowd in daylight works well too. Also, there isn't much penalty if you decide to go all out killing either. This ain't GTA where they just keep escalating the number of guards.
Usually you can kill a group of 5 or 6 and then quickly blend into the crowd before more guards show up.
- The kingdom (overworld) is kind of bleah.
- Fighting on horse back doesn't seem to work that well.
- The actual assassination parts are obviously the best parts of the game. For my first hit I screwed up the stealth assassination. So the dude bolts and I have to go chasing him through the crowded streets. I finally corner him and kill off the few guards that are with him and finally my target. After that I head to the roof tops for a free running chase to break line of site and then hide. Now that's exciting and compelling game play!

This is one of those games you really need to give it a few good hours before you "get" it and all the things start clicking. After that you'll discover something truly unique and incredibly fun.

Highly Recommended!

UPDATE: 12/12/07
(potential very minor spoilers)
- FINISHED! about 20-22hrs if you do all the mini missions in the investigation phases.
- Altair needs to learn to swim. Drunks on the docks that can grab and shove you into the water for an instant death kind of sucks. I just end up killing them.
- I found running a lot didn't seem to attract the guards attention too much as long as you weren't running into a lot of people and knocking over their pots. So don't be afraid to run a lot even on street level. Also, I didn't find holding the blend button that helpful unless you are in a group of scholars.
- Needs a cleaner, faster, easier way to warp between the different maps.
- There needs a clearer indication that you locked on a target (and which specific target). It would also be nice if you had more control over which target gets locked instead of just picking one for you sort of in the direction you are facing. This is especially true when you are doing stealth assassination mini missions (like the last 2 in the game) where it's a lot easier to do with throwing knives from the roof tops. With the extreme downward angle I would end up killing maybe a guy or two before it would lock on to the target I wanted.
- I need clear feed back when a combo attack was pulled off. Enemies have health even though you can't tell how much they have. So if your combo won't kill them it still looks like a block but really isn't (they actually take some damage). I think the "combo hit but looks like a block" animation is slightly different that the "I screwed up the combo timing and so it's a real block" animation but man it needs to be more clear. Without that feed back it's hard for the player to correct and improve their combo attack timing. Health bar for the currently locked enemy would have helped greatly.
- Combat requires quick timing. DO NOT BUTTON MASH!!! That will get you killed quick. Watch and learn all the different attack/grab animations and time your counters correctly. They they are doing a charged slow attack you can easily counter too early and then get whacked.
- I didn't use the charged attack much. It's too slow and leaves you too open.
- You can counter with any weapon even the hidden blade. The only thing the hidden blade can't block so if you screw up your counter timing you will get hit. The nice part is if you pull it off it's an instant kill. This is also true if you knock guys down to the ground and quickly switch to hidden blade for an instant kill. This can greatly shorten longer fights especially with bosses. Odd that you can't beat on bosses on the floor with your long sword. I recommend you at least get some practice in with countering with every weapon.
- Combat is my favorite aspect of the game. Try doing counter, killing a guy, immediately go into a defense breaker on the next guard, and into a combo attack. Lots of fun. Typical combat for me is counter, and if they are thrown to the ground whack them twice with the long sword. Do this until there are around 5 or less guys. After that I go on the offensive with a mix of counters going into combo attacks. I didn't use dodge a whole lot.
- When greatly out numbered (I'm thinking the 9th target assassination attempt which I think is the most difficult combat in the game) try running up to the roof tops. Maybe find a spot where you have at least one wall. Hug that wall and as you counter grab guys there is a good chance you will throw them off the roof. This really helps with the crowd control. It also helps if you clear the area of archers first.
- Tackle actually means more like a charge. This lets you run through crowds without tripping. It's a slower run but helps you bust through really crowded areas or even through those guard blockades.
- You can typically stealth assassinate two guards before they get alerted when saving citizens.
- Best way to take down a running target is to use the hidden blade. You get this really cool leaping stabbing kill animation.
- Make sure you mash buttons during in engine cut scenes. This includes right before an assassination and right after (during the confession) if you are interested in getting the related achievement.
- Punching doesn't alert the guards. It's a good way to get those drunks off of you. Throwing drunks doesn't make them run away, only punching them.
- Throwing 20 women beggars gets you an achievement. Throwing the drunks doesn't count.
- Make sure you wait until after the credits for a bit more game play. Also sit in the animus, scroll to memory block 7 and read the attachment. You can also replay any memory block here to grab flags or finish up some achievements you might have missed.
- Before you start an assassination it's a good idea to review your memories (hit start) that you gathered from the investigation phase. You can usually view several attachments (most are maps). I highly recommend you do this for the book burning one.
- I loved the end game with all the fighting. I thought it was exciting, intense, and a lot of fun. It wasn't even that hard (never died once). I really liked the hordes of enemies yet they seemed to have less health so they were easy to dispatch (makes you feel like a major bad ass: counter attack, straight into a defense breaker, into a combo attack = awesome sauce).
- Controls are great once you get use to them. There is a rather steep learning curve since this game is so unique in so many ways (well except for all the parts that remind me of Crackdown).
- I didn't find the ending quite as bad as halo 2 or even Crysis. Yeah it sets it up for the obvious sequel but I felt it had pretty good closure on this part of the story (that set of memories). All the great fights toward the end was a good pay off for me so I actually felt pretty satisfied with the ending. I liked the story too!
- Sure the game had its share of flaws but I still really enjoyed it. Just from a fun factor perspective I'd easily put it up there with orange box, halo 3, cod 4, and bioshock. In fact I don't think any of those games had me staying up until 2-3am for several consecutive nights in a row. Hmmm I also liked Heavenly Sword a lot more than most people. Maybe I'm just into sharp pointy things lately.
- What this game needs is an arena mode or something. Make a few arenas, stick them in the animus, and let me fight waves of increasing number/difficulty of enemies. Give us at least some re-playability! DL content? maybe??? And no I don't feel like finding hundreds of flags for a few achievement points.

Probably the most fun I've had in a flawed and repetitive game! The good parts are so great that I really didn't mind doing them over and over again. I personally loved this game. Highly recommended (but probably not for everyone).

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