Assassin's Creed - Xbox 360 review

Hype can sometimes be a ridiculous thing. Especially in the games industry. A few gorgeous looking mocked-up screenshots can sometimes be enough to send us salivating as though Scarlet Johannsen just appeared stark naked on your livingroom sofa. We can but dream.

Assassin’s Creed is one of such hyped titles. We’ve been drip fed the odd clip here, a screenshot or two there, and all the critics have been treating it as though it’s the rebirth of gaming itself.

So the "Metal Gear Solid in olden times" sneak-a-thon finally arrives, and you know what? It’s not quite as good as we’d all hoped.

Assassins Creed isn’t quite the freedom based "kill your target however you like" title we’d all been hoping for. Yes, it might be based on despatching various targets just like Hitman, but unlike that classic series, Assassin’s Creed's strict structure leaves you a little cold.

Unlike the aforementioned classic, it’s all about pressing the buttons at the correct time, rather than crafting a spectacular set-piece of your own design. No matter how wonderfully the control method might try and convince you, Assassin’s Creed is more like one of those God of War boss battles where you press the buttons that flash up on screen to cause merry hell.

That’s not to say that it’s not fun to play. Oh no, it’ll take you till you're halfway through the games spectacularly horrific plot before you realise that you’ve not really done much thinking.

The concept is solid enough. It even manages to feel quite fun for the most part. But the parkour assassin part of the game is the real let down. Jumping through windows, straddling beams, hurling yourself into hay bales; its all set in such a manner that you’re simply urging your character along a set path, rather than creating your own mission.

You just have so little freedom to deviate from the set path. While you may have the option of meandering off to find another "way in" to get at your target, the game simply won’t allow it to happen. You chat to the locals you need to gather information from, pick a few pockets, sneakily kill some poor sap (of which the game only consists of a pitiful 9) then run off until the guards can't see and hide in some handily placed container awaiting the heat to cool.

Assassin’s Creed is technically an incredibly stunning game. Simply watching your character running around during the stark tutorial is enough to make your mouth drop, nevermind once it’s all taking part in the middle of a village.

The biggest plus point for Assassin’s Creed is the visuals, that’s for absolute certain. Pushing your way through a crowded street simply looks, well, as you’d expect it to look. People will part as you softly nudge them aside as you walk, and fly into their fellow wanderers when you barge into them as you hurtle away from a set of guards.

Seriously, there aren’t enough superlatives around to describe how gorgeous Assassin’s Creed is. It’s not just the stunning level of detail, but how the crowd reacts to your character. There’s no sudden running straight through another character like the olden days, but only solid human beings on screen that will respond with unnerving accuracy. Not that we’d suggest you try during your Saturday morning shop. Chances are you’ll find yourself clattering into some nutter who fancies beating you to a bloody pulp.

Verdict

If you’re starting to get the idea that there’s a hint of frustration in this review, you’d be thinking along the right lines.

The problem with Assassin’s Creed is that it should have been a true next generation classic. But, there’s so little thought on the players’ side of things that you’re left with a beautiful looking shell of a game, one that’s just awaiting the final bit of polish to make it an absolute corker.

With a touch more freedom, this could’ve been a classic. Instead, it’s simply a great looking example of what can be achieved visually, while lacking the kind of enjoyment we’d all hoped for.