Assassin's Creed Updated Hands-On

There's more to Ubisoft Montreal's ambitious action adventure than you might expect. We explored a nearly finished version of the game to find the details.

Assassin's Creed is basically finished. After a four-year development cycle that began right after Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time shipped to retail, the Assassin's team at Ubisoft's renowned Montreal studio is now putting the last touches on the first submission build of the game before it goes into rigorous testing. Sure, bugs will come back from Sony and Microsoft's approval teams, and the developers will have a precious handful of weeks to fix those bugs, optimize the frame rate, and apply that last, vital coat of polish. But the game's feature set, level design, and mission structure are now set in stone. We were pleasantly surprised at the breadth and diversity of the gameplay when we had a chance to sit down with that nearly finished build for an extended tour of Acre, one of Assassin's three primary cities, with a little guidance from creative director Patrice Désilets.

The Crusades weren't really a pleasant time for anyone.

So far, Ubisoft has publicly presented only the core gameplay conceit of Assassin's Creed: You infiltrate the environment, kill your target, and get out--stealthily if you can, but in a hail of arrows if necessary. However, while exploring Acre, we came to realize that you'll be doing much more than simply slaying your way through the Crusades-weary holy land of the late 12th century. The game's three cities--Acre, Jerusalem, and Damascus--will be populated with thousands of citizens going about their business. You'll often have the opportunity to embroil yourself in that business--to your own ends, of course--even when it isn't directly involved with your quest to kill your current target.

First, we'll give you an idea of the general flow of Assassin's Creed. Early in the game, master assassin and main character Altaïr will commit some kind of dire mistake, though the nature of that mistake is unclear. Consequently, his esteem will diminish in the eyes of his assassin's guild and result in the loss of most of his equipment and abilities. It's more than a little reminiscent of that now-classic Metroid design archetype: Start out with everything, lose it all, and spend the rest of the game getting it back. Altaïr's acquisition of new abilities and gear--such as throwing knives for taking out enemies silently at range, or a ledge-grab move that will let you secure a handhold while falling--will correspond to the elimination of his targets. These targets will include notable figures of the Crusades spread out across all three cities, and you'll have the freedom not only to move between those cities at will in an open-world fashion, but also to pursue those targets in any order, within the limits of the storyline.

Ubisoft has been pushing the liveliness of Assassin's Creed's cities, with their vast, teeming citizenry, as one of the game's unique selling points, but we've wondered if this throng would really matter once you're playing the game. We came to find out over the course of our demo that some of those citizens will serve as more than passive obstacles that get in your way when you're fleeing from pursuit. In fact, some of them will act as jumping-off points for optional side missions that you can undertake in-between tracking down and offing your marks. For instance, in each city you'll encounter a number of women being harassed by the city guard. If you choose to step in and help one of these ladies by killing the officers giving her trouble, you'll win the gratitude of her husband...and the vigilante group he happens to belong to. These vigilantes will then remain loyal to you for the rest of the game, so if you get into a scuff in their part of town at any time later, they'll emerge from the crowd and come to your aid to fight against the guards.

It will take a lot of detective work to locate and eliminate each of your targets.

Other members of the populace will provide some peripheral benefits as well. Our demo began at the guarded gates of Acre, which we couldn't exactly waltz through unobstructed. We had the unappealing option of simply fighting all the guards at the entrance to get in, or we could use Altaïr's acrobatic abilities to climb up a side wall and get in unnoticed. But we had a third option: We could help out a monk nearby who was in a spat with some other guards a few feet from the gate. We dealt with the guards, which convinced the monk to let us walk slowly through the gates among him and his brethren, whose hooded white robes bore a striking resemblance to Altaïr's own costume. Similar groups of monks can be seen roaming around each city, and you'll be able to immerse yourself in them from time to time to use them as a makeshift hiding place.

Even the process of taking out one of your primary targets will entail more than just heading to an icon on your map and killing one non-player character. When you enter a new city, your first order of business will be to find a "viewpoint," which in the game's parlance means one of the highest points in the city. Viewpoints will include the roofs of the tallest buildings, church steeples, and so on, and these will be both indicated on your map and also evident by, well, their extreme height. Once you climb to a viewpoint, you'll be treated to a sweeping, panoramic view of the city, which will open up more of the map for you. More importantly, it will reveal the location of the closest assassin's bureau, where you'll go to get information on your next target.

Do your job properly, and Garnier will never practice his twisted medicine again.

However, the hunt doesn't end there. In the demo we played, Altaïr learned of his next target, a cruel and vengeful doctor named Garnier, at the bureau. But he didn't know where Garnier was hanging out, or what his movement patterns might be like. So when you leave a bureau with a new target, you'll begin the investigative phase of each mission, in which you'll track down other specific characters to coerce information out of them. For instance, we had to find a town crier who was standing on some church steps and preaching about the gracious nature of Garnier's medical practices. We followed him into a secluded area and roughed him up to make him spill the beans on the good doctor. In another example, Altaïr had to find a man carrying a letter with valuable information, then sneak up behind him and pick his pocket without alerting him. Each time you accomplish a task in the investigative phase of an assassination, the clues you uncover will lead you back to the bureau or straight to the next informant, as you inch closer to your target.

In gameplay terms, Assassin's Creed ties all of these elements together with the established open-world trappings of Grand Theft Auto and its ilk. That means you get an overhead map of each city with icons indicating the locations of these various gameplay elements, from your next pickpocket or interrogation target, to nearby citizen-rescue missions, and even to the many viewpoints in each city. Speaking of which, the viewpoints will serve as collectible items of a certain kind, and the game will track how many you've found in a city out of the maximum number. There will also be scores of small flags for you to find throughout the game, not unlike Crackdown's agility orbs (though the flags are much less prolific than those). Naturally, viewpoint and flag collection will contribute to achievements in the Xbox 360 version of the game. Although we didn't get to see any action outside Acre itself, we're told that there will also be plenty of all these various gameplay types outside the three cities, in the countryside.

We couldn't help being struck by the brutality of the demo we played--but then, the Crusades weren't the happiest of times for anyone involved. Once Altaïr had located Garnier in the citadel where the good doctor practiced his sadistic brand of medicine, we got to see a cutscene (with Altaïr blending into the crowd) in which Garnier made a public spectacle of a prisoner. After the man threatened to escape his imprisonment, Garnier ordered his guards to publicly shatter the man's legs before returning to his work. Earlier, when Altaïr completed his interrogation of the town crier, the man asked to be spared for providing valuable information. Altaïr simply said "Would that I could," and then gutting the man savagely with his dagger. Between all this and the healthy amount of blood that flows at various times, Ubi Montreal is clearly milking the game's M rating for all it's worth.

Finally, all throughout our time with Assassin's Creed, that sci-fi-tinged hint of narrative ambiguity first revealed at E3 2006 was in the back of our minds. You can see hints of it everywhere in the almost-finished game. Altaïr's health bar and other heads-up display elements look like something out of a futuristic graphical interface. Pausing the game will give numerous references to memory reloads, synchronization, and other technical terms. As we've mentioned before, those characteristic computerized glyphs can be seen when you target enemies and in some other parts of the game world. And remember how we mentioned before that some areas of the city will be blocked until you scope them out from the appropriate viewpoint and complete other necessary tasks? Those barred areas are blocked off by a big blue wall of energy (or something) that bears more of the glyphs. Most mysteriously, every time you kill one of your targets, the game will segue to a cinematic sequence the developers call the "white room," which is a glyph-filled ethereal plane where Altaïr's victim speaks about his role in the Crusades. We've got our own theories as to what all this means, based on what we've seen of the game, but we'll leave the truth's discovery to the player to preserve the impact of that initial experience.

All of these elements of Assassin's Creed are layered on top of the core gameplay mechanics: free-running up building faces and leaping over alleyways, hiding from archers on rooftops, killing your opposition silently, and slinking into the shadows. We had a good feeling that this stuff was going to be cool, but we're duly impressed that there's so much more gameplay Ubisoft has been keeping under wraps all this time. Assassin's Creed is on track for its November release; stay tuned for more on the game in the run-up to its full review.

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527 comments
ravvivo
ravvivo

I m already playin assassin creed over my PC and it rocks dude.. it works fine and it is sexy game.. PC requirement are 8800gt atleast to work fine with ur pc.. i m using c2q with 4gig ram, 512mb en8600gt .. trust me i hav to overclock my 8600gt to get the fine result which i want with highest details.. though i hav to reduce my resolution to 1280x960.. BUT IT WORKS FINE ... u guys will lov it

metalliod
metalliod

Thatz a great game,ive been playing it on xbox360 since.It actually takes place in a lab of some big company where two scientists are actually trying to read the memory of the ancesters of the protagonist who were assassin.It was a process through DNA that the protagonist had the memory of his ancestors and those scientists were trying to get something but they didn't tell in the begining.They lie the protagonist on a machine which reads his memory.Its really a good one,i got it from one of my friends in china,theres already a pirated version out there but i dont know how it get there before the launch.

tamd
tamd

pc version with dx10 thats cool

ZenLengend
ZenLengend

Oh man I can't wait till i can play it.

se_dude
se_dude

yeh its going to be a triology. i cant wait!

sIoppymess
sIoppymess

ima post here just cuz i wanna see a post that is posted this year and not 4 months ago lol.. and i LOVE ac

MikeyOfLamb
MikeyOfLamb

This game looks sweet. I hope the PC verson isn't a crappy port.

zowbaid
zowbaid

no....its delayed on the pc and did anyone get the ending?? wtf.are they makin a sequel..cuz it just made no sense lol

graavigala
graavigala

does this game ship for pc at the same time as it does for xbox and ps3?

gwf123
gwf123

zowbaid i beleave this game comes out on the 14th..... shipped on the 13th released on the 14th ....... i dunno maybe the 15th dependin were u live but im kinda thinkin its the 14th

evklinken
evklinken

I'm sorry, but isn't it unbelievable that less than a year ago, Oblivion came out on the PS3 and was the best game ever in my opinion, and that there is already a follower. Which game? It's called Assassin's Creed. Probably you have heard from it. It seems kind of nice :P.

aDhAmMe13
aDhAmMe13

Man my mouth is drooling like hell! All this in one freakin' game with these great visual effects! I am first in line to buy it for the PS3.

rockutd
rockutd

Looks like Hitman set in the medieval times.In fact it looks better than Hitman.CAnt wait ot get me a copy ofr the game.But right now i am wondering if its gonna play better on the PS3 or 360, since its was originally a PS3 exclusive...

vivendidoom
vivendidoom

For the game itself, i am really looking forward to the story elements that pose itself in the previews and the official site for assassins creed. Obviously the game is not street dated, so it is possible to grab the game Monday if a shipment arrives at any store that day. Then again it might not. But as for the story in the sci-fi genre with historical facts and history based gameplay, i would not be surprised if any kind of DNA or the human gene plot lines would be without interest within the story itself.

fuzzy_hippo
fuzzy_hippo

the things they say in the last section doesn't really sound like sci-fi to me

King_Darc
King_Darc

By reading this carefully you can see just how indepth this game really is and all of those interviews that ubisoft were talking about was just to keep us more and more in the shadows, because i believe they arn't telling us what Altair can really do as a assassin.

zowbaid
zowbaid

is the game coming out on the 13th or the 15th....on the boards it says 13, but on their latest video its the 15th....

Criros
Criros

WTF with UBISOFT develpers making the game out allready for the PSuxs3 and XBOX ass60 WTF!!!! hey!! UBISOFT!! LOTS OF PEOPLE HERE WITH VERY GOOD!! PC's HELLOUUU WTF with PC version TBA 2008 !!!

--Ellie--
--Ellie--

After reading this i cant wait for the game is sounds deadly!!!

ChiaPitts
ChiaPitts

should be a great game but mass effect will be better

LordLonewolf777
LordLonewolf777

This is gonna be awesome, Running around assassinating ppl and real kind of sword fighting... WOWOOOOWOOOWOWOOT!!!

digxxbitty
digxxbitty

i didnt even know about this game and now i want it so bad

Partisan357
Partisan357

Delayed for the pc, oh well maybe I'll have some more money by then. Hopefully they'll follow Gears of War and add some extra content for making us wait!

Gamuran
Gamuran

I don't know about the sci-fi thing and it has me thinking as well, but I do know that there is a book coming out concurrently with it, something called The Invisible Imam (Assassin's Creed) by Steven Barnes, which seems quite interesting. Anybody know anything more about this?

crippla87
crippla87

The whole sci-fi thing has me anxious to know what the heck will really go on.

mauigamer91
mauigamer91

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

zowbaid
zowbaid

welll u guys better get used to it, they did make prince of persia after all, did u guys hate that game?? i doubt it...so this one won't make a difference either..plus learn ur crusade history, christians did lose.....so doesnt mean its makin u guys look evil, just means ur gonna lose :P...though it does piss me off a little that they made an arab guy look bad for gamers...i hope you guys don't get the wrong idea about arabs :)..its just a game after all haha

Luieburger
Luieburger

I'm starting to worry about this game. "Sci-Fi" doesn't work for me in a medieval game. I suppose they could make a good story out of it, but I rarely like mixing genres. The game seems to be a mix of GTA and Thief. Thief 3 wasn't so hot, so I hope there is more than just gathering info and killing targets. I was really excited when I first heard of the game, but it is starting to fade. I'm not seeing anything of interest other than lots of freedom to climb, jump, swing, dive, and so forth, and that may get really repetitive as well. Just because we can do whatever we want, doesn't mean we won't do the same thing over and over. I'll wait for reviews. And besides... the PC version was delayed. I'll get a good long look before I decide to buy.

Autobon
Autobon

The game looks insanely fun. Of course they are going to be politically correct though, and only kill christians.

angkawsw
angkawsw

cant wait cant wait cant wait cant wait lol

Larrizzle
Larrizzle

Dude its a game... which looks awesome... so shut up

Trencher7
Trencher7

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

wildpack_717
wildpack_717

Should be amazing, other than that great... like the ability to play in countryside sounds like some cool things could happen there

spencdiamonds
spencdiamonds

IT has to be atleast 20 hours w/ different gameplay to be good other than that seems decent

minghui94
minghui94

this game looks great , another assassin game , hell yea !

OCTAVIATOR
OCTAVIATOR

I really want this game but I am dissapointed with this game when Gamespot said,"Those barred areas are blocked off by a big blue wall of energy". I was under the impression that this game was more free than that.

dutch777
dutch777

do gamespot believe there will be further Creed games released by Ubisoft, what inside info can you divulge.

Emmanuell
Emmanuell

people their is another game that will be on par with assassins this november lets not forget Mass Effect wher i read a review in game informer and it sais that Mass effect will do to games wat Star Wars did to movies. they said that each second of gameplay is like final fantsy CG cutscens

killerfist
killerfist

vahid_xbox_360: maybe its from the same developpers? Ive waited way too long for this game. man COD4 on the way, mass effect, assasins creed. my wallet will be empty by christmas lol. no gifts for anyone. just games for me:D

MojoKino
MojoKino

Awesome. Assassin's creed out in Nov, Mass Effect out a week later..........man, i'm gonna have no life at all for about a month.....just sit in my room morning, noon and night playing these games ............COOL!

Eraldi
Eraldi

ha i hope this game will be good i am tired of spending money for worthless games. peace out

vahid_xbox_360
vahid_xbox_360

I don,t know why but this game remindes me prince of persia

kahoony
kahoony

I think that this game will b one of the best games this year, the AI and the graphics look incredible. Cannot Wait another minute.

oonge
oonge

im blown away.. the game looks incredible the game videos being very impressive.. clearly anything out of ubisoft is worth every penny

xraystar
xraystar

londonrider - the PS3 is the way to go to fully experience the game fully? sixaxis is a joke.