E3 '07: Assassin's Creed Hands-On

Perhaps you've heard of Assassin's Creed? Well, we finally take our first hands-on look at the game at E3 07.

Assassin Creed likely needs no introduction: Since its introduction at last year's E3 event, the game has been turning heads with its mysterious assassin-in-medieval-Jerusalem setting and its eye-popping graphics. A year later, Ubisoft is finally giving the press the opportunity to go hands-on with the title, and we recently had the chance to sit down for nearly an hour with Elspeth Tory, the project manager for the game's animation, as she showed us the most recent build of the game and let us play it for ourselves.

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For those of you who haven't been following the title, it's worth pointing out that Assassin's Creed is what Ubisoft Montreal has been working on since the last entry in their extremely well-received Prince of Persia series. It follows the adventures of Altair, an assassin who works in the Holy Land in the 12th century, working on behalf of the mysterious Hashshashin and tasked with killing targets inside a large city. During the demo, we picked up hints that he and the Hashshashin are working against a mysterious Brotherhood, but what they represent isn't entirely clear.

Our demo began with Altair standing on a wooden beam on the roof of a building, where Altair is supposed to make what's known as a "leap of faith," which allows him to dive into a bale of hay on the street below him and thus quickly and stealthily make his way down to street level. Unfortunately, we clumsily executed a regular jump, sending Altair onto the pavement itself. While painful, the falling damage wasn't enough to kill us, so we took off toward our target, a slave driver named Talal who had set up shop near our location.

Given the game's origins, it's unsurprising that Altair moves in a manner that is, at least on the surface, reminiscent of the Prince in the Prince of Persia games. Given the free-form nature of the city in which Altair works, however, the movement system here is both more fantastic and more realistic. It's more realistic in the sense that you're unable to jump incredible distances, an acrobatic limitation that's particularly noteworthy during combat; but since the city is built with a number of extremely climbable buildings and short jumps, you'll also find yourself scampering up walls and leaping from rooftop to rooftop. This "free running" style of movement is easily accomplished in most instances, as you're capable of simply holding down the right trigger button and pressing A on an Xbox 360 controller to activate it. While holding down these buttons, Altair automatically tries to use the most fluid movement available to him in the direction he's facing, whether it's climbing up to the roof of a building or jumping from beam to beam. The primary source of interaction while Altair is free running lies in choosing his direction, as your choice of path will determine the kind of route that he will take.

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You're not limited to simply running and jumping around, of course; by default, Altair will simply walk slowly through the multitude of people on the street. Your goal as an assassin is to remain stealthy and and blend in with the crowd, and there is in fact an option to hold down a button for "blend" mode, wherein Altair will move very slowly, but will clasp his hands and bow his head in a pretty good imitation of a monk. That will let you meld with the crowds and avoid the attention of guards who might otherwise become suspicious of you. If you're too impatient to deal with that, though, you can also use gentle pushes to make your way more swiftly through a crowd, or simply punch people out of your path--but that will, of course, draw unwanted attention.

When you are spotted, or when you simply don't give a damn whether or not you have to fight off a guard, you can hold down the right trigger to activate your high alert mode, which allows you to move more quickly through crowds and also attack or tackle people who get in your way. All of these actions are mapped to your controller's face buttons, and they're context sensitive. All of your actions are visible in the upper-right corner of the screen, which should make it a bit easier to get the hang of the game when you're just starting out.

The ways in which the guards and other hostile enemies in the game will react to you is based on what is essentially a wanted meter, similar to what you’ve experienced in games like Metal Gear Solid or Grand Theft Auto. If you stick with the crowd and don’t draw attention to yourself, you’ll mostly be left alone. When you start acting oddly, such as by running through the streets and pushing people out of your way, enemies will begin taking more of an interest in you. If you actually start taking out your weapons and chopping people up, or if you attempt to run along the rooftops and are spotted by an elevated archer, every enemy in the area will typically come looking for you.

When this occurs, you have two very basic options: fight or flight. The fighting system allows you to use four weapons: the sword, the daggers, the hidden blade, and Altair’s fists. Each will have its own basic utility, such as how you can throw the daggers to hit enemies a short distance away, but when you’re in a fight against multiple foes, you’ll likely want to stick with the sword.

If you’re expecting the kind of acrobatic moves that you might have used in the Prince of Persia games, though, you’ll be surprised at the relatively realistic movements that Altair is capable of. He’s only human, after all, so he’s not capable of jumping straight over an opponent’s head or throwing them across the room; most of his attacks consist of basic swordplay or grappling maneuvers. A simple sword attack is the basis of his combat ability, although it’ll often be blocked by your foes. If you wait until an enemy attacks you and press a button at the correct time, you will be capable of blocking their attack and countering, which will usually earn you an immediate kill. You can also lock onto an enemy and grapple them, which will let you then push or pull them in any direction you like, based on your analog stick movement. This is helpful for pushing enemies off of tall buildings or into destructible parts of the environment, like scaffoldings, that will collapse onto them.

All of this comes together well at the end of the demo. If you saw the Microsoft press conference and saw the demo that was performed there, you’ll remember that Altair eventually tracks down and kills Talal, the slavedriver. What wasn’t shown during that demo is what happens after a successful assassination: the escape. After a particularly high-profile killing like that, Altair needs to wipe the body of his foe with a feather and return the bloodied trophy to the Hashshashin hideout that he’s based in. Unfortunately, the hideout will be closed to you until you can eliminate your wanted level.

Again, doing so can be done either by fighting all of the guards that come after you until none of them are close enough to spot you, or by outrunning them and attempting to find a hiding place. Running away from your pursuers is by no means easy, however, as they can follow you almost anywhere you go, and will even pursue you onto the rooftops if they see you climb up a building, thanks to the numerous ladders in the area. There are a number of hiding spots that you can use if you manage to get out of eyesight for a moment, such as covered bales of hay on the roofs of the buildings or even benches that are already populated by other civilians: simply plop yourself down and try to blend in, and the guards will likely pass you by.

What intrigues us the most about the demo is the remnants of the high-technology world that was only glimpsed behind closed doors at last year’s E3. If you recall our previous report, you’ll remember that there was a bizarre scene in which, after Altair’s untimely death, the screen flashed white and you found yourself waking up in a futuristic room, apparently emerging from some kind of virtual reality simulation. Hints of this high-tech background are apparent in the Jerusalem setting, as when you lock onto an enemy, they’ll flash with an aura that’s made up of digital glyphs. At various times during the demo, the entire screen will also flash with the same glyphs, indicating that you can flip to an alternate camera view during a cutscene. Additionally, after our successful assassination of Talal, we were treated to a cryptic exchange of dialogue, with a bloodied Talal lying in Altair's arms, both of them bathed in an overwhelming white light.

What this sequence might signify, and how the futuristic touches will tie into the final game, is something that Ubisoft is still understandably cagey about. Given that the game is coming out this November, though, we may just have to wait until then to find out more. Stay tuned to GameSpot for complete coverage if any more information comes down the pipe.

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302 comments
eminem_trick_01
eminem_trick_01

it's look like prince of persia but with some realistic elements and some arabian aspects, the graphics are much deeper from that in POP games surley and also the storyline is more catchy.

firo999
firo999

why?!?!?!?!? i thought it was historically accurate. well it's not i mean come on the dome of the rock was supposed to be gray until the 1950,60,or maybe 70 then they put the paint r whatever on it please does anyone knows how to contact anybody in ubi so they can fix this problem, other than this the game is the best game ever!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Acidbrns
Acidbrns

/agree with Jnvwv Cesar.............just wow lol@u Definetly looks like an interesting release. /preordered

Noventus
Noventus

I'm prob going to get this for the PC but im worried they will screw the pc gamers over with a really half-arsed port of the 360 controls *cough vegas cough* .... tempted to get it for the 360 but I'm just a mouse-whore at heart.

jonomon101
jonomon101

I cant wait until this game comes out, i like the hitman series, so this should be right up my alley

wrestlemaniaw
wrestlemaniaw

this game about my country so it's easy for me to go anywhere I want....

zarkia
zarkia

i'm also buying a new system for this game. i totally loved the PoP games, hopefully assassin's creed will be as good.

firo999
firo999

i like this game sooooooooo much i am buying a new pc just for it and i like the setting in Jerusalem,demuscus and acre which was my hometown before the israelis took it from us arabs

pjlsport
pjlsport

I cant wait untill this game it looks so amazing

jnvwv
jnvwv

Cesarblue: That whole message needs to be drug out behind the barn and deleted.

jnvwv
jnvwv

November is fine. It will be better if its done in November and complete, than on store shelves today and broken and buggy.

Dnadolny
Dnadolny

Argh... Comes out in November. Not SOON ENOUGH!!!

dirty_asssassin
dirty_asssassin

I have been eye ballin this game for a while, and can't wait for it's release in november. It is going to be awesome

jazz_kenny
jazz_kenny

the game looks awesome...i've been checking this game for a long time...cant wait for it to come out

rockyking
rockyking

cool i can't wait to put my hand on it do any one notice that he looks like Prince Of Persia

Roman_Slayer
Roman_Slayer

Wow cesarblue (you misspelled ceasar btw), you're really a bastard. It seems to me that you only made your little double post to hate ps3, I'm not a ps3 fan either but I'm sure that most people checking out the 360 version of a game that's also on the ps3 aren't ps3 fanboys.

cesarblue
cesarblue

only other thing i would ask ubisoft to add to this game is make the character be able to be a blackman I 'm tired of not having the choice, just give us the option..... great game tho, yea this to me is a updated prince of persia, it's not ninja gaiden cause they made that game nextgen on a 5yr old system and it still looks just as good as this so don't compare the too plus ng has magical summons and assasin creed is a human with no summon trainning,, different worlds. remember ps3=neo-geo don't be fooled and no mgs4 is not there savior, it will be a good game but not a 600 game. all the doubters i'm going to run down games on why you should get the 360 bioshock gears of war oblivion two worlds Mass Effect these are all just in this yr along imagine what going to happen next yr when democrates win the presidency and the war is over man i can''t wait buy that time the 360 with hard drive will be 250 and then we will really get it cracking until then come check my blog www.myspace.com/prophetschasinpaper thanks leave a message let me know what you think

cesarblue
cesarblue

This is going to be a good game but Mass Effect will be game of the year Matter of fact Once Mass Effect come out all other games will be obsolete, I think that assasin creed looks to be on that nexgen level, and should be a enjoyable time, All I got to say is sory ps3 I mean neo-geo but since you don't have any exclusive rights and we know your going to be running at 30fps just trade your ps3;'s in and by a 360 , if gears of war didn't do it for you then wait till Mass Effect, come out, don't forget we got Fable 2 coming out, I mean those two games along should convince you, As far as the wii goes, this is a childs game nobody in the right mine could compar 360vs wii yea the sales are going to be in the wii favor cause it's cheaper and it caters too children but that just means if your 6-14 this is the game for you, no aldut is should be playing this, look bioshock vs metroid prime, (bio shock wins) what about Gears of war vs Paper Mario you see it just isn't fair, i didn't add oblivion which i might add the wii can't run, nor did i add Two worlds, so guys just admit it 360 is a true next gen. I would even go so far as too say it's the best console out right now for nextgen, only thing it really doesnt' have is backwards compatiblity but u should have your xbox to stasify you on that. ps3=neo-geo that's the new sologan so tell your friends ps3=neo-geo come check out my new blog www.myspace.com/prophetschasinpaper leave a comment tell me what you think Last thing Mass Effect is the best game every I think it will make history

Myriam_D
Myriam_D

Sounds great-geeze, my lack of next-gen systems is pissing me off. I wanna do this on a console... *sigh*

wotsit3
wotsit3

This is going to a top game definitely buying

conkerblade
conkerblade

this game is gonna be one of the best games of the year

packernation31
packernation31

This game sounds pretty sweet. It reminds me of hitman in the way of stealth.

bmcookie797
bmcookie797

This game is amazing. Complete interaction with your enviroment. And realistic combat really makes this a game to really take a closer look at.

nugXL
nugXL

Simply amazing. This game is brilliant and the visuals are beyond eye candy. The sword fighting engine is definitely a work or art. Finally a game with realistic sword combat.

tmac531
tmac531

This game looks great with graphics and gameplay and I'm definatly going to get it.

kittykiller897
kittykiller897

This game looks really great, and i think it will be, but they could completely screw it. But if not, it'll be the best game...

uk_beny
uk_beny

this looks uber sweet

volcommeek1
volcommeek1

looks so freaking good. i cant wait!

majesticcryx
majesticcryx

As I was looking the gameplay movie,I realize that this game is a mix of Splinter Cell,Prince of Persia,Ninja Gaiden & Thief.I hope that the story will be good,because than the game will be amazing.Shadow to shadow,kill to kill.

Gta4lif3
Gta4lif3

this game will destroy ninja gaiden for sure.

Alacard_Omalley
Alacard_Omalley

rockhardnuts YOu are a traitor, but yeah get a ps3 too : )*)

deviousdeviousd
deviousdeviousd

This game apparently uses the same gameplay elements as Splinter cell 5. So it'll be intresting to see which game is more entertaining.

howl78
howl78

This looks & sounds promising......must have.

lancezmfa
lancezmfa

It looks and sounds good, but I am worried if it will completely deliver in the end, after so many assasination missions it might get tiring, repetitive, and boring. Hopefully there will be something to spice it up.

okassar
okassar

This game will be sweet.I want to here of some online multi-player action similar to Splinter cell,except with Altair and gaurds.Syria's a part of the game,sweet!

Shadow_op
Shadow_op

@gfrxarts Do you realize that people who have a Wii also can have a 360 or PS3 or a highend Gaming PC?

pigijs
pigijs

THIS GAME WILL BE BETTER THAN PRINCE OF PERSIA ALL SERIES

sharang_rai
sharang_rai

Hmm cool man sounds and looks great i played all the Prince of Persia games and loved them and this game also looks nice i am buying this game. The graphics and physics are worked out well and alot of interesting realistic moves are our disposal