One of the most anticipated games at this year's Electronic Entertainment Expo is Assassin's Creed. Ubisoft has been tight-lipped on its upcoming action game, at least until Microsoft's press conference, where the game was put through its paces.
The level being shown was Jerusalem circa 1191 A.D. during the time of the Third Crusade. The game's protagonist is an assassin named Altair, which is Arabic for "High Flyer"--a fitting name, since he was perched high atop a tower with a bird's-eye view of the town below. As the camera panned around the bustling city, it was noted that every building you see is interactive and not just a part of the scenery.
But this game isn't about standing on top of tall buildings admiring the view. Altair's objective in this particular level is to take out a slave trader who resides in the city below. Leaving the safety of his perch via a swan dive into a cart filled with hay, Altair makes his way through the city, weaving through the crowded streets, bumping into villagers carrying jars on their heads, and rather forcefully moving a beggar out of the way. Producer Jade Raymond, who was narrating the demo, pointed out that the way you interact with the villagers can either help or hinder you during your mission. This mechanic was shown when villagers blocked Altair's path, forcing him to take a different route.
This little detail proves to be no problem, as he scales a wall with ease and then pushes a guard off a building so that his dead body would draw the attention of the guards. There were a few noticeable bugs in the demo, but one floating, dead guard later and Altair is back on the ground and quickly scampering indoors. This turns out to be a bad idea. Foes approach from the shadows, and the slave trader appears above and gave the order to kill Altair.
As soon as the trader gives his command, the bad guys attack. Using his sword to perform well-timed combos and counterattacks, Altair make short work of the first few enemies--each of which glowed with an almost Tron-like effect as they were targeted. You won't be limited to just a sword in your role as an ancient assassin; there are four different weapons, including a short sword for close combat and throwing stars for ranged attacks.
Once his underlings had perished, the trader decided to head to the roof to make a run for it. This triggered a brief but exciting chase sequence. Raymond promised that no two chases would ever be the same thanks to each of Altair's targets having its own unique artificial intelligence. If you get too far behind your target he'll taunt you; if you get too close he'll throw obstacles in your way. Just when it appeared the trader might escape with his life, Altair took to the rafters and rapidly closed that gap, ending the chase and the demo by leaping onto the trader and ending his life with the thrust of his blade.
Assassin's Creed is currently scheduled to ship for the Xbox 360 this November. We'll have hands-on impressions of the game once E3 starts.