Not, in fact, a victim of its own hype

User Rating: 9 | Assassin's Creed X360
There can be no question that Assassin's Creed is one of the most hyped games of the year. Those gorgeous trailers and that unique storyline and that clever approach to combat...well, all of it just seemed to be a very focused combination, and so many assumed that a developer like Ubisoft would absolutely nail it once the final product finally landed.

Early reviews are decidedly mixed as to whether Ubisoft nailed it or merely drove the nail into the coffin of the series before it had life. Some are chiding the combat system, others dislike the repetitious nature of the gameplay, and others aren't enamored with the narrative. Fair criticisms, all of 'em, but there's something to be said for innovation and freshness in the gaming world, too. And Assassin's Creed generally overcomes its flaws by being quite enjoyable and quite original.

Altair is a more charismatic character than Jack Carver of Ubisoft's Far Cry series, and probably not as overtly cool as Sam Fisher of Splinter Cell fame. He's not thoroughly memorable but there's room for some development in that regard. And let's be real honest with ourselves: in this age, most just aren't terribly concerned with how a character resonates, so long as he can kick a little ass and maybe snap off a few one-liners.

The assassination missions, so far, appear to be very well orchestrated. The linear narrative of Assassin's Creed is discouraging to a point, but there's also a great deal of fluidity to it as a result. The expanse of the world, the vertical nature of the game (it's kind of a living, breathing platformer of sorts) and the keen use of ancillary characters is an achievement. This, folks, is a pretty big game, and not just in its ambition or scope.

It's a visual treat for the most part, though I hazard to guess that on a standard-definition TV with composite cables, you won't see much here to get excited about. The audio presentation is competent, though underwhelming in spots. The gameplay mechanics are solid, although as a general rule, you shouldn't expect the fighting component of this game to be considerably challenging. You won't get swarmed by foes, but you will have to deal with the same kinds of swipes and parries often.

So is Assassin's Creed a legend, or a letdown? I guess that's where your own expectations come into play. I anticipated a solid action title with engaging characters and depth of narrative, and I think I'm pretty satisfied. I also see a potentially flourishing franchise. By no means is this effort perfect, but for its excellent production values and atypical approach, I say without reservation that it stands solidly among the best XBox 360 titles of 2007.

***EDIT: Originally, I inadvertently moved the score slider to 8.5, having intended to show a 9.0. The game rates a flat 9.0 in my book in all categories.***