November 2007 was the month that the gaming world witnessed the births of some excellent titles: Call of Duty 4, Mass Effect, Unreal Tournament III, Super Mario Galaxy, and Crysis. The game that held the top of that pile for quite some time was the infamous Assassins Creed. However, this amazing game was not available to one particular market: the humble PC gamer. Eight months later the PC community happily accepted Assassins Creed onto their hard drives, but have there been teething problems from console to PC?
The game begins after a few moments of strange scenes after which the player is given control of a strange hooded character cloaked in white. However, something seems wrong. The screen keeps flashing and pausing at random parts almost as if it is corrupted. You can also hear two people bickering over "the stability of the system".
All of a sudden you are sucked into a scene depicting a man who resembles the strange hooded character in the corrupted vision getting out of a strange machine. As the dialogue progresses you discover you have been kidnapped by these scientists as a subject with a secret. The machine you were lying down on is known as the 'Animus', and takes a subject's genetic code and depicts it into a replayable memory. In simple terms: you're playing as your ancestor through a previous point in history in order to find some information.
This puppet style of control feels fresh and efficient but is tied to the player's 'synch'. In Assassins Creed the life of the character is known as 'synchronization' which recharges over time. 'Synch' is the tie between your character in the modern time and the ancestor's memory he is replaying – if you lose synch then your ties with that memory are lost and you must restart from your last saved 'memory block'. The creators of the game have done very well to give the player a sense of puppeteer instead of role-player.
The basic layout of the game is a free roaming platformer layered with story-specific missions. Players are given a list of nine people they must eliminate as the assassin Altair. The objective is to not only kill your target but to also investigate them beforehand.
There are numerous ways of finding this information and as such they are provided in the form of side-missions. They range from interrogation to eliminating guards for a fellow assassin – and even just listening to a conversation between two characters. These investigative side-missions do seem a bit repetitive after the third time but luckily the player only has to complete three side-missions in order to get permission to go for the kill.
Stealth is not a necessary component of Assassins Creed; instead it uses the concept of striking like an eagle. Altair has the ability to free-run and blend into crowds, creating a good mix between being slow and silent or fast and exposed. The player is also given five different weapons for separate situations.
The longsword is the main tool of self-defense, and is useful for big battles with multiple foes; the shortsword is a light and fast blade capable of slicing through small numbers of enemies with ease; throwing knives are for long-distance instant kills; and a hidden blade is used for assassinations.
The graphics for Assassins Creed are absolutely jaw-dropping. The vast cities such as Acre and Jerusalem expand into the horizon with literally hundreds of buildings in between. All the while the frame-rate remains consistent on both XP and Vista. Character modeling is also very well done except for the limited number of skins used for the citizens who roam the streets.
As for the controls, they seem to have suffered a slight problem going from the console version onto the PC. Using the keyboard and mouse for an action/adventure game like Assassins Creed seems ludicrously stupid as only a few keys are used. Left and right mouse clicks determine the main-hand and the off-hand action.
The shift key activates a high-profile mode which is used for combat or free-running. The controls do feel slightly all over the place yet no matter what custom keymap you use it still doesn't feel right. A controller for your PC would be highly recommended if you want to enjoy Assassins Creed in all its tasty gaming glory.
The game looks better than ever on the PC and plays like a dream too. However if you already have the game you won't find anything totally new other than the odd side-mission. The wait feels like it hasn't been justified by enough extra features, but for people who have been hanging out for a PC release, then go ahead and grab a copy as there is now no excuse for giving this awesome game a jam.