Yet another excellent video game in what has proved to be a vintage year, in fact this latest Assassin’s Creed has probably slipped through the crowd unnoticed into place behind the magnificent Red Dead Redemption and knifed Fallout New Vegas in the back to claim second position in my favouritest games of the year.
The First Assassin’s Creed looked brilliant in concept – a Crusader States setting, free-form play involving free-running, stealth, and killing folk in a variety of ways. But it proved to be hugely flawed and really quite boring. The second one, moving the action forward in time to Renaissance Italy was way, way better, though, and this direct sequel, shifting the action from Florence and Venice to Rome, is better yet.
The world is just so beautifully detailed, convincing and concrete, the engine so slick and robust. Much though I love Fallout Vegas, it can look a bit silly and creaky at times. Like when the President of the NCR comes on a visit, and is greeted by a cheering crowd of about a dozen guys, and even that makes the whole game slow down to an unmanageable crawl. In Assassin’s Creed you can not only see the city itself stretching off into beautifully realised far distance beneath a sky like a renaissance painting, but the whole place is absolutely crawling with varied life, with officious guards, bumbling labourers, bustling merchants, and the crowds react really quite convincingly to your actions. The detailed and convincing way in which the main character moves and interacts with his surroundings is also a wonder to behold – I can only think of Uncharted 2 that comes close in this respect, and that’s a much smaller and more linear game world. It’s an amazing technical achievement, and one that allows for as smooth and slick a gaming experience as I can think of.
OK, so there are a couple of teensy liberties taken with the history (ahem) and the modern-day framing story still seems pretty damn unconvincing and unnecessary (they seem to be aiming at the carefree banter of Uncharted here and missing quite badly), but overall it’s hard to fault. Thre’s a huge variety of gameplay and a mass of side quests and challenges to do, fed through in a way that makes you want to investigate, as well as the new opportunity to train your own lethal squad of assassins, and call them forth in support at the wave of a hand. Quality.