CBCnews

E3: Hands on with Assassin's Creed

by Erin Bell, special to CBCNews.ca

As Altair the assassin climbs a ladder to reach the rooftop of a building, his feet step solidly onto each rung, one after the other, until he reaches the top. Climbing ladders is a simple concept, witnessed in countless video games, but the carelessness with which many characters are animated while doing so has always irked me: When people climb ladders in real life, their feet touch the rungs – they don't step through the rungs, or levitate above the rungs, or do a kind of running-man dance step in the air while being pulled up the ladder by an invisible string.

The fact that Altair actually climbs ladders properly is a trifle, but it's indicative of the overall level of meticulousness that seems to have gone into Ubisoft Montreal's development of Assassin's Creed.

AssassinsCreed sized.jpg
Screenshot from Assassin's Creed

According to the game's producer, Jade Raymond, the Altair character is made up of 10,000 distinct animations, as compared to 800 animations for the prince in Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time.

Although few details were forthcoming about the plot of Assassin's Creed, which takes place during the Third Crusade in the cities of Jerusalem, Damascus and Acre, the demo offered ample opportunity to delve into the game's fluid control scheme, and to see first-hand the various ways Altair could interact with the environment.

Altair is controlled through a "puppeteer" concept, where one button is assigned to "feet" and the other to "hands," and another button modifies the action; for example, the hand button can make Altair shove or punch someone, and the foot button can be used to sprint and jump.

Most of the people milling through the city streets are a hindrance in some way, especially the beggars that latch on to Altair like bees to honey, or the crazies that walk around muttering to themselves and start taking swings if Altair gets too close. Altair can figure out various ways to avoid them – a good shove tended to do the trick, but I could see the hundredth or two hundredth beggar encounter getting very annoying indeed.

164_[ASSASSINS CREED]_S_[Jerusalem]_[PushCrowd] sized.jpg
Screenshot from Assassin's Creed

Stealth is an important part of Assassin's Creed, and the game uses a social status indicator to gauge how other characters react to Altair. If Altair gets caught doing something he shouldn't (such as attacking someone), his social status indicator will turn red, and the city guards will try to hunt him down. If Altair can break the guards' lines of sight and hide, the indicator will turn to yellow, then back to neutral. Simply running away isn't enough, and neither is climbing – they'll just climb up after you or start throwing stones.

Instead of running, Altair could also try to fight the guards with sword, daggers or fists. I chose this option, and once I had dispatched a few of them with my sword, the rest turned and fled, which is an example of how characters react to what they see in front of them. Apparently seeing me mow down a few of their buddies made them have second thoughts about taking me on.

Most buildings in the sprawling town are scalable through a combination of climbing, shimmying on ledges and leaping. To get back to the ground quickly, there are specific locations to perform "leap of faith" swan dives into strategically positioned bales of hay – the locations of which are marked by the circling pigeons and the "presents" they tend to leave behind on ledges and rooftops.

175_[ASSASSINS CREED]_S_[Jerusalem]_Sized.jpg
Screenshot from Assassin's Creed

Assassin's Creed is set to launch in November for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. These impressions are based on the Xbox 360 demo, although a spokesperson from Ubisoft assured me that the two versions were identical.

Erin Bell is a Toronto-based freelance video game and technology journalist, and is reporting on her fourth E3.

Comments

  •  
  •