E3: Hands on with Assassin's Creed

by Erin Bell, special to

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.

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This game actually looks really fun.

Posted July 13, 2007 09:43 AM



"This game is fantastic! You can CLIMB LADDERS!"

...I'm not extremely impressed with ladders, thanks. Amazing or not, I wouldn't mind seeing the game play and never seeing a weapon pass through someone's hand/other body part, or a body rub up against a "wall" only to pass slightly through it.

Ladders are great, but they are only a small part of this "look, I'm not really a part of the world I've been plunked down into!" problem.

Posted July 13, 2007 10:51 AM


When I was watching the demo, I couldn't help but notice the weird, technological head's up information that would appear whenever the player's view would center on another character. It reminded me a lot of those times in the Terminator movies when we'd see things from Arnie's point of view.

My question is whether this is just game information due to it being a demo build, or is there some kind of futuristic, sci-fi aspect to this game? I seem to recall reading something about there being some kind of time travel aspects to it, but I could be mistaken...

Posted July 13, 2007 10:53 AM



But, more importantly than the ladder physics, have they told us what the water will look like?

Posted July 13, 2007 11:34 AM



I've been waiting for this game for a long, long time. I'm glad to see that it keeps looking better everytime I see it pop up at various shows.

Charles, I was wondering if you're familiar with the Prince of Persia games? If you enjoyed those games, you'll probably like Assassin's Creed as it seems to expand on the gameplay of that series. Oh, and that heads up information can be toggled on and off, I believe. It's probably so players don't get frustrated when they can't single out who their target is supposed to be.

As for the "clipping" seen in some of the videos, there are still a few months before the game goes gold. I would assume they will work on minimizing it, though it wasn't too bad in the current build. Either way, there are greater tragedies in the world.

November can't come soon enough...

Posted July 13, 2007 12:20 PM



Re: Garet (don't worry, I'm just being a goof)

Excellent point about the water. I wonder if the ripple feature is mathematically adjusted for the mass and shape of every possible thing in the game that can interact with it, whether through throwing or not, in relation to: the speed it hits the water, how it treads water, if it sinks or floats, if it swims and how the swimming would effect it. Yes. Water definitely outclasses ladders.

I'm also curious about wind interaction.

Posted July 13, 2007 12:36 PM



I actually was kidding too. I don't think that how a character climbs a ladder is really anything to brag about.

Posted July 13, 2007 01:04 PM


"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."

That sounds like a passage from a bad fanfiction.

Anywho, ladders, water and wind aside, I wanna see this game. It looks neat.

Posted July 13, 2007 01:21 PM



All I have to say is the clip I saw for this game is nuts, climb anything, kill anyone, it's sweet.

Although I'm sure there is some sort of reprecussion if you go on a mad killing spree...


Posted July 17, 2007 07:26 PM


Yikes, Monkey! Be careful what you say or this might end up like another Manhunt 2!

Posted July 18, 2007 08:03 AM



I completely forgot about Manhunt, hehe.

They should've given you a banana and see how many different ways you can kill someone with it, hehe.. Points to Carolyn for bringing back a dead game!

Posted July 18, 2007 12:56 PM


Don't forget you have to add a bunch of useless Quests that make no sense!

Before you can kill your target with a banana, you must first bring us a shrubbery!!

Posted July 18, 2007 01:55 PM




Posted July 18, 2007 05:07 PM



it is the sickest game ever i playedit for 9 hours yesterday

Posted November 28, 2007 03:38 PM

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