Review: Assassin's Creed HD


Making its HD debut on Symbian is one of Gameloft’s franchise games, Assassin’s Creed. For those of you who’ve played this on consoles and handhelds, you know exactly what to expect - running around the ancient middle east, jumping a fair bit, and swinging your sword around as you seek out ancient relics. You'll be glad to know that you’re going to get the full experience on Symbian. Here's what else is on offer in our review of the latest HD game for Symbian^3.

Author: Gameloft SA

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For everyone coming to this game fresh, there’s a framing device of a modern mega-corporation kidnapping someone so they can use their ancestors to capture vital historical artefacts. No, I’m not quite sure why either. But you don’t see this in the game, you just appear on the edges of the city in the 12th century during the time of the Third Crusade. As Altair ibn La-ahad, you’ve been tasked with rescuing the Chalice MacGuffin, from the Knights Templair, and to do that you’ll need to grab the clues and keys from the Saracens and the Crusaders you encounter (and kill) along the way.

Assassins Creed

Plot over, what do we have? Well it is a 3-d environment, but one which is essentially a corridor approach, giving you some room to have a look around, but you’ll be following the platform path set out by the level designers. In itself this isn’t a problem, because the challenge is not where to go, but how to manage a jump, how to walk around an opponent without him seeing you and how to collect the objects and information you need.

Which is good because the environment doesn’t feel exciting at all to me. The relevant styling of houses, markets, walls and balance beams are present and correct, flaming torches in camps, yes... and it looks good. But that’s about it. There’s little interaction with the environment, the doors are for show, and where the developer wants you to go is where you go.

And in case you somehow get lost, just follow the big floating arrow that appears at the end of each section.

Assassins Creed

If you want to make a game about trying to find something, then at least make it relatively difficult to find said thing, as opposed to pulling the player along and then going “here it is!” Moaning about modern game design aside, Assassin’s Creed is a pretty looking side scrolling slasher. You’re taken from screen to screen, and after some initial jumping exercises, are rewarded with a number of enemies to defeat with your fists or sword, and then move to the next screen.

Pitched like this and it’s a rather snappy looking homage to the great arcade games of the late eighties like Double Dragon and Golden Axe, which of course are personal favourites of mine.

But Gameloft’s control system lets down this title almost as much as it lets  down Hero of Sparta HD. Using the left hand side of the touchscreen to replicate a directional controller, and the right hand side to have the “jump, fight, fight hard” buttons, means the classic control scheme has been replicated, albeit with no tactile feedback or indication your finger is in the right place.

Assassins Creed

Again, there’s not much Gameloft could do with only a touch screen available. I do struggle to make this configuration work, although I appreciate that one setting in the menu changes the direction pad from representing 360 degrees of movement to just 8 directions, giving a larger margin of error when controlling Altair around the landscape. That is an improvement on Sparta and is very much welcomed.

The other addition is the occasional mini-game that gets thrown up. Need to pick someone’s pocket? Then you’ll get to see inside the pocket and have to drag out the key (or whatever it is) without touching the sides or other objects to be successful. These are a nice distraction from the main game, but rather cynically I get the feeling they have been added to give a “new!” bullet point in the press release. And the the fun of dragging an object carefully around the touchscreen when my finger is eclipsing the object by more than the (ahem) size of the object – well it’s not really been thought through, has it?

Assassins Creed

So Assassin’s Creed HD leaves me in two minds. There is a good (but not great) game in here, but it seems to be hidden under too many layers of “innovation” that just get in the way. If it works for you, great, but it’s not as instantly accessible as it should be.

-- Ewan Spence, Dec 2010.

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