Sunday, 14 November 2010

Assassin's Creed and messy public murders

Never having touched Assassin’s Creed II, despite enjoying the first game, I decided it was high time to give the hidden blade swinging, rafter stalking, horrific stab simulator a go. A few hours in and I’m enjoying myself, but can’t help but feel that Ezio is a terrible assassin and a very inefficient person.

My primary expectations of those who behave like assassins are people like Sam Fisher or Agent 47, both capable of knocking off their marks and slipping away without a witness raising the alarm, or on a really good day, nobody else knowing the target is dead. These feats are what I expected of Ezio and indeed Altair before him.

What I’m really struggling with is the assassination process in the Assassin’s Creed series. If you’re very good, you can get close to your target and plunge cold steel into the inviting warmth of their still beating heart without anyone being the wiser. In my experiences so far though, it is impossible to get away without drawing some kind of attention, even if everyone in the nearby vicinity had their back turned at the moment of execution.

Now, whether this is down to the victims futile gargling as they blink out of existence, or the fact that our assassin feels the need for a quick chat in some sort of digital dimension afterwards, there always seems to be a heavily armed escort who turn up to stab your getaway in the balls. At this point you can turn and run, but it is usually just as easy to turn on the party crashers and chew them up with your sword, especially if you can master counter-attacking.

After this it is not uncommon to find out that your smooth assassination job has created a trail of 20 corpses that you leave in your wake as you stroll away from the scene as calmly as anything. As Ezio seems to fair very well in sword fights, he feels nowhere near as sleek, fragile or invisible as some assassin’s from other games do. I find this disappointing as it takes what I thought would be a series about stealth and cloaks and makes it seem much closer to an all out action game.

I’m also struggling to work out the point of the hidden blades, as cool as they are. I completely understand the importance of concealed weapons to a man who makes his living by increasingly messy, yet subtle murders, but surely having a sword on your hip all the time is likely to raise just as much concern. I’m not entirely sure how common it was for the ‘average man in the crowd’ to hang a sword from his belt, but it isn't the most conspicuous thing in the world. Having two tiny blades hidden, but a large one swaying very visibly with your every movement seems a bit contradictory.

Fortunately for Ezio, everyone back then had a memory that could hold onto recent events as effectively as a buttered hand can grasp a wet bar of soap. You can bribe people to lower your notoriety, but I still feel this should only work within reason. I am not convinced that we could bring Assassin’s Creed to a modern timeline, as the invention of bloggery, Twitter and camera phones do not accommodate for the very public and bloody brawls that the central characters enjoy partaking in.

Brotherhood is out next week on November 19, and it’ll probably continue the trend of sword fights that end with blades embedded quite deep in people’s necks, backs and shoulders. I’m not saying that this is a bad thing at all, it’s looking good. Just not the most silent assassin-ny game in the world.

No comments: