I'm about 12 - 15 hours into Assassin's Creed. Some impressions:
- Holy crap, this game is gorgeous. Fantastic art style, huge draw distance (the cities are enormous and you can see until the very end of them from tall structures), the lighting and texture work is top notch, and best of all, your character is modeled and animated to perfection. This game probably has the most impressive animation I have seen for the player character. The way Altair adjusts to his environment when free running or climbing is a sight to see. Extremely impressive.
- The control scheme is completely different from what other games have done in the past and I think it is a homerun. After you get over the initial learning curve, the controls work great and pulling off complex moves is a snap (and great to look at).
- Voice acting is above average. Not as good as Drake's Fortune, but it ain't no Resident Evil either. Some of the voice actors are actually excellent.
- You can ride a horse. Any game that lets you ride a horse gets extra points in my book. The horse animation is also amazing. Better than Shadow of the Colossus. I can spend hours just riding my steed across the countryside (of which there are miles).
- As many reviews have pointed out, the game can get a bit repetitive. Setting up an Assassination feels very inorganic. The "investigation" does not feel like much of an investigation since your hand is held the entire time and you need to basically do a few of the following tasks: eavesdrop, pick pocket, beat-up someone for info, assassinate a few targets for a fellow member of your guild, or collect random flags in a timed race (my least favorite of the bunch). Every Assassination mission is preceded by any combination of those tasks. They might sound pretty cool, but the execution is very "game-like". More variety and some actual investigation (with more freedom) on your part would have been very welcomed.
- My biggest complaint with the game right now is not the repetitive nature of the tasks (the game looks and plays so well I am not bored of doing these things over and over again . . . as long as I take a break from the game and play some Rock Band or Uncharted in-between assassinations), but in how its videogame elements stand out as a result of how detailed and realistic everything else is. There are MANY little things that come together that just give the game a very game-like feel, instead of an organic, real-world feeling (although, without spoiling anything, this might be intentional). Certain things like after saving a citizen, the camera locks on to them as they thank you and you cannot really leave the area until they are done talking. In the meantime the world around you continues and you are standing around the corpses of many dead soldiers and other guards are usually already at the scene investigating the carnage. So there you are, the only person standing around with a weapon, dead soldiers, and the investigating guards don't immediately suspect you. They eventually will, if you hang around like a fool, but all you need to do is hold down the "blend" button and you bow your head, fold your arms and you are practically invisible to all guards, even if you are standing right in front of them. Pretty silly. Also, why does every bench in the game have two people sitting on them, one on each corner, so that you always get to sit right in the middle? I am thinking this is to make benches stand out more, yet it gives the game world a bit of that artificial feel that I am talking about. When you pickpocket someone the game again does that lock on camera thing where it focoses on the person you pick pocketed and you can't really move around much. The person always seems to notice that they were pickpockets about 2 seconds after you do it and they look around and practically look right at you, but never suspect you even if you are the only person around for a block. It is all these little details that stand out because of how realistic everything looks from afar, but always remind you that this is just a game (again, there is an element to this entire game that might nulify a lot of these complaints a bit, but they are still annoying).
- Combat is quite different from other games and just like the rest of the controls, after you get used to it, it can be a lot of fun. I love countering attacks, tossing people from rooftops, and looking like a total bad ass thanks to the great animation and pretty gory kills.
- The story started out a bit slow (especially the "twist") but it has been picking up and I am pretty interested in how things will turn out.
Overall, even with my complaints, Assassin's Creed threads new ground and is a marvel to watch and play. It is not perfect, but very unique and I really, really hope there is a sequel that can build on the great foundation that was created and expand on it.