11th Dec 2006 | 12:04
You'll know plenty about it already. The concept is superb, the story is intriguing, and it'll have better AI (according to the developers) on 360 than it will on PS3. Oh, and graphically it looks beautiful too. So, why did we come away from X06 feeling a little let down by what we saw of Assassin's Creed?
One word: crowds. 'Creed's claim to fame is its ability to generate emotional reactions from its crowd; if you murder someone in full public glare, they go mental, react individually, run, hide or attempt to arrest you; if you leg it, they give chase; if you try to engage them in a fight, they back down or stand up to you. What makes the game so profound on paper is its AI... and in the X06 demo version, it simply wasn't ready to show.
The crowd reacted to your brushing past them, or pushing them over, and - again when you took out your target, but only in a perfunctory way. On one occasion, about 20 onscreen characters just ran round in circles when we knifed our 'hit' through the top of the bonce. On another, the reaction of a stream of passers-by as we barged past them was
exactly the same. We know Ubi will get there - they always do - but the game's first public showing wasn't quite the earth-shattering showcase we'd hoped.
Slightly disappointing too, was some of the animation. For a start, there seemed to be vital frames missing, giving the characters a slightly jerky, unconvincing look. Plainly that'll get fixed, but what we're definitely hoping to see much more variety from are the crowds themselves, especially in the way they move around, the way they look, and they way they go about their business in the game world. Here's the thing, though: the crowd AI system was always going to be the hardest thing to nail, and in pretty much all other areas, 'Creed is shaping up to be outstanding. If the coding team can follow through on the promise of truly unpredictable crowds, taking what titles like Hitman: Blood Money have already done and cranking it up a few notches for next gen, then this really will be the game we always wanted.