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Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
System: Xbox 360
Release date: Available now
Review by: Michele White
You’re running through the city, trying to escape. Nothing unusual. You’ve done this a thousand times before. Suddenly, your video starts to break up. Damn! That game you just laid down 70 bucks for is damaged! Do not adjust your monitor or use that disk as a Frisbee! It’s just your introduction to the dual worlds that make up Assassin’s Creed.
I went in expecting medieval swords and maybe a sorcerer or two, but ended up inside some high tech facility staring at a strand of DNA. Instructions race too quickly to keep up. Faceless women paw at my clothes. A voice in my head that’s either Veronica Mars or her alter ego Elle (I can’t be sure yet) mentions that something’s wrong…they’re losing me. Images sputter and then I’m pissed off and in a lab. “Animus” is a machine I’m not happy about. I’m a bartender, but this crazy squint thinks I’m an assassin with secrets in my head. Now I know how Chuck feels. I instantly hate the head squint when he proposes that my choices are life as a lab rat or death. Well, I never liked the “…or death” option, so lab rat I become.
The Animus is a projector that renders memory, but whose? Apparently, those of some long ago ancestor of mine from the Crusades. DNA with memory. The concept alone makes my brain hurt initially, but the more you noodle it out, it actually begins to make sense. Could explain all those people that have reports of past life experiences, but before I go all existential on you, I remind myself that this is a clever work of fiction inspired by historical events and characters. It even opens with a disclaimer so that no one at either end of the political or religious spectrum can get their proverbial panties in a twist. “This work of fiction was designed, developed and produced by a multicultural team of various religious faiths and beliefs.” I get it. No one can afford to offend anyone these days, but the amount of historical knowledge they poured into this — impressive. Ubisoft was even nice enough to include the address for their support site in the opening credits.
Once the tutorial concludes, I jump to a memory and discover that my ancestor was a pompous twit. He KNOWS everything, so I’m pretty sure I’m going to end up paying for his attitude down the road. This brings to mind a question. If I’m reliving someone else’s memory, does my free will affect events or is it more like a dream? While the concept is intriguing at first, this poses real issues as gameplay progresses. Once I arrive at my initial destination, I’m forced into killing an ally. So much for free will.
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