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Which Console Did You Buy/Receive Over The Holidays?

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Game Profile
 Written by Matt Swider  on August 01, 2007

E3 07 Hands-On Preview: Part of our E3 2007 Sweet Suite Tour

During last year's guided tour of Assassin's Creed, an Ubisoft rep told us that the game will allow players to climb any surface that protrudes from the wall more than two inches. This year at E3 2007, we got a chance to try that out ourselves. We scaled the walls of Jerusalem and then jumped from rooftop to rooftop above the expansive ancient city as if it were an interactive holy land. It's filled with merchants, thieves and ordinary citizens who would've populated the Middle East in 1191 A.D. Among them is your character Altair, an assassin of unjust figures who profited from the third crusade, which was going on at this time.

Controlling Altair feels a lot like playing an enhanced Prince of Persia in a free roaming environment and with interactive crowds. There's a good reason for that. It's being developed by the same team that made the Prince of Persia console games. They're taking advantage of the next-generation hardware of the PS3 and Xbox 360 for this all-new franchise, something that is especially evident when the massive crowds turn on you inside this massive sand-filled sandbox. This happens if you don't use the B button to gently tap passersby and instead knock into them or knock them onto the ground. Whenever you knock some one down, it stirs the entire crowd with shockwaves of unease and talk of Altair being an outsider. Guards are summoned and the combat system appears contextually.

As quickly as fights begin, however, they don't end unless you take some serious action. Options include fending off the highlighted sword-wielding aggressors or scampering through the city to a safe haven. Taking the cowards way out by hiding in a hay wagon and watching the guards patrol where you just were with confusion is kind of cool. But, nothing beats slaying them in the open streets with brutal attacks and merciless counter moves, and then scaling a nearby wall before attracting more unwanted interest. The combat moves are assigned to the face buttons in the top right corner and can be switched out with the R button. It takes some time to get used to, but there are a lot of awesome attacks to perform once you get the hang of the scheme.

The storyline, or what we known of it thus far, is just as fascinating. Your mission as a member of a secret group of assassins takes you to Jerusalem, Acre and Damascus to hunt down nine historical figures. So, not only are the locations legit, but so are the people that you kill. The example shown in our demo was Talal, a Jerusalem slave trader. After doing away with a bunch of his minions, we chased him through the heavily populated streets as he threw innocent bodies in our way. We decided to toss a couple of throwing knives back in his direction, which was much more painful in our opinion. Although we accidentally stuck some of the people in the crowd in the process, we eventually hit Talal and finally jumped him to trigger a cut-scene.

Final Thoughts
The death of Talal was the end of our demo time, but it told us a lot about the game to come. The combat mechanics work like a next-gen Prince of Persia, but there's a lot more sneaking involved this time around and tons of freedom to enjoy all of the new graphical elements. Expect to start scaling walls and peering down at the dusty streets of the Middle East as soon as your own streets are filled with snow.

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