The paradoxical life of a man dedicated to death comes to the Xbox 360 in the form of Assassin's Creed. This is no Hitman clone however, as Assassin's Creed plants gamers in the midst of the Third Crusade as a member of the sect responsible for the creation of the word "assassin." Gamers take control of Alta´r, a young Assassin who begins his quest shortly after the Christian capture of the city Acre. With avian traits (Alta´r is Arabic for "eagle") and a ritualistically severed finger replaced by a talon-like dagger, he is out to expedite the Assassin's goal of bringing an end to the Crusades with as little bloodshed as possible. But it's up to gamers to decide just how much blood he spills.
Featuring the sort of open-ended storytelling, gameplay, and side-missions as the Grand Theft Auto games, Assassin's Creed is designed to immerse gamers in the medieval world of religious conquest. Set between July and September of 1191, the game features three full cities to explore in Acre, Damascus, and Jerusalem, as well as Masyaf, the smaller base of Assassin operations, and a sprawling wilderness area which connects the four cities. Each city has a distinct atmosphere, and nearly every part of the world is interactive. This lets gamers use Alta´r's acrobatics and strength to bound around rooftops, scale walls, and interact with anything that juts out more than two inches from its surroundings. The game also makes use of a unique control system where buttons correspond to appendages rather than particular actions.
Developed by a Ubisoft Montreal team that features many of the people responsible for creating the fluid character graphics of the Prince of Persia games, Assassin's Creed is designed to feature the most realistic and lifelike characters ever seen in a video game. Alta´r's movement is governed by over 4,000 character animations, and NPCs (non-playable characters) are all designed to have their own needs and concerns, which will lead some characters to aid him, while others may fight him or run away. Similarly, if Alta´r dispatches a few soldiers quickly, other soldiers are more likely to flee for their lives or run for help than eagerly attack and meet the same fate as their fallen brethren.
There are nine central targets who must be eliminated to end the Crusades. After each assassination the dying victim relays some bit of information to Alta´r, moving the narrative along and giving gamers a fuller understanding of the overall mission. There are also dozens of side missions spurred by communication with peasants and merchants, and a number of flags for Alta´r to track down. Assassin's Creed features one final twist that brings gamers back to the present and takes them into the future, opens the door for sequels to come, and gives some insight into the Assassin's creed: "Nothing is true. Everything is permitted."