Saturday, October 18, 2008

Assassin's Creed...."Don't Offend Anyone"

This week I spent my ex-cigarette money on a copy of Assassin’s Creed for the 360.

This game made me thoroughly confused. The only way I could explain it at first is that when the game was half done, they turned production over to the studio head’s idiot grandson. Either that, or they called a meeting and decided to smoke a shitload of crack to get ‘inspired’.

You see, when I first saw Assassin’s Creed demoed, I saw an assassination game set during the Crusades. Now that was a good idea, for the simple fact that the medieval middle-east is perfect for a little cloak-and-dagger gameplay…and it’s a setting that’s just never been used before.

Then, I saw the game in action and my jaw dropped. Not only was it stunningly gorgeous, it had an amazing combat system, some great AI and a ‘free running’ game mechanic (go do a google search for ‘free running’ or ‘parkour’ if you don’t know what that it).

Then I bought the game, started playing it, and within five minutes had the mother of all WTF moments.

You see, this game isn’t set in the Middle East during the crusades. It’s set in the not too distant future.

Here’s the basic storyline, without giving too much away):

You play a guy who gets kidnapped. Basically the bad guys are looking for some treasure and one of your long dead ancestors had information about where it is. The bad guys have a machine called an ‘Animus’ that lets you relive your ancestor’s memories which are passed on to you through your DNA. They’re forcing you to use this machine and relive part of your Ancestor’s life to get at the information about the treasure.

Why? Dear God, why?

So, while we have that same awesome game we all saw demoed at E3, right from the get go, the level or immersion and the overall story takes an almost fatal hit because right off the bat we’re being asked to accept one of the most ridiculous premises ever (Genetic memory? Maybe it does exist to let birds know to fly south for the winter…but having your entire bloodline’s memories in perfect detail stored in your genes? Come on!)

Secondly, we have this wonderfully rendered version of Damasus and Jerusalem…that has futuristic ‘glitches’ superimposed over it, you know, just to make sure we get thrown out of the experience every five minutes.

I just couldn’t figure it out. I mean, this ‘twist’ is something that’s almost universally hated, so surely someone during development would have said “Uh, guys? This ‘animus’ crap? Genetic memory? It sucks balls. Why don’t we just do a straight forward medieval assassination game?”

Then, two things made it become crystal clear.

The first was I saw an interview with one of the creators of Assassin’s Creed who went to great lengths to explain the sheer amount of effort they put in to make the game as historically accurate as possible, even thought the story is completely made up. The bad guys you assassinate are all real historical figures who were either killed or went missing around the time the game was set.

An awful lot of effort considering the average gamer doesn’t have a masters in Medieval history and the game is a self confessed work of fiction, right?

Then, I turned the game on today, and caught something that came up in the screen just after the first loading screen:

“Assassin’s Creed was made by a multicultural team of various faiths and beliefs”

DING! I get it!

Can I have “Going way too far and damaging your own game to cover your ass from a minority of religious crazies” for two-hundred, Alex?

It finally hit me. This game was set during the crusades. A full on Christian versus Muslim holy war. That’s bound to rattle a few cages, right? Fox news would have a field day with it.

Tonight on Fox News. A murder simulator that teaches your kids how to kill minorities and people of different religions. Could this lead to another 9/11? Tune in at ten!

Yeah, a game where you play a Christian who goes around killing Muslims or vice versa might draw a little negative attention, so being complete and total pussies, they decided to almost ruin a perfectly good game.

You see, this way, the character doesn’t actually kill anyone. He’s just watching something that happened hundreds of years ago. It’s also ‘historically accurate’, so this is no more offensive and a TV documentary on the Crusades.

Hey, if the Germans aren’t getting mad about all those historical World War II shooters, no one can get upset about this historical game from the Crusades. Oh, and did we mention that your character kills people on both sides of the war instead of just muslims?

Am I right?

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