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Assassin's Creed

Anatomy of a kill

You're looking at Altair, the anti-hero of Ubisoft's free-running medieval kill-'em-up, Assassin's Creed. He's looking at his target, William de Montferrat, commander general in Richard the Lionheart's army.

Thanks to Altair's incredible acrobatic skills, the distance between him and his target isn't as great as it seems. He can grapple onto any bit of architecture more than two inches wide, as well as use beams, rooftops and bales of hay to get to his quarry.

A good assassin will pick his route and limit his exposure. A great assassin will be socially invisible, using crowds as cover. A clumsy assassin will anger every guard in a mile radius, and spend the rest of the level running around with a gaggle of them hounding his every move, desperately looking for some civilians to blend in with.

Zoom

William is being sounded-out by Richard (Mr Lionheart to his subordinates). This is where the challenge begins. Assassin's Creed is pretty freeform, but limits your options for dramatic effect. That horseshoe of people around William is impenetrable until it breaks up. When it does, and not before, it's time to hunt.

I'll admit I struggled with Assassin's Creed: a few niggles need sorting out. If you manage to anger a guard, you must to get out of their sight, then hide. Trouble is, in fleeing you'll often attract attention from more guards. To hide you need to wait until you're out of sight then find a bench to sit on, some monks to collude with or a bale of hay to snuggle in.

However, while you're concentrating on free-running and dodging your foes, you'll usually speed right past the safe areas - and the chasing guards will catch up if you backtrack. Careful balancing is needed to make all this - a fairly substantial portion of Assassin's Creed - a more fluid experience.

When things do settle down, there's a lot of fun to be had with the game mechanics. Altair's movement, particularly at roof level, is thrilling: he skips over beams, falls, rolls and carries on, and the kill, if done correctly, is a brutal, swift exclamation mark. Which, in the accompanying boxes, I'll talk you through.

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