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Assassin's Creed: Director's Cut

Review: Steve Hogarty was jumping about on the roof, and now he can't get back down. Someone call the fire brigade

Oh hello, it's Assassin's Creed. Finally decided to show your face at the PC party, did you? And what's that you've brought with you?

It had better be steaks and blow jobs for all of us impatient PC gamers, because you've kept us waiting a pretty long time. A whole six months you've been sitting inside the oven of development, and what have you got to show for it? Certainly not sirloin and fellatio, but four new kinds of mission and a fast travel system instead. You're just lucky you're so goddamn pretty.

A lot of people will have, at the very least, peripheral knowledge of Assassin's Creed. Released on the Xbox 360 back in 2007, it elegantly rode the crest of an immense surge of anticipation before washing up on a pristine beach of great sales figures.

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But this beach resides in the cove of unfulfilled expectations - this was one of the most powerful examples of style over substance you could ever hope to gawp at. Ubisoft claim that those six months of conversion limbo have been used to address such criticisms though. They claim we PC gamers are getting the definitive version.

The thing is, the substance really wasn't all that lacking - it's just that the style was laid on so thick, the poor substance could barely hope to match up. Anyone with an eye for beauty couldn't fail to be won over by this big, stylish bastard. Assassin's Creed is an alarmingly beautiful game; even using Massive Attack's Teardrop in the TV ad didn't even seem pretentious.

JEWOOSALEM
The setting, if you're not already familiar, is a generous slice of the Crusade-era Middle East, squeezing in three huge cities and a menagerie of smaller towns and outposts across the surrounding countryside.

You play Altair, the strongly characterised and hooded assassin, who is part of a society of becloaked hitmen who maintain world order by blending in with massive crowds and stabbing folks in the neck. However, Altair's reckless attitude towards the rules of his profession sees him badly muck up. So the game is his attempt to redeem himself.

Except the Crusades isn't really when the game is set - the true setting is the near future, and your true character is a descendant of Altair, who's accessing his ancestor's memories through a (rather silly) genetic memory recalling machine. The slowly unfolding story plays out in both timelines, though in the present day you're trapped in a stainless steel laboratory. The tale is ridiculous, but it's so far-flung that you can't help but nod in admiration.

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How Ubisoft are really hoping to impress you though, is through the two-fold implementation of both crowd dynamics and free running acrobatics. Jerusalem,
Acre and Damascus are the game's three atmospheric cities. They're sprawling urban playgrounds - every wall and rooftop is effortlessly scaleable, giving you free reign to carve your own path through the city with unerring fluidity.

This parkour travel system is a technical marvel, as your character's hands and feet connect neatly with every ledge and crevice and every jump and swing is seamlessly blended into the next.

The climbable surfaces aren't signposted and labelled with vines, big blue circles, or what have you - they simply exist in the form of regular brickwork and architecture. Assassin's Creed allows you to rethink the ways you move your character about the game world, from a go-anywhere, climb-up-anything sort of perspective.

The fug of adrenaline that follows a successful assassination sees you bounding away from the scene of your crime like a man-sized squirrel, desperately seeking refuge by darting across rooftops and down alleyways at a spirited pace.

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