1. Ubisoft Montreal also made Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, and it rocked your face off
Although the original Jordan Mechner game was truly a classic (innovative, beautiful, and fun in many ways), the Prince of Persia series definitely needed a swift kick in its tail. The 1999 PC disaster Prince of Persia 3D left a bad taste in the mouth of critics, the industry, and gamers; as far as most everyone was concerned, the Prince franchise could (and should) have crawled up into a ball and died like a mangy, wet stray.
Ubisoft had other plans, and their Montreal Studios began work on a series resurrection in 2001. When they approached Mechner with their work, the quality and direction grabbed his attention, and he immediately hopped on board the project.
Two years later, Sands of Time was released to critical acclaim, and hailed by many as game of the year. Sporting impressive visuals and compelling gameplay, the game spawned two sequels and spin-offs on multiple platforms. For better or worse, producer Jerry Bruckheimer (who will also punch you in the throat and scissor kick your dog if you look at him the wrong way) will be producing the film adaptation, slated to hit theaters in 2008.
2. The Assassin's Creed Collector's Edition boxed set will put hair on your chest
There are very few Limited Edition/Collector's Edition versions of games that can get me fired up. Recent Ubisoft titles Rainbow Six: Vegas and Splinter Cell: Double Agent come to mind; each came in a heart pounding "collector's" edition case The extra? A DVD that contained videos that no one but the parents of the art director on said games would care about. Hardly worth the extra ten bones you'd have to pony up at retail.
But it seems some inspired marketing folk have hit the nail on the head with this one. Earlier in the year, import website Play-Asia threw up a listing for the Assassin's Creed Collectors Box Set that came with what appears to be a totally killer 12" Altair (the game's main character) figurine.
The listing has since disappeared, but was accompanied by some pretty official-looking images that I've been dreaming about (wet-style) ever since. While the box-set has never officially been announced for any particular region, cross your fingers it comes to yours (and e-mail Ubisoft about it obsessively).
3. You're gonna get so learned!
Ubisoft Montreal wants to make one thing clear -- they know their history. Within the game, you will assassinate nine historical figures. The bloodshed will take place across at least three cities -- Jerusalem, Acre, and Damascus. Each city will be completely interactive and historically accurate.
Fortunately, this means that Cheeto-chomping nerds worldwide might actually learn something that has nothing to do with the agro radius of a spore bat. But why wait? Let's start now.
Did you know that Altair's name is Arabic for "flying eagle"? See, now you're bi-lingual! "Flying Eagle" is part of a religious sect that was known as Hashshashin, an mystic underground society that specialized in public, politically motivated assassinations. Believed to be active between the 8th and 14th Centuries, their weapon of choice was the dagger, which they used to quickly put down their targets in broad daylight. Sound familiar? It's in the game, man!
Now, when you're completely blotto at a dinner party, you can pretend you're some sort of expert on the Crusades. You're bound to get into
4. The owls are not what they seem
So, while you're learning all of this history, it seems Ubisoft Montreal has a few twists up their sleeves. If you watch the game trailers or game demonstrations, you might notice some odd visual effects, like static from a disrupted signal.
During an E3 demonstration of the game, I picked up on a few of the odd visual effects and, when asked "What the hell is that all about?," the Ubisoft Montreal team member smiled and said that there were a lot of secrets they weren't ready to reveal. When all kinds of whacky sci-fi nonsense happened after Altair died, I knew I'd have to get the entire Ubisoft team trashed before anyone was going to reveal any secrets.
Well, it seems that Assassin's Creed voice actor (and Veronica Mars star) Kristin Bell can't keep her yap shut, regardless of her BAC (as reported by our very own Mr. Destructoid earlier). In a recent interview with IGN TV, she spills the beans:
"It's actually really interesting to me. It's sort of based on the research that's sort of happening now, about the fact that your genes might be able to hold memory. And you could argue semantics and say it's instinct, but how does a baby bird know to eat a worm, as opposed to a cockroach, if its parents don't show it? And it's about this science company trying to, Matrix-style, go into peoples brains and find out an ancestor who used to be an assassin, and sort of locate who that person is."
5. The new Scimitar game engine not only has a cool name, but can also do a lot of nifty things
Assassin's Creed will be the first game to make use of Ubisoft's own proprietary Scimitar engine, which they have already revealed will be used to build another next-generation game (not an Assassin's Creed sequel, although that's likely, too).
Aside from being able to render gorgeous environments, the engine will allow for a fully interactive experience. The designers build the maps and the Scimitar engine will do a great deal of the work. As a rule of thumb, anything that sticks out over two inches in the game will be full interactive. That means Altair can climb; hang; swing; and jump throughout the environment in a number of ways that are not predetermined.
Controls will be unique to the game, insofar as while movement is controlled with the left analog stick, individual buttons will correspond to different parts of Altair's body (head; legs; arms; etc.). One example might be approaching a wall -- press the corresponding arms button, and Altair will use his arms to vault up or over. Press the legs button and it'll be an entirely new and different animation. In this way, players will determine their own path and personalize their own little Hashshashin. How cute!
As for the aforementioned "other next-generation" title that will use the scimitar engine? Ubisoft's keeping their mouth shut, but a next-gen Prince of Persia title is probably a good guess. But why announce another title right now? With Assasin's Creed (slated to hit PS3, Xbox 360, and PC in March 2007), Ubisoft already has the gaming world's attention.
And now you know why.
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