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Five Reasons Why Assassin's Creed is This Generation's GTA
by Andrew Testerman

Grand Theft Auto and Assassin's Creed. A Chaucible Crossantwich.

I recently caught up to the rest of the gaming world, finally finishing Assassin's Creed II last night. As if to celebrate my triumph, I received my new issue of Game Informer on the same day, with an enormous spread on Assassin's Creed: Revelations on the cover. Dear readers, I love the Assassin's Creed series so much that I am totally prepared to plow my way through Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood as quickly as I can, so I can play Revelations right when it comes out.

I am not the only one. Assassin's Creed has consistently been one of this generation's best-selling series - so much so that Ubisoft decided to give it a yearly release cycle. Canny gamers will remember that this is not the first time the gaming public has gone head-over-heels for an open world franchise, and a brief look at last generation reveals several similarities between the three Grand Theft Auto games released for the PlayStation 2 and the Assassin's Creed franchise. Read on to find out why Assassin's Creed and Grand Theft Auto share more of a pedigree than is initially apparent.

1: It Came From Out of Nowhere and was Ridiculously Successful

Hard as it may be to believe, not too many people were looking forward to Grand Theft Auto III when it was first shown at E3 in 2001. The two top-down entries in the series (plus whatever expansions there might have been) had a modest following, but few predicted what a runaway hit GTA III would become. Similarly, the original Assassin's Creed, while undoubtedly hyped, was not expected to blow up the charts in any significant way. Instead, it would go on to sell 8 million units, and currently reigns as the highest-selling original IP of this console generation.

2: New Releases are Basically City Packs, and we Like it that Way

Like the GTA games before it, the Assassin's Creed franchise is built on an "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" platform. Though gameplay elements are tweaked and changed slightly from game to game, players of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood are still doing largely what they have already done in previous entries in the series. This is hardly a bad thing: mechanically, the GTA and Assassin's Creed games play exceptionally well, and simply being able to continue raising hell as Tommy Versetti or Ezio in different cities offers a compelling, satisfying experience.

3: It Pushes the Envelope for Mature Writing in Games

It may seem a bit toothless now, but GTA III's story was trail-blazing at the time, with its depiction of criminal activities and the slimeballs involved in them breaking myriad gaming taboos. Assassin's Creed is similarly placed to help advance maturity in game stories, but the narrative isn't "mature" simply because it involves blood and tits (although it does have those). From the outset, the Assassin's Creed series has hung its hat on some seriously heady questions, specifically about organized religion and the existence of God; not the most likely theme for a multi-million-selling franchise. It's a good sign that players can be sold on deep, non-patronizing ideas if the game is fun enough (BioShock, anyone?).

4: It Does Things with its Open World that Gamers Haven't Seen Before

Grand Theft Auto III wasn't the first game to have an open-world structure, but it was the first to truly nail it, and anyone who played it at the time can tell you why: GTA III marked the first time an open game environment had ever felt "real". Traffic lights changed, weather patterns came and went, and legions of pedestrians went about their day, regardless if you were doing anything around them. Assassin's Creed took a different approach: it made its (historically accurate) world dense, rather than expansive. Players could find courier missions, assassination contracts, races, viewpoints, collectables, and much more in the same expanse that many open world games would reserve for one sidequest. Games like Crackdown and Saints Row couldn't exist without GTA, and games like Infamous and The Saboteur couldn't exist without Assassin's Creed.

5: Hookers

Oh yeah.

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- Andrew Testerman

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