Assassin's Creed Revelations Review
|November 18th, 2011 (UK)
|Andy Hemphill (Bandit)
Like Ezio Auditore da Firenze', Assassin's Creed is getting on a bit. After five years of Assassin's Creed games, the venerable Master Assassin himself is finally hanging up his hidden blade and making way for the next generation of shadowy death-dealers - something that should have happened last game, in my opinion.
But, that aside, Revelations is still a solid entrant to the series and ties up two or three of the 100,000 loose ends the series is dragging along behind it like cans on a wedding-day bride-mobile.
As with the previous games in the series, Revealtions follows the story of a group of modern day Assassins fighting to keep the Illuminati-like Templars from ruling the world - or destroying it. The main character, ex-barman turned knifeman Desmond Miles, has managed to get himself trapped inside his own head, as the animus - a device which allows the user to relive the lives of their genetic predecessors - attempts to rebuild his mind.
Since Desmond has been reliving his genetic heirs' lives for a little too long his mind has splintered, making him unstable - and he needs to rebuild his psyche to escape the prison of his mind - and answer for his shocking actions at the end of the last game (confusing and weird as they were). So, Desmond once again steps into his ancestor's past - that of both Ezio and Altair Ibn al-Asad, the 12th century grand master Assassin - to unravel his future.
And so, we re-enter the parts of Revelations that play the best, as always - the adventures of Ezio. Picking up a fair old while after Ezio's conquest of Rome in Brotherhood, Revelations sees 'Il Mentore' on a quest to untangle Assassin's Creed's convoluted storyline by retracing the steps of his predecessor (and the game's first protagonist) Altair.
To do this, he sets sail for the Holy Lands, and eventually ends up in Constantinople - the marketplace of the world - in the fine era of 1511 AD. Thankfully, you don't have to start from scratch all over again this time around, as there's already a sizeable contingent of the Assassins on site, fending off the Templar, Ottoman and Byzantine Empires alike as the great city is trapped in a civil cold war.
Into this the elderly Italian steps, and is instantly recognised for what he is - the Grand Master. After a short introduction to a memorable cast of characters, all of whom are voice-acted to perfection, Ezio is cut loose to explore the city and follows a lengthy story arc that, while stale, still has a decent pace to it.
The machinations of the royal families fighting for control of Constantinople might not have the revenge factor of the Borgias, but the tense and varied environments the game offers keep things smooth and exciting.
The gameplay itself will be instantly familiar to anyone whose played any of the mainstream Assassin's Creed games. The basic formula is unchanged from the previous titles - shimmy across rooftops, free-running all over, assassinating people or engaging in massive, open swordfights against dozens of enemies.
While this is same-old same-old, the developers have taken pains to trim the fat and change some things for the better. The combat is just as fluid as before but a little more difficult now, as befits a complicated game, and getting around is made easier by the inclusion of the 'hookblade' (it does what it says on the... forearm guard), which allows you to use ziplines, climb quicker, and generally makes getting around easier.
Another new inclusion is the ability to craft bombs from various ingredients, which then have different effects - be it creating a massive smoke cloud, poison gas or just exploding, as a bomb should. It's a pleasing addition to Ezio's massive arsenal, and makes the game that little bit different. The sections where you play as Altair are also good fun, putting a little more depth on a character all too one-dimensional for my liking.
However, it's not all good news.
In their rush to innovate, the developers sort of 'went off on one', to coin an expression. The game includes a rather bewildering level or two which are played in first-person, and see Desmond placing see-through bridges and ramps to navigate his own head. This is stilted and pointless gameplay and stops the story dead.
A second odd addition is a 'tower attack'-like mode, which sees Ezio and his Assassins fending off waves of Templars who stupidly blunder up a very small side street and get slaughtered with ease. It's another peculiar addition which doesn't belong in Assassin's Creed, and feels like it was added as an oversight - and believe me, it's not needed.
As with all the Assassin's Creed titles the devil is in the detail, and Ubisoft have once again come up trumps. The world of Revelations is as insightful and beautiful as Brotherhood's Rome or Assassin's Creed 2's Venice, offering huge, amazing vistas and cluttered bazaars in equal measure. The missions you have to take on are varied and fun, with a few notable exceptions that can make you want to hurl your controller through the screen - one of which (being dragged behind a racing horse-cart) takes place in the first 15 minutes.
However, if you get tired of stabbing AI characters the game also offers a refined version of Brotherhood's excellent multiplayer, which pits you against other would-be Templars, battling through the 1500s to train themselves for a fight in a modern day age.
The basic modes are once again in attendance, and playing as subtly as possible still rewards the highest scores for your kills - plus, the guys who annoy everyone by pelting around like it's Call of Duty have been given a 'deathmatch' mode, which rewards... pelting around like an idiot, mostly improving the quality of the games. Thankfully, Brotherhood's terrible matchmaking has also been streamlined, and finding a game no longer takes 30 minutes.
Character customisation is also a nice touch, allowing the gamer to adjust the look and weapons your chosen trainee Templar carries in the field, as well as making finding your target all the more difficult in a crowd.
Graphically, Revelations hits all the right notes. The animation is smooth, the vistas are amazing, the battles look great and the textures are perfect. One odd change is Desmond's appearance - he looks rather different, which is a shock at first, and leaves me wondering why the tweak of his face was needed at all.
The sound is also top notch. The battles are intense in their brutality, the score is sweeping and majestic, yet shot through with techno beats to match the high technology of the animus, and all the characters sound perfect for the time period.
Overall, while Revelations isn't the strongest title in the series, it serves as a worthy end to Ezio's story. Some odd additions are easily overshadowed by another strong story arc and excellent, if predictable gameplay, which any fan of the series will enjoy, even if it's all getting a bit too familiar now.
- Classic, enjoyable gameplay with a few new twists
- Decent, lengthy storyline
- Great multiplayer
Not so good stuff
- Overly familiar
- Odd first-person and tower defence sections
- Why change Desmond's face?
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