Assassin‚Äôs Creed. Yes, it‚Äôs a huge big fat hairy deal. Both previous games have been massive titles, and from the looks of the opening credits, Ubisoft have thrown enormous resources from what seems like every studio they own globally at putting Assassin‚Äôs Creed: Revelations together.
A long time coming, Revelations was a massive press-hype dealio at both E3 and Gamescom this year, and it is with great anticipation that we at NZGamer fiiiiiiiiiiiiinally got our review copy into the 360.
Note: as a massive fan of the previous games, I appreciate that people get quite attached to the story and characters, so whilst ‚Äėnothing is true, everything is permitted‚Äô, I will do my absolute best to ensure that no spoilers are included in this review.
The story begins with Desmond, and continues directly on from the rather ‚Äúout there‚ÄĚ ending of Assassin's Creed 2. And certain issues need to be fixed stat, or Desmond might not make it through this adventure. The developers seem to have been quite careful not to really go into ‚Äúwhat happened‚ÄĚ so that if you did want to go back and play Assassin‚Äôs Creed 2 after this, you‚Äôll still have some mystery to uncover.
In the interests of being delightfully vague and not giving anything away, Desmond will again delve into the memories of his ancestor Ezio Auditore da Firenze and also those of Alta√Įr Ibn La'Ahad (the super bad-ass-assasin from the original game.)
Ezio has moved on considerably from the carefree young man we met on the rooftops of Florence at the beginning of the second game, and is now definitely in the twilight of his...er, assassining. His eagle vision has greatly improved with age and experience, and now he can follow the path of where his enemies have walked, as well as see his targets light up gold, and enemies red.
His ability to scramble up and down buildings hasn‚Äôt really diminished either, (not bad for an old feller!) although he seems to grunt quite a bit more. Almost any second you expect him to say ‚ÄúOh, my back!‚ÄĚ Also, he gets a bit of chirp from the passersby now, if he openly runs on city streets - along the lines of ‚ÄúOh, he‚Äôs not bad for his age!‚ÄĚ etc.
If you‚Äôve played Assassin‚Äôs Creed before, you will slip straight back into your hidden blade gauntlets like you just finished slaughtering the Borgias yesterday. The beauty of this title has always been the smooth playability, especially in the fighting - where you just need to hit a couple of buttons in the right order, and you are rewarded with beautiful set moves - which make you feel like a gleaming golden god of gaming. In short, it‚Äôs easy to play, which is always a good thing.
The graphics are again superb. At a first glance, the characters look quite different, so there‚Äôs obviously been some serious development and evolution of the tech behind the game between titles. The characters, armour, clothing, and scenery look beautiful, and the look of the new city where the adventure kicks off - Constantinople - is quite breathtaking. As in the previous games, the developers have done their best to showcase both the rich and poor areas of the city, and you can really get an idea of what this great city might have been like, back in the day.
The voice acting is again great. The same guy from Drake‚Äôs Fortune and Prince of Persia plays Desmond, and brings the same gallows humour to a fairly bleak situation. Ezio‚Äôs dulcet tones purr along again, and yes, he‚Äôs still got an eye for the ladies, even at his advanced age. [Once a player, always a player. - Ed]
So there‚Äôs a lot of familiar features and sights, but some interesting new stuff as well - to stop this being just a DLC add-on to the last title. On arrival in Constantinople, you pick yourself up a new shiny weapon: the Hook Blade, which is a local twist on your handy dandy hidden blade, You can use it for new and interesting attacks, or to scale buildings higher and quicker than before.
Another new addition is bomb crafting. Instead of just picking these up from the local blacksmith as you would have before, you now get to collect components and ingredients, and build yourself custom bombs, so that you can have exactly the effect you look for in an explosion. You have three classes of bombs: Lethal, Tactical and Diversion, and you can tweak each of these for volume, smoke, deadliness or toxicity - amongst others.
Another new addition to the gameplay is a cool new tower defence mini-game, where you have to defend your den from the oncoming hordes of Templars. Put archers or gunners on the roof, block their paths with barricades, and basically throw the kitchen sink at them to stop them burning down your den.
For a refreshing change, we got to have a quick look at online multiplayer prior to release date, and found it had definite potential. The premise is reasonably simple, much like Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood: you learn how to evade pursuers by blending and not drawing attention to yourself, and how to track down your prey by...blending, and not drawing attention to yourself. Which is more fun than it sounds, honest.
It‚Äôs a bit tricky when you first start, as all the characters seem to look the same, and you find yourself jumping at shadows, but it doesn‚Äôt take long before you start to develop a bit of Eagle Vision of your own, to spot the obvious human player movements that separate your real enemies from the milling crowds. There seem to be a few different maps and objectives, to keep you interested with friends or new friends online, so once this starts to fill up with real humans after launch day, this should be lots of fun.
Back in story mode, the plot is again compelling, and cracks along nicely, and the missions aren‚Äôt too ‚Äúsamey‚ÄĚ or linear.
A particular highlight was an early mission where you have to punch Italian minstrels in the face. Prego!!
Having spent what seems like most of the second title cursing and running away from those twangy tuneless twats, this proved especially satisfying... particularly the noise their lutes make when they fall over - priceless!
There‚Äôs a lot of content to be had in this game, meaning you are getting a lot of bang for your buck. Sure, you can just do the minimum to charge through the story mode, and get on with your mission to complete the story, or you can take your sweet time and finish off all the little side missions to your heart‚Äôs content: save the citizens, upskill your trainee assassins, buy weapons, outfits and upgrade all the shops, etc etc, etc.
So in summary, this game has taken the best points from the first three titles, and improved upon them yet again. It comes highly recommended: it looks great, it sounds great, it plays great. It‚Äôs great. And I don‚Äôt care what the weather decides to do, for the next few weekends, I‚Äôll be sitting indoors with the curtains drawn, driving every last trace of those squirrelly Templars out of Constantinople!