Review by ExtremePhobia

"You've got questions, Ezio has answers."

At the risk of sounding unrefined, I think it's safe to say that the Assassin's Creed series has completely mastered the "WTF?" ending as surely as Ezio Auditore has mastered the art of assassination. So when I tell you that they've both got some learning to do and new tricks on display in the latest installment, Assassin's Creed: Revelations, I mostly expect you to ask, "WTF?" You will get your answers but expect more questions before the end.

Story
Some time has passed since Brotherhood and Ezio is still trying to work out all the same questions you are and then some. What ARE the Pieces of Eden, who made them and who in the world is Desmond? In an attempt to find answers, Ezio sets off to Masyaf in search of answers in the library of his predecessor, Altair. When he arrives, he discovers that there are five keys to the library that are scattered across Constantinople that he must find to gain access.

When he gets to Constantinople, he finds himself in a new city full of it's own problems and where there are problems, there are Templars causing them. You will be greeted by the local Assassin's guild who will teach you a few of the lost arts of the Order, from the creation of bombs to the use of the hook blade. Ezio plays his part in righting the wrongs of the city, protecting the Assassin Dens and tries to find the keys to the library so he can get his answers. While I haven't gotten them yet, the developers have guaranteed you will get them.

In the present day, Desmond, who is the ancestor of both Ezio and Altair, is in a coma. If you don't know how he got there, then you'll have to play Brotherhood to find out. At this point, Desmond is being kept alive by being in the Animus, the device that allows him to relive the memories of his ancestors. The Templars are seeking the Pieces of Eden by using the Animus so that they can bring peace through absolute control. Make sure you look out for the crazy Desmond sections. Normally, you would be able to step out of the Animus but you'll be able to explore parts of Desmond's life through moving around his subconscious mind.

While all of this sounds like standard Assassin's Creed fair, the beauty is in just how much substance there is and the perfection of the execution. The characters are interesting and lines are expertly delivered. The only real drawback is that the situation that frames most of the gameplay (The “In a new city, taking out templars,” aspect) is a little tired. It just feels like every time I boot up an Assassin's Creed game, they find some reason that I need to move into a new town and learn a new layout and cast of characters. It has a way of making an otherwise compelling story feel watered down and unimportant.

Gameplay
Assassin's Creed games have always been about blending in with crowds, finding your way through guards and assassinating targets. Most of the things required to finish the main story of the game have not changed but a lot of optional things have been added.

The hook blade is the largest addition to gameplay by far. It allows you to move through the environment much more quickly while limiting one of my biggest problems with Brotherhood, namely that it was easy to reach roads to large to cross easily and maintain your flow of movement. The hook blade is an improvement on the regular hidden blade which retains it's lethal functionality while adding a hook that can be use for climbing, zip lines, combat and more. Buildings and roads are more naturally to scale now because of the reach addition of the hook and zip lines across roads. And wait until you start dropping off of ziplines for assassinations!

Bombs are something of a new addition, allowing for simple things like smoke or explosives but adding things like stinks bombs (to clear an area of people) and providing an umbrella for functions like throwing gold for attracting crowds. There are over 100 different combinations of bombs to make and all of them can be useful. However, bombs aren't required but with a few exceptions allowing you to only participate in their creation if you so choose. Be warned that while it's unnecessary and not as thorough as it could be, the different bombs can be quite fun to use.

Den Defense is a sort of minigame mode that effects the main game without being necessary. There are towers throughout the game that symbolize the influence of the templars in that area. If you kill the captain of the tower and free the area of their influence (like with Borgia Towers in Brotherhood), the local assassins will set up a den. This change in influence can cause things like lower prices in shops or fewer Templar guards in the area. After some time, the Templars will try to take back the area by invading your Den.

You don't have to defend your Den, you can simply retake it later (or not at all), but if you do then you start a 3D tower defense style game. In this mode, you get to place fellow assassins on a roof, place barricades or even use Ezio's wrist gun to aid in defense.

During sections where you play as Desmond, you enter first person mode and have to place blocks and jump to platforms to progress. I don't have a lot to really say about this except that it's rather clunky. It's a nice diversion but don't be surprised to find yourself skipping it.

Lastly, watch out for the Byzantines. They might try to stab you in the back while you're not looking. Successfully counter and spare yourself a lot of pain.

Presentation
The graphics are passable for such a large game. Constantinople is a beautiful and thriving place with giant towers, crowded streets and interesting architecture. The city more fun that any other in the series when it comes to just running and jumping around. Walking through the streets can be very rewarding on its own, providing you with plenty of dialogue to listen to that involves both the main story and other events that are happening around the time that the game takes place.

However, for the fourth game in as many years, the game falls short of what you would expect from a AAA title in terms of graphics. When you climb towers and use vantage points, it will still have the sweeping vistas and the sea of houses all around. In fact, even when you get closer and you look at characters as a whole, they still look pretty good. But when you start to look at characters faces, thing start to fall apart a little. The faces seem like they are made of plastic and their eyes has a hollow look to them. This is not something that happens frequently throughout the game but it happens often enough that it detracts from the game.

Also, the game tends to hiccup on occasion. Most of this tends to involve points where you press a button just beyond the optimal point for doing an action but where it should still trigger, causing the animations to sort of jump to a different state. For instance, you may be falling and use the hook blade to catch yourself but you might do saw after the point where the animation would look smooth so you may end up inexplicably moving up so that the animation can play out properly. While this is a small thing, it seems to happen far too often and can be quite jarring when it happens.

On the sound side of things, the music is fantastic. The varying mixture of different types of ethnic musics create a wonderful sampling to listen to. At any point, you may be listening to music with a strong basis in Italian, Greek, Asian or Middle Eastern sounds and frequently it will be a little bit of both. The true mastery is in the different types of music all intermingle to form a unique sound that plays perfectly with what is going on around you. Sound effects are just as fresh as ever with all sorts of sounds just for landing on
different types of materials when you hit a roof but they haven't changed drastically in any way and are nothing worth writing home about.

Multiplayer
The Brotherhood style multiplayer returns with a couple of new classic modes. Team Deathmatch makes its Assassin's Creed debut as a faster, simpler version of Multiplayer. You lose your radar and have to make your mark but sight only. What keeps the game moving quickly is that you are the only character on the map that looks like you and that you play on smaller maps. You have to make an effort to remain concealed because at any moment, there may be two or more people watching you.

Joining Team Deathmatch is Capture the Artifact which is essentially capture the flag. Playing actual defense in Assassin's Creed is different than you might think because, while you might feel you have been doing so in other game modes, you really haven't been. Most modes have you occasionally looking over your should for your enemy but otherwise, your focus is on your target. CTA has you trying to watch for
approaching enemies without them noticing you so you can be the ambusher rather than the ambushee. It adds a whole new level of strategy that wasn't originally there, forcing you to pay very close attention to the entire map rather than just six feet behind you and directly in front of you.

Otherwise you have all of the standard modes returning and a variety of maps to play on. While the gameplay itself hasn't changed drastically, it has been tweaked a good deal. New skills have been added like teleportation which allows you to disappear while being chased and then reappear afterwards. The amount of customization is staggering and all the different weapons you can unlock come with their own set of animations.

Possibly the most important aspect of the multiplayer is how it ties into the single player experience. By that I mean, it actually has it's own story that compliments the story from the first game. Like in Brotherhood, you are a Templar in training who is learning how to hunt Assassins. However, as you progress, you will unlock more of this story which will enrich the rest of the Assassin's Creed story.
It doesn't do anything to the game itself but it does do a good job of framing the multiplayer and telling you why you are doing what you are doing. It also rewards you for your work with something more significant that just unlocking a neat execution animation.

Conclusion
While Revelations is by far the fullest and most complex entry in the Assassin's Creed series, most of the changes it makes over Brotherhood are largely unnecessary. You have more options than ever before but all of the substance is still in the story with the extras all being extras. I find most of these things, like the Den Defense, to be an enjoyable distraction but they are almost all more useful as a distraction so that you keep entering into the game proper with a fresh view point.

While I am all for providing options and I am definitely for any game that tries to push the envelope, I feel like Ubisoft did so only half way. Aspects of the game like Den Defense or sections where you play as Desmond could have been far more interesting if Ubisoft had more faith in their ideas and invested more time into it. As it is, Assassin's Creed: Revelations is still a AAA title that does exactly what you expect to do and probably more. It's just that the “more” could have benefited from the kind attention to detail that makes the story lines so rivetting.

I'm going to have to give the game an 9.0 (86/100) but a weak 9.0. The game is certainly great but it does very little outside of the story to tell you that this is actually the sequel to Brotherhood rather than the other way around. In a season with sequels that so far surpass GOTY level predecessors (Skyrim and Arkham City for example), Assassin's Creed: Revelations is going to fall into an Above Average category rather than being truly top tier.


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 11/15/11

Game Release: Assassin's Creed: Revelations (Signature Edition) (US, 11/15/11)


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