Review by DouglasFett

"Istanbul, not Constantinople"

The latest game in the Assassin's Creed series, Assassins Creed: Revelations is the conclusion to both Ezio and Altair. ACR follows Ezio as he travels to Ottoman held Constantinople [Istanbul], as he searches for mysterious keys to unlock the vaults to the Assassin Order's HQ in Masyaf, Syria.

It all sounds really neat, but boiled down, the game hardly even reaches Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood.

1. Graphics/Sound 7/10: Everything is all well and good, as usual. Ezio is the only character to return from the previous two games, and his voice actor is still on the job. Naturally, Englian [English/Italian, anyone?] is still his default. Meanwhile, the various new characters are all voiced well enough. Ezio meets new Assassins operating in Istanbul, allies with the Ottoman Royalty, and squares off against lingering Byzantine [Greek/Eastern Roman, if you will] forces. They're voiced alright, but knowing Ubisoft, it does bring into question the actual authenticity of the voice actors portraying these characters. For example, are those really Greek actors voicing the Byzantines? Are those really Turks voicing the Turkish characters? Graphically the game is only a slight improvement over Brotherhood. The sights and sounds overall are only slightly different, due to the change in location. This isn't Renaissance Italy anymore, this is Istanbul. A return to the Middle Eastern flavour of AC1, in a way. Altair and his cohorts/enemies are voiced alright during their sequences, but again, are they voiced by Arabs? Either way, mostly no complaints, but nothing to give it drastically high marks either.

2. Story 7/10: As said previously, the player takes control of [a much older] Ezio as he travels to Istanbul to search for the Masyaf keys, which will allow him to unlock the vaults within the old Assassin HQ in Masyaf, Syria. Ezio will meet new allies, including various members of the Ottoman Court [once again, Ubisoft has incorporated real life persons into the series, including Sultan Suleiman I, AKA “The Magnificent”], along with the Istanbul chapter of the Assassin's Order. The Templars once again surface as the big bad guys, this time using lingering Byzantine forces as their cover. This is where I find Ubisoft's plot shaky. By the time the game is set in [1511 A.D], the “Byzantines” [Eastern Romans, Greeks, what have you] were gone and done for. The last Byzantine holdouts were eradicated in the decades after Constantinople fell to Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror in 1453. There was no large scale Byzantine presence by 1511. Of course I only received my Bachelor's Degree in History, what do I know?!?!

Inbetween playing as Ezio, the player, as Desmond, who is still unconscious in real life, is locked within the Animus. Desmond will finally come face to face with Subject 16, an individual spoken of quite often in previous titles who is known to have been lost in the Animus after being jacked in for too long. Additionally, as the game is meant as a conclusion piece for both Ezio and Altair, the player will also experience playable flashback sequences to Altair, as he solidifies the Assassin Order in the 13th century. Overall, despite this titled being labeled “Revelations,” it does beg the question, what is really revealed to the fanbase? For starters, we do see Altair's story unfold post-AC1, and how he eventually dies. Additionally, we also get to know more about Desmond as explore his memories within the Animus. Finally, players discover just what Altair hid in the vaults of Masyaf, once Ezio discovers them. During various sequences within the Animus, players will also meet once again the Ancient Races introduced in prior games, and how their civilization died out/was destroyed. Anyway, these “revelations” are all really neat, but still the game seems…incomplete somehow. For example, Lucy's death at the hands of Desmond in ACB is still unexplained. And even though this is the last AC game to feature Ezio, we players never see Ezio's final days, despite seeing Altair's last days. BUT WAIT. If players purchase various DLC packs, they can discover the fates of Subject 16 and Lucy, AND if they purchase the COLLECTOR'S EDITION of ACR, players can see Ezio's final days via a short film. Pshaw, Ubisoft, pshaw.

3. Gameplay 8/10:

- Sandbox: Like previous games, ACR allows the player to operate in a “sandbox” environment. While AC1 and AC2 allowed players to travel to many cities within the Holy Land and Italy, respectively, ACR follows ACB's formula and sticks to just one city. While ACB was set primarily in Rome and its outskirts [with some sequences going to various locales about Italy], ACR is set within the walls of Istanbul [and some memory sequences taking the player to Cappadocia and Masyaf].

- Economy: As usual, players can renovate the various districts of the respective sandbox, earn money from renovated shops, quests, and by looting bodies. Typical formula for an AC game. Like the Borgia Towers from ACB, Ezio can liberate the various districts of Istanbul from Templar control by attacking Templar dens. This is where Ubisoft played with the formula a bit, and produced both good and bad results. Like in ACB, players can train a small army of Assassins to call on for help, as well as to send on missions around the Mediterranean. After leveling up an Assassin, players can install their high ranking Assassins to be overseers of the various districts. If Ezio gains too much notoriety, Templars will attempt to recapture these districts, and Ezio will have to go and fight back [remember Gang Wars from GTA: San Andreas?]. Sounds pretty cool, huh? This is where it gets a little choppy. It's not as simple as simply traveling back to these districts and fighting against invading Templars with Ezio's melee skills. No, Ubisoft introduced a new mini-game called “Den Defense.” If you don't like real-time strategy games, you're not going to like this. Ironically, if you DO like RTS games, you're not going to like it either. Den Defense is an irritating, frustrating, and obnoxious insult to the AC fanbase. The whole mini-game involves Ezio, from the rooftops of said district, issuing orders to his assassins, placing barricades in the streets and assassins on the roofs, to fight back against several heavily armed waves of Byzantines [Templars].

The Templars, for their part, can get killed easily enough by your archers and musketeers, but soon enough introduce a nearly unstoppable battering ram that beats the pulp out of your Assassin's Den. This thing is damn hard to kill, and I can't tell you how many times I've gotten it within an inch of it's death, only for it to live and destroy my den, effectively taking back that district. Honestly, taking Templar Dens BACK is more fun than defending an Assassin's Den. Oh, and what does Ezio do while on the roofs issuing orders? The only fighting ability Ezio has is to shoot his hidden gun. That's. It….What. The. Fudge. For three titles thus far, players have learned to engage in melee combat with enemies, relying on the hidden blade, swordsmanship, combos, countering, and chaining kills. And when Ubisoft gives players the perfect opportunity for the fanbase to truly hash out their skills in some INTENSE combat, THIS is what we get??? Oddly enough, Ubisoft has done this before. In 2006's Splinter Cell Double Agent [a stealth title, about sneaking, I might add], players, as Sam Fisher, were forced to pilot an out of control helicopter over Shanghai after it's pilot, for reasons NEVER explained, died randomly. While jumping out of an airplane over Antarctica, the player had to furiously struggle to get Sam's backup parachute to go, after his default jammed. Den Defense is an ass-random, ass-backwards mini-game that seems to be another gimmick created by Ubisoft when they realized their creative edge was not as sharp as it needed to be. Nice going guys, nice going.

- Combat: Nothing much changed here. Players still have a wide variety of heavy weapons, daggers, swords, and the ever trusty hidden blade at their disposal. The Hidden Gun makes a return, along with smoke bombs. Two new features touted by Ubisoft are the hookblade [allows Ezio to zipline across roofs] and bombs. Yes, bombs. Ezio, at various bomb stations throughout the city [which are ironically just as plentiful as modern day ATMs…], can create various types of bombs: lethal, tactical, and diversion. Using different types of pouches, gunpowder, and contents, Ezio can create a variety of bombs. One can make actual fragmentation bombs, that depending on the pouch, may explode on impact, or after five seconds, or after an enemy steps on it. Other bombs might release poisonous gas, or shoot out lambs blood, or phosphorus, etc. It's a neat concept, I'll give Ubisoft that, but the problem is implementation. In ACB, chain kills were introduced, and since melee combat was a norm, it was easy for players to kill one enemy after another through said chains. But oftentimes, during normal gameplay, either by sneaking about or in combat, players just may simply forget they have bombs because it's never made a big deal of. Sure there are bomb stations everywhere, and merchants selling bomb components aplenty, and players receiving bomb components from the Mediterranean Defense mini-game [carried over from ACB], but since players are so used to sneaking and running about due to three titles' worth of instinctual gameplay mechanics, the use of bombs just doesn't click. Better luck next time, Ubisoft.

- Uplay: As always, ever since AC2 in 2009, most Ubisoft games nowadays make use of an in-game rewards system. By completing various tasks, players earn Uplay points they can use to redeem nifty little extras from the online Uplay store. For ACR, players can purchase a new MP character [the Knight], another location for the Mediterranean Defense mini-game [Rhodes], etc. Uplay points earned from other Ubisoft titles can be used to buy rewards for ACR, and vice versa.

- Multiplayer: It's no doubt that MP in the Assassin's Creed series is now a staple, ever since it's introduction in ACB. Little has changed since then, as the gameplay is pretty much the same. Some basic features have been altered, however. As ACR is set within a Middle Eastern setting, the maps and Templar avatars are far different from what was seen in ACB. New maps are set within various cities of the Middle East, though oddly enough, no maps are set within Constantinople, Cappadocia, or Masyaf, locations all featured within the SP campaign. A few maps return from ACB, at least, along with a few playable characters. The cast to play as is seems relatively small, but more characters are unlocked via playing through the SP campaign. Perks and abilities return, but with a catch. While in ACB they could be upgraded through continued use [smoke bomb – rapid reload smoke bomb, templar vision – long lasting templar vision], all the abilities are one-trick ponies. You get what you get. More perks and abilities are unlocked as you gain in level. Sadly, in lieu of this loss, players now have a whole slue of customization options for their Templar personas. Yah sure it's neat to customize your characters [everything in games is customizable nowadays, including the camo on your guns in CoD or the size of your gangster in Saints Row III], such as their gear, weapons, clothing colour, etc, but its all superficial aesthetics. Gameplay in MP should be about making sure you're equipped with the right weapons [perks and abilities, that is] that are suited to your play style, not what hat, shoes, shirt and pants your street waif is wearing. It's about priorities, and I'm sorry to say that Ubisoft has it wrong in MP. Yes the game is still playable and it's done well enough, but it's just not right. Fortunately, there ARE new game modes, my favorites being corruption [which is like hide and seek/tag] and assassinate [which was previously part of the “Da Vinci Disappearance” DLC from ACB], though “Alliance” [2v2v2] is gone…Lastly, players can prestige level after hitting level 50, and after reaching certain prestige levels, can unlock new weapons [big scimitars, axes, and swords] for their Templar personas…whoopee.

Another note to add regarding used to be in other Ubisoft games [the more recent Rainbow Six games] that you could access an entire grocery list of available game lobbies to join. It was fairly easy to find a game you wanted, and have your friends join in as well. Ever since Splinter Cell Conviction though, matchmaking for Ubisoft games went down the tubes. Instead of displaying a list of open games, you'll sit at a loading screen....waiting....and waiting....and waiting....and get into a game. Who knows, maybe I'm old school, but I feel displaying a list of available games is much more user friendly for players. In any case, with ACB, this trend continued, though matchmaking was still pretty easy. You could find any game mode you wanted. What was really neat in ACB was the ability to gather a group of friends in an online lobby, and from there join everybody into the same game together. However, Ubisoft decided this wasn't good, and did away with such helpful features. Matchmaking in ACR is atrocious. Trying to find other players for the same game type you're looking for will often fail, and send you into a generic "deathmatch" game. In addition, not only is the online friends lobby from ACB gone, but joining friends' matches and vice versa is a joke. For no reason, after failing to join a friend's game [despite open slots], you'll be given a "your network connection is blah blah blah" message [same goes for them trying to join your games], which is total BS because just 10 minutes earlier you were in a game with the same friend.

So at the end of it all, what does this reviewer have to say about Assassin's Creed Revelations? Well, it's playable, but it's not the end-all-be-all of the series. The single player campaign, despite introducing plenty of new characters, is drastically short and shallow. Assassins Creed Brotherhood was criticized for being short [compared to AC2], due in part to the addition of MP. Ironically enough, ACR is even shorter than ACB. Side quests have been just about cut, save for a few from your various allied factions, and other quests are there purely to add to the main story [such as finding books that talk about the Masyaf keys], not about side plots or anything else. Sure, you can train local citizens to be Assassins working at your side, but this is an easy carry-over from ACB. The MP is back, and despite being easier to manage [no more having to choose between which Animus updates to use…man what a pain that was] and having more game modes and LOTS of customization options, lacks a certain degree of integrity, polish, and class. Don't want to forget this, so I should note here that Ubisoft has gone with the prevailing wind as of late…technically speaking, players cannot access MP unless they buy a NEW copy [which includes an online “Passport” code] or buy a code with a used copy. This is a technique many companies are using to reel in players who buy purely used games. It can be argued in a lot of ways: Ubisoft wants to bring in more profit by cutting out middlemen game stores; they want to fight piracy; they're just plain greedy. Whatever. I will say this: ACR is not worth $60. Nor is it worth $40 or $30. Ubisoft, for all their antics, had ACR on sale for $20, which is what I bought it at. Overall, the game concludes Altair's story and allows the player to understand the Ancient Races better, but it's otherwise short and shallow and easily forgettable between the Titans that are AC2/ACB and the soon to be released Assassin's Creed III [which, hopefully, will revive the series]. NEXT.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 07/27/12, Updated 10/09/12

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

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