Assassin’s Creed Revelations is the fourth game in the Assassin’s Creed series and considering how frequently these games are released (the first Assassin’s Creed came out in 2007) it is astounding how they are able to improve year on year.
Following the events of Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood, series protagonist Desmond Miles finds himself stuck inside of the Animus, the machine that allows people to relive their ancestor’s memories, and is perilously close to losing himself in the machine forever. In order to free himself, and save his mind, Desmond must live through the memories of his ancestor Ezio Auditore, who lived during the Renaissance, one last time.
This time Ezio is middle aged, and travelling the world in search of the secrets of the Assassin’s Guild. His new base of operations is Istanbul, and with it comes a new league of assassins to train. Much like Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood, your aim is to recruit more assassins to your brotherhood, assassinate your enemies, and reduce the Templar influence in the region.
As is customary with the newest title in a long running series a number of changes have been made to improve the overall expeience. Whilst none of the changes are as dramatic as the changes made in Assassin’s Creed 2, the changes have produced a game that is better than its predecessor Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood. Ezio’s weapons inventory is now broken up in to primary weapons, such as the hidden blade and your sword, and secondary weapons, such as poison darts and your hidden gun. The primary weapons are mapped to the square button, while secondary weapons are used by pressing the triangle button. This slight change makes a big difference to combat, allowing you to switch between weapons on the fly far more smoothly.
Ezio has a new weapon in his arsenal, the hookblade, which allows Ezio to traverse the city with far greater ease. By attaching the hook on the ledges Ezio is able to fling himself higher than ever before, making it easier to climb tall buildings. You can also take advantage of the numerous zip lines located across the city’s rooftops, allowing you a quick exit if needs be. This also comes with the ability to perform a zipline assassination in which you use the momentum of riding the zipline to fling yourself, blades first, into unsuspecting foes.
Where Ezio once had a limited explosive arsenal, Ezio can now create various types of explosives with the ingredients that he collects from chests and fallen enemies. The explosives are broken up in to three main categories: offensive, defensive, and distractions. You can customise the ingredients that make up your bombs allowing you to create numerous different types, such as sticky bombs, stink bombs, and an explosive filled with lambs blood, which can be used to trick enemies into thinking that they are injured. By giving you the choice of your explosive ingredients you are able to potentially create hundreds of varients of exlosives.
The final major change is the inclusion of a real time strategy section of the game. In Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood they introduced the concept of Borgia Towers and sections of the city that were controlled by your enemies. In order to reduce their influence you needed to kill a senior guard, climb to the top of a designated tower and set fire to it. This remains a key gameplay element, however this time your enemies will attempt to reclaim lost territory. When this happens you will take command of a small army and build fortifications with the aim of stopping the advancing enemies from reclaiming ground.
Every time you defeat an enemy you earn a certain number of morale points which can be spent on hiring more troops and building defences. There are several waves of enemies, with the final wave culminating in you being attacked by an extremely powerful vehicle of some sort. As well as dictating where your forces fight from and which types of troops to use, you can also directly involve yourself in the battle by firing your hidden pistol at specific enemies, or ordering where you canon fire will land.
Unfortunately these battles are actually quite rare, with the enemies only trying to reclaim land if your notoriety bar is full. How notorious you are depends on how frequently you engage with the enemy and complete missions. As the city is literally jam packed full of various enemies, this means that your notoriety bar will very quickly fill up. However, lowering your notoriety is actually very easily achieved; bribing heralds or murdering town officials will reduce your notoriety significantly, and considering that having a high notoriety level means that enemies are more easily able to identify you, potentially ruining any stealthy plans you might make, it becomes essential to regularly reduce your notoriety. During my playthrough of the game I only had to defend territory twice – once during the tutorial and a second time when I decided to let my notoriety fill up to see what would happen.
The main story is broken up in to nine major segments, each culminating in a fantastic cinematic set piece that gives the Uncharted series a run for its money. These set pieces usually offer the most varied gameplay, from being dragged along by a horse and cart, to using a primitive flame-thrower to destroy fleeing enemy ships. Each segment is made up of numerous missions each with their own optional objective, such as completing the mission without taking any damage. Completing these optional objectives is the only way to achieve 100% synchronisation and unlock everything in the game.
Aside from these changes, the basic gameplay is pretty much unchanged from Assassin’s Creed 2: you can run freely around a large city, completing objectives that range from your basic fetch quest, to more advanced assassination missions. Hidden around the city are a number of collectables, ranging from hidden books and documents, to shattered fragments of Desmond’s memory which, when enough are collected, grant you access to puzzles inside of the Animus. These are fairly rudimentary spacial awareness challenges played from the first person perspective, like a simplistic version of Portal, that fill in a lot of Desmond’s back story.
Much like Rome, the city from Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood, Istanbul is filled with derelict business that you can purchase such as tailors, banks, and blacksmiths. Owning these shops provides you with a means of purchasing extra equipment and upgrades, as well as boosting your overall income.
The game also supports stereoscopic 3D which, if you happen to have a 3D capable TV, is really quite spectacular. While you can certainly debate the merits of 3D movies, the advent of 3D games is a fantastic development that should be supported by as many developers as possible. The added depth really enhances the game’s sense of scale, making it seem like towers reach high up in to the heavens and those long perilous drops look as if they go on forever.
Multiplayer returns with a bigger focus on narrative, this time putting you in the role of a Templar agent going through extensive Animus training in preparation for a battle with the Assassins. Ubisoft should be congratulated on creating such a unique and genuinely thrilling multiplayer game; about a dozen or so players are put in to a small map that is populated with seemingly hundreds of computer controlled characters, each going about their business. Each player is ordered to take out one other player, while at the same time has the constant treat of being assassinated. In order to score points you need to take out your target as stealthily as possible, and avoid being taken out yourself. This leads to some gloriously tense moments in which you are constantly looking over your shoulder, trying to look for those telltale signs that that person behind you is not just another NPC, but a human player that plans on stabbing you in the brain.
As you level up your position within the Templar organisation increases, dealing out more information on the game’s back story, which acts as a decent incentive to keep fans of the series playing. Additional new features include the ability to customise your character and form guilds, as well as substantial training exercises that teach you the ins and outs of the game’s multiplayer modes (including the the new capture the flag mode).
The Playstation 3 owners get the added bonus of a copy of the original Assassin’s Creed, which you install directly from the disk to your hard drive. This is a nice bonus, introducing new players to the character of Altair, and also shows just how far the series has come since Assassin’s Creed’s release back in 2007.
Graphics: 5/5 – The environments and character models are fantastic looking, especially when you consider that there are dozens of independent characters walking around at any one time.
Sound: 5/5 – Strong voice acting courtesy of Nolan North, Danny Wallace, and John Delancie (Q from Star Trek The Next Generation) is coupled with a brilliant epic score.
Gameplay: 4/5 – At first glance the game isn’t that different from Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood, however there are a number of improvements, with particular highlights being the den defence strategy game and the improvements to the game’s multiplayer mode.
Longevity: 4/5 – The main story is broken up into nine segments, which is slightly less than previous entries in the series, however there are dozens of side missions and over 100 collectables to find. Chuck in a lengthy multiplayer mode and you will have plenty to keep you occupied for the foreseeable future.
Overall: 4 out of 5
Assassin’s Creed: Revelations is a thrilling cinematic adventure that features a dense single player experience and a lengthy involving multiplayer mode. While not being a massive departure from previous entries in the series, there are plenty of great additions to the game that make this a worthwhile purchase.