We recently had hands-on with the single player side to Assassin’s Creed: Revelations – so what did we think? We think Ezio is going to go out with a bang.
Our demo started with our arrival at Constantinople. Fresh off the boat, Ezio finds himself slotting in and establishing a base for the Assassin’s Guild to which he’ll launch an attack on the Borgia and end what he started. The gameplay mechanics are very similiar here which will help, those familiar with the franchise, to simply slot in and get to work. But for those not familiar with the game, Ubisoft have included a decent learning curve and on-the-fly tutorials that can be accessed at any time. There’s plenty of new additions to gameplay too, but the most noteable could arguably be the hookblade device. Offering an attack as well as defensive option – the hookblade allows for a greater reach when climbing buildings as well as a savage and unforgiving blade to use against those that oppose you. It also increases the speed in which you navigate your way around the city thanks to ziplines which pepper the region.
Part 2 of our demo saw team TGL searching for a key that would unlock a memory of the legendary assassin Altair. Heading down deep into dungeons below the city, Assassin’s Creed: Revelations took on a different life of sorts. Suddenly there was a flurry of cinematic set-pieces – the kind the franchise only vaguely dabbled with in previous titles. While navigating along a perilous edge, the platform to which we held onto gives way – Ezio is then seen scrambling for his life along an array of timber that buckles the moment he leaves it and after one leap of fate; our hero is safe. It was as if Ubisoft decided that the underworld would be a playground to which they’d show off their ability to string together high octaine set-pieces and they work exceptionally well.
Finally finding the key meant we were ripped from the Ezio timeline and slammed back into Altair’s body. Taking control of Altair, directly after his confrontation with Al Mualim, players get to lead Al Mualim to his resting place. Cremating him, Altair causes an uproar of sorts and before he knows it the Piece of Eden is ripped from his hands. Players are then thrust into a battle to save a comrade of the kingdom as he finds himself under attack from the artifact. A tense moment, players have to navigate up walls and then finally a defensive tower as the apple sends out threatening shockwaves across the land; each waves causes Altair to stumble and fall so timing is key here. Safely in his hands, the memory ended and we found ourselves back with Ezio.
The main narrative aside, Ubisoft have introduced a plethora of new additions to the game that even left some of us, quite die-hard Assassin Creed fans, impressed. There’s a new “Den Defense” mini-game in place which pitts players against waves of Borgia troops in an attempt to defend the Assassin’s hideout. Acting as a commander, players can choose from an array of strategic placements like men with crossbows, men with rifles, archers and even blockades in an attempt to slow the assault. You can designate where to place them (they will snap to the nearest pre-determined location) before the wave begins. Waves don’t simply revolve around men though as battering rams are suddenly brought up and will test your ability to command and work quickly. By succeeding you gain “Moral Points”; these points can then be used to purchase new items to defend your home. But that’s not all, Ezio doesn’t simply stand there – you can take part in the defense too. Using his gun, assembled by Da Vinci in Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, players can also shoot targets – which adds a real feeling that you are part of something much larger, and that the enemy is encroaching on a personal space. It does feel strange at first, to have such a stationary protagonist, but it’s a bold new addition to the game and one that we simply wanted more of.
There’s the return of the always awesome mini-Assassin missions; which essentially allows players to send Assassin’s to different sectors to complete tasks – but remember – these Assassin’s have to be recruited first. There’s also a new form of crafting in the game which gives players the power to create their own types of explosives. Players can choose from an array of additives and parameters to create the perfect killing tool. You can, after collecting the required supplies, craft impact bombs, caltrop devices, cherry bombs, sticky bombs and more. You can also pick what type of explosive you’d like from gunpowder to shrapnel materials that will mame anything in the blast radius. While this new crafting ability is a great addition to the game – it feels slightly heartless without an introduction by Leonardo Dan Vinci.
For all the positives – there’s always stuff that will worry you right? Well Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, as good as it was, wasn’t clear of bugs. On our playthrough we encountered sequences that had no audio at all, except for Ezio grunting and panting, while on some occassions the enemy AI just seemed to stop. As if the brain of the AI had to be rebooted - we simply walked past enemies that, just seconds ago, wanted to spill our blood. The graphics engine looks sharper than ever, which is good and bad, but we definitely saw some graphical glitches like slow loading textures and minor gaps in the stitching and fabrics of the maps that frustrated us.
There’s clearly a winning formula here though. Ubisoft have taken what’s worked from the previous games and created the next step, or evolution, in the Assassin’s Creed franchise. Ezio Auditore da Firenze’s life is indeed coming to an end. An end that, from what we’ve seen, will be the most explosive to date. With memory shards to collect, bombs to create, den defensive mini-games, assassin mini-games, the hookblade, new kills and more – Ubisoft have not rested on their laurels and are keen to make this the most memorable Assassin’s Creed game to date.
Assassin’s Creed: Revelations launches November 15th on Xbox 360 and Playstation 3, and November 29th for PC.