Version tested: Playstation 3
Pushing out Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood just a year after Assassin’s Creed 2 was something of a feat for Ubisoft. What’s more, a game that many of us expected to be a glorified mission pack turned out to be not just an excellent chapter in the Assassin’s Creed saga, but arguably the best game in the series. It continued and expanded the renaissance adventures of Florentine avenger, Ezio Auditore da Firenze, taking him to a fantastic new location – Rome – with the Borgias for enemies and a scattering of exciting new game mechanics to ensure that the action never felt staid. It was a textbook example of a sequel.
It’s a feat that Ubisoft has obviously tried hard to replicate with this year’s follow-up, Revelations. The opening credits roll through a bewildering number of Ubisoft development teams spread throughout the world, making it clear that the publisher has thrown vast quantities of people and resources at the latest chapter in order to hit an annual release. Sadly, it hasn’t worked out so well this time around. Revelations is a good Assassin’s Creed, but not up to the standard of its two predecessors, and while you can understand the desire to maintain the series’ momentum, it leaves you feeling that it’s running out of puff.
It’s not as if Revelations is a repeat of what we’ve had before. After a brief preamble featuring modern day hero, Desmond, the action returns to Ezio, now in late middle age, and on the trail of the lost wisdom of the first game’s hero, Altair. One short assassin’s refresher course later, and our hero finds himself in 16th Century Constantinople (or Istanbul as we call it these days), battling the templars, getting hooked up in conspiracies, and searching for a set of keys that will unlock Altair’s secret library.
The city might be new and Ezio older and wiser, but the core of the gameplay remains unchanged. Ezio can roam around Constantinople at will, climbing up the sides of houses, mosques and palaces, racing across the rooftops and generally getting involved in the kind of leaping, swinging and diving acrobatics that we used to associate with Prince of Persia. There are items to collect, guards to harass and areas of the city that you can only map out by climbing to high vantage points and synchronising your senses with a passing eagle.
Getting to specific locations will open up a mission, most doing something to further the ongoing plot. There’s a spot of fighting to be done, with a system that relies heavily on timing to chain together critical attacks and the odd bit of stealth and spying, as you follow a corrupt guard captain or dress as minstrels to infiltrate a special event. As with Assassin's Creed 2 and Brotherhood, the team has taken pains to ensure that missions stay interesting and that the mindless repetition of the first Assassin’s Creed remains a thing of the past.
Meanwhile, the innovations introduced in Brotherhood all make a welcome return. Once again you can recruit assassins, call for their lethal brand of assistance, or train them up by sending them on missions overseas. Once again, there’s a recurring objective where you clear areas of the city from Templar influence by assassinating the local captain and setting light to a beacon in the nearest tower. These were good additions last time around and they’re still good here. Revelations is never short of things to do
And we do get some new gadgets thrown in too. The most convincing is the hookblade; a handy implement that allows Ezio to scale walls more rapidly and increase the length of gaps that he can jump. Best of all, it can be used to slide down the generously scattered ziplines that have cropped up all over Constantinople; for what purpose we can’t really imagine.