When Ezio Auditore was first introduced, taking the place of the much loved Altair, he was a young naive boy that injected excitement and flair into the series. Refusing to sit aside for a new assassin superstar Ezio, much like the game itself, has grown old, tired and predictable.
Continuing on from the events of Brotherhood you find yourself back in the shoes of the faithful Desmond, seemingly stuck in the Animus on what has been creatively titled ‘Animus Island’, an isolated chunk of land which he shares with Subject 16, a character mentioned throughout the series. The island is little more than a mission hub, with portals that lead you into the core world or to side missions for Desmond specifically, unlocked by obtaining data fragments whilst in control of Ezio.
For the bulk of the story you’ll play as Ezio, set on a mission to track down a set of magical keys hidden in Constantinople by Altair. These magical keys unlock Altair’s secret vault which contains mysterious, but obviously fantastically brilliant, power, knowledge, truths or all of the above. Unfortunately the trend of the series is that of focusing on the journey and not the destination, so instead of quickly getting through the laborious task of obtaining keys to focus on great exciting discoveries… the bulk of the game is obtaining the keys, with the great hidden truth being yet another big tease for the next instalment. Of course the key collecting is overlaid by more predictability as you find yourself once again foiling yet another Templar attempt to seize power – Ezio, always at the right place at the right time.
Upon obtaining one of the magical keys you’ll be placed in control of Altair, reliving one of his memories that piece together the events that follow on from the original, further explaining the Apple of Eden’s use and the legacy in which he leaves behind. These missions are a welcome distraction from Ezio’s mundane existence, particularly thanks to being set over Altair’s entire later life, so focusing on important memories and therefore critical events within the series timeline. The problem comes with jumping between the three characters through the course of the game, feeling rather awkwardly strewn together and detaching from the immersion of the game itself. It feels as if Ubisoft have taken what was intended to be a trilogy and stretched it in all directions until it fits ‘just one more game’ with last minute story additions and twists.
Gameplay wise it’s very much what you’ve come to expect from the series and is, as promised, the most complete experience to date, containing all the improvements from Brotherhood, along with a few new additions. The core story contains a handful of exciting scenarios, from paragliding off the back of a horse carriage to setting aflame enemy war vessels. Unfortunately the bulk of the critical path is bogged down by mediocre delivery or dull assassination missions. There’s a very apparent lack of puzzle solving, unlike previous instalments, with Ezio now only able to manage simplistic eagle-vision-based ‘scan the correct person/object’ challenges to test his aging wit. The worst of these being a ‘find X book’ mission that repeatedly crops up having you scan one of three locations in eagle eye and then traveling to it – an unnecessary chore.
As open world as ever you’ll be littered with icons on the world map to distract your attention from the critical path. There are plenty of side tasks, from needing to build up your assassin empire by buying shops and setting up headquarters, to recruiting and improving a brotherhood of assassins to support you on missions. These are as solid as ever and provide a welcome escape from the mediocre moments. Whilst there are a handful of additions, they’re weak and more of a time sink nuisance than a welcome gameplay addition. One such example being a tower defence mini-game that you need to complete frequently as your various headquarters is attacked by Templars. Extremely simple and straightforward, this involves nothing more than handful of enemies running down a straight street with you killing them by placing assassins on nearby roofs. It’s great that Ubisoft are experimenting with the brand and formula with such additions, but it feels like they’re doing so with little effort or attention.
One tiny addition that makes a large difference is the inclusion of a hook on your hidden blade, which will come out continually when trying to climb, clutching ahead to reach a little higher or jump a little further. It shoots out from under your arm with a loud clunk and makes climbing previously difficult buildings a breeze, somewhat spoiling the sense of being a stealth assassin. You can also slide down ropes, making for some more fittingly impressive assassination maneuverers from above.
From a presentation perspective the engine is beginning to age, but thankfully more gracefully than Ezio. The character models look to have seen various improvements and the world itself is one of the prettiest in the series to date, however, the engine is starting to grow old and the once breath taking scenes are becoming more and more mediocre and common in comparison to the competition. The audio is equally a mixed bag, with fitting music tracks that pace the games action sequences well that are overshadowed by the painful clunk of the new hook tool, and the odd decision for Ubisoft to change their minds and cast a wildly different voice actor (even if more fitting) for Altair.
There’s no denying that for most Assassin’s Creed Revelations is primarily a single player game, but the multiplayer component simply shouldn’t be overlooked. Instantly familiar to those who played Brotherhood, the multiplayer component is one of stealth and subtlety. Trying to blend into a crowd and have patience where pressure mounts. Pitting yourself against other assassins and Templars online, the focus is on needing to discover your assigned target in a crowd of identical characters whilst keeping mind that you’re also someone else’s target. Walk slowly, stand in crowds, and sit on benches – even the slightest mistake can make you clear to your assailant. There’s a good handful of modes on offer, although it’s deathmatch you’ll find yourself returning to, and various improvements to the lobby system and character development options founded in Brotherhood, with more abilities to customise yourself and character to pick from.
Revelations appears on the box as the ultimate Assassin’s Creed experience, containing all the features to date and even putting you in the shoes of both Altair and Ezio in a single package. Unfortunately it’s a stretch too far in a series which feels desperate for a breath of fresh air, similar to that which the second instalment provided. If you’re an avid fan and follower of the Creed, you’re sure to find plenty to please you but for those longing for answers and a step further for the series will find one step forward, two back, along with a thick fog covering up the path ahead.