Assassin’s Creed: Revelations review

Desmond returns to both Ezio and Altair's memories, for some stealthy kills
Photo of Assassin’s Creed: Revelations
£39.99

There are certain precautions that can be taken to avoid assassination. For starters, at the first whiff of a smoke bomb, leg it swiftly. And never stand with your back to a haystack – it’s a favourite hideout from which to spring a surprise execution. Stay away from the rooftops too, which are like a second home to the assassin of the Ubisoft variety. Also, never trust a man with a blade up his sleeve. In fact, never trust a man with anything up his sleeve, apart from maybe, a hanky.

The fourth Assassin’s Creed outing weaves a layered plot that sees the return of all the characters of the popular franchise. Modern day Desmond is trapped in the Animus, his mind revisiting the 16th Century world of Ezio; who is the Italian assassin that the last two games have focussed upon. However, Ezio, in turn, has flashbacks to Altair’s early life – the protagonist from the original Assassin’s Creed – in an Inception style memory-within-a-memory scenario.

It’s me, Ezio

That makes the story sound a bit more complex than it actually is, because in fact, both Desmond and Altair’s roles are relatively minor ones. The meat of the plot concentrates on an older Ezio in Constantinople, and in an expansive and beautifully rendered city where he begins a search for five long lost keys. This is along with a struggle to establish assassins’ dens, and beat back the influence of the Templars.

This will sound very familiar to Assassin’s Creed veterans, as Revelations keeps the same core gameplay elements as the previous episode – Brotherhood. As well as the main missions and side quests, there’s an overlying framework of battling against the Templars. Just as with Brotherhood, you must open shops to generate an income, recruit assassins and launch missions to overturn Templar strongholds.

However, as the player extends their influence over the city, they become more visible to the Templars and their assassins’ dens, and  can now come under attack. These assaults are played out as a tower defence mini-game, where Ezio must deploy troops, erect barricades and direct artillery fire in order to eradicate the onrushing Templars. While this fleshes-out the strategic side of Revelations a bit more, it can be rather a fiddly exercise, and casting Ezio as a static party merely directing things does feel a bit strange.

The good news is the other introductions Ubisoft has made to the game are stronger. Ezio can now manufacture a range of bombs by experimenting with various ingredients, adding more utility and methods to deal with those pesky guards. Caltrop (metal spike) filled explosives, poison smoke, and even stink bombs can be crafted – all of which took us back to third year chemistry lessons at school (though we didn’t use skunk oil, admittedly). A new hookblade also adds another dimension to Ezio’s roof running and climbing antics.

Hooked on blades

The hookblade is, as the name suggests, a hooked blade hidden up Ezio’s sleeve that can be used not only in combat, but also to grab on to ledges. He can use it to snag platforms he’d otherwise fall short of, as well as to propel himself into longer jumps and also to slide down zip-lines. It comes in pretty handy as a back-scratcher, too. Aside from the hookblade, the climbing and melee controls remain largely the same. Combat is still a glorious feast of counters, with chained one-hit kills.

Although there are a fair few fetch-this-and-that type quests, mission objectives are generally diverse. There are breathless pursuit missions; stealthy follow and spy affairs; sneaking through heavily patrolled enemy bases, while having to steal valuable paintings and even getting to punch a band of wandering minstrels, mid-song. Never has a rendition of “Hey-nonny-argh!” sounded more pleasing to the ears.

While bard-thumping is a remarkably therapeutic addition for Renaissance music haters, we’d still like to see the introduction of the ability to flatten yourself against walls, in order to peep around corners. Sometimes scouting out guards and enemy positions can be awkward without this luxury, although the added stealth options, provided by the new bombs, help to make up for this shortcoming.

Revelations also witnesses the return of a multiplayer facet introduced in Brotherhood. Again, this remains the same at heart, reducing the main game’s controls to a simple set of kill or be killed mechanics, with a number of variations such as team and objective modes. Levelling your character up, unlocks abilities and perks, along with customisation trimmings aplenty such as new outfits.

New deathmatch

Naturally, there are fresh additions on the characters ability front, such as tripwire smoke bombs that can be placed to stun your assassination target, or indeed catch the player stalking you. There’s a new capture the flag style mode, artifact assault, and the other introduction is a straight deathmatch mode.

Deathmatch removes the radar that shows each players direction and distance to their target. When stalking around a selection of very compact maps, you’ve got to blend in with the NPC townsfolk as much as possible. This is all to avoid detection by the player who is gunning for the contract on your head. You have to visually locate your target using their displayed portrait, and by watching for erratic behaviour that marks a character as human, and not AI controlled.

The deathmatch is a challenging addition and encourages new levels of patience, guile and bluffing. It avoids the spectre of players legging it across the map, who are following the radar directly to their target. It’s a fresh experience that we thoroughly enjoyed. Overall, online play was pretty smooth and lag free.

One other point worth bearing in mind, for second-hand buyers, is that the multiplayer requires the purchase of a Uplay pass – assuming the original owner has used the serial code supplied with the game (more than likely). This is an increasingly common situation as publishers look to grab a slice of the pre-owned market.

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Company: UbiSoft

Website: http://assassinscreed.ubi.com/revelations

Positives
  • New hookblade is much fun; deathmatch is a great new spin for multiplayer.
Negative
  • No real advance on Brotherhood in terms of the core mechanics.

Verdict

Revelations stays very much in Brotherhood's comfort zone, while carrying over the same core mechanics and gameplay. Ezio's repertoire is livened up considerably with the introduction of bomb crafting and the hookblade, where the new city of Constantinople is large, lusciously detailed and packed with a variety of fresh challenges. Topping that off is a smart new deathmatch mode and you might not have a revelation, but the game is certainly a sprawling, polished and highly enjoyable.