Assassin’s Creed: Revelations (PS3) Review

The Assassin's Creed series has carried us though the ages, visiting some of the most exciting cities of the ancient era and meeting historical characters along the journey. In Revelations, it is time to say farewell to one of our beloved assassins: Ezio Auditore di Firenze, the protagonist of the last two games. Now if only this final entry had a little bit more polish, it could have been the best in the series.

Sadly, it feels a little like a rehash of the best of the series. But a lengthy storyline and a great new city to explore make Assassin's Creed: Revelations more than just a glorified expansion. AC:R gives a few new things that make the game flow much better, with new weapons - such as bombs and a new hook-blade to traverse the roof-tops easier - and a solid multiplayer mode. But with all these new additions, it also adds things that do not enhance the experience. The new tower defense game within the title does little to help, and with the loss of horses much of the traveling seems overly long and tedious. All this aside, if you came to the title for another Assassin’s Creed game you will not be disappointed.

For anyone that was hoping this would be the game that finally digs deep into who Desmond is and why we should all care about him, you will be disappointed. Although this protagonist has been in all the games up to this point, still very little is known about him. We know both the Templar and the Assassins’ want him, we know he has DNA from the original assassins, but still, this is only glanced over in this title. There are some segments that delve into the mind of Desmond, but these are largely forgettable. They do fill in some of Desmond’s story but they are largely not fun to play, and should be avoided unless you are dying to know more about the character.

The person that takes this game's center stage is Ezio. This is largely his story, one that explores the final years of an aging assassin. He is old and tired, and has experienced a fair amount in his life. This is to be his last mission before he is finally done with the order. The trials of his youth weigh heavily upon him as he quests to find out the secrets of Altair. It is a somber story that, for the most part, hits the right notes. Where the events of past games unfolded like a bombastic action movie, this one takes a more introspective look at the order and the struggle all mankind faces when it wants to be free. This, paralleled with story segments from Altair, help show their similar paths and how they both suffered for their beliefs.

Altair’s sections of the game are interesting, as they explain more about the mysterious character and how he suffered after the events of the first game. It shows key parts of his life as he ages, and digs much deeper into his motivations and how his wisdom helped shape the Assassins’ order to what it was when Ezio joined. It is also interesting to play the Altair sections with all the latest additions to gameplay and graphics. Seeing events from the first game unfold again - this time in much greater detail - was a great sight, and to see the old scenery with the improvements can be truly breathtaking. Sadly, these scenes are too few and short to have much impact on gameplay. It would have been much more engaging to see more of these segments throughout the game, but they are done tactfully and work very well where they are placed.

One very welcome addition to the assassin's arsenal for AC:R are the bombs Ezio now can utilize. There are three types at your disposal: bombs that cause destruction and kill your enemies, ones that create a distraction to lure guards or people away, and, finally, ones that cause a smoke screen to allow you to make an escape or one last kill. Beyond just one type for each, the game allows the player to mix and match components to make the best bomb for the job. This is where the new bomb crafting system comes into play. Ezio will find components for bombs around the city, at a bomb crafting station they can be combined for various effects, and in each category the bombs can do many different things. Allowing your weapons to suit your style of play or just help out with a particular scenario.

Traversal has been improved for the most part in AC:R, and there seems to be much less fighting with Ezio to get him to do what you want. The animation is smooth and fluid, with his climbing and jumping seeming much easier to pull off with little to no struggle. Part of this is aided by the inclusion of the new hook-blade. This new addition helps Ezio reach areas he normally could not reach. A simple jump and he will hook on to a hard ledge or window. It also allows for midair double jumps with the help of flowerpots and hanging hooks. There is also the inclusion of zip-lines that make traversal in Constantinople very fast - with some great zip-line kills for good measure. Parachutes are also included for your amusement. These can be purchased and used to soar though the air over the rooftops and get the jump on people that may normally be in your way.

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AC:R makes moving around the city a joy. Whereas in past games it would become slow and tedious after a while, Ubisoft has really helped make the act of moving easy and fun. Even the sequences that take you out of the main city and into dark caves (much like was seen in past AC games) have been made much more enjoyable. With fluid movements, the parkour feels easier to pull off. In many cases, you do not stop moving till the very end of the sequence, making these some of the best side quests seen in the series in this critics opinion. Overall it feels like the evolution of where the movement mechanics of the series should go.

Many of the changes from Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood have made the move over to AC:R. You can still recruit assassins, and use them in a mini-game fighting for control of the area. This menu-based mini-game works much like it did in past games, with the location changed to the area surrounding Constantinople rather than Rome, but beyond that it seems much the same. These are a few regions that can only be unlocked through multiplayer, but this seems to cause little to no issue on the single player side. Beyond this, once an assassins reaches a high enough level you are able to promote them to den leader, which opens up new mentoring missions. This really shows how he has risen above just an assassin and now truly takes the role as leader and teacher.

It is sad to say not all new additions to the title are good. One notable example is the new den defense mode, where you take the role of leader as Templar knights try and take control of the assassin's den. This section plays like much like any other tower defense game: Ezio takes a single vantage point and places his assassins on rooftops with the morale points he gets. Points are obtained by taking down Templar. This mode lacks any real impact, and I personally found myself avoiding doing it whenever possible. It is overly long and tedious. There are many better tower defense games on my phone, so there was little reason to want to play it in Assassin's Creed.

Combat in the series has always been fun, but never revolutionary. The same is true with AC:R; there are a few new gadgets and weapons you can use to take down your enemies, but it still feels identical to past entries in the series where swordplay is involved. This is by no means bad, but it is starting to feel a little stale when compared to games like Batman: Arkham City and could have improved for the better with a few small tweaks. There are still some great kill animations that make combat feel engaging and enjoyable, it would have been nice to see more variety.

Even though the Assassin’s Creed series has first and foremost been a single player experience, there is a solid and robust multiplayer suite included in the title. Still present are the modes that were seen in Brotherhood, but they have been expanded to include new characters, new abilities and new maps that make the experience more enjoyable and fun. This is a mode that will give the title hours of replay value after the single player experience is complete. The only issue is with so many people playing the first-person shooters of the year (Battlefield 3 and Modern Warfare 3) there may be a serious lack of server population after a few weeks past launch. Still the multiplayer is fun and if you can get some friends to play with it is a tense and rewarding experience.

Assassin’s Creed: Revelations is a solid, yet inconsistent package. It expands on all the things that made the previous games so good yet has little new to offer, and what is new lacks polish and enjoyment, making the game feel lackluster in comparison to previous titles. Still, with a solid and long single player, new ways to traverse, and a new city to experience, it is a must buy for all fans of the series. For anyone new to the series, this may be one to sit out on since there is such a need to know previous events. It may be better to wait for next year’s game, that will leave this segment of the story behind in favor of a new protagonist.