Assassin's Creed: Revelations brings an end to Ezio's story, and promises answers to the many mysteries in this time-spanning, death-laden adventure. A massive development team has built on the ideas of last year's Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, but also introduced new features to provide a fitting conclusion to the epic struggle between the Templars and the Assassins. Double blades at the ready for our single player preview.
Assassins have played an abhorrent but critical role in world history. The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria lit the blue touch paper of World War One, while the gunning down of US President Kennedy in 1963 has gone down as one of the most momentous, yet also contentious killings in history. It is perhaps unsurprising that the grisly art of killing has proved so compelling in video games, most notably in Ubisoft's sprawling Assassin's Creed series, which marches on with its current incarnation Assassin's Creed: Revelations. Six different studios have been working on the game, with Ubisoft Montreal again the lead, in order to give Ezio a fitting send-off. Digital Spy checked out a hands-off demo of the single-player campaign to see if this revelation is worth hearing.
Assassin's Creed: Revelations screenshots: New locations Constantinople and city of Masyaf
End of an Era
Assassin's Creed: Revelations brings to a close the storyline featuring Ezio Auditore da Firenze, the genuine Renaissance Man with a penchant for hidden blades. Ezio first appeared in Assassin's Creed II, but remained the main character in last year's acclaimed Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood. With Revelations, players will find out many answers to long-posed Assassin's Creed questions, including the mysteries surrounding Altaïr from the first game, and modern-day man Desmond Miles, who travels back into the lives of past assassins via the Animus system. The game plays out predominantly in Constantinople in 1511, a time when the city - also known at that stage by its modern name of Istanbul - was part of the Ottoman Empire. The city was (and indeed still is) typified as a clash of east meets west, a fault line of different civilisations, cultures and dangers.
The story focuses on Ezio discovering that Altaïr has sealed away a powerful ancient artefact in Constantinople which could end the bitter war between the Templars and the Assassins forever. The player is tasked with finding a series of keys hidden around the city to access the relic, but they will also have to relive memories of Altaïr for certain missions. At certain points, Desmond Miles will come into the equation, as he has become trapped in the Animus and must piece together his shattered sub-conscious to become free. Assassin's Creed: Revelations also features various historical characters, including Manuel Palaeologos, heir to the collapsed Byzantine Empire, and legendary Ottoman sultan Suleiman the Magnificent.
Assassin's Creed: Revelations E3 2011 trailer
News of the Open World
Just like Jerusalem, Florence and Rome in previous Assassin's Creed games, Assassin's Creed: Revelations features a giant open-world recreation of Constantinople for players to explore, boasting incredible architecture and vibrant life. Using the demo that was unveiled at the E3 Expo last month, a team from Ubisoft showed off the city with its tight bustling streets humming with activity, dyed fabrics hanging above like brightly-coloured bunting. The game looks jaw-droppingly beautiful, with the buzz of the city feeling alive and authentic. Ubisoft claims that the territory will be roughly the same size as Rome in Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, but the game will also presumably feature parts of medieval Jerusalem while playing as Altaïr.
Ezio himself looks old and haggard in Assassin's Creed: Revelations, his beard full and greying around the edges - it is clear that the years of conflict have laid heavy on him. But age nor tiredness has diminished his thirst for adventure, or for blood. The game tracks the same mix of parkour-style open world exploration and action-adventure combat, all with an emphasis on opening up a range of tactical options for the player. There is always a linear main path in Assassin's Creed, but the open-world setting means that targets and assassinations can be approached and escaped in a number of different ways, and Revelations appears to continue this approach.
Assassin's Creed: Revelations screenshots: Concept drawings of Constantinople and the older Ezio
The demo started off with Ezio walking down a back-alley street, before emerging in a harbour area. As Constantinople was such an important port town, it is assumed that much of the game will focus on the sea-front areas. The coastal city has an almost unique place in history, having been the strategic capital of four different empires - the Roman, Byzantine, Latin and Ottoman. Men have fought over the city's key location for centuries, and throughout the Middle Ages it was the wealthiest place in Europe. Constantinople also fits well with Ubisoft's ethos with Assassin's Creed of basing games in important locations that are absolutely brimming with history.
Moving further into the harbour showcased a number of new gameplay features introduced for Assassin's Creed: Revelations, starting with a much larger range of bombs. Two guards were blocking Ezio's passage and so the Ubisoft representative activated a bomb and brought up an arched trajectory line to assist aiming. Ezio then threw the bomb, sending the soldiers flying. There are apparently 300 different bomb variations, including smoke bombs which, when thrown, cover the view in grey, allowing Ezio to use his special senses to see the enemies marked in red to attack.
Ezio now has an item called the hookblade, which can be used to grab enemies and pull them towards him in the style of Scorpion in Mortal Kombat. The device is designed to make combat more fluid and open up a range of new combo moves to the player, particularly when faced with multiple enemies. The hookblade also acts as a zip line for traversing the city, and this was demonstrated by Ezio streaming easily across an area of water. A giant chain was blocking ships from leaving the harbour, requiring Ezio to place a bomb and watch the thick metal links rip into smithereens.
The past, the present, and the future
Alongside the new gameplay features, Assassin's Creed: Revelations also brings back the assassins recruitment system from Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood. This feature involves recruiting would-be killers from the open world to join your team and help fight the battle with the Templars. Any assassins recruited can be called on during tough fights, or just do the dirty work if you are feeling lazy. The assassins will also factor in the challenge of gaining control of territory in Constantinople, another aspect that has been retained from Brotherhood. This time, you won't just be taking down towers, but have to take on a more sophisticated system of claiming and protecting territories. The enemy can dynamically make a bid to retake areas they have lost, meaning the player must use their team of assassins to fend off attacks.
Ubisoft said that the game is expected to last around 15 hours in the main campaign, rising to 25 hours for completion of everything. There is also a multiplayer component extending the modes introduced in Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, and bringing new ideas such as more characters lifted straight from the main campaign. The multiplayer will also apparently feature an improved levelling-up system and more story-oriented quests, including challenges set on maps based on the Greek island of Rhodes. We are going to run a full preview of the Assassin's Creed: Revelations multiplayer modes soon, so watch this space.
After destroying the chain that blocked ships from leaving the habour, Ezio got his hands on a weapon called the Greek fire cannon (apparently based on a real-world device) to destroy the enemy ships in the port. The device rained down plumes of fire onto the vessels until there was nothing but charred wood and bodies. Ezio traversed the harbour across the floating debris, which was where the demo ended. However, Ubisoft offered just one last teaser - an image of a stone gate, similar to Stonehenge, meant to hint at the big revelation to come. Will it be an ancient race of druids? Will it be aliens? Or will it be a botched takeover attempt by Rupert Murdoch? We will find out in November.
Assassin's Creed: Revelations will be released for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC on November 15 worldwide.