Also available on: PS3, PC
Genre: Third-person action
Assassin's Creed Revelations marks the final game in Ubisoft's successful franchise to be set in the Renaissance era, and the final chapter in the story of Desmond Miles and his past assassin relatives, Ezio and Altaïr. In a sense, that is a good thing, as Revelations feels remarkably similar to its predecessors, Assassin's Creed Brotherhood and Assassin's Creed II. A reboot is clearly needed, but this game marks a tremendous end to the series to date, improving on pretty much every aspect of the gameplay and presentation.
Another lengthy single-player campaign delivers jaw-dropping visuals, fluid gameplay and an engaging story jumping between characters and eras. The multiplayer has been moved forward in significant areas, bringing more story elements, and better matchmaking and progression. A few flaws stop this game short of perfection, but ultimately it represents a fantastic finale before the assassins and Templars do battle in a different time and place.
The opening of the game finds Miles, the modern-day man who can travel back in time to past assassins via the Animus system, in a comotose state, stuck in a limbo world that looks akin to a prog-rock version of Lost. You must guide Miles back to parts of Ezio and Altair's lives to put together the pieces of their memories and bring him back to life.
The majority of the game is once more played as Ezio, who is tasked with tracking down five Masyaf keys left by Altair to unlock a library containing the Apple of Eden - the all-powerful icon that the assassins and the Templars have been fighting over for centuries. You will also jump back into the skin of Altair (the hero from the first Assassin's Creed) for a series of missions that shine new light on the fate of the Apple, as well as take on a number of distinctive platforming missions as Miles.
Alongside the excellent depth and breadth of historical research that has gone into crafting the story, there are also a few nods to Inception. The time-splitting adventure flits around like Christopher Nolan's magnificent movie and generally succeeds in keeping its focus, delivering a satisfying conclusion to many mysteries around the three characters, the Apple of Eden and the Templar-Assassin conflict.
The game's core structure is essentially the same as previous titles in the series - the story plays out in an open world, this time the huge and incredibly detailed 16th century Constantinople, offering a string of core missions to push the story on, backed up by side-quests and general exploration.
Before we get into the gameplay, it should be noted that Revelations is quite simply a beautiful game. Few games can match the detail of its oil painting vistas, or the vibrant detail of the gaming world, teaming with life and energy. Sure, player-characters running up stairs still looks as clunky as before, and there are a few graphical flaws here and there, but the game rarely drops short of the visual treat.
Alongside missions tailing bad guys, performing stealthy assassinations and unlocking mysteries, Revelations also nods to the success of Uncharted with more cinematic action sequences. From the breathtaking opening being dragged from a fleeing horse-carriage to sweeping platforming missions underneath the city; these sequences are linear yet also hugely enjoyable and well designed.
The level of historical detail in this game is impressive, covering the period after the fall of the Byzantine empire and the growth of the Ottoman empire that lasted right to the First World War. Under the Sultan, the assassins are able to gain more freedom in Constantinople, but the city remains a dangerous place for Ezio - and thankfully, he has a much bigger arsenal to take on the threats. All the same weapons from Brotherhood are present and correct, but Ezio this time has a huge range of bombs to draw on.
The bombs, which can be bought or constructed from parts looted around the city, come in a range of interesting flavours such as the sticky bomb that is coated in resin, or my personal favourite, the Gold Bomb, which launches out a load of fake gold coins, sending the citizens into a blood-thirsty frenzy for the cash. Another great new addition is the Hookblade, which tucks up Ezio's arm and can be used to reach higher locations, slide down ziplines, or to vault or throw enemies in the combat.
Whilst a hugely impressive package, Assassin's Creed Revelations is not without its problems. The Tower Defence sequences, a strategy game involving you defending the assassin's 'dens' by placing bowmen, riflemen, barricades and captains to kill increasing waves of enemies, are reasonably well constructed, but feel somewhat a jarring change of pace. The switch to a strategy game is an interesting idea, but doesn't sit very comfortably with the rest of the game (although these sections can mostly be avoided by bribing officials to avoid raising Templar awareness for an attack).
The assassins recruitment system has returned from the last game, meaning you can call in assassins to help you in tough fights and also train your colleagues up to be better killers. Certain points around the city enable you to send off assassins on non-playing missions to increase their skills, possibly even reaching the rank of master assassin. Overall, though, the assassins recruitment RPG is not as prominent as in Brotherhood.
The combat in Revelations is still not as fluid as Rocksteady's Batman series or Naughty Dog's Uncharted. New counter moves and brutal finishes are welcome additions, but the system remains occasionally frustrating, particularly when getting 'locked in' to a fight.
The biggest issue with Revelations, though, is that the Renaissance era setting and mission structure are getting a bit tired. The frequency of familiar missions such as fetch quests and protection sequences is starting to grate slightly, while Ubisoft still hasn't cracked the stealth sections, as there are the same frustrations of enduring repeated instant failures after getting detected by twitchy enemies. Let's be clear, this is not meant to infer that Revelations is a boring game, far from it, but rather just to welcome Ubisoft's sensitivity of the need for a reboot.
Alongside the genuinely massive single-player campaign (at least 15-20 hours for the story, more to do everything), Revelations once more has a multiplayer segment that is a unique thrill in gaming. The core premise of Assassin's Creed multiplayer eschews the gung-ho Call of Duty run-and-gun in favour of a more tactical approach.
You are required to carefully stalk your prey, while also watching your back for others with the same idea about you. Stealthy kills are the order of the day, with top bonuses such as the 'Incognito Kill' for showing the most patience in approaching targets. In the core modes it is necessary to use the crowd of NPCs and the environment to disappear into the background, or, in contrast, look for any sign of unnatural movement from others to locate your prey.
The new game features welcome improvements to the levelling up system based around a bigger focus on story. By earning XP, players can unlock fragments of information behind Abstergo, the training facility using the Animus to put new Templar killers through their paces. The matchmaking system has been made more effective, while new social elements enable gamers to share their achievements and also send 'dares' to other players.
Unfortunately, though, the new modes are less successful. The introduction of versions of Deathmatch and Capture the Flag may have been requested by the community, but they just don't seem to work so well with this flavour of multiplayer. Compared with the still excellent Wanted and Manhunt, the new modes feel less fun, as shoehorning the traditional multiplayer staples into the particular style of Assassin's Creed gameplay just doesn't quite work.
Assassin's Creed Revelations is very much more of the same in Ubisoft's acclaimed series, but that is certainly not a bad thing. There is so much to discuss in this game that it's hard to get everything covered in a single review. The lengthy single-player campaign connects the dots between Desmond, Altair and Ezio in an always engaging and jaw-droppingly beautiful adventure.
The multiplayer has been improved with more story-based elements and better matchmaking, and although doubts remain over the merits of the new modes, it is still a unique and thoroughly addictive challenge in online competition. The time is definitely right to reboot the Assassin's Creed franchise with new characters and settings, but Revelations marks a fitting finale to this magnificent franchise to date.
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