Bombcrafting is a nice addition, with options for creating three different kinds of explosive - to damage, conceal and distract - and chests and dead guards regularly yielding ingredients. But it's really not that essential, rather that the game tries to shove it in your face (especially on the map) as if to say 'I'm doing something new!'. The only time I ever used it was when the story forced me to, which thankfully was not often. The hookblade, though is a very different kettle of fish. it completely revolutionises the way you play the game. Just kidding...it basically means that Ezio can scale slightly greater gaps in grip point when climbing, and slide down the abundant ziplines that litter the city's roofs. On a serious note, though holding down 'B' does mean that you can snag passing ledges if Ezio decides to ignore your instructions and launches himself off a tall tower. It's an irritation that jumping is still a bit clunky, but the hookblade at least helps avoid certain death if there are ledges nearby.
There's plenty to do this time around, almost too much, but it's all intensely familiar. Where the emergence of Brotherhood was quite a nice surprise, the worry here is that an iterative Creed is not what we need. The hurried attempts to diversify show through too. The Den Defence is one area of slight complaint, but the Desmond missions - unlockable as you trot about collecting Animus data fragments - are pretty tedious. Taking place from a first-person perspective, it's essentially five Nolan North monologues in which he desperately tries to inject Desmond with some semblance of character. It doesn't work, and the levels themselves offer up sub-Portal puzzling and tear-inducing first-person platforming.
Altair's sections fare a little better, with Ezio exploring the Masyaf renegade's story post-Al Mualim. It's standard Assassin's Creed-ing, but the story fills in a few gaps and answers a lot of questions, possibly showing that if Ubisoft had really wanted too, they could have gone back and given Altair a trilogy all to himself. But, again, it serves to underline that we don't give a damn at all about Desmond. He's a cipher, a plot device, and the more he's in it, the more he gets in the way of us gamers enjoying a narrative romp through history with charismatic leads such as Mr. Auditore. Thankfully most of Desmond's bits are optional.
Overall, though, there's something lacking here. The challenges are pretty much gone, those that remain owing more to the clunkiness of the unchanged controls rather than complex design. Most disappointing, perhaps is that the platforming puzzles are nowhere to be found, the Assassin tombs replaced with areas that seem at first to offer a similar experience, before you realise that you can do everything on the fly and little to no logistical thought is required at all. The cryptic glyphs, alternately the most gratifying and frustrating aspects to previous games, are nowhere to be found either, with Ezio's upgraded Eagle Sense solving everything relatively instantaneously.
Online, though, the game takes off. Brotherhood veterans will be instantly at home, once again cast into dense maps, filled with NPCs, as kill targets are handed out, with players constantly fulfilling the roles of both hunter and hunted. There's no better example of this than in the new Deathmatch mode. Gone is the massive compass that would point to your target in Wanted, now you have to pick your target out of the crowd, the game giving you a greater challenge, but providing far more by way of satisfaction. All the while, you're constantly trying to make sure you don't step out of line too much. A false move and you give away your own position and inclination to player who's stalking you, so restraint and patience are key - not words normally associated with a mode entitled Deathmatch.
Multiplayer is all about quality rather than quantity. Take a target down in stealthy style and you'll be rewarded far better than if you'd caused a scene and created commotion. Flair and points, rather than a kill tally, are what win you the greatest plaudits online. And it's genuinely tense, too, in Deathmatch especially. The requirement for eagle-eyed vigilance combined with your own murderous machinations serve up a cracking offering for online multiplayer entertainment that proves simple yet effective, and still feels original.
A wide range of disguises add extra depth into the mix, with fresh takes on well-worn gameplay modes revitalised by an emphasis on escape and evasion rather than direct confrontation. Artefact Assault, for example, is a classic Capture-the-Flag offering, but the top marks are to be found by getting away with the treasure completely undetected. You can only stun other players once you've taken the artefact, but that just further drives home the notion of slipping away unseen rather than attempting to kill everyone in the near vicinity just to be sure.
Ubisoft have served up another timesink and, if you're feeling frugal this Christmas, this will serve to consume a good 25+ hours of your time. Scampering about and goading guards into attempting violence is still just as fun as ever, but Revelations ultimately suffers from being a little too bitty. It has a fine core, with one of the best central stories in the series so far, but the additional peripherals often get in the way, and the final quarter is something of a slog. The scripted caverns and Masyaf key chases distract from the fact that this is something of a dumbed-down game in terms of platform puzzling, but there's no getting away from the fact that an easy game just got even easier. One final thought too - it's not really Constantinople's fault, but any city would have had a tough time following Rome.
- It's a sprawling time sink of an epic
- Cracking story for Ezio and Altair
- Multiplayer can be fantastic
- Barely a sniff of a decent puzzle
- Desmond sections are awful
- Den Defence feels superfluous
The Short Version: Assassin's Creed: Revelations offers up a pretty decent swansong for Ezio and Altair. There's a huge amount of content here, and that's before you go anywhere near the excellent multiplayer component, but it's hard not to feel a little disappointed by the end. Constantinople, although perhaps not as iconic as Rome, offers up another excellent sandbox playground, but too many of the toys inside feel like filler rather than killer material.