Assassin's Creed: Revelations Hands-On Preview -- The New Adventures of Old EzioBy Miguel Concepcion - Posted Oct 11, 2011
When you reunite with a friend you haven’t seen in years, you can usually see that friend’s younger version beneath the aged complexion and wrinkles. Yet once in a while, there’s that person whose younger self is more deeply hidden under that visage worn down from the hardships of life with tired eyes that has witnessed countless deaths. It was oddly pleasing to see this in Ezio Auditore da Firenze’s face in his playable finale as the main protagonist of Assassin’s Creed: Revelations. It was a challenge for me to find that youthful, irresponsible playboy under that salt-and-pepper beard and leathery skin. It is just one of the many features in Revelations that helps give the game its own identity, while continuing this epic story of Ezio, Desmond, and Altair.
Revelations finds Ezio in the Ottoman-ruled city of Constantinople. Even before he departs the boat that takes him there, he’s already making acquaintances, particularly with a curious student who he’ll meet again later. Ezio has a more meaningful encounter shortly after getting off the boat; a local assassin named Yusuf Tazim quickly befriends Ezio and makes him our hero’s tour guide. Yusim wastes little time in showing Ezio the lay of the land and educating him on the conflicts between the Ottomans, the Byzantines, and the Templars.
Of course the presence of an assassin’s guild is a welcome complication in the scope of the political tensions of the city. Ezio himself is welcome by Yusuf’s lethal peers and is somewhat seen as a mentor; clearly Ezio’s reputation precedes him. This level of respect for our hero actually ends up serving a practical purpose in the scope of the newest gameplay addition to the series which, believe it or not, is Tower Defense. If you love it, you can look forward to a relatively impressive amount of depth as you place barriers on the ground and various assassin types on rooftops in order to thwart den invasions by the Templars. The premise involves an ongoing struggle over the dens in various districts of the city. If you dislike tower defense, you can avoid playing it altogether and give up the territory to the Templars. The price you pay are higher taxes on goods in that controlled area.
It’s of little surprise how Ubisoft has managed to produce three Assassin’s Creeds in back-to-back-to-back years. Not only has adept management of their multiple studios paid off, but the not-too-subtle recycling of level assets of Renaissance Italy has also trimmed development time. Constantinople might be almost 1,000 miles away from Roma but the basic structures are still there, just with more intricate building details and decorative flare befitting a city that is the getaway between Europe and Asia. While these often-towering structures do not look insurmountable to Ezio’s skills, Yusuf gives Ezio a literal hand in enhancing our hero’s hidden sleeve of gadgets with an item known as the hookblade.
It is a multipurpose device that extends the user’s reach, adding a bit of ease to much of the game’s climbing and ensuring those building-to-building leaps go smoothly. If you’re using it as a personal zip-line, you can end your ride early and take out unsuspecting foes from above. If you’re making an on-foot getaway, you can use this to acrobatically flip Ezio over guards’ backs. The one capability of the hookblade that stood out for me was how you can use hanging lamps to open up new options for traversing buildings and structures.
In Ezio’s past adventures, jumping toward and hanging off a lamp allowed him to make a 90-degree swing toward the next platform. You can still do that in Revelations, but the hookblade offers an added path option with the lamp grab. By using the hookblade, you’re telling the game mechanics that you want Ezio to swing forward as opposed to 90-degrees. It does make for an added challenge when engaging in pursuit missions, but it’s comforting that such a maneuver helps open up more options for Ezio.
The hookblade will certainly come in handy when you take a break from the open world exploration and explore the more solitary areas of Constantinople. Like the vast, platform-centric churches of Assassin’s Creed II or the lairs in Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, Revelations features these moments of LGS or linear gameplay sequences. I’ve always enjoyed these gameplay deviations, and it makes for a fine palate cleanser from spending hours in the open world areas. The one area I tried was underneath the Galata Tower.
What started as a small indoor trek quickly expanded into an otherworldly setting perfect for those who will have bought and played through Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception in the days before Revelations’ release. It’s the type of unreal setting that makes folks like me laugh and wonder what compelled anyone to make these kinds of underground structures. We’re talking about Ezio hanging off massive stone arches with 1,000-foot drops and limited platforming options. Believable or not, this area was a personal highlight during this extensive preview session.
It sounds like a trite marketing tagline, but in Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, you really do have to go back a bit before you can go forward. The game fittingly concludes Ezio’s story arc by bringing him and us closer to his connection to Altair. By uncovering relics hidden in Constantinople, Ezio is able to fashion a primitive version of the Animus and relive Altair’s experiences. With Desmond reliving Ezio and Ezio reliving Altair, I compulsively made a joke to the effect of Inception inspiring Revelations. A Ubisoft spokesperson unsurprisingly stated the preference to say that Assassin’s Creed inspired Inception. These moments in Revelations also allow Altair deserved moments of recognition for those who felt that Ezio was dominating too much of the series’ overall storyline.
Assassin's Creed: Revelations emerges from the animus on November 15 for PS3, Xbox 360, and PC.