The most-eagerly anticipated video games typically hit toward the end of the year, just in time for the holiday shopping rush, and 2011 is no exception – Modern Warfare 3, Battlefield 3, and Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim have all launched in recent weeks. Add to that inimitable pile Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, the latest game from the folks at Ubisoft. So can Revelations hold its own in a fight? Read on to find out.
"In the first game, you played as shamed assassin Altaïr ibn-La'Ahad," writes Timothy J. Seppala of Ars Technica. "From AC II through Revelations you're playing mainly as Ezio Auditore, an Italian assassin. They tie together through Desmond Miles, a twenty-something bartender kidnapped by modern day Templars. Desmond is the descendant of Ezio and Altaïr, and the Templars access genetic memories stored in his DNA via a machine called the Animus. This technology has a dark side: the Animus is destroying his mind. The fiction is dense, and Revelations assumes you've played the three games before it. There are no recaps at the the story's outset nor during the lengthy campaign. While the narrative of last year's Brotherhood was a grind, taking too long to get anywhere or do anything interesting, Revelations is much more focused and personal."
"Most of the action takes place in Constantinople at a time when the Ottoman Empire is on the rise," Nick Cowen writes in a four-star review in the Guardian, "and as a venue for adventure it holds its own impressively against the Renaissance and Medieval environments featured in the earlier games. The streets buzz with market sellers, town criers and guard squadrons who patrol the cobbles. Head up above street-level and majestic spires and sun-kissed domes jut out against the undulating concrete rooftops... It almost goes without saying, because this is an Assassin's Creed game, that everything looks historically accurate and absolutely gorgeous to boot."
Revelations is as absorbing as its predecessors, because it's so much fun to move through Constantinople and other key areas," writes team CNET. "This is due in part to the world's sheer beauty. Deep golds and reds make a stroll through the grand bazaar a feast for the eyes, and famous landmarks like Hagia Sophia cut striking silhouettes against the night sky. Row a boat across a strait, and you marvel at the authentic wake that ripples behind. A mauve haze softens the horizon as day passes into night, and makes you keenly feel the passage of time--a thematically relevant effect, considering how conscious the older Ezio is of his mortality. Of course, previous Assassin's Creed games looked stunning too, but Revelations is no less impressive for it."
The story, continued
"It's in the plot where Assassin's Creed: Revelations shines the brightest," writes Cowen of the Guardian. "It's story may be madder than a bag full of spanners, but it's populated by colourful characters, chock-full of interesting and amusing events and the way it unfurls overall is simply magical. And holding everything together at the centre is Ezio Auditore, one of the most engaging and best-written characters in gaming."
"Curiously, Revelations is also the least refined entry in the trilogy spawned by Assassin's Creed II, with a wide array of visual bugs on display – like an NPC facing the wrong way during a cut-scene, or a trio of bystanders leaning at a gravity-defying angle," writes Andrew Hayward of GamePro. "Elsewhere, I restarted an entire mission due to an objective that wouldn't activate, and watched another one halt while an ally and enemy stood side-by-side for several seconds. Open-world games often have odd quirks, but they're more apparent here than in past series entries."
"Just like Brotherhood expanded upon the gameplay of its predecessor while delivering a less expansive story, Revelations adds even more to the formula," writes Maurice Tan of Destructoid. "The Borgia Towers are now Templar Dens that can be turned into Assassin Dens, which serve as local headquarters... [R]each 100 percent notoriety and eventually one of your Dens will come under Templar attack, allowing you to start a rather imbalanced tower defense minigame called Den Defense. This is a fun distraction at first, using Assassins to murder waves of Byzantines from the rooftops, but it quickly becomes more of a chore that you can just as easily ignore."
"What is best described as the best bonus in gaming at this point, The Assassin's Creed multiplayer suite, returns for its sophomore effort," writes William Schwartz of Attack of the Fanboy. "New game modes headline the major improvements, but the game has been tweaked considerably since Brotherhood. Feeling more polished all around coupled with the additions of new game modes, the value that this very unique twist on multiplayer brings to an Assassin's Creed game definitely can't be ignored. After last year's surprising first attempt, Ubisoft really has it figured out when it comes to the science behind the mode and advancements to the scoring system behind the game."
The last word
Revelations, writes Arthur Gies of Joystiq, is "an Assassin's Creed game wearing blinders that focus it on covering ground it's already traveled, albeit more effectively. While it's always good to see iterative improvements, some bold new territory would have been a real revelation for the series. Instead, Revelations does almost everything its predecessors have done slightly better. Which, as it turns out, is enough just one more time."