Even for a big-budget franchise sequel, Assassin’s Creed: Revelations has got some pretty big boots to fill. AC: Brotherhood was the first game in the series to have been developed in less than twelve months, and everyone’s healthy scepticism about the brevity of that conception period ended up getting violently beaten down with unprecedented conviction. Brotherhood was the best game in the series by quite a significant margin; enterprising and bracing, it held its own against almost all of 2010’s best action titles. Despite having to live up to it, Revelations’ most daunting task is that it has to satisfyingly conclude the plot-lines of the franchise’s three very different lead characters. And on that score at the very least, it succeeds quite brilliantly.
This time, the story charts the exploits of both Ezio and Altaïr, and those two plots are entwined with the overarching tale of Desmond Miles, who in Revelations is psychologically marooned in the barren lands of Animus Island; a byproduct of his steadily dissipating grasp on reality. There’s a very notable whiff of Chris Nolan’s Inception in this idea, and not just in the concept of the subconscious chamber itself, but in the visual portrayal of it too. It’s a sterile, empty metropolis that looks like a great city in the aftermath of a nuclear holocaust, and the nods to Nolan’s film extend to a fresh emphasis on grandiose score music. Which consequently ingrains the experience with all the pomp and majesty that a blockbuster finale like this should be ingrained with.
The new gameplay additions are bright and skilfully implemented. Ezio’s new Hookblade tool slots so perfectly into your arsenal that after around five minutes you’ll forget that you haven’t always had it at your disposal. Resembling a miniature scythe, the Hookblade fortifies your ability to scale tall buildings at pace, and allows you to fly across Constantinople via numerous, well-placed ziplines; which, of course, you can also leap off midway through in order to perform an impromptu, slow-motion assassination. A new crafting element, which allows you to create and utilise over 300 different kinds of explosive, is also a great deal more compelling than you’d initially expect. The most entertaining concoction that we discovered was the Skunk Oil explosive, a glorified stink bomb that’s capable of instantly splitting a crowd and sending one guilty party into self-imposed isolation.
Two other additions are much more fundamental, and one of them works considerably better than the other. When the Templars begin to re-gain influence around one of your dens they’ll challenge you for control of it, and you’ll enter into an extremely effective Tower Defence mini-game. The controls aren’t perfect (with both thumbsticks being employed somewhat needlessly) but it’s always fun and your goals are always crystal clear. It also infuses the adventure with a welcome sense of variety, which was presumably the reason that some first-person platforming sections were thrown into the mix too. These bits of business feature Desmond, always the least interesting and (here anyway) most ignored of AC’s three main stars, and they’re just much less coercive on the whole. They’re a reasonably inventive, chilled-out diversion but for some they’ll probably feel jarring, though (smartly) they’re only ever optional.
Brotherhood’s multiplayer – an unorthodox but resoundingly compelling success, albeit a somewhat short-lived one – returns here, and some very clever amendments have turned it into something with a markedly more substantial shelf life. In Brotherhood, your quarry was always explicitly marked on your mini-map, which meant that unless he or she was playing strictly by the game’s rules (and constantly using small crowds of NPCs for cover) combat tended to have an unsatisfying frisson of randomness about it. That game’s Free-For-All mode did add so many NPC’s that it was often difficult to figure out who was pursuing who until the very last second, but the new Team Deathmatch mode discards radar altogether, giving you nothing more than that tiny, pixellated photo-booth picture to go on. Add some clan-style Guild support, and you’ve got something that’s very capable of roping you in for several hours at a time.
Assassin’s Creed: Revelations isn’t quite as technically slick as its two predecessors. For example, when replaying some of the later (tougher) missions, skipping a ten-second cutscene tends to take far longer than just sitting through it again, but they’re all minor grievances. After a shaky original, the Assassin’s Creed franchise executed an absolutely world class comeback, and the finale of this particular chapter doesn’t shame those artful moves. There’s little question that this series is now ready to move onto pastures new, but that’s only because they’ve exhausted the timeline with this game rather than the previous one, which is so often the case. If you’re a fan, you’ll be in hog heaven. If you’re not, this really isn’t a bad time to see what all the fuss is about.
Assassin’s Creed: Revelations is available now for Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and PC.
Watch the Assassin’s Creed: Revelations launch trailer below: