I seem to have backed myself into a corner here.
The higher the grade, the harder it is to give out. When I was shocked, overjoyed even, to realize that Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood was a fully-fledged title, complete with a hearty single-player campaign and a so-good-I-can't-believe-it-works multiplayer component, I knew it deserved the A. Now, Assassin's Creed: Revelations arrives, iterates, but somehow doesn't feel so fresh, breathtaking, or surprising. Is it a better game? Yes. Does it deserve an 'A' too? Well… let's find out while I write and you read.
Another year, another Assassin's Creed game from Ubisoft… the entirety of Ubisoft. It seems like every studio in the publisher's stables had its hands on Ezio's swan song and the start of something new in their sci-fi historical action series.
But let me make this clear: Assassin's Creed: Revelations is worth every single dollar it's asking for. There is more than $60 worth of content in its single-player campaign alone. Ezio Auditore fights against the Templars and Bysantines alike in Altaïr's former stomping grounds, Constantinople. You've got a brand new brotherhood to build up and a massive city to explore. Constantinople feels at once larger and more intimate than Rome, complete with templar strongholds, nooks, and crannies to explore.
Ezio is not without new tricks in his old age; what was that about dogs again? Players are given the hook blade immediately and will thank the weird alien, God people for the new traversal tool. Not only will it help players scale structures faster, it'll also allow them to use the ropes spread throughout the city to cover long distances at a much quicker pace.
The economy returns as does the Templar dens that Ezio can clear out and take for the Assassins. Players will need to return to these strongholds to defend them against the advancing armies that would take it back. Den Defense adds a little tower defense flavor to the open-world combat and campaign. It's not quite Assassins vs. Zombies, but the distraction isn't without its strong points.
Set up baracades in the streets and position your assassins on specific rooftops to ward off the swarms of templar thugs who'd rather see the world continue in darkness. If you grow tired of defending the same locations, you can train up an assassin and install him or her at a den to keep the enemies at bay.
Still, what would be the fun in that? Assassin's Creed: Revelations changes up, yet maintains, the delightful rhythm inherent in these games since AC2. Explore, attack, sneak, parkour, tower defense, story mission. What's not to like?
In fact, if Brotherhood seemed to pull back the story a bit, you'll be happy to know that Revelations actually feels more like AC2 than any other title in the series. Ezio's love interest plays a significant role, as does local assassin Yusuf. Ubisoft's ability to get players to care about each of these characters speaks to the voice talent and motion capture in each cutscene. Nevermind that we've spent three games with Ezio; it'll be sad to see the old Italian go.
Regardless, send the old dog off with hours and hours of multiplayer stabbing. The newly expanded modes and customization options in Revelations will certainly trounce the offering on-hand in Brotherhood. Artifact Assault is more fun than any Capture the Flag variant I've played and Deathmatch will satisfy players who felt Wanted was too slow and required too much thought.
The ability to make your character look totally different from the stock architypes is undeniably cool, and even better yet, you can customize how you kill and stun in-game. Putting a little English into your stabbing does make for a nice change of pace and suddenly the gameplay element has options and tweaks deep enough for the hardcore assassin in you.
Regardless, nearly everyone who's kept up with Assassin's Creed thus far will feel like the latest falls a little short of catipulting Ezio and company past the previous outing. These yearly releases are truly a double-edged hidden blade. If the overarching plot kept moving forward at its previous pace, I'd be faulting it for leaving so many gamers behind. In this case, it'll disappoint the most dedicated fans by retreading a lot of ground to keep everyone up to speed.
So long as Ubisoft maintains their level of yearly iteration, introducing new gameplay elements, keeping what works, fixing or cutting what fails, and adding onto the absolutely stellar multiplayer component, things are looking very high for Assassin's Creed 3. Until then, it's nice to visit our old friends Altaïr and Ezio Auditore… even if they are a little long in the tooth.
And seriously, how's this 50-year-old guy's arms not falling off at this point?
Review based on PS3 version. Copy provided by publisher.