INTRO: Ubisoft has struck a bit of a goldmine
with the Assassin's Creed series. They started out with a good idea in
the first game, fleshed it out quite well in the second, and then
surprised everyone by improving on it even more in what was a "2.5"
edition, in Brotherhood. Now we've got another game on our hands and
while it isn't the official "3", it promises to answer more questions.
Once again, you assume the role of assassin Ezio Auditore, who has returned to Constantinople to find answers he's seeking. Through the game, you hook up with a local group of ragtag killers and it's your job throughout the game to lead them and form them into a true guild of skilled professionals.
The key component to these games has always been how inconspicous
you can be. Your job as an assassin is to find your target, and take
them down as quietly as possible. Of course, this isn't always an
option but you'll pay dearly if you simply decide to leap and jam your
wristblade through a target's mouth. People will chase you and you'll
have to flee across rooftops, leaping into haybales to hide until
This game introduces the hook blade, an improvement on the hidden blade from previous games. This new additions makes traveling a hell of a lot easier and more versatile. Now you can climb with it, create ziplines (and oh yes, you can drop from the zipline to perform one hell of a kill), and of course kill dudes with it. Getting the hang of this mechanic feels great, and you'll be flying around the city in no time.
You also get bombs in this game, which adds a new gameplay element. The cool thing about this is that the bomb system is so versatile. You can combine a lot of different elements to make countless types of bombs. You don't have to use them, but they can make things fun. If you want, you can make something simple like a smokescreen, or you can blow a foe to pieces. You can even throw a stink bomb to get disperse crowds. You'll find ingredients all over the place for bombs, so play around with them- they can be fun.
This all makes for some pretty varied combat, which is nice and versatile. If you want to simply block and attack, you can, but now with the addition of bombs, the sky's the limit. I consider myself a pretty average gamer, but I made it through this one with little difficulty and pretty standard armor.
You'll also find Den Defense, a sort of side mission/minigame sort of thing where you kill a Templar and the assassins will create a Den where their tower was, which will give you bonuses (lower prices, fewer guards, etc). You have to make sure that these dens stay guarded before people try to retake it. When you do defend it, you go into a a basic tower defense game. I didn't love this idea, and to me it felt a bit tacked on. It's relatively well done, but if I wanted to play a tower defense game, I would play Warzone.
Also, you have to play as Desmond a few times (he's the guy in the "real world" present day who is the distant descendant). When you do, you go into an awkward first person viewpoint and play a Portal 2-esque level scheme that plods. You're stuck in that weird virtual world full of lines and tiles and it's frustrating to say the least. Not fun.
If there's any real problem, I guess it's that this game doesn't feel new enough, and the city has some dead spaces. It really seems like there are entire portions of the maps with nothing in them at all. You can use a tunnel system to bypass certain areas, but I found that the entrance to these was somewhat out of the way.
Also, the game felt short. I didn't find I even killed many foes by the time I was done. I felt like everything I could do was optional and not necessarily relevant to the story. You don't HAVE to recruit assassins, but you can if you want to. Basically, if you don't mess with side missions and collectibles, the game feels a little thin.
This is a pretty nice looking game that keeps up with the trend that
previous games have set. Clothes, weapons, locales, everything is so
detailed and gorgeous. You'll notice a lot of attention to the little
things here and it shows. Watching Ezio climb buildings is pretty
breathtaking in terms of animation.
The only real complaint is the facial models seem a little lacking. Faces sometimes have a rubbery, artificial look to them and sport some spooky dead eyes. It's not a gamebreaker, but it's worth mentioning.
The audio presentation is truly phenomenal. There's always so much work that goes into the aural side of things and it feels accurate according to the time and place you're in. Music is just top notch stuff, from a slow walk to a tense, fevered pace, it all fits beautifully. You'll notice a lot of attention paid to ambient noise and other little details, like the surfaces you walk on sounding different. This doesn't even take into effect the hours of local dialogue you can hear from the townspeople. Great presentation on the sound side of things.
If you've never played an AC game before, this isn't a bad choice.
There can be a lot to do, but it doesn't all move the story forward in
an essential way. Often, it seems as though your actions are just
distractions rather than really moving the game along. Luckily though,
the story that is within the game is very well told and certainly pays
off well in the end. It's just getting there that's a little spotty.
With that said, this IS a solid title that is beautifully made. It looks good, it sounds good and it's fun to play.
Final Score: 7.5/10