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Assassin's Creed Revelations packs in the kitchen sink, but somehow gets away with it. The campaign may struggle to maintain attention with so much else to do, but in terms of variety this is the series' Piece de resistance.
Assassin's Creed has always been beautiful to look at and enjoyable to play, but with each iteration it is also becoming as rich in content as it is in animation.
This time we join Ezio Auditore to (hopefully) wrap up the spiraling trilogy, and this time take to streets and rooftops of Constantinople. As always it is the side quests that provide longevity while the main story, the usual Templar assassination plot foiling, offers more dramatic moments.
What started as an action platformer here finds its stride with tactics and resource management worthy of a real time strategy. You soon find yourself recruiting soldiers, buying property, browsing bookshops, acquiring artifacts and engaging in acts of philanthropy like renovating rundown parts of town. There is even a Tower Defence element this time round, where you must guard your Strongholds from invading armies.
All this diversity makes me a little uneasy. I slightly miss the simplicity and focus of the good old days when all I had to do was turn up, assassinate the bad guys before heading back to the roof tops. Like Battlefield 3, by trying to be all things to all people Assassin's Creed is in danger of losing what made it special and unusual in the first place.
Being something of a multiplayer fanatic I was excited to see that this has had a lot of attention since Brotherhood saw its introduction last time. Sensibly, this leaves behind the more stealthy elements of the main campaign and instead crafts a game of "Cowboys and Indians" that works exquisitely well.
Each player is assigned a target and a pursuer and then tasked with taking them down before they are hit themselves. It reminded me of Minority Report's pre-crime police striking to stop an Assassination before it happens -- not quite the moral high ground, but an interesting play mechanic none the less.
The other multiplayer mode I warmed to was Artefact Assault where, in well worn fashion, you have to use line-of-sight and surrounding architecture to capture a flag. It's in the detail that this becomes an excellent addition. You break into two teams of four and take turns to try and sneak into the enemy's camp, grab their flag and get it back home. This more restrained approach (limiting both numbers of players and duration of each round) eliminate the randomness and chaos usually present in capture the flag modes.
Back in the main campaign, when I wasn't too distracted building my small empire of properties and allies, I found the controls and display had been sensibly improved. To find your target you now simply identify them (in game) from a reference photo, rather than with the big flashing arrow over their head of previous games. It's a small change, but one that makes a big difference to how Revelations feels to play.
Some may complain that with so much to distract you from the main story, Assassin's Creed Revelations loses its focus. Those that have played through the series so far and are looking for a satisfying narrative conclusion may come away wondering what just happened.
But, if you are after value for money, or like me have a particular type of sub-game you love to play, Revelations is the best of the blood-guilt drenched bunch. The multiplayer kept me entertained for much longer than the single player campaign ever has in an Assassin's Creed game.
Beyond all these quibbles, it's simply great to see a developer going the extra mile and putting considerable hands to the pump to create this sort of experience on a yearly basis.
I have forgotten the majority of my multiplayer sensibilities and am enjoying the ride.
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