Back to the past

Assassin’s Creed may well be the greatest videogame history-based epic we’ve ever seen. Each chapter finds a way to add nuance and layers to some of history’s most intriguing moments. Full of rich, vibrant characters outshined only by the detailed re-created and authentic historic cityscapes, Assassin’s Creed has become a favorite of gamers and history buffs everywhere due to its intriguing plot and stellar gameplay. So, how does the fourth chapter in this landmark franchise stand up overall?

Revelations picks up shortly after the end of Brotherhood. Modern-day protagonist Desmond Miles’ extended use of the Animus has left him in a coma; trapped inside the program, he must continue experiencing his ancestors’ memories in hopes of finding a way out of the machine to which he’s been tethered. As all this unfolds, Desmond experiences an Ezio adventure from later in his life that will see his Florentine ancestor travel to Ottoman Constantinople in the hopes of finding five keys to unlock a long hidden Altaïr library. In the process, Ezio has his own Desmond-like experience, as he uses these artifacts to relieve key moments in the Syrian assassin’s life—and begins to unravel the mystery that’s come together over the first three games of the series.

Though the narrative’s ostensibly always revolved around Desmond as he tries to learn what his ancestors knew, these games have always really been about the characters you play as in the past—so this is still primarily Ezio’s story. Revelations wraps up his tale beautifully—but, in true Assassin’s Creed fashion, it still leaves the door open for so many more potential twists down the line. Not to mention that by revisiting Altaïr as Ezio, we really get a sense of how all the characters are interconnected—and can now appreciate Ezio and Altaïr for their stark differences: Altaïr’s quicker on his feet, while Ezio feels heavier and more powerful.

Assassin’s Creed isn’t just about the story, though—it’s also about the amazing simulations of historical locales. Revelations doesn’t falter on this end: Constantinople looks straight out of a history book, and you can even pick out spices in the marketplace while clearly seeing just how unkind age has been to dear old Ezio. This is a testament to how long Ubisoft’s been working with their engine; they can now get every drop of juice out of it to provide a trio of tremendously different settings. Whether it’s Altaïr’s 13th-century Masyaf, Ezio’s warm, vibrant 1500s Constantinople, or a TRON-like VR world that Desmond works his way through, Revelations delivers the visual goods.

But one other key addition just doesn’t jibe with me. In Brotherhood, Ezio had to conquer Templar towers in order to help quash the Order’s presence in various areas. That element’s returned, but there’s a new wrinkle in Revelations: Templars can now retake the areas they lose. Ezio, taking on more of a commanding-general role, guides various types of assassins around rooftops and barricades streets to subdue advancing enemy waves. A good idea in theory, but it’s implemented via a tower-defense mechanic—which works in Flash-based games, but not so much in Assassin’s Creed. Though the conceit makes sense in the context of Revelations—after all, Ezio’s getting up there in years and can’t risk taking on 20 Templars at once—it still feels like the developers tried to cram in too many different elements at once. Aside from this odd addition, the rest of the game stays relatively similar for Ezio, aside from the hookblade providing zipline assassinations—which never get old—and a variety of new bombs that provide some interesting effects depending on how they’re utilized.

Revelations’ multiplayer definitely takes a step forward for the franchise, though, and it’s one of the more novel online experiences available. You’ll play dual roles as both a killer and as a detective trying to sniff out enemies—that, combined with new play modes, will keep this game in your system for quite some time. In the end, Revelations gets the Assassin’s Creed formula as right as any entry before it—a compelling story tempered by familiar, entertaining gameplay makes this the latest and greatest chapter in this ongoing gaming epic.

SUMMARY: Ezio’s tale wraps up beautifully in this final chapter of his trilogy, but elements like a tower-defense minigame seem out of place.

  • THE GOOD: An epic, fitting conclusion to Ezio’s trilogy
  • THE BAD: New tower-defense element works but feels out of place
  • THE UGLY: The salt-and-pepper look isn’t very flattering on Ezio

SCORE: 9.0

Assassin’s Creed: Revelations is available on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC. Primary version reviewed was on the Xbox 360.