Assassin’s Creed: Revelations (Xbox 360) Review

My first taste of Assassin’s Creed was only recently with my review of Revelations for the PS3.  Despite a bit of a learning curve in getting up to speed with the back story, I got hooked to the complex storyline that Assassin’s Creed weaves.  With an all-new sequel and storyline expected next year, Revelations looks to wrap up the current story arc.  Today we’re taking a look at the Xbox 360 version of Assassin’s Creed Revelations and it doesn’t disappoint.

As I mentioned in my earlier review for the PS3 version of this game, I found the source material a bit intimidating given three games worth of pretty heavy narrative before Revelations and this being my first exposure to the Assassin’s Creed series.  I’m not going to get into a detailed plot analysis here.  Fans of the series will know it well.  The narrative in the Assassin’s Creed series is terribly deep, complex and really, really good.  While it appears to be set in medieval times there’s a distinct sci-fi flavour.  Revelations picks up with the protagonist Desmond Miles (voiced by none other than Nolan North) coming to in a device called the Animus.  Placed in the Animus to protect his fragmented mind, Desmond must relive the memories of his ancestors in order to acquire the information needed to bring his mind back into sync.  These memories are played through the eyes of Ezio Auditore and Altair, familiar faces to those that have played the previous AC games.

While the element of stealth and the ability to scale buildings are intact from previous games Revelations adds a few new elements to the game play to keep things fresh.  The first is something called Den Defense.  Much like how you can capture Templar strongholds throughout the city, this tower defense style mini-game has the Templars trying to re-capture dens you’ve taken from them.  You must use a set of resources, based on the moral of your troops, to fend them off.  I’m not a big strategy/resources game guy but I found these mini-games to be a fun little diversion.  There is also a quasi-weapon building component where you can build different types of bombs to use in various ways.  Another new element in Revelations is the ability to play as Desmond from a first person perspective as he attempts to escape from the coma that he is in in the real world.  This can best be described as a platforming element of the game.  It’s an interesting but harsh departure from the aethestic of the rest of the game.  I liked it.

As a fan of games like Splinter Cell and Infamous, I found the stealth, combat and parkour elements of Revelations relatively basic.  I actually found myself trying to over play the game a lot of the time.  I constantly found myself overthinking situations which required stealth.  While some of the kill animations and moves are cool to see combat amounts to an exercise in button mashing.  Finally, scaling buildings and structures doesn’t feel as smooth or as intuitive as it does in a game such as Infamous or even Crackdown.  Being a fan of those games I instinctively tried to climb everything all the time.  The parkour elements of the game definitely have their moments though.  Provided you time your movements and button presses just right you do get a sense of elegance quickly moving from one rooftop to another via zip lines, lamp posts that feels great.

Those criticisms aside, the story is the real star of the show and really makes up the bulk of my enjoyment with Revelations.  There are other games that do stealth and combat better and there are other games that have a better parkour / climb anything game play mechanics.  The narrative feels like a really cool mix of Inception and the Matrix, heck maybe even a bit of Michael Crichton’s Timeline.  Be warned, there’s quite a bit of backstory here.  If you’re jumping in to this series for the first time I would strongly advise reading up on the plot of the games previous to Revelations. The game’s introduction gives you only the bare minimum to get started playing.

I don’t get online nearly as much as I’d like these days so my time was spent mostly with the single player portion of the game.  Revelations does provide several multi-player modes to enjoy online (provided you enter a UPlay code).  For those looking for a different experience outside of the deluge of holiday shooters, the online play in Assassin’s Creed is a nice change of pace.  While there are a few new modes this year, the online play is similar to what was offered previously in Brotherhood.  The focus in Revelations is largely on the story which, if you haven’t already noticed, I’m a big fan of.

Unfortunately for Xbox owners the 360 version of Revelations doesn’t come with the original Assassin’s Creed game (the PS3’s Blu-Ray format shows its storage strength and includes the original game right on the disc).  If you’re a multi-console owner and are considering which platform to purchase this game for, your decision might come down to how much you are going to play this one online versus how much value you see in getting the first game in the PS3 version. I say this because I find online play a smoother overall experience on the 360 as compared to that on the PS3.

Ubisoft usually serves up a high quality presentation package.  With Revelations being a pretty high profile title I expected a little more visually.  I want to be clear that I’m not saying this is a bad looking game.  There’s a lack of attention to detail and polish here that otherwise mars what could be a really great looking game.  The environments capture the feel of a medieval city well.  The architecture is wonderful and there’s plenty of NPC activity on the streets which really makes the areas you play in feel truly alive.  When you’re perched on top of a building the game presents a terrific sense of scale as you look out upon the city vistas.

The character models that look good during game play suffer from some stiffness during the cut scenes which I found to affect how well emotion was conveyed.  I also noticed a fair degree of stutter in the game’s frame rate and a bit of screen tearing.  I found this most frequent during cut scenes.  This isn’t a make-or-break issue but it was frequent enough to warrant noting.

With the same actor voicing Desmond in Revelations I just can’t shake the comparison to Uncharted’s Nathan Drake.  I guess this is as much of a compliment as anything else.  I consider Uncharted’s voice acting the benchmark for all games and the voice acting in Revelations is terrific.  How they capture the many accents and inflections in each of the voices really reflects this.  What I said about conveying emotion earlier is more than made up for here.  The accompanying musical score is dramatic and appropriate which really helps to create a sense of atmosphere along with some very good environmental sounds.  Hearing citizens go about their day to day business adds a lot of life and believability.

Assassin’s Creed Revelations earns high marks for its original and inventive story.  Revelations mixes in a number of elements to keep the game play fresh throughout.  It never really sticks to one genre.  This isn’t a pure stealth, combat or platforming game.  The visuals could use a freshening but don’t let that stop you from enjoying a deep and engaging narrative.  Unfortunately there’s no bonus game like there is along with the PS3 version but this is definitely a universe that I’m interested in exploring more.  Fans are going to love this entry into the Assassin’s Creed series.



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