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Up until the most recent game, Revelations, Assassin's Creed has always been great at adding tools to the player's concealed arsenal, tools that add to the original concept. When I saw Ezio take out two guards simultaneously for the first time with dual hidden blades, I was downright bamboozled. (That's right I just said bamboozled) The animation, first shown off in an E3 trailer I believe, of the hooded protagonist stepping in between two rooftop guards, sticking each arm straight out, and thrusting a blade into their skulls left me with my mouth open thinking "Oh my balls I want to do that RIGHT NOW!". Along with the second hidden blade I've welcomed each addition, because even though some were immediately forgotten, the structure of the biggest missions was always here are your tools, here is your target, now kill. With each game Ubisoft has moved farther and farther away from that core gameplay in order to make room for gimmicky missions and an increasingly convoluted story and Revelations took a big step over the line.
What drew me to the original Assassin's Creed was, first and foremost, the stealth. Games like Splinter Cell and Hitman were some of my favorites and the story of Desmond and Altair at it's most basic level was a familiar concept that was beloved. I began to have concerns from the moment I first saw young Ezio in his flashy white robes. The first thing I said after seeing the character model for the new Assassin's Creed protagonist was "He doesn't look very stealthy?". Altair's garb was a minimalist white robe held together with rope and leather straps. Ezio, on the other hand, wears extravagant robes accented most notably with a Texas sized Assassin logo belt buckle and a frickin cape! Despite my concerns about the chosen fashion Assassin's Creed 2 was still a great game; expanding upon the original with platforming, incredible combat, and gripping plot. That's where brotherhood took up the reins.
In the third installment not much was changed besides the mission structure. I welcomed the added economic choices and the ability to recruit and develop a small team, but the story line missions moved more towards grandiose encounters and away from the subtlety and subterfuge. Brotherhood was when I began to lose the feeling that I was part of a larger than life war taking place under the nose of the public. I suddenly found myself running through Rome, away from a massive army, while holding a futuristic and magical orb. We can give the benefit of the doubt here and claim that the orb, or apple, has the ability to erase those memories, but I think that's a pretty b.s. copout. There was a lot of smaller gripes I had with this game but it's still on my shelf and I would play it again. Then came Revelations, an ironically apt sub-title.
I finished Assassin's Creed: Revelations and here is a quick summation of my thoughts on the game. One of the best opening cinematics I've seen. Ubisoft Montreal created another work of art in their depiction of Constantinople. The end of sequence Altair missions were the best parts. Subject 16 was a massive let down after all the build up, which always reminded me of the rat man from Portal. Platforming levels were dumbed down and boring after the first couple. The combat was ruined by long execution animations. Tower defense was a confusing addition. Bombs are stupid. And last but certainly not least, where were the assassination missions?! I can recall three times scattered throughout this 8-10 hour game where the objective was to kill what I could only guess was an important character, and all of them ended in 1 on 1 combat. I spent hours doing everything from picking flowers to finding books, from distracting people with a lute to parasailing from behind a carriage, and all would have been fine if you hadn't taken away why I first loved this game.
Revelations was a forgettable mess that leaves me feeling sad inside. I feel like the Assassin's Creed franchise is the video game equivalent to the tv show Lost; an exciting concept that got a big head and went WAY off the rails. Revelations has got the lead cart leaning pretty hard to the left and I'm not sure if I can envision a recovery. This isn't the first time I've been let down by a sequel but the precedent has always been optimism. After that confusing cluster(beep) ending I'm not so sure this situation will be canonical. I'll wait and see what 2012 will bring to this universe but at the end of the day if Ubisoft doesn't deliver IO Interactive is releasing Hitman: Absolution later this year (*fingers crossed*), so it's not like I don't have options.
Thanks for Reading! :)