Assassin's Creed: Bloodlines - first look

Hidden blades, haystacks and hooded heroes, all on the small screen

The Assassin%26rsquo;s Creed franchise is one that really couldn%26rsquo;t have existed without some pretty advanced technology. The original Assassin%26rsquo;s Creed has always carried the trappings of a %26ldquo;next-gen%26rdquo; title - making your way through a dynamically responsive and detailed open world, outsmarting intelligent guards with free-flowing parkour moves, and handling a diverse set of stealth and combat techniques took some serious hardware muscle. So, when the first game%26rsquo;s success inevitably leads to a number of spin-offs on platforms with inferior tech, things are inevitably going to get cut.

The last time we saw an Assassin%26rsquo;s Creed game on a handheld was Altair%26rsquo;s Chronicles on DS, which was reasonably well-received. Cutting out the open-world aspects of the game didn%26rsquo;t kill the experience, but the gameplay felt watered-down nevertheless. The DS title felt stunted because of its linearity, and the game%26rsquo;s story %26ndash; one of the best parts or worst parts of the original Assassin%26rsquo;s Creed, depending on who you ask %26ndash; was almost completely irrelevant to the overarching plot of the franchise. Despite being perfectly adequate considering the technical limitations of the DS, it wasn%26rsquo;t the portable Assassin%26rsquo;s Creed experience we were looking for.

Assassin%26rsquo;s Creed on PSP isn%26rsquo;t looking to compromise. The team at Ubisoft Montreal told us their goal with Assassin%26rsquo;s Creed: Bloodlines was to make the game %26ldquo;appear as if no concessions were made.%26rdquo; Sure, there were things that had to be accounted for on PSP, such as the lack of secondary shoulder buttons and the inability to render huge crowds, but we%26rsquo;re quite impressed with how faithfully the experience has been carried over to the handheld.

Bloodlines%26rsquo; story begins right after the events of the first game, centuries before the events of the upcoming Assassin%26rsquo;s Creed II (on fancy current-gen systems). Altair finds himself in Cyprus, with a quest to dispatch the remaining Knights Templar. Supporting characters from the first Assassin%26rsquo;s Creed, such as Maria (who fans might remember as the disguised Templar Altair fought near the end of the first game) will feature prominently in Bloodlines and have much more fleshed-out histories, which is great considering they most likely won%26rsquo;t appear in Assassin%26rsquo;s Creed II at all. The sci-fi, futuristic time-warping elements of the first Assassin%26rsquo;s Creed have been played down significantly %26ndash; you won%26rsquo;t have to play through sections of the game set in the near future, although we%26rsquo;re told the gene-exploring Animus machine will still play a role in the experience, even if it%26rsquo;s just to select from near-future protagonist Desmond%26rsquo;s %26ldquo;memory blocks.%26rdquo;

According to Ubisoft, the missions you take on (including side missions) will be more varied according to the needs of the plot %26ndash; if the story calls for Altair to head deep into enemy territory, expect more stealth missions, but be prepared for a few new objectives, like intercepting a moving target before it gets away. The average mission length will be shorter, too, in order to better facilitate shorter bursts of play on PSP.

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