A lot of people condemned the original Assassin’s Creed’s repetition as its worst aspect. Wrong. Player character Desmond Miles, with his idle chit-chat and regular naps that too-often interrupted the flow of the game proper, was actually the lamest aspect of the action/adventure free-running killathon. PSP-exclusive sequel Assassin’s Creed: Bloodlines scraps these nonsensical sci-fi interruptions altogether, focusing completely on Crusades-era hitman Altair, and that means there’s more killin’ than conversing.
The big thing to realize is that this game ignores most of the advances made in the stellar full-sized sequel, Assassin’s Creed II. A portable excursion across Cyprus, an unexplored area where the last of those douchebag Templars are hiding, Bloodlines sticks to the series’ roots and adopts more from the first game. That means the horrendously repetitive structure that everyone justifiably criticized is back, and you’re going to follow dudes around a lot before getting to the good stuff, and even then, the stealth assassinations have been gutted in favor of full-blown boss battles.
Don’t get us wrong – the action in Assassin’s Creed: Bloodlines, as well as the straightforward and fast-paced platforming, is as slick and enjoyable as it was in 2007, though the loading screens sprinkled throughout the cities kick the game’s flow in the ‘nads. The combat is full of brilliantly-animated flourishes and violent counterattacks that are easy and satisfying to execute. Brain-dead baddies won’t do much in the way of slicing and dicing, but the boss battles, which take the place of set-piece assassination objectives, are decently difficult – our fight against a speedy, grab-happy boss called The Witch took a couple tries, which we didn’t expect. The battles are competent, if a little simplistic in setup, but it felt good clobbering fatties with chain whips and countering the lofty sword-swing of an armored brute. In that respect, Bloodlines feels like it’s lost in a limbo between the original Assassin’s Creed and God of War – a good thing if you’re into those titles, but it executes expertly in neither regard.
Part of the problem is, as expected, the gruesome repetition of looping missions. The same structure applies to almost every aspect of the narrative, which is disappointingly forgettable and full of boring fluff characters. Cinematics are followed by investigations, and eventually assassinations that are preceded and followed by a gauntlet run to and from your target. Escaping castles is exciting, though we often found them to be an artificial way of inflating the game’s length. You’ll rattle off the game’s seven chapters in as many hours, and the listen-attack-escape structure gets old pretty quick.
We can’t wrap our heads around the “why” of Assassin’s Creed: Bloodlines. Not its existence, mind you. We love a good mix of portable platforming and swordplay, even if the PSP is prone to awkward analog controls and intolerable cameras – and this is no exception. But Bloodlines adopts too many ideas from its origins rather than the impressively improved sequel, which seems completely counterproductive. There’s a lot to like about Assassin’s Creed on PSP, provided you’re tolerant of its heavy flaws, and we love that you can connect it to your PS3 and unlock new weapons in Assassin’s Creed 2 – we just wish the developers had looked more to the future rather than the past when creating it.
Nov 30, 2009