Assassin's Creed Revelations hands-on multiplayer preview

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When Assassin’s Creed finally dipped its toes into multiplayer with last year’s release of Brotherhood, the unique new mode – created by Ubisoft’s studio in Annecy, France, best known for their work on Splinter Cell’s spies-vs-mercenaries multiplayer – quickly distinguished itself as one of Brotherhood’s standout features. Favoring a stealth-based approach in which everyone was not-so-secretly hunting everyone else, it was a tense, intimate experience that put crowds, hidden abilities and plenty of climbable Renaissance architecture at players’ disposal.

With Assassin’s Creed Revelations drawing closer to its November release, Ubisoft Annecy isn’t dramatically reinventing AC’s approach to multiplayer, but it has been adding a bunch of new features aimed at making the game even more accessible to new players – and at keeping them hooked once they start. And after experimenting with them firsthand at the Annecy studio, we’re already eager for another round.

Some of the changes are obvious; for starters, there’s actually a complete storyline to follow now, as your Templar operative moves up through the ranks of Abstergo. There’s also been a big push toward customization and implementing more robust community features. And while at first blush Revelations’ multiplayer might look like the same climby, stabby, six-to-eight-player hunt-while-being hunted game we’ve been playing since last year, there have been a lot of significant changes to the gameplay – as well as a new Middle Eastern motif to match the single-player story’s move to Constantinople.

To that end, we saw three new maps – Antioch, Constantinople and Knight Hospital – and played through them as nine new characters, including the Assassin-looking Deacon and Sentinel; the burly, turbaned Bombardier; the masked Renegade; and the toga-wearing Thespian, among others. Of the three maps, two of them – Antioch and Knight Hospital (apparently part of a larger Rhodes map) – were small and intimate, with a few large, open areas that made them perfect for Deathmatch, one of the two new match types we played.

We know, we know – modes called “deathmatch” are usually the antithesis of new. However, Revelations has found ways to make it interesting, positioning it as a faster, more accessible version of Brotherhood’s Wanted match type (which is still in Revelations). Here, some of the more “complex” aspects of Wanted, like the onscreen radar, the chase/escape rules and your opponents’ character models being repeated in the crowd, have been removed. Success, then, comes down to tracking your (unique-looking) prey with an onscreen proximity meter that lights up when they’re in your line of sight.

Once you’re on to your quarry, however, things are a little more complex than they were in Brotherhood. Your approach matters, and depending on how creatively and/or quietly you kill them, you’ll rack up a lot more experience points than you would if you simply ran up and bashed them to death in front of everyone. In fact, if you do that, you’ll likely be at a serious disadvantage; responding to community demands to make the game more balanced for the prey, the developers at Annecy have implemented what’s known as the Contested Kill/Honorable Death system. This means that your prey hits the “stun” button at the same time you hit “kill,” they’ll fight back a bit before you deliver the final blow.

If you’re the hunter, there are several drawbacks to this. First, your opponent will get points for stunning you, even though he/she is dead. Second, it’ll create a slightly more drawn-out scene likely to draw the attention of your hunter. Third, you’ll stagger around in a helpless, “wounded” state for a few seconds afterward, making you obvious, vulnerable and a prime target for assassination. You’ll still get the kill, of course, but the risk-reward ratio makes it far more worthwhile to kill quietly – maybe from a crowd, with the Poison ability, if you feel like netting a ton of points. However we chose to tackle them, though, the deathmatches were quick, challenging and enormously fun.

Deathmatch wasn’t all we played, of course – we also tried out Artifact Assault, an Assassin-flavored twist on Capture the Flag. The huge, sprawling Constantinople map, with its tight alleyways and huge buildings, proved ideal for this. Here’s how it breaks down: two teams (each sharing the same character type) square off to steal each other’s artifact, located deep in enemy territory. As long as you’re on your team’s side of the map, you’re a hunter, with the task of weeding out enemies (who, of course, are repeated in the crowds) before they can grab your treasure – and, once they do, of chasing them down and killing them before they can make it back to their own base.

Once you’re on their side of the map, however, the game takes on a different dynamic. Here, you’re prey, and you’ll need to make your way to the enemy’s base, steal their (possibly defended) artifact and bring it back to your safe zone. You can take a stealthy approach, hiding in wandering groups of people and using a temporary disguise. You can even be a jerk and wait for a teammate to grab it, then hide nearby while the guards are occupied, wait for the artifact to be returned and then slip out to grab it while nobody’s looking.

Simply tearing ass across the rooftops, grabbing it and making a run for the nearest chase breakers (things like lifts and gates that slam shut behind you) works great, too. In any case, you’re going to have to run once you’ve got the thing, because everyone – friend or foe – will immediately see your location onscreen.

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  • FierceVoltage - August 7, 2011 6:14 a.m.

    I am so excited for this
  • TheJerseyDevil - August 5, 2011 3:35 a.m.

    That minor-hack death streak is fucking bullshit. It sounds almost as bad as Martyrdom on Call of Duty (which I don't play anymore)
  • TheHolyHandGrenade - August 4, 2011 2:59 p.m.

    I think for "Death streaks" they got it backwards. You should have all of them unlocked for the first couple levels, then as you level-up and get more comfortable with the game, they should start locking up. Just my two cents.
  • Yeager1122 - August 3, 2011 7:10 p.m.

    Cant wait to play this!
  • Crypto140 - August 3, 2011 2:28 p.m.

    Minor Hack, capable of instantly killing your prey from across the map. Fuck No
  • Koolkat23 - August 3, 2011 3:43 a.m.

    cant wait for Revelations as I loved the MP in Brotherhood, still paly it to this day. Love what they are doing.
  • EwoksTasteLikeChicken - August 3, 2011 12:34 a.m.

    It might not seem like much, but my favorite thing out of all of this was how they improved the "stun". In Brotherhood, I would walk up to someone from behind, press B, and then I would be flipped over their shoulder, and somehow that kills me. Also, even if you pressed stun first, the attacker would always get the kill. Also really love the character custamization, since the only two I used in Brotherhood were the Courtisan and Prowler.
  • TheHalfanese - August 2, 2011 9:30 p.m.

    Multiplayer is the biggest reason I want this game, and this definitely looks like its shaping up into something good. I hope I can still wear a plague mask; I loved being The Doctor in Brotherhood.
  • Jamahl - August 2, 2011 8:11 p.m.

    @jackthemenace The story is about a totally new location, closure for Altair, and a master assassin becoming even more awesome as he turns 52, and finding the answers that he was searching for. It's the last game with Ezio, and I think you'll find that this game will be well worth a purchase. Brotherhood didn't really do anything for Ezio. I don't really think you should count that as a conclusion or step forward in his story at all. He was a very flat "awesome assassin" character in that. This game sees him struggling with wether he wants to kill people for his whole life, and what his true purpose is. This is shaping up to be the best Assassin's Creed game ever. And the reason brotherhood and Revelations are main parts of the story are because they're a continuation of AC2, not trashy side-games. I'm GLAD that they're not trashy side games, don't see why you're not.
  • JBizFoShiz - August 2, 2011 7:58 p.m.

    That Minor Hack seems like a cheap loss streak. It better be worth only as much as a hidden gun kill. As excited as I am for this, I hope they fix the numerous issues Brotherhood multiplayer had. Taking FOREVER to find a match Occasional inability to kill your target Insane jumping distances when it comes to running kills Glitchy smoke bombs and mutes I loved the hell out of the multiplayer despite these flaws, so let's hope they refine it!
  • EDfromRED - August 2, 2011 5:54 p.m.

    Nice. I greatly enjoyed AC:Brotherhoods multiplayer, and this seems to refine it even more.
  • jackthemenace - August 2, 2011 4:39 p.m.

    This looks great, but I think it'll only be a rent for me. The multiplayer looks great, but the story doesn't interest me at all. I think Ezio's story should have ended with #2, and I was really annoyed that Brotherhood, which I also only rented to test the multiplayer out, carried on the main canon and meant I wouldn't know what happened if I only played AC1,2 and 3
  • Bobo93 - August 2, 2011 4:36 p.m.

    Look s fun it would be cool if you could make your character from scratch
  • cj12297 - August 2, 2011 4:36 p.m.

    I knew this was why you went to France! This looks cool. I loved AC: Brotherhood's online, it was fun