Assassins Creed Revelations preview hands-on with the single-player story

Hookblades, tower-defense minigames and minstrel disguises dominate our first tour of Constantinople

Activating it proved too much for his brain, however, and as the Apple sent out rhythmic shockwaves designed to destroy any nearby human minds (draining Abbas’ life with each pulse), we had to climb the tower, timing our actions so as not to be knocked off the wall by the Apple. Once we reached the top, Altair turned the Apple off, Abbas sobbed out an apology and the memory concluded.

Finally, it was time for the final stage of our demo, a chapter revolving around a rotund Byzantine named Manuel Palaiologos. The former heir to the Byzantine throne (and a likely creature of the Templars), Palaiologos had come to inspect a shipment of weapons which he intended to use abroad; naturally, Ezio wanted a look. The problem? The weapons were being housed in the Ottoman arsenal, a heavily fortified building filled with Janissaries.

Seeing that the Janissaries stationed there liked to bully the nearby citizens, Ezio went around and bribed a series of heralds to spread nasty rumors about the Janissaries, eventually inciting the citizens to riot. From there, it was a matter of keeping the riot going – something that meant we had to protect the rioters from the handful of Janissaries that streamed out to kick their asses – until the crowd had broken down the doors to the arsenal. After that, we picked our way through the chaos to follow Manuel’s trail, revealed to us as both a glowing line and a ghostly image walking along it.

The weapons turned out to be a huge cache of rifles – and after being discovered, we had no choice but to leg it across a fun obstacle course of boats, docks, ziplines and precarious beams that jutted out over the water, giving us ample opportunities to trick our pursuers into falling off and drowning.

The riot at the arsenal was the centerpiece of the chapter, but we weren’t done with it just yet. There was one more Masyaf Key to find before we could call it quits, hidden in a place called the Forum of Ox. Finding it was a little more difficult than the caverns underneath the Galata Tower; this time, we had to perch on a viewpoint and scan the surrounding landscape in Eagle Sense to find hidden symbols to direct us there.

The Forum of Ox, as it turned out, was a huge underground river, and this time we weren’t alone: a boatload of Templars had beaten us to it. Dodging both their gunfire and the rushing water (which meant instant death if touched), we ran across a series of crumbling beams and catwalks, keeping pace with the Templars as best we could. Interestingly, there appeared to be multiple paths through the level; at one point, we didn’t deploy the hookblade in time while jumping for a lamp, causing Ezio to turn away from the boat instead of swinging toward it. When he did, however, there was another path to follow, which eventually got him back on track while losing only a few seconds.

When we eventually caught up to the Templars, we managed to leap onto their boat, air-assassinating one as we did so. Just then, however, the boat plunged off a waterfall and into a little grotto, where Ezio pulled himself onto dry land and quickly finished off the surviving Templars. Another hidden door and exit via manhole later, and Ezio was back in his library, ready to become Altair one more time.

This memory of Altair took place decades after the last one, centering on a gray-stubbled Altair and his similarly aged wife/former nemesis, Maria Thorpe. For those who’ve read the recently released Secret Crusade novelization, the scene will be familiar, although it plays out a bit differently from the events in that book. Here, Altair had just returned from years spent hunting Genghis Khan, only to learn that his son Sef had been murdered, apparently by his close friend Malik. His rival Abbas had taken control of the Assassin order, turning it into something corrupt and paranoid, and so – following a long walk that gave us a view of Masyaf that seemed bigger and more elaborate than what we remembered from the first game – Altair and Maria went to demand some answers.

Long story short, Abbas demanded Altair hand over the Apple, and what happened next is something we won’t spoil here. Suffice it to say that the next part of the memory involved Altair fighting his way out of Masyaf alongside his surviving son, Darim – and that this time, we weren’t using any nonlethal disarms. Fighting Assassins turned out to be a weird experience; aside from being more competent than the average Templar, they enjoyed leaping at Altair with their hidden blades, and employing grab-and-stab tactics similar to the Stalkers. Not without some difficulty, we eventually fought our way through and escaped Masyaf – at which point our demo drew to a close.

So, to sum up: Revelations looks quite a bit better than its predecessors (although it’s worth pointing out that the infamous screen tearing from earlier games was still present when we played) and adds a ton of new stuff to do – but at its heart, it appears to be extremely similar to Brotherhood, right down to its more flexible, but still Borgia Tower-esque, power dynamic. As long as it’s still fun to clamber around on rooftops, though, and as long as the story Revelations tells stays at least as interesting as what we’ve seen so far, it looks like Constantinople’s going to have a lot to offer fans of acrobatic, open-world climbing and stabbing.

Oct 11, 2011

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

After graduating from college in 2000 with a BA in journalism, I worked for five years as a copy editor, page designer and videogame-review columnist at a couple of mid-sized newspapers you've never heard of. My column eventually got me a freelancing gig with GMR magazine, which folded a few months later. I was hired on full-time by GamesRadar in late 2005, and have since been paid actual money to write silly articles about lovable blobs.
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