E3 2011: Assassin's Creed: Revelations hands-on preview

Playing with fire the Auditore way

The ending of Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood wasn't quite as mind-meltingly bizarre as that of predecessor Assassin's Creed II, but it still set up some significant twists for the next chapter – and the recent news that Assassin's Creed: Revelations would both conclude hero Ezio Auditore's tale and also revive original series protagonist Altair was surprising news indeed.

We got our first look at the game at E3 2011 via a brief single-player presentation and a quick hands-on with the enhanced multiplayer portion. Considering the blare and bustle of the show floor, Ubisoft wisely kept notable story details to a minimum during the campaign demo, instead showcasing the series' familiar action and the noticeable additions that Revelations brings to the table.

How exactly Revelations will balance the action between Ezio and Altair – and Desmond, the modern-day descendent of both who anchors each scenario – remains unclear based on the E3 demo, which focused strictly on the exploits of sir Auditore. Revelations is primarily set in Constantinople (also Cappadocia) in 1511, and a couple details popped out to us as Ezio strolled through the city streets and interacted with NPCs: he's notably older-looking than in Brotherhood, sporting grizzled grey facial hair in contrast to his stylish black-heavy garb, and the new city pops with intricate detail despite a familiar feel to the surroundings.

The brief demo we viewed sees Ezio attempting to clear a giant barricade-forming chain strung from the Tower of Galata across the harbor, and he'll be doing so with an immensely powerful bomb handed off by an NPC named Yusuf. Bombs are one of the enhanced elements appearing in the game, as you'll be able to customize and use them for varying purposes, and we quickly see Ezio dispatch a pair of guards with a quick toss of a much smaller one. As Ezio approaches the tower, we then see a smoke bomb tossed and then witness his newly enhanced Eagle Sense ability, which lets him pick out and get the jump on guards in battle within smoke screens and such.

It's then that things get a little hectic. Ezio detonates the bomb at the base of the chain, sending the tower crumbling down and into the harbor, and prompting him to utilize his new hookblade device to ride a zipline through the ensuing blaze and onto a ship.

The situation only intensifies when Ezio runs up to the Greek Fire turret – essentially a mounted, long-range flamethrower on the ship (andsurprisingly historically accurate, at least to some extent) – and ignites the other nearby ships. As the demo ends, we see him running upon floating wreckage to another ship and performing a speedy kill after dropping from a zipline. The most striking thing about the demo, aside from the immense destruction and potentially exciting new gameplay enhancements, is really the cinematic feel of the in-game action. It's clear that Ubisoft is working to present some of the more rousing moments of the campaign in an increasingly elaborate manner, which should better convey the intense moments being prepared for the game.

After seeing that rousing demo, playing a quick round of the familiar four-on-four team-based Wanted multiplayer mode was admittedly a little underwhelming; not due to the mode or multiplayer approach itself, which was very stellar in Brotherhood and should be the same here, but because the promised enhancements weren't quite as clear as those seen in the campaign demo. New maps and modes are coming, as well as player customization (a big one), but Ubisoft's keeping a lot of that close to the vest until the November 15 release date draws nearer.

Finally, we caught a brief video trailer of some of the other campaign bits expected in the game, notably Desmond's newfound ability to manipulate the Animus and access Black Room missions that should offer new details behind the technology and the series' overarching narrative. A scene of Desmond approaching a glowing white portal in an outdoor setting gave us a spooky little chill, as the series' more mysterious elements – especially that still-unclear alien mumbo-jumbo that popped up at the end of Assassin's Creed II – really help keep us motivated to pump through these massive annual adventures. And after the solidly impressive E3 demo, we're gearing up to do the same for what looks to be the most thrilling and diverse entry to date.

Jun 10, 2011

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