Assassin's Creed: Bloodlines - first look

The Assassin’s Creed franchise is one that really couldn’t have existed without some pretty advanced technology. The original Assassin’s Creed has always carried the trappings of a “next-gen” 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’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’s Creed game on a handheld was Altair’s Chronicles on DS, which was reasonably well-received. Cutting out the open-world aspects of the game didn’t kill the experience, but the gameplay felt watered-down nevertheless. The DS title felt stunted because of its linearity, and the game’s story – one of the best parts or worst parts of the original Assassin’s Creed, depending on who you ask – was almost completely irrelevant to the overarching plot of the franchise. Despite being perfectly adequate considering the technical limitations of the DS, it wasn’t the portable Assassin’s Creed experience we were looking for.

Assassin’s Creed on PSP isn’t looking to compromise. The team at Ubisoft Montreal told us their goal with Assassin’s Creed: Bloodlines was to make the game “appear as if no concessions were made.” 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’re quite impressed with how faithfully the experience has been carried over to the handheld.

Bloodlines’ story begins right after the events of the first game, centuries before the events of the upcoming Assassin’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’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’t appear in Assassin’s Creed II at all. The sci-fi, futuristic time-warping elements of the first Assassin’s Creed have been played down significantly – you won’t have to play through sections of the game set in the near future, although we’re told the gene-exploring Animus machine will still play a role in the experience, even if it’s just to select from near-future protagonist Desmond’s “memory blocks.”

According to Ubisoft, the missions you take on (including side missions) will be more varied according to the needs of the plot – 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.