Assassin's Creed: Bloodlines - first look

While the open-world aspect has been scaled down to two cities (Limasol and Kyrenia), and the explorable countryside is gone, you’ll at least be able to explore those cities immediately, instead of unlocking them one district at a time. Also, all of Altair’s weapons and moves from the console game are intact, from free-running maneuvers to stealth kills, and the developers even included the ability to grab foes while hanging from a ledge, a trick we’ve only seen so far in previews for Assassin’s Creed II.

All of that should come in handy when tackling Altair’s assassination targets who – in contrast to the first game’s relatively easy marks – will be full-on bosses like the ones in Altair’s Chronicles, each requiring a certain trick or strategy to beat. The one we saw, a bald hulk named Moloch “The Bull,” swung a weighted chain that Altair couldn’t block, forcing him to either dodge or counterattack. An interesting feature of Bloodlines is that once Altair takes down a boss, the boss’s weapon will be made available for use in the PS3 version of Assassin’s Creed II, thanks to connectivity between the two games. (Meanwhile, any health or hidden-blade upgrades collected in AC II will be transferable back to Bloodlines.)

But what about those limitations we mentioned earlier? The PSP is one analog stick and two triggers short of a PS3 controller, and PSP hardware simply isn’t powerful enough to render big crowds. The developers have worked around the control issues by enabling players to hold down the left trigger and use the face buttons to control the camera, which seems to work pretty well. As far as the crowds go, get this: when Altair arrives at Cyprus, the island is revealed to be under martial law. People are locked in their houses, which for Altair means much smaller crowds to navigate. Aha, Ubisoft – we see what you did there! Veeeeeeery clever.

Assassin’s Creed: Bloodlines comes out on Nov. 17, the same day as Assassin’s Creed II, and we’re eager to get more time with it before then. Ubisoft has said it wants to “change as little as we could” from the original Assassin’s Creed formula, and it shows. If Bloodlines were a console game, we’d never accept – let alone be excited for – this “more of the same” philosophy, but we’re extremely impressed with developer Griptonite's technical achievement on the portable platform. From what we’ve seen, the cuts that were madein order to make the game PSP-friendly were the right ones, and we’re eager to see if it all feels right when it’s finally in our hands. We just hope we’re not too distracted by what’s missing to enjoy the whole package.

Sep 14, 2009