Assassin's Creed Revelations hands-on multiplayer preview

There’s also a good chance that you’ll have to deal with traps around the treasure. The Tripwire Bomb was one of the more interesting new secondary abilities we played around with, and it turned out to be endlessly useful. If we wanted to set it up as a trap, for example, we could throw it using a convenient new aiming function (which is now also standard for other thrown weapons, like firecrackers), and it’d become almost invisible to whoever we wanted to stun. Meanwhile, if we thought a hunter was following us (hearing whispers is usually a pretty clear warning sign), we could discreetly toss one on the ground. If we heard a boom a few seconds later, we had a clear shot to run up and punch our pursuer, nullifying his or her contract on us and racking up a few bonus points.

Tripwire Bombs are far from the only new abilities being added to Revelations, although aside from Closer – which blocks off any nearby chase breakers, denying your prey their advantages – most of the ones we saw were held over from Brotherhood, albeit with a few community-mandated changes to their duration and effectiveness (throwing knives, for example, now stun and slow targets temporarily). We did, however, see a few new Streak effects, which grant points or abilities depending on whether you’ve met certain kill or loss requirements (which you set by choosing them).

If your selected kill streak kicks in after, say, scoring five silent kills in a row, then you’ll get a fat point bonus when you do so. More interesting, though, is what can happen after you’ve gotten killed or lost a contract a few times in a row. When that happens, “loss streak” effects, designed to get you back in the game, will kick in and grant you assorted abilities. The ones we saw during our session included Tracker, which leaves a trail of glyphs behind your opponent; Vision and Revelation, which reveal your prey and pursuer(s), respectively; and Minor Hack, capable of instantly killing your prey from across the map.

Interestingly, Ubisoft Annecy is changing the way abilities, perks, streaks and other bonuses are made available to players. In Brotherhood, these were earned simply by leveling up; in Revelations, however, you’ll start with a handful to give you an edge right off the bat. For the rest, leveling up will unlock them (in greater numbers) in an in-game store. Then, as you earn Abstergo Credits by performing well in the game, you can pick which add-ons you want.

The reason for this is likely down to the much larger number of stuff that can be unlocked, which includes not only gameplay additions, but also new parts for your characters. Unlike Brotherhood’s more static-looking Templars, the characters in Revelations are more customizable, and each has six parts – head, chest, legs, arms, belts and accessories – that can be swapped out with others you buy along the way. Your primary and secondary weapons can be switched out as well (which changes your kill animations), as can your animations for stunning or taunting enemies.

The changes are purely cosmetic, but are designed to make them feel more like “your” characters – as are the customizable emblems, which you can also buy pieces for in the store, and which your character can wear as either a personal or clan logo (and don’t worry – like everything else, emblems will be duplicated in the crowd, so they won’t be a dead giveaway to your opponents).

The level cap is 50, which we’re told dedicated players should reach pretty quickly – after all, there’s now a story to run through, and the developers don’t want to make it inaccessible for those used to single-player (and for reference, we rocketed through the first several levels after just a few sessions). However, that doesn’t mean an end to stuff you can chase after; once you’ve maxed out your level, there are 99 more “loops” of prestige levels to climb through, each of which will make cool new bonuses available for the really dedicated players, the ones in it for the long haul.

Some of the unlockables – like Assassin’s Creed-themed gamer pics – don’t even show up during gameplay, and that leads us to Annecy’s new big push this time around: community features. To begin with, each player now has a Templar Profile, an online ID card that shows off things like your favorite character model, favorite abilities, emblem and so on, as well as one of the gamer pics we mentioned above. Titles can also be earned and/or purchased, letting players brag about their achievements to anyone who cares to look.

Potentially more interesting, however, are things like Dares. While browsing lists of your friends, it’s possible to see how they’ve done in individual modes – and if you want to climb to the top of your friend-list ladder, you’re going to have to try and beat their score. However, once you do – or once you successfully perform a certain challenge – a Dare will automatically be issued to your friends, alerting them that you one-upped them and encouraging them to try and beat your score, thereby keeping the spirit of competition alive.

Even nearly four months from completion, and even with the rigid, unchangeable ability sets we were given during the session, Revelations’ multiplayer is already enormously fun. There already looks to be a lot more potential for creativity and customization than there was in Brotherhood, and the new modes were a blast to play through. The developers also tell us that additions, improvements and other changes are being made constantly, and likely will for a while, so we’re excited to see how this shapes up in November.

Aug 2, 2011