Assassin's Creed: Revelations is the fourth entry in the best-selling adventure series, and concludes the story of long-running protagonist Ezio. Now a middle-aged, wizened assassin, he travels to Constantinople to learn more about his predecessor Altair, and to continue fighting the Templars with new gadgets such as the Hookblade and an all-new Den Defence mini-game.
The end of Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood saw things go sour for modern day assassin Desmond. Left in a coma, Assassin's Creed: Revelations sees the usually stylistic player menu screens glitched and cracked as Desmond is jacked into the Animus against his will. While his fate and role in the game is kept a guarded secret, the opening hours of Assassin's Creed: Revelations sees a whole new city unfold in Ezio's latest adventure, as well as the long-awaited return of Altair.
Reaching new heights with the hookblade
One of the most immediate additions to Assassin's Creed: Revelations is the hookblade. Not long after Ezio arrives in Constantinople, he is given a quick lesson in how to use the device by local assassin leader Yusef. A staple tool for the mercenaries of the city, he's practically mocked for not owning one until now.
Despite mental images of Ezio ignoring traditional on-foot travel and him practically flying across the city instead, in practice the hookblade is fairly subtle. When climbing, it automatically gives him a little extra stretch to reach that far away ledge, and when jumping vertically, holding a button will see it shoot slightly from his sleeve, making slightly longer jumps more possible. Similarly, hanging lanterns can be swung from with a hold of the button or used to quickly turn corners with the device instead. While it doesn't transform exploration, its multifaceted uses do make things quicker and a little easier.
The hookblade has more fun uses than that, though; Assassin's Creed: Revelations introduces ziplines that are placed throughout the city, which provide you with a real shortcut when navigating rooftops. It often features in areas where rooftop guards are patrolling, and allows Ezio to glide in, drop down and quickly take them out. The hookblade can also be used in combat; with a running start, Ezio can attach himself to the foe, climb onto his back, and either smash him to the ground or cleanly detach himself and make a break for it.
Assassin's Creed meets tower defence
Perhaps the biggest change coming to Assassin's Creed: Revelations is the overhaul to the Borgia Towers. Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood had you reclaim Rome's districts by taking control of various Templar command points throughout the city, and while Assassin's Creed: Revelations is similar, it has a few notable differences.
After being claimed, the towers can later be contested; if left too long, then it will be reclaimed by the Templars, and is a system that encourages players to return to old districts. If you decide to intervene, then you'll have to engage in an all-new tower defence style mini-game named Den Defence that offers a complete change of pace.
With Ezio standing on the rooftops, you can direct assassins to defend a street below from the invasion. Once a leader has been placed on a building, he can be joined by crossbowmen and riflemen to fight off waves of enemies, while barriers lined in the street can slow their advances. Players can directly influence the attack by manually shooting arrows or commanding a devastating cannon onto the battlefield - handy to keep by until the final wave, which sees a horde of Templars with a battering ram that requires plenty of defensive and offensive forces to hold back.
Assassin's Creed meets Uncharted
It's not only fancy new gizmos that Constantinople provides. The new city offers some of the most visually striking vistas yet, with a more varied geometry that suits the aforementioned ziplines to a tee. The art team has also gone to great lengths to ensure districts look and feel different, with poorer areas filled with wooden-fronted houses and surrounded by flies, while the more upstanding areas are prettier locales attracting butterflies and rich citizens.
The city also goes hand-in-hand with the story of Ezio chasing down Altair's artifacts, which paves the way for some terrific new mission-types. Similar to the catacombs from Assassin's Creed II, there will be more areas with straightforward exploration crammed with set pieces and thrilling getaways.
An early game example will see Ezio climb above the tallest tower in the city. Once inside, walkways inside crumble, sending him freefalling into a series of caverns below, with just ropes, rickety bridges and old waterwheels for company, and its directed, linear nature feels pleasingly Uncharted in flavour.
The return of Altair
Speaking of Altair, the final major new addition is that players will once again directly control the renowned assassin from his timeline. It takes you to moments after the end of the first Assassin's Creed game, with the crazed Brotherhood leader's body in your arms, which must be carried through crowds of people before burned, setting off a series of events that threaten to tear the clan apart. It's a delightful nod to the original that started it all, as well as a smart way of getting newcomers up to speed on the fiction.
While Assassin's Creed: Revelations is set to retain many of the same elements that has made the series such a phenomenal success, it's made great efforts to ensure certain missions, modes and forms of exploration are more diverse and varied for long-time players.
> Read our multiplayer preview of Assassin's Creed: Revelations
Assassin's Creed: Revelations will be available on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 from November 15.