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One bartender. Two assassins. One destiny.
And accompanying the release of the PC version of ACR, comes the review, by the Mentor itself ^^
Even though the game has been out for a couple of weeks, PC players are getting it now, so I still will treat the game info as spoilers -- any important event will be hidden by a spoiler box to keep it away for unwanting eyes. Also keep in mind this is my oppinion as a gamer and as a person -- I won't flamboyant the games flaws -- Im not paid by Ubisoft and my commitment to the wiki won't affect my judgement of the games strong and weak spots. If you don't agree with something that I said, sound off in the comments below. If you agree, also write down below ^^
TO THE REVIEW!
You already heard about the hookblade, but you didn't heard how few ziplines there actually is. You read about bombs, but no one told you how often they tend to run out when you most need them. This review will tell you all those aspects other texts forgot, and eventually cover what they said too -- after all, it's a review =P
The game begins with our Desmond friend in the Animus after being in a coma following ACBH's events. Despite Desmond's face looking like it was trampled by a horse (it's even less alike to the original model than the AC2 version), his voice is still coming from the throat of Nolan North -- a presence that even with a few Desmond's memories, still is unfortunaly absent from the game. The setting of Desmond's coma limits his interactions with the outside world and remarkably, the inside world as well -- Sixteen appears, but even him feels... shallow -- what in turn makes North's and Desmond's influence in the game extremely weak.
Desmond is catapulted into Ezio's life, and we are presented to the awesome E3 video of the Masyaf fight, but instead of the music "Iron", a Ezio voice-over that doesn't fit the mood is the soundtrack of the animation. Roger Craig Smith is a terrific voice actor, but as we are presented with a scene of Ezio sidesteping a dude and running him aground with his own sword while Ezio muses and narrates about how long Masyaf ins't in Assassin control for over 300 years, you realize the developers might have picked a better moment for Ezio's letter monologue than a 40-vs-1 fighting sequence.
Afterwards, Ezio gets out of Masyaf and all that, and after arriving in Constantinople and metting Yusuf, the games sets you free -- no longer blocked districts like AC and ACBH -- the city is yours to roam.
The gameplay is largely unchanged, but still it feels very different. The first thing I noticed is how poorly designed the places are. Unlike AC and AC2 and even BH, there are a lot of buildings in AC that you rpetty much cant climb in one goal. You freerun up a wall, and then Ezio grabs into a ledge and you can't keep climbing -- the reason varies from not having a climbing point to grasp, or the fact that where he is hanging doesn't allow him to put his feet against the wall and use the hookblade, but one way or another, that "fluid" climbing has been hampered by level design in some places.
The hookblade is a cool addiction -- like the Apprentice system in BH, a nice idea, and a few missed opportunities. For one, the hook and throw is simply amazing, altough you'll be surprised how many times the guard you just grabbed by the neck at 15mph with a metal hook and threw from a 4-store high building hits the ground alive. I feel we could have a hook and steal ability isntead of the counter-steal -- in a fight, the priority is kill before being killed, not stealing the gaurd's pouch and have him angry at you for being a assassin with pickpocket tendencies.
Another cool thing is the ziplines -- they really are a blast to use, BUT they are very few in between. They hardly coincide with your path and are not as all proeminent through the city -- you can see them anywhere, but to go to them and use them usually is harder and slower than to just run towards your goal in a straight line. This again is a sign of poor level design. Altough the tunnels cover some of that zipline lack as my admin User:War Clown pointed out, they shouldn't replace it -- ziplines don't involve loading, and are way more fun than using a menu.
The combat system overall is similar to BH, altough the double kill streaks aren't featured anymore -- you can't attack a opponent and hold the attack button to shot guard 2 through guard 1's head or similar -- you cna only kill one at a time, altough Ezio will ocassionaly perform a double kill at his own pace and moment of choice.
Enemies have a wider diversity, altough those freaking agiles are back -- they completely remove the thrill of a chase by stabbing you in the back. Speaking of stab, we have stalkers -- creepy (and ocasionally faggy) sons of bitches who sneak behind you and try to stab you -- but you can counter and stab their throat with their own knife if they grab you before you beat them. We have the Janissaries, that are the sultan's guard and Cesare-level of annoying -- they block 99% of your attacks and you can't counter kill them when their health is full, but unlike AC1 Templars that also couldn't be killed with full health, they have a tendency to not attack you and shoot you every few seconds, making combat with them a frustrating button mashing.
Graphics are better than ACBH, Ezio's robe specially -- they are absolutely and completely gorgeous. You have only 3 sets of armor avaiable to purchase, and the first one is the one most similar to the original look -- once more we can't remove armor, a feature that has been heavily missed by fans of the series. BEsides those 3 buyable armors, you can unlock two more -- the Master Assassin, that makes Ezio look like a battle robot, and the armor of Ishak Pasha, a meh armor that has a freaking mask on it. At least the cutscenes remove Ezio's mask so we can see his face in all it's ridiculous splendor. Ridiculous because once more, character designed fucked it up XD To exemplify, my girlfriend looked at him and said "Merlim, what have they done to his face?"
The enviroments are well detailed, except for the high speed ones like the carriage sequences -- the city of Constantinopole looks good -- I especially LOVED what they did to the moon in this game -- it's simply amazing.
Some minor characters model like citizens or stalkers have a few rough edges and bad textures -- far below what you would expect from a AC game -- they look like the citizens on the first AC, but they don't have the excuse of launching in 2007. But Ezio, Altaïr, Al Mualim, and pretty much every voiced character looks very, VERY good.
Overall pretty good, but nothing remarkable. Jesper Kyd's done a good job once more, altough the soundtrack isn't his best work -- AC and AC2 still beat this one.
Ezio's voice sometimes felt too forced, to be honest -- specially his monologues -- he never had a real italian accent per se in the past games, but they at least felt natural... but Smith did a great job once more.
The story is meh. Altough it's more deep than BH's, to be honest, I barely felt the same impact between the two -- compared to AC and AC2, the story barely twitches the "excitment scale" and scores a 0.5 -- 0 being watching Gilmore Girls, 5 being jumping out of an airplane with a parachute and 10 being seeing a real dragon fly by wearing a Mexican hat and eating the top of the Empire State Building.
Sophia was very present, but there was little romance by itself in the game -- no cool one liners or anything. Btw, Sophia is pretty -- she has lovely breas... er, clothing. Remarkable.
I felt they missed some opportunites, storywise -- no mention of Leo is ever made, nor of any of your past allies. Ezio simply forgets them and moves off.
And the ending... well. Ordinary. I know they promised us answers and all that, but the answers were far too unexciting and the ending far too easy. You can finish off a storyline while also making people look forward to the next installment, but apparently no one knew how to do that this time.
Bugs... oh, god, the PC version is plagued by them. Nothing game breaking, thanks heavens, but still, far below what you would expect from an AC game. I'm not talking about ragdolls going crazy (that didn't happened to me once in this game ^^) or Ezio don't grabbing onto something when he clearly should have (this happened way too often, unfortunaly). I'm talking about camera issues, graphics tearing and behaviour inconsitencies.
One of the most common issues I had I believe were caused by Ezio's recent discovered Force-attunemnt. OFten times he would impale a guy through with his sword and turn to hit the next enemy, but the sword had a habit of staying in his first downed enemy and then magically flying through the air to his hand just before he hit the next guard in line. Another one was caused by you killing an opponent in fight, the camera entering slowmo, you stabbing the guy... and the guy hits you back in the face with a sword, completely alive.
The graphic problem I found, beside a few textures clipping, was with the greek fire. Not the enviroment fire that burns, but the one that shoots out of the cannon -- it would usually cause a effect similar to a black hole, where a black spot would circle the fire spray and cause rough edges -- and I tested it in 4 different computers because of the possibility it was driver or graphic cards issues, and, well, it isn't. But as I said, nothing game breaking -- just atmosphere breaking.
And the most annoying one: during one of the later missions, Ezio falls. During this gameplay sequence, the camera shakes wildly to convey the sense of breakneck speed. Once I finished and the cutscene started on the ground, the camera refused to stop. So I was forced to watch Ezio calmly speaks with a guy for 3 minutes while the camera had a epiletic seizure.
Besides that and the fact that during some secret levels Ezio refused to grasp something because of the ABSOLUTELY HORRIFIC fixed camera and me finishing a armor missionand earning a achivement and the game reloading by itself to the last part and forcing me to repick the armor, refinish it and even gain the achievement again without reason, the game is well produced.
Gameplay is very alike Ezio, with the few exceptions that you play with Altaïr for like... 1% of the game?
(checks with his assistant) Less? Okay... nah, I'm gonna say one percent
For 1% of the game... and of that 1%, 8/10th of it you are a old Altaïr, so you can't fight, or run, or climb, just... walk. Like a old man. ALtaïr. A old man. Walking. Not in a badass manner like in AC. Just... walking. Like that old neighbour of yours that has a dog that barks for half the day. Just... walking.
Good as the rest of the game, altough once more the design they went for sucks. Altaïr's robes are so clean and unragged that they look almost cartoonish, unlike AC's gritty look.
Music is barely inexistent -- it plays, but you won't recall any of the notes XD Abbas is good, Altair is absolutely horrendous. My direttore User:Assassin-Rayne believes it isn't even Philip that made his voice -- he claims to have runned AC and ACR samples of ALtair's voice through a voice matching software, and the result was 10% -- so even if it was Philip, sound direction messed it up so bad it became irrecognazible.
Altough hearing Al Mualim for a short time was fantastic. Simply.. fantastic. Best voice ever. =P
For fans of the AC and defenders of the original premisses and philosophy of the game, it was Terrible. They ruined the character and everything it standed for. I curse that Bowden guy and I feel it's a offense to call him a writer -- it's a blow to the head of people like Stephen King, Tymoth Zahn, Dan Brown, Tolkien, Drew Karpyshyn, and hell, even Shakeaspeare and J.K. Rowling. How I wish that Steven Barnes, the first writer they approached when the first AC was in development, had stayed in production. That guy is awesome. Bowden writes worse than me, and I make typos every two lines.
To be honest, didn't had any. There was one mission with Altair that sets the 100%synch objective as " Don't kill anyone", and it failed the moment the memory started. God knows why, I hadn't even touched the keyboard yet.
Desmond is locked inside the Black Room, the mainframe and inner workings of Animus 2.02. After collecting a few "Animus fragments", he (and you) gets access to his own memories, that are small sequences were Desmond's mind can shape the environment in order to reach something. Played in first-person view, these few sequences are a cool change of pace and give us a small look into Desmond's past.
Outside of those segments, you simply have Desmond in a small island, devoid of anything whatsoever -- again a missed opportunity. You should have something to interact with and break the pace, like the Villa roaming option in BH -- instead, you can simply go from Ezio's memory to Desmond's memories. You can't even talk to Sixteen outside of predetermined moments.
Desmond looks awful and Sixteen looks a little weird, altough he has a kinda cool outfit -- both of them have their mouth or teeth a little off as a few times they don't move along with their voice lines. The island looks... blueish.
No music. Nolan North voice is great, but his voice don't match the new character design -- guess I grew used to the old (and waaay better Desmond). Sixteen voice is a little annoying at times.
What story? XD I'm gonna bring Spoilers now, so click the box if you are interested.
Lucy is dead. They simply mention it in passing at the beggining of the game. No drama. No story. No heartfelt moment. All that sexual tension they built in the past three games? Useless. All that "she may be still alive" cue on BH? Stupid. They simply covered it from above and were done with it. Rebecca barely appears, Shaun even less, not even a funny line. Sixteen's apperance is pretty much wasted, and the end... God, terrible. It doesn't builds up to NOTHING. No cliffhanger, no tension, no climax. People who wrote that must be terrible at bed, because the game HAS NO CLIMAX at the end! x.x
Ah, and after it ends both the game and the terribly long and boring credits (you spend 20 minutes looking at an empty Animus Island), you can go back to Constantinople. Story wise, thats stupid. Know why? In AC, Desmond is locked at Abstergo with the Animus 1.28 at his disposal. At AC2, he is put back in Animus 2.0 in the van. In ACBH, he is in a coma inside the Animus. What all those have in common? Desmond IS inside the Animus and can keep relieving memories. End of ACR? HE isn't in a Animus. He isn't in a coma. Ezio already left Constanipole to die in Embers. Yet, after the credits roll, Desmond is suddenly back in the Animus Island and Ezio is once again in Constantinopole! WTF? oO
Altough I few the quality was low with things like Desmond doing hidden blades motion when you press attack even though he has nothing in his arms and a big yellow blob on the texture of the ground near a rock where I suppose it's where Sixteen should appear, there's not a bug I encountered.
It's a fun game. Really. But it's as far from the spirit of AC as it ever will be. Unfortunaly, Ubisoft owns it and this new team is in charge of it, so from now on, what they say is the truth. So they simply took everything in AC and AC2, wrapped it up real quick and are now wanting to tell their own new story. If you love AC, or simply want a good game, don't miss ACR. But honestly, forget Altaïr and Ezio and that AC awesomeness -- what AC was it will never be again.
Here comes the future. And it saddens me.
"There is no wisdom without love."