Out of all new franchises which have been created in this generation of consoles, Assassin's Creed is by far my favourite. Unlike other franchises, Assassin's Creed toys with history and pulls out pieces of information from our actual past and crafts an elegant story of action and adventure. The assassin's are such an interesting, yet mysterious group and getting the chance to play as one fulfills so many of my interests. In a world which is now cluttered with FPS's that take you through a collapsing world, it is nice to be able to go back into our history and see some of the great civilisations in their prime.
Revelations is the final farewell to Altair and Ezio Auditore da Firenze, the main character of the first then second and third titles respectively. While the modern day character Desmond will be continuing into Assassin's Creed III and beyond, this game wraps up the story of Ezio specifically while also providing flashbacks into Altair's life. Despite saying that they would increase the time between releases to allow for more development of the series, Revelations came out only a year after Brotherhood, which in turn was a year after ACII. Assassin's Creed III again is due out in 2012. The game is slowly becoming annualized, something many people don't want. Has shorter development time or the fact that 6 studios from around the world built this game affected the evolution of this series? Yes, but the majority of it is positive.
I have always been impressed with the attention to detail placed in the Assassin's Creed games. Even though the original title is dwarfed in respect to the more recent additions to the franchise, the ability to create multiple huge living and breathing cities which have distinct features was super impressive at the time. Three games later and Revelations is taking a similar approach to Brotherhood. Instead of having multiple cities to travel to like in AC and ACII, Revelations is set in Constantinople which is a vast empire just like Rome in Brotherhood. This is a good thing for the series as they can streamline a story experience around that particular area and period in time rather than trying to incorporate the history of many different cities all at once. Since only one city needs to be created, the developers are able to add greater detail and create unique zones and areas within the city to symbolise slums, market areas, meeting zones and general wide open expanses all in a single location. The city looks spectacular and it is a great testament to the developers that they manage to construct it with so many citizens in frame, while having the game continually run at a smooth rate.
Missions in Assassin's Creed always start with and often include in-game cut scenes. These have improved spectacularly since the first title. Quite often textures would pop in and out, characters would have body parts that would move for no reason and some of the camera angles looked clunky. Thankfully this has been gradually improved over time and they are top notch in Revelations. The cinematic start to Revelations is also a first for the series and is used to great effect, setting the scene perfectly for the opening battle at Masyaf. The player models are as always, strong as ever.
The assassins have always been gifted and received special attention is making sure that every animation is as smooth as possible. With new additions such as the hook blade the amount of actions available has been increased and all previous animations have been given a nice polish over. When in combat you can perform some quite awesome finishing moves which slow down the action and provide a close up of the insane ability of Ezio, this is quite cool but happens probably a little bit too often for my liking. Interaction with other people isn't as clunky as before and reacting to people in your way as you walk through a crowd definitely looks a lot better.
Before launching into Revelations I went back and played the original Assassin's Creed to refresh my memory on Altair's story as it was quite a while ago. It astonished me to listen to an American Altair, something I never really paid attention to back in 2007. It is good to see that the current Altair finally has an accent and voice actor that does him justice, as does every single character in the game. Every single voice actor fits the role perfectly, the dialogue and tone of each actor perfectly matches the personality of the character. Ezio is now much older than previous titles and the experience and wisdom which surrounds him when he speaks is magnificent. The musical score is also pretty memorable and sets the scene perfectly when making your way around Constantinople.
Assassin's Creed is a story held together by Desmond, but primarily revolves around his ancestors. While everyone thought Altair's story was over once he recovered the piece of Eden from Masyaf, he has been brought back once again to assist Ezio's final quest. The storyline is thrilling and kept me hooked right from the beginning. As with every Assassin's Creed title to date, the ending left me gob smacked and gave a feeling of joy and sadness as the tale of Ezio and Altair wrapped up. Not all sections of the game were great, Desmond's bizarre Animus sections did provide a bit of variation from the standard assassin formula but not much in terms of story. The game does assume that you know Ezio and Altair's past adventures and those new to the series may find themselves a bit lost for the start of the game at least. This is an ongoing franchise and seeing how the two main characters have been featured before, experience is required.
Ezio is a pure beast with the blade now and can now dispatch enemies with ease. Compared to the original Assassin's Creed, combat and assassinations come easy to the player. Being introduced to a new city and lifestyle has brought with it new tools for Ezio. The hook blade is a fantastic addition which makes climbing buildings and using zip lines found around the city a breeze to use. You can now craft bombs which all have specific qualities depending on what items you put into them, which can be found by looting bodies and finding chests. All of the great abilities from past games return and some have been improved such as the ability to create a Brotherhood as you send assassin's around the world to perform missions in order to rankup. Some new features of Revelations don't hold up to the high standard of the series however.
Quite early on into the game you will come across Den Defense, a mode which is basically another take on the popular tower defense formula. Den Defense plays out as you stand on a roof and control where and what type of soldiers or assassin's are placed on the roof as you try to defend an area from oncoming soldiers. This becomes a tedious process that completely reverses the style of play which the series is known for. It is slow, a bit clunky and adds nothing what so ever to the experience. If it continues into future titles a serious overhaul of it needs to be done, if anything is should be a small optional area of the game, not streamlined into the main story.
Multiplayer was first introduced into Assassin's Creed last year with Brotherhood. While it was a lot of fun, the load times to get into games was simply horrendous and the menu layout didn't make it an enjoyable experience. This year a lot of improvements have been made. Matches are now a lot easier to get into, new games modes are exciting and mix up the pure stealth formula of the past year and a story has been added. This is a nice addition, having a story which unravels are you progress through the levels is a clever way to keep you playing if the unique action isn't enough to take your fancy.
By no means is Assassin's Creed: Revelations a bad game. The game looks better than ever before, the story is probably the most thrilling yet and is an ode to fans who have been living in the world of Altair and Ezio for the last 5 years. Some new features such as Den Defense don't make a positive impact like planned, but that does little to detract from the great experience you will gain from Revelations. Sure, some people may complain that they have kept the same formula and run with it, but if it ain't broke don't fix it. Multiplayer on top of the single player is a great way to keep living in the assassin world long after you farewell the two current assassin's from the series before a new one is welcomed next year when Desmond faces yet another huge challenge. This is a game you must play.
Graphics - 9.5/10
Sound - 9.5/10
Gameplay - 9/10
Overall - 9.5/10
Wednesday, November 30, 2011
In years gone past Need for Speed has been the premier racing title that people would look forward to coming into Christmas. In the previous generation of consoles titles such as Underground, Most Wanted and Carbon cemented Need for Speed as a franchise to pay attention to. Next thing we know is the series has crashed with the poor Need for Speed Undercover, before being followed up by an interesting simulation title which was quite successful in NFS Shift. In 2010 we weren't sure what direction the series would take, but Burnout developers Criterion Games came to the forefront releasing NFS Hot Pursuit which brought Need for Speed back to its arcade roots, as well as being the best game in the series. One year on and Black Box has released an arcade racer known as Need for Speed The Run, which takes some risky moves in an attempt to mix up the formula.
The one big part of gaming that has always been missing from Need for Speed is a story and The Run attempts to change this by having the game revolve around a race across the USA. The trouble is, the story hasn't been layed out to give the user what they need to know and the clumsy plot and lack of vital details make it almost impossible to follow. What was meant to be the strongest point of The Run turns out to be its weak link and as a result the rest of the game has suffered.
There is no point comparing NFS The Run to titles outside of the series. If that happened the end result would be that it isn't as good as Forza 4 which is unfair on the title. The Run utilises the Frostbite 2 engine, which is a first for the series and is also the first time it has powered something that isn't a shooter. The engine, while not as effective as the beauty which is Battlefield 3, holds up well and creates some spectacular scenery for you to drive through. One big advantage that NFS The Run has over previous installments is the sense of adventure and ability to change the environment at will. Travelling across the USA allows the developers to put everything from lush forests to vast deserts or bustling city centres.
In NFS Hot Pursuit the game was centered around one area and as a result the game looked spectacular. By creating so many different areas the finer detail has been missed. In particular, the way the cars handle and even look in the environment is quite poor. Cars don't have that special gleam that they should have and the ability to customize cars is gone, which may be an issue for some. I felt that the drifting animation in particular was horrendous to look at, especially after Hot Pursuit nailed drifted better than perhaps any game before it. While it still is a pretty game that has a beast of an engine behind it, that fact alone has maybe lifted the standard required.
Recent Need for Speed titles have rocked a thrilling soundtrack featuring songs to get you pumped up for the adrenalin pumping action which is to come. The Run is no different and the songs chosen definitely fit in well with the American adventure that is being undertaken. With a story in place, this game features more voice acting than ever before (If you can call advice from one sexy lady per title voice acting). While the actors they have hired are passable, there isn't too much variety, particularly with the police. The fact that the plot is ridiculously bad doesn't help with the quality of the cut scenes.
The cut scenes do look slick and player models are brilliant. The Frostbite 2 engine has definitely helped out this area of the game and the quicktime events that appear throughout the game are really good. It's just a major shame that the effort that went into making detailed characters and scenes has been let down by a story that doesn't do them justice.
Need for Speed: The Run, it sounds like quite a bizarre title for a game that is all about driving. The game in and out of the car as you take place in a race across the USA against a field of 200 all vying for a $2.5 million prize. The race is split up into segments where you aim to get to cities coming a specific position. The stages are also split into various racing modes. This definitely mixes the game up as you will constantly be moving from a standard race to a checkpoint race that helps you 'make up time' and even special battles against rivals which you encounter along the journey.
The races are short, plentiful and offer the exhilirating burst required without becoming too repetitive. The racing is held back by set pieces and dumb AI however. People who fall into the trap of playing through The Run on easy or normal will encounter races which are far too easy with the AI making dumb and constant mistakes. A race which requires you to overtake X amount of people could be finished by halfway and the way the game has been set out means you won't encounter anymore drivers for the rest of the race. The game is also set up so even if you get 500m in front of another car, if you come across a spot designated by the game then that particular car is automatically sucked right alongside you. I understand that its part of the game to make the story flow, but if they wanted it to keep pace then the AI should be tweaked to stay at your speed once overtaken to keep things interesting no matter what difficulty.
There are just a lot of small things which don't make The Run as spectacular as it could potentially be. Drifting is horrible and Black Box should've really have used exactly what Criteron created with Hot Pursuit as that game was a true pleasure to drift in. These issues could be overlooked if the areas new to the franchise were a standout performance, sadly they have collapsed in a big heap of confusion. For the first time ever you are a character which has meaning. Jack, the protagonist in this game, has been caught in some trouble with the mob and must race to pay them back. The story starts off confusing and doesn't tell you what Jack has done or why the story starts with him being put into a car cruncher. By the time you get to the end of the game you haven't really answered any questions and merely created more which just add to the absolute ramble which begins your adventure. If a future developer ever tries to turn Need for Speed into a story, I suggest they begin with building a story first and moulding the game around it. This merely looks like an attempt to throw an extra layer on top post production. One big feature promoted was the ability to get out of the car, often through the means of quicktime events used to escape the cops or mob. These are limited and do a good job of mixing up the action without seemingly placed in at all too regular intervals.
While the single player fails to live up to expectation, the multiplayer shines a little brighter. Autolog is back and the ability to compare and challenge your friends is an excellent incentive to keep playing. The set out for multiplayer is close to the same as Hot Pursuit, with modes being dedicated to certain types of cars before choosing what type of race to compete in. Sadly The Run also has the same problem as Hot Pursuit with a limited number of modes available to play and limited replay value after a few hours of any particular mode. Levelling up through gaining XP in both single player and multiplayer is rewarding, but even that only lasts so long.
Need for Speed: The Run definitely had potential. A country wide race with 200 competitors, cops and the mob on your tail is something which could easily become one of my favourite games of all time. The action is set in place but sadly the story and some dodgy AI issues has deflated that balloon. Focusing on a story behind all the nitrous pumping action was a good move, but having such bad plot lines which lacked any detail or emotion left we wanting a lot more. If anything this is a game you are going to get to breeze through the singleplayer once, zoning out to any story and merely enjoying the ride before hopping into multiplayer with friends.
Graphics - 8/10
Sound - 6.5/10
Gameplay - 4.5/10
Overall - 6.5/10
Friday, November 11, 2011
Ever since the stunning gameplay trailer for Battlefield 3 dropped earlier this year, the pressure has been on the deliver a stunning game. The game was touted as having the best graphics for PC since Crysis and having the gameplay mechanics in place to throw down or at least release the stranglehold Call of Duty had on the market. DICE went into this battle as the vast underdogs, but with the highly successful Battlefield 2 and Bad Company Series under its belt, there was always a strong chance they would deliver. What we have received is a beautiful package which pushes PC rigs to their maximum power as well as flourishing on consoles if the texture pack is installed beforehand. The Frostbite 2 engine holds up well and delivers an incredible setting in single player and more importantly multiplayer.
The Battlefield series has always been one where spectacular environments are created and if all goes to plan, destroyed shortly afterwards. There are so many positives in this game and the graphics are a definite highlight. While Call of Duty rests on its laurels with the dated IW engine, the Frostbite 2 engine is quenching the current generation of consoles with every last drop of graphical power being poured into this game. Huge set pieces look spectacular and provide the huge wow factor we have seen in previews of Battlefield 3. The attention to detail is the real powerful positive to come out of this game however. The textures and lighting make this game believable as a real world setting for warfare and the constantly changing environments look good, no matter what. The contrasting blue and orange colour palette featured on the cover translates nicely into the game as well with explosions mixing up the darker theme of the game.
The game looks spectacular during the single player, but equally as impressive in multiplayer. It's rare that a game that rises to such highs during the campaign can back it up with similar results in multiplayer. If anything, action in multiplayer looks better than in the campaign due to the destructibility. The Bad Company games in the franchise promoted blowing sh*t up and almost every building or structure you could see could be blown to smithereens. Battlefield 3 has thrown this approach out for a more linear approach with limited destructibility, often only in set story points or areas set up for a quicktime event soon after. Multiplayer on the other hand follows the if its standing, it can soon fall down philosphy of older games and is better for it.
As good as the graphics are, those with an arcade console or the new 4GB console will need to find a way to install the optional texture pack. Being optional is a misintepretation and merely means that the game will look like a much blander and less stunning title. Attention to detail and facial animations will be missing without the texture pack and it is HIGHLY recommended that you install these so you don't miss out on all of the modern warfare beauty that is hidden away in both sides of the game.
Just as the pre-release trailers suggested, this is a game you are going to want to play with your surround sound system cranked up the maximum volume. You will hear bullets whizzing past your ears, buildings crumbling nearby, explosions occuring everywhere! Guns all have an unique sound and a sniper will be able to be distinguished from an assault rifle so you can react accordingly. While the game has strayed away from the joking nature of the previous spin-offs, the voice acting in this more serious game still sound great. While they may be cliched approaches at your standard war story, the voices behind the people in the game suit them perfectly and it matches the audio quality presented throughout the rest of Battlefield.
Before you even launch yourself into playing Battlefield, you will notice that the game has been put onto two discs. While this seems like it will become standard practice as games get larger, with single player on a disc and multiplayer on the other, an interesting choice was made by Electronic Arts. Disc 1 features the texture install pack as well as multiplayer and disc 2 features the singleplayer component of the game. It seems as if this approach was taking either because they know more people buy FPS's for the online aspect, or that the single player certainly doesn't come close to how good Battlefield is online.
That is certainly true as the single player presents the stock standard, fast action packed cinematic experience that is seen all too often. The story feels disjointed and almost as if DICE has made a summary sheet on every major war event in the last 20 years, before delivering it in a short 6 hour campaign. The game has tried to combat the Call of Duty success and has failed to do so in this area by succumbing to the formula which so many despise of Activision's franchise. While there are some jaw-dropping moments and huge set pieces as well as the ability to control a whole array of vehicles, the linear non-destructible nature brings the experience down.
Luckily that was only disc 2 and not the swan song of the series, with multiplayer redeeming any faults made in the single player. Battlefield 3 is the online experience people have been craving and is the sole reason why the game sold 5 million units in its first week. Multiplayer has always been good in the Battlefield series, with a tight group of players who have kept it running for years. This is such a major release and comes at a time where people are craving for something other than camping for killstreaks while being mouthed by 13 year olds on Call of Duty. Teamwork is encouraged and rewarded, killstreaks are out, modes are kept to a minimum and most importantly it provides an addictive, enjoyable experience.
There are three game modes to play through with two objective based modes in Rush and Conquest as well as Team Deathmatch for the first time, to kind of initiate newcomers to the different style of play. Rush and conquest are the highlights of the game, with games being about helping out teammates as you secure or protect certain spots. As the attacking team successfully sets charges or captures points then the map is expanded and slowly but surely the mayhem unravels over a large area. There are four classes to choose from with Soldier, Engineer, Assault and Medic all designed to provide something unique to the team. You won't win this game by going solo, teamwork is vital to success. Medic will provide med packs and have the ability to revive, where as engineer's can ride alongside someone in a tank or chopper and actively repair the vehicle while others focus on causing mayhem. There are a variety of vehicles available to everyone as they simply appear on the map, no more killstreaks are necessary!
Apart from standard multiplayer, you can also play through Co-op missions which are based around the single player story. While they don't add much to the overall game, it is fun to play through some areas again with a partner in missions designed specifically for cooperative play. The main meat of Battlefield 3 is the online multiplayer and is the reason why you will buy this game. While the graphics look sleek, it isn't a huge step forward like the PC version and can't simply be used as a game to present to friends. This is one you will want to play with friends, not just with friends present like in the Call of Duty series.
To come to a conclusion of whether Battlefield 3 is the Call of Duty killer we all hoped it would be and what Electronic Arts stated it would be is a difficult one. The single player leads a lot to be desired, but the game makes huge leaps forward with revolutionary advancements in graphics and multiplayer. This isn't the perfect game, perhaps with a gripping campaign it would come close. Still, Electronic Arts chose to make multiplayer the focus right from the time you open the disc and must be treated as such. This is one of the best online experiences going around and is a must play for everyone this holiday season.
Graphics - 10/10
Sound - 9.5/10
Gameplay - 9/10
Overall - 9.5/10